How the Bible Preps Us for Loneliness


David Penuel reminds us that our tendency to feel unworthy, undervalued or lonely is an indication that we have forgotten the opinion of the One who really matters. Romans 5:8 tells us that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This demonstration is how God shows us our value.

David PenuelAug 16, 2015Romans 5:8; Romans 5:8

I am "sort of" David Marvin's hero. What a glowing introduction. Thank you! How does the Bible prepare us for loneliness? That is the topic I have been chosen to address today. Imagine for a minute I'm sitting in my office. There's a knock on the door. My boss, Pastor Todd Wagner, opens the door and says, "You seem like a lonely guy. Would you talk to our body about loneliness?" "Well, thank you, Todd. Yes, I would be happy to address that topic."

I do stand before you today as an expert on the topic of loneliness. What I want to do here at the beginning is I want to take you into the depths, to the origin, of my loneliness. I want to start off with just this confession. I didn't go through puberty until I was 17. It was rough. As a 12-year-old, as a 13-year-old, as a 14-year-old, 15-year-old, a young man wants nothing more than to have a girlfriend.

When every girl is taller than you, her voice is deeper than yours, she can throw a football farther than you, has more hair on her legs than you have, it's hard to see yourself as boyfriend material. Age 12 through 17 or so, I would sit in my bedroom. I'm not going to exaggerate. I'm telling the truth.

I would open the shutters, and I'd look out the window like the little mouse, Fievel, in American Tail. I would look up at the moon, and I would just wonder, "Is there someone out there looking at the same moon who will love me the way I want to love them?" I was a Christian kid at the time, so I listened to Michael W. Smith. He had a song called "Somebody Love Me." Here's a little clip of what it sounded like. Picture me in my room.


When will I hear the music playing?

Somebody love me.

Come and carry me away.

Somebody need me

To be the blue in their gray.

[End of song]

Okay, that's enough of that. That's my life in junior high and high school. All right? Now I wasn't alone. I had friends. I had a family who loved and cared about me. I had a church I was a part of, but I was lonely. I wasn't alone, but I still felt lonely. Back then, that was the start of a pattern that continued through my life.

See if this sounds familiar. "If certain people or a certain person doesn't approve of me, love me, or show me affection, I begin to feel that I am altogether unlovely, unlovable, unworthy, unwanted, or like I have no value." Even though I wasn't alone, because a certain person I wanted to love me didn't or a certain group of people (girls, in general) didn't love me, I began to feel lonely, like I was unlovable, like I was unworthy.

This continues today. You know, if I do or say something wrong and my boss doesn't approve of me, my wife isn't showing me affection the way I want, or there's a group of high schoolers sitting over here… If they don't attend a ministry event I host in the way I hope they'll attend, I begin to question my worth and my value. I begin to feel lonely.

How do the Scriptures prepare us for loneliness? That's what we're going to get to in a second. I want to make sure you understand loneliness is more than a bad feeling. Loneliness is actually a sin, and it leads to more sin. It gets us into sin. You see, the reason why I can say loneliness is a sin is essentially it is choosing to believe my feelings over the promises of God.

Over and over again in the Scriptures… In Isaiah 41, God says, "Fear not, for I am with you." Joshua, chapter 1. He says, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." Psalm 23, he says, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me." Jesus, before he left his disciples in Matthew 28, says, "…I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

Loneliness is a sin because it's choosing to believe my own feelings in the moment over the promises of God, but also this. It gets me into more sin. Loneliness gets us into trouble. This is the reason why (and people who know me can affirm this) I frequently will say things that are inappropriate in order to try to get a laugh, because I want approval, and I want affection from others. So I cross the line. I hurt people's feelings. I offend people.

This is why high school kids frequently will end up in a group of friends they know they shouldn't be a part of, doing things they know they shouldn't be doing, because they have this longing and desire to be loved and accepted. They don't want to feel lonely. That's why a friend of mine right now continues to text women who are not his wife and continues to act out in ways he does not want to act out in. It's because he is lonely.

Do you see that pattern showing up in your life? I mean, basically loneliness is an indication that you're granting ownership of your life to someone other than God. How does the Bible prepare us for this? We're going to be in one verse in Romans 5 today. If you have your Bible, you can go ahead and get to Romans 5. Before we get there, I want to do a simple illustration to set up where we're going.

I have a $100 bill in my hand. There are no plants in the audience. This is not a staged deal, and there are no tricks. I'm going to give away $100 to somebody who is here today. Yeah. Some people are already raising their hands. Just a show of hands, who would want $100? No tricks. Raise your hand. Everybody look around the room. Look all around, up behind you and to the side. Okay, you can put your hands down.

Pretty much everybody wants $100. Do you ever wish you were like this $100 bill? If I were to pull you up on stage and say, "Who wants Bob?" don't you wish everyone would be like, "I love that guy! He is the greatest"? Here's the reality. Only one person is going to walk out of here today with this $100. There's only one owner.

