By Billy Graham
I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind. I am like a broken vessel. --Psalm 31:12
AFTER the death of her husband, Queen Victoria said, "There is no one left to call me Victoria." Even though she was a queen, she knew what it meant to be lonely.
H.G. Wells said on his sixty-fifth birthday, "I am sixty-five, and I am lonely and have never found peace."
Isadora Duncan, the great ballet dancer who danced before the royalty of Europe and was considered one of the greatest ballet dancers of all time, said, "I have never been alone but that my heart did ache, my eyes fill with tears, and my hands tremble for a peace and a joy that I never found." She went on to say that in the midst of millions of admirers, she was actually a very lonely woman.
A few years ago, a beautiful young Hollywood star with apparently everything a girl could want, ended her life. In the brief note that she left was an incredibly simple explanation -- she was unbearably lonely.
The psalmist said, "I am like a pelican of the wilderness: I am like an owl of the desert. I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the house top" (Psalm 102:6).
Again the psalmist said, "Reproach has broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none" (Psalm 69:20).
The Loneliness of Solitude
First, there is the Loneliness of Solitude. I have felt the loneliness of the ocean where there is never a sound except the booming of the surf along rock-strewn shores. I have felt the loneliness of the prairie with only the occasional mournful howl of the coyote. I have felt the loneliness of the mountains broken only by the sighing of the wind.
The sentry standing duty alone at an outpost, the thousands in mental institutions, and those in solitary confinement in prisons and concentration camps know the meaning of the loneliness of solitude.
Louis Zamperini, the great Olympic track star, has told of the terrible loneliness of solitude on a life-raft where he spent forty-eight days during the second World War.
In his fascinating book, Alone, Admiral Richard E. Byrd told about the time he spent in bewildering and soul-shattering darkness. He lived alone in a shack that was literally buried in the great glacial icecap that covers the South Pole. He spent five months there. The days were as black as the nights. No living creature of any kind existed within a hundred miles. The cold was so intense that he could hear his breath freeze and crystallize as the wind blew it past his ears.
"At night," he says, "before blowing out the lantern, I formed the habit of planning the morrow's work." He had to, in order to preserve his sanity. "It was wonderful," he continues, "to be able to dole out time in this way. It brought me an extraordinary sense of command over myself; and without constant activity, the days would have been without purpose; and without purpose, they would have ended -- as such days always end -- in disintegration."
The Loneliness of Society
Probably you think that in that frozen wasteland, Richard Byrd was of all people most lonely. But the Loneliness of Society is far worse than the loneliness of solitude, for there is loneliness in great cities far worse than his.
That poor creature living in the dingy tenement who never receives a letter, who never hears one word of encouragement, who never experiences the handclasp of a friend -- that wealthy society leader whose money has bought everything but love and happiness -- each knows a loneliness few can understand.
There is the loneliness of the street people living in doorways or cardboard boxes, scrounging food in garbage cans -- a unique loneliness.
A recent television program showed the demoralizing loneliness of some of our neglected and forgotten old people in dilapidated institutions. The aimless sitting, the vacant eyes, haunted me. They are the living dead. Yet in the background an old derelict, with one finger, was picking out on an equally derelict piano, "What a friend we have in Jesus."
In John 5 we read about Jesus as He made His way through the narrow streets of Jerusalem. When He reached the sheepgate by the pool of Bethesda, He observed the great multitudes plagued with various infirmities, waiting to be moved into the water. Suddenly He noticed a poor creature who seemed more needy than all the rest, and tenderly He asked, "Do you want to get well?"
The helpless paralytic looked up and answered, "I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred." Think of it, thirty-eight long, weary years, this bundle of pain had been buffeted by the surging human tide of Jerusalem, and after all these years, he must say to Jesus, "I have no one to help me." He was absolutely friendless.
You can have a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Jesus Christ can make life joyful, satisfying and glorious to you. All over the world are millions of men and women who love and serve Jesus Christ. The moment you accept Him, you are closer to them than you are to your own blood relatives.
There is not a city in the United States that does not have a warm church to which you could go and meet the most wonderful people in America. There is a giant network of true Christians in every community of America. The moment you clasp their hands, you know that you have friends.
But first, you must repent, surrender and commit your heart and life to Christ. Let Him forgive your past sins, and He will take you into His family; He will bring you to the hearth, and you will feel the warmth of the fire. If you are lonely today, I beg you, come to Christ and know the fellowship that He brings.
The Loneliness of Suffering
Third, there is the Loneliness of Suffering. Some years ago we received a letter from a radio listener who for five years had been crippled into a sitting position by arthritis. For five long, weary, painful years she was unable to stretch out or to lie down, yet she wrote, "I have spent many a day alone, but never a lonely day." Why? It was Christ who made the difference. With Christ as your Savior and constant Companion, you too, although alone, need never be lonely.
