Psalm 27:7-9 (Revised Standard Version)
7. Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud,
Be gracious to me and answer me!
8. Thou hast said, “Seek ye my face.”
My heart says to Thee,
“Thy face, Lord, do I seek.”
9. Hide not thy face from me.
(Boston Globe) Loneliness is becoming a major health problem. In 1950, only 10% of households had just one person. In 1994, it had moved to 24%. Fewer than 10% age 25 to 44 live alone, but about 25% of those age 65 to 74 and about 40% for those over age 75. Some remain very happy- but supposedly only about 1/3. A 1990 Gallup study indicated that about 36% of Americans are lonely. More statistics:
People who are isolated but healthy are twice as likely to die over a period of a decade as those not isolated. A study showed that the more isolated men are up to 25% more likely to die of all causes at any age versus non isolated men. The odds for women are 33%.
Living alone after a heart attack significantly increase the risk of dying
People with heart disease have a poorer chance of survival if they are unmarried or do not have a partner to assist them.
Women who are alone and have breast cancer live half as long as those who do not.
People with malignant melanoma who participate in group intervention live longer than those who do not.
One of the most comforting truths of Scripture is what I like to think of as the Divine invitation. Often in Scripture, God makes his appeal to his people at a certain time and in a certain circumstance. Here David calls out to God at a time of desperation. The circumstances are such that David is surrounded by his enemies, and he sees himself to be soon engulfed by them. The antagonists are “evildoers, adversaries, and foes” who are encamped about him as large as a “host.”
Many people, like David are facing, or have faced, a major battle in their lives. Whether it be an overwhelming financial difficulty, a troubled marriage, loved ones who are facing a life-threatening illness, and so on… I believe for many people, the worst part of facing such difficulties, are not the situations themselves, though as horrible as they may be. Rather, I believe that there is a searing pain of loneliness that pierces the heart. Take for example, when a life-threatening cancer or a major debilitating illness strikes. The world is full of people who will say, “I’m so sorry to hear that.” Or, “Wow, that’s so sad!” However, when you’re the victim and you’re in the doctor’s counseling room, or going through an MRI or CTScan—wow! The fear and isolation that must be pouring into one’s emotions!
In this particular Psalm, David has decided that he’s not going to be another casualty of loneliness. He’s going to secure himself by going into the house of the Lord. There he will “dwell… all the days of [his] life.” Perhaps, we might even infer, “all the days remaining of my life.” It is there that he finds security, away from the fear and terror, but more than that, he finds the warmth of God’s reception.
We see this receptive heart of God scattered throughout the Bible. Take for example, the call of Wisdom in Proverbs 8:17 “I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.” This Divine invitation of God is an invitation into a mutual love relationship. Think of what it would mean for people who are so lonely that they are contemplating suicide. The inner feelings of depression stem often from feeling insignificant and unwanted. Feeling like there is no one out there who loves me or wants me. God wants you, and he wants you to seek him and find him.
God is such a receptive God that he finds it frustrating when he calls out to people, and they do not respond. Isaiah 65:1 “I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’” The trouble with folks is that they think of God has just a cold and distant objective fact, “He too busy to take time out for little ole me.” A God, who is troubled by the unwillingness of people to reach out to him, does not sound at all to me like someone who is cold and distant.
Who can enter into this Divine invitation?
Jeremiah 29:13 “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Those who seek him with all their hearts. That is to say that seeking the Lord has to be the deepest desire of your heart that comes out of your willingness to enter into a relationship with a living God.
Hebrews 10:22 “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” The writer of Hebrews tells us that it is through the blood of Jesus Christ that we have access to God. Therefore, it is sinners who can enter into this relationship with God. Once you seek him, confess your sins, and repent by turning away from your sins and turning to God. The blood of Jesus Christ can free us from condemnation (Romans 8:1), feelings of guilt (Hebrews 10:2), the reminders of sin (Hebrews 10:3, 4), and a guilty conscience (Hebrews 10:22). In place of all these we receive forgiveness (Hebrews 10:18), confidence to enter the most holy place (the presence of God Hebrews 10:19), and full assurance of faith (Hebrews 10:22).
Matthew 11:28-23 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” How many of us bear the burdens of condemnation, shame, and guilt? The fact is that we have an invitation to enter into a place of peace and rest for our souls. This is the place where guilt and shame and condemnation can never touch us, because we rest upon Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” The same Divine invitation reminds us that God not only cares for us personally, but he also cares for the burdens we bear—the circumstances which cause sleepless nights, fears and worries which keep us tossing and turning at night.
Loneliness can be a place of pain and fear. However, like King David, we can realize that God has not abandoned us. Quite the contrary, we are invited into a deeper relationship with him to experience his love to protect and to guide. It is there, in that place of intimacy with God that we find rest for our souls.
Little do men perceive what solitude is, and how far it extendeth.
For a crowd is not company, and faces are but a gallery of pictures,
and talk but a tinkling cymbal, where there is no love.
(by Francis Bacon)