Isn't this the way it is with life? Isn't there really only one opinion that matters? Ultimately, one day aren't we all going to have to only answer to God? One day we're going to die and stand before him. We're going to have to answer to him. One day he is going to come back, and we are going to have to face him.

Ultimately, isn't there only one opinion that matters? We have to ask this question when we begin to feel lonely or unwanted…What's God's opinion of me? Does God really want me? Does God really love me? Can I trust God as the owner of my life? Is there evidence? Is there anything he has done to demonstrate his love for me?

Let's go back to the $100 bill. I need somebody to demonstrate the worth and value of this $100 bill. All right? I see this guy right here. He is really excited. Okay, great. Come on up here. I'll introduce you to everybody. Let's hear it for this handsome fellow here. Come on up here. All right. What's your name?

Brian: Brian.

David: Brian. I'm David. It's good to meet you.

Brian: Nice to meet you.

David: All right, so Brian wants to demonstrate the value of this $100 bill. Now I'm going to tell you what I'm going to ask you to do to demonstrate the worth of this $100 bill. You can decide if you want to do it. If you don't, I can get somebody else, because somebody wants this $100 bill. I have a friend right here, Jermaine Harrison. He is going to help you out. He is a fine-looking Jamaican fellow.

David: Okay, so Brian, Jermaine is going to take you out. You're going to go down this aisle, out that door, across the lobby, out the doors. You're going to jump in the pond. You're going to go all the way under water. You can give him your wallet, your phone. You can take off these nice shoes you have. You're going to go all the way under water. Then you're going to run back in here, down the aisle, up on stage, soaking wet for everyone to see. I want you to do it quickly. Can you do that, Brian?

Brian: Yes. Yes!

David: All right! Here we go! Jermaine, take Brian. Here goes Brian. Let's hear it for Brian, everybody. Run! All right. We're going to make a memory this morning, guys. All right. Here's why Brian is doing that: to demonstrate a simple point. There's really just one point to this message. So if you've tuned out, tune in here. Catch this. The worth of this $100 bill is going to be demonstrated by what Brian is willing to do for it. All right?

Here's the point. You have to know this! You have to live this. Your worth is demonstrated by what God is willing to do for you. Any object's worth is demonstrated by what someone is willing to do for it. The same is true for people. Any person's worth is demonstrated by what God is willing to do for that person. That applies to you and to me.

We're in Romans, chapter 5, verse 8, which says this: "But God showed [demonstrated] his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners." There's nothing we did to merit it. There's nothing we did to earn it, but God is our Father. He created us. He knit us together in our mother's womb, and he loves us. He comes and demonstrates it.

Brian was sitting here in a comfy chair in dry clothes surrounded by his friends having a great time here at church today. But he left the comfort of his chair. He is leaving the comfort of dry clothes, and he is going out and dunking in the pond. In the same way, Jesus Christ left the comfort of heaven, the security of a relationship with his Father, and he came down. He was born in a manger.

Here he comes. All right, Brian! Come here. Stand right by me. I'm going to put this towel over you. I want you just to wait here for a second. I was in the middle of a really good point. All right? Hang on.

Jesus left heaven. He left the comfort of heaven, security of heaven. He was born in a manger. He lived as a carpenter. He was unjustly accused. He was hung on a cross. He was buried in a grave to demonstrate God's love for us.

Just like Brian is up here in front of all of you, and all of the Internet, Brian, the sacrifice Jesus made was public. Here's what I want to leave you guys with this morning. Next time you find yourself feeling lonely, unwanted, or unvalued, I want you to remember this picture, that time you went to church and that guy went out and got in the pond for $100. He came back! He came back, and he claimed his prize. All right?

When you remember this image (now look at the screen), I want you to remember one more image. All right? Jesus left heaven, and he did this to demonstrate God's love for you. All right. Jermaine has dry clothes for you back there. Let's hear it one more time for Brian, all right? I want to close with this.

On Friday night, I was putting my kids to bed. I have three kids. The boys share a room. We were saying our prayers. I have a 5-year-old named Cole. He has the most tender and genuine heart. It was Cole's turn to pray, so I said, "Cole, it's your turn to pray tonight." He said, "Okay." I love hearing Cole pray. He is just so sincere, so genuine.

Friday night, just one sentence was all he prayed. He closed his eyes really tightly. I was watching him. Here's what he prayed. He said, "God, will you please hug me?" That was it. We were all like, "Amen?" I looked at him, and I said, "Cole, what did Jesus do for you?" He knows the answer to that question. He said, "Jesus died on the cross to take my sins." I said, "Because Jesus did that, God is always hugging you."

My prayer this morning is that what you heard about Jesus, what you heard sung about Jesus, was the embrace of God for you. I know some of you came in here lonely today, and I want you to know you are never alone. You are always loved. God has demonstrated his love for you.

We're going to sing a song called "At the Cross." There's a line in this song that says the cross is "…where all the love I've ever found comes like a flood, comes flowing down." We are going to sing about all the love we ever need to find, and it comes through Jesus Christ. Let's stand up and sing together.