For many Christmas and the “Holiday Season” from Thanksgiving to New Years is the loneliest time of the year. I was thinking about that and, to be honest, feeling a little lonely myself, so I read Psalm 25 again and decided to write a little about loneliness from a Shadowlander perspective.
Dring World War II the allies had planned Operation Overlord, the code name for D-Day, for years with vast armies gathered, an incredible navy collected, and enough arms stored to release Europe from the tyranny of the Nazi regime.
In charge of this massive war effort was an American, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. As the logistics expert, he envisioned the whole thing. He pulled everybody together. He got the fractious allies moving in the same direction. He even tamed the British generals, which was no mean feat. The day was set; the moon was right; the tides were right; the weather was all wrong. Eisenhower was the only person who could make the decision.
Then a royal Air Force meteorologist came in to say he predicted a break in the weather. Eisenhower said, “Okay, Let’s go!”
All the generals, the admirals, and the air vice-marshals who had been with him in the room, promptly left Eisenhower alone.
Suddenly, he had nothing to do. He sat down to write two news releases. In one he explained why the operation had failed and accepted full responsibility himself. The other announced that the operation had succeeded and thanked everyone who had participated.
Can you imagine the loneliness and inner turmoil of Gen. Eisenhower at that moment? Casualties of 75 percent were predicted in some areas of the attack. I hope that none of us will ever be in the position of Dwight D. Eisenhower on D-Day. I hope we never know that kind of loneliness.
But we all have felt loneliness and inner turmoil. I have a friend who worked at a company for several years and returned from Christmas vacation to find a note asking him to come to the boss’s office. He thinks he’s going to get a raise, but he’s unceremoniously fired. Suddenly the rug is pulled from under his feet. Have you ever felt that kind of inner turmoil of the soul?
Some of you know what it is to await surgery. I do. You’ve gone through a whole succession of tests and heard all kinds of promises. One by one, your hopes have disappeared. It’s obvious that you must have the surgery. You think you’re prepared. In a quiet moment when you’re totally alone, your heart is in turmoil. Have you ever experienced that emotional rollercoaster?
Have you experienced the horror of seeing your family split apart by divorce? You knew things weren’t what they should be; you knew your marriage was struggling. Out of the blue, the divorce comes and you are alone.
Or maybe you have experienced the searing pain of seeing your parents snipe at each other until there is nothing left of either and then they divorce. The people you most depended upon all your life have suddenly decided to go their separate ways, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Your loneliness is palpable.
This is where the psalmist finds himself as he writes Psalm 25. He is quite open about his condition: “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart have multiplied; free me from my anguish.” (vs. 16,17)
The psalmist admits his need, but he has somewhere to turn.
He turns to the Lord. We’d expect that, but it’s easier said than done.
Do you know the Lord well enough to turn to Him? We need to be clear who this Lord is to whom we turn.
We need to be sure we have the kind of relationship that allows us to turn to him. Some Christians would say we should never be lonely. Some Christians would say we should never have inner turmoil. Some Christians would say we should always be rejoicing – everything should be great, and we shouldn’t be concerned. To them I say, lovingly, “What planet are you from?”.
When I hear malarky like that I figure those Christians must not have yet faced any of the experiences I’ve just enumerated. When they do, they’ll soon change their minds (or eliminate themselves as Christians because they experience negative emotions).
Let me give it to you straight, from a Shadowlander who has been a Christian most of his life: Christians go through the same trauma as other people. The difference is that if our spiritual life is together, we know where to turn. The psalmist does that in Psalm 25.
Psalm 25 is a acrostic psalm. Each verse begins with the succeeding letter of the Hebrew alphabet. If it was in English, the first verse would begin with the letter A, the second with the letter B, the third with C, and so on. There is artistry and literary genius here. This is a psalm of David.
David has a roller-coaster experience. He starts out by reaffirming his faith. Then, it’s almost as if some of the doubts come back; some of the inner turmoil begins to bubble to the surface again. Then he gets back on track.
David is very open about his feelings: he feels alone and abandoned. But then, interestingly enough, notice that the very last verse of this Psalm says, “Redeem Israel, O God, from all their troubles!” The fascinating thing about it is that here’s a psalm dealing with his troubles, but at the close he’s concerned about everybody else’s troubles. I believe that speaks volumes about the answer to loneliness.
I am going to be blogging about the answer to loneliness shown in Psalm 25 over the next couple of days. I invite you to join me on the journey. I would love to hear your thoughts along the way. If you want a blessing read Psalm 25 each day while I am blogging about it.