I spend most of my week in a co-working space which proves incredibly helpful when seeking out other opinions or thoughts about anything from the best place on the street to get food through to deep theological questions. In fact, the latter is my favourite part about working in a co-working space that exists within a church. I’m surrounded by some very smart, very well-read, very passionate people. Lunch is never boring.
I walked in one day, my book on my mind as I had been editing the night before, desperately wanting to make sure that I was writing things that were to some extent biblically sound. So, to the two pastors in the room I posed this question:
“If the Garden of Eden is a representation of heaven-“
“Is it?” The Senior Pastor asked.
“Isn’t it?” I replied.
“Is the Garden of Eden a real thing?”
“Good question, but maybe a discussion for another time and potentially the ultimate answer to the question I’m about to ask, but let’s say Eden is real. My question is, if Eden was real and is a representation of Heaven, being in ehad - oneness with God - then will loneliness exist in heaven because it existed in Eden?”
The Children’s Pastors chimed in with “No, loneliness is a sin.”
A little surprised by her comment I responded, “Is it?”
“Well yeah, loneliness comes from a place where you have taken your eyes off God. You aren’t relying on Him.” She responded
“The real question is - is there a difference between being alone and loneliness?” The Senior Pastor added.
This got me thinking.
In my book, I spend a bit of time talk about loneliness, acknowledging that this is something we are very familiar with as single people. But this thought that loneliness is a sin had me troubled. On the one hand I could understand that the Children’s Pastor was saying. Anything that distracts us from God, causing us to doubt and seek comfort elsewhere is sinful. But is the feeling of loneliness sinful or just what we do with our loneliness?
And if it’s not good for man or woman to be alone, is it a sin if he or she is?
Opening up my trusty Google tab, I punched in “is loneliness a sin?” and discovered that most entries, in fact I think all of them, said that loneliness wasn’t a sin. Which to be honest I agree with. Loneliness actually is a powerful propellant. It’s an emotion that can physically cause us to take action. It’s so uncomfortable, so painful, that we are moved to action. I think it’s what we do with the action that is the clincher.
If loneliness sets in, I have so many places I could take it. The bar. The movies. A friend’s house. The TV. The Club. The list goes on. At any of these places I will find something, someone or some substance that can ease the pain of loneliness and for a little while, I won’t feel so alone.
There’s that root word though. Alone.
Are loneliness and alone two different things?
Jesus would often choose to be alone, seeking refuge and solitude in those quiet moments with God. Was Jesus ever lonely though?
Maybe not whilst ministering, but I think the one moment he felt the deep pain of loneliness was the moment where God turned his face away.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Why have you left me alone?
In this one moment we see God abandoning Jesus so that we will never know the pain of abandonment from God.
And yet, we still feel deeply lonely.
I live by myself, which for the most part is great but there are those nights, when you come home from a rough day and just want someone to sit with you and say “It’s all going to be ok.” That person or persons who make you smile because they love you and in that moment everything seems ok again because you are not alone.
But living by myself means I don’t come home to that comfort when I feel I need it.
What do I do with my loneliness in those moments?
My answer to that question, I feel, determines whether or not loneliness is a sin
If you think about it, it is the same with any emotion we feel.
What do I do with my
[anger / jealousy / frustration / sadness / rejection]
in those moments I feel it most?
How you answer that question determines whether or not the outcome is sinful.
Feeling angry isn’t inherently bad, God displays anger and wrath in the Bible on multiple occasions. And whilst his anger is a righteous one, he has actually programmed us to feel anger. God allows us to feel angry, just as he allows us to feel love.
What he gives us dominion over is what we do when we feel the way we feel. Anger, when expressed in an abusive, controlling, violent way is not ok. Anger expressed in a righteous, need to fix or help or change something is ok.
Love expressed in a controlling, manipulative, deceptive way is not ok. Love expressed in a freedom, empowering, serving way is very much ok.
And yes, you could say that love expressed in a controlling way is not love at all, this I would agree with. But I also think we do a lot of things under the banner of “love” when, in truth, our motives are anything but love.
In my book I talk about a conversation I had with one of my guy friends (you’ll need to buy the book to hear the full story!) and had you asked me at the time if my motive around this chat was love – as in Christ’s love – I would have said absolutely! But in reality, reflecting back on it, if I had been completely honest with myself, I was driven by jealousy and a need to feel affirmed.
The point is, any emotion we feel can either propel us towards Christ or away from him. It’s what we do with that emotion that determines if something is sinful.
Where are you allowing your loneliness to propel you?
For that matter, where do you allow your deeply felt emotions, like anger or jealousy, to propel you?
“God creates Adam alone, as Adam needs to understand that his aloneness is not good. He needs to feel the emptiness caused by in his isolation. Only upon feeling that emptiness can he understand why it is necessary to share with another. Adam has to learn that the choice for human relationships, with all of its consequent sacrifice and pain, is a better choice than the isolation that he now experiences.” (ref)