Passage: Psalm 142
In 1 Kings 18-19, we read of a showdown between the prophets of Baal and Elijah, God’s prophet. The showdown is a resounding display of God’s supremacy. But as Elijah comes into the
conflict he feels, I think, very lonely and overwhelmed. In 1 Kings 18:22, he tells the assembled people, “I am the only prophet of the Lord who is left, but Baal has 450 prophets.” Later, fleeing for his life from the wrath of Queen Jezebel, Elijah’s depression deepens. Finally, in 1 Kings 19:12, on Mount Sinai, Elijah complains to God, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.” He repeats this thought again in v14.
Elijah felt alone. Truth was, he wasn’t alone. In verse 18, God mentions in passing that there were at least 7,000 others in Israel who had never bowed down to Baal or kissed him. There were other godly people in the land – including Elijah’s replacement Elisha. But even if there hadn’t been, Elijah wouldn’t have been alone: God was with him. God had always been with him. More often than not, the almighty God’s presence is with a small, still voice – read 1 Kings 19:9-13. Elijah might have felt alone, but if God is with one, one can never truly be alone.
Everyone feels lonely at times. Moving to a new home can be a lonely time (which is one of the reasons we have our “Welcome to the Bay!” programme). Growing older can be a lonely time. Losing loved ones can be lonely. Being alone can be lonely, but one can also be lonely surrounded by others.
There was a time when there was no loneliness in this universe. Before the fall, Adam (and later Eve) had a perfect relationship with God and with each other. As the Triune God, God is relational in his very being. He is, as John puts it, love. And being made in God’s image, we humans are also made as relational beings. We were made to relate to God and with each other. Loneliness can only exist where relationships aren’t as God intends them to be – which is what sin introduced into the world.
That is the current state of this world. But there is good news! In Jesus, God has acted to reconcile us to himself, and through his Son to each other. When we become Christians, God takes up residence in our lives by His Spirit. And as Christians, with Christ living in us, we are being formed into the likeness of Jesus. We are being formed into the relational, loving beings we were always meant to be.
What is the cure for loneliness? Accepting Jesus’ offer of adoption and friendship and new life, his promise to never leave or forsake us. If God is with us, we will never be alone. (Even if, as Elijah, we might need reminding of that time and again!) Secondly, we as the Christian church should be the body of Christ here on earth. As Christ is formed in us, let us actively seek to encourage each other. Let us share our lives with each other, because God has shared his life with us.
To read this week: 1 Kings 18-19, Psalm 142, 2 Timothy 4:6-11, John 16