You today who are lying on a hospital bed enduring the loneliness of suffering can rest assured that Christ can give you His grace and strength. While you lie there, you can be useful to Him. You can know something of the ministry of intercession, the greatest ministry on earth, as you pray for others.
The Loneliness of Sorrow
Fourth, there is the Lonliness of Sorrow. In the eleventh chapter of John we read of Mary and Martha. Their brother Lazarus was dead. Jesus had not yet come. They stood beside the body of their brother and wept.
For you, too, perhaps the world has become a vast cemetery containing but one grave. You have stood in the sick room and watched the one dearer than all the world to you slip beyond your reach. You crave fellowship.
You want someone to come along with a strong hand to help wipe the tears away and put the smile back on your face, and give you joy through the sorrow. Jesus can do just that. The Bible says, "Casting all your care upon him, for he cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7). God loves His children. If you are willing to trust Him and give yourself to Him, He can carry your sorrow.
The Loneliness of Sin
Fifth, there is the Loneliness of Sin. In John 13 we find the story of the Last Supper. Jesus prophesied the betrayal of Judas. In amazement the innocent disciples looked at one another. John asked, "Lord, who is it?" And Jesus said, "It is he to whom I shall give bread when I have dipped it." And when He had dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon; and then we are told that Satan entered into Judas. Immediately Jesus said, "What you are about to do, do quickly." And the Bible says, "He then, having received the bread, went immediately out, and it was night." He went out -- out from the presence of Christ -- and it was night.
Perhaps you at one time thought you knew the joy and peace of being born into God's family. You experienced the sweet fellowship of God's people. You tasted the complete happiness and satisfaction of Christ's presence with you, but you sinned. You went out from the presence of Christ, and you have found that it is night. You have neither the fellowship of Christians nor the fellowship of sinners, and certainly you no longer have the fellowship of Christ. Perhaps there is no loneliness quite so bitter as the loneliness of a backslidden Christian.
Yet there is forgiveness for you. As you confess and forsake your sins, your fellowship with Christ will be restored. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
Perhaps you say you are having a pretty good time sinning -- and you well may. The Bible says there is a certain pleasure in sin. However, it is short lived and fatal. Perhaps you have read Dr. Kinsey's report or some other survey and are finding a certain satisfaction in knowing how many sinners there are who are as bad as -- or worse than -- you. You're not alone. No. You're in the vast majority. Where then, you ask, does the loneliness of sin come in? You may be one of a crowd now, but the day is coming when each one of you must stand alone before Almighty God and be judged. That will be for you the climax of all the loneliness of earth, and but the preview of the loneliness of hell.
For all of these who travel the pathway of sin, there is an engulfing pall of night that isolates them from all good and true fellowship. Sin always has been darkness. Sin always will be darkness. Judas was lonely because of his sin. God says in Hosea 4:17: "Ephraim is joined to idols, let him alone." Because of the covetousness and idolatry of the people of Ephraim, God had said, "Have no fellowship with him, let him completely alone." "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way" (Isaiah 53:6). Here again we find the loneliness of sin.
One hour before his fatal duel with Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, sitting in his library at Richmond Hill in New York, wrote to his daughter, "Some very wise man has said, 'O fools, who think it solitude to be alone.'" Already, even before the fatal shot was fired and the bloody deed was done, he felt the loneliness of his sin. In a few hours he was to be a fugitive from the sudden and deep abhorrence of his fellow citizens. His political career was gone forever, and his great ambitions were wrecked.
There are thousands of lonely people in the city and in the country, who carry heavy and difficult burdens of grief, anxiety, pain and disappointment; but the loneliest soul of all is the man whose life is steeped in sin.
I want to tell you that every sin you deliberately cling to is a mighty power in making you lonely. The older you get, the lonelier you will be. I beg you, come to the foot of the cross and confess that you are a sinner, forsake your sins.
Christ can give you power to overcome every sin and habit in your life. He can break the ropes, fetters and chains of sin; but you must repent, confess, commit and surrender yourself to Him first. Right now, it can be settled, and you can know the peace, joy and fellowship of Christ.
The Loneliness of the Savior
Last, there is the Loneliness of the Savior. Thousands of human beings were swarming around Him. There was great joy at the passover season everywhere, but Jesus was "despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the punishment that brought us peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53: 3-6).
Jesus was alone. He had come to His own, and His own received Him not. "But all this was done, that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled" (Matthew 26:56). The crowds who had so recently shouted, "Hosanna," had that very day shouted, "Crucify him. Crucify him." Now even His loyal twelve had left.
And at last we hear Him cry out, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34). Not only had He been forsaken by His human companions, but now in that desperate and lonely hour, He -- because He was bearing our sins in His own body on the cross -- had been forsaken by God as well. Jesus was enduring the suffering and judgment of hell for you and me.
Hell, essentially, is separation from God. Hell is the loneliest place in the universe. Jesus suffered its agony for you, in your place. Now God says, Repent, believe on Christ, receive Christ, and you will never know the sorrow, the loneliness and the agony of hell.
"Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Romans 10:13).