“If COVID doesn’t kill me, then the loneliness will.”
This heartbreaking statement was made by a man in a nursing home who had not been able to see his loved ones for months. A close friend of ours has not been able to see her aged mother in a nursing home for over 7 months. However, this feeling does not just affect those confined for medical purposes. Isolation and loneliness have touched many others. In fact, this trend began long before 2020.
Mintel, a company that forecasts societal and consumer trends, predicted in early 2019 that the trend toward isolation and loneliness would increase due to the growing dependency on smartphones to stay connected with friends, family and current events.
“Loneliness is increasingly coming into focus, cutting across cultures, genders, social classes and age groups. It is creating significant levels of depression and mental health afflictions, and people are gradually looking for help to feel less isolated and more connected within both their physical and virtual communities.” August 27, 2019
After the shutdown, pandemic-induced isolation intensified the problem. But God, in His wisdom, has revealed to us through the forced isolation, the power of presence.
“Presence” is what Christmas is all about. When Jesus Christ came to earth in human flesh, He came as Emmanuel, God with us.
“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” (Matthew 1:23)
“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
For the first time in history, God Himself was physically present with His people. All the promises of the coming of the Messiah had finally come true. What joy this brought to those that received Him. What peace it brought in times of fear. What hope it brought for those that had suffered pain and lost loved ones. The physical presence of Jesus was real and powerful. By faith, we now enjoy the presence of Christ within us in the person of the Holy Spirit. The presence of the Holy Spirit is just as powerful and just as real as the physical presence of Jesus Christ.
But there are three conditions that must be met to truly experience the Power of His Presence.
1. You must choose to RECEIVE Him.
“But as many as received him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:” (John 1:12)
2. You must choose to OBEY Him.
“He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” (John 14:21)
3. You must choose to TRUST Him
“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength:” (Isaiah 26:3–4)
The most powerful, confidence boosting truth when experiencing suffering and loneliness is that God is with you.
The emotions of loneliness are real. The feelings of isolation and loss are real. But the Truth of the Word of God must be more real than our feelings. Our feelings were not designed to lead us. Truth is what must lead us. As we read, memorize and meditate on the Truth of God’s Word, we can lead our emotions to rest and even rejoice because of God’s Truth.
There are legitimate causes for some negative emotions due to chemical imbalances that can deeply affect the intensity of those emotions. God has provided medical doctors that can carefully help make those decisions. But for believers, there is an even deeper level of reality that comes from saturating our minds and hearts with Truth.
Joni Eareckson Tada, a paraplegic for over fifty years due to a diving accident made this powerful statement:
“My disability has been an advantage for me. You may ask, ‘How can a life of pain, discomfort and complete dependency on others for your basic needs be an advantage?’ Well, it is an advantage because my suffering has forced me to the arms of Christ.”
How do we face depression, anger, frustration and other negative emotions? Do we choose to allow the loneliness and frustration to push us to seek refuge in the powerful presence of Christ? That is where the joy that passes all understanding comes from.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)
Some have lost loved ones this year and they will be grieving their passing.
Some have been isolated for months and will spend the Holidays alone.
Some are regretting poor decisions that have caused them to be isolated during this season.
Some have chosen not to reach out to others and have allowed the negative emotions to dominate them and lead them into isolation and bitterness.
Some have never received Emanuel, Jesus Christ into their life in order to experience His presence.
Some are living in disobedience and cannot enjoy His presence.
Some are choosing not to trust His sovereignty and His kind heart.
If you will allow Him, God will be with you in your specific circumstance and in your personal suffering. He is:
Emmanuel in our humanity.
Emmanuel in our work.
Emmanuel in our anguish.
Emmanuel in our confusion.
Emmanuel in our loneliness.
Emmanuel in our pain.
Emmanuel in our death.
Emmanuel in eternity.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, God is in control. If He has allowed a season of suffering and loneliness in your life, then He has a purpose. I imagine that His purpose for all of us is to force us to the loving arms of our Savior; the only place that we can experience the true power of His presence.
“Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” (Psalm 16:11)