Let’s start with the definition of loneliness. Loneliness is defined as a sadness because one has no friends or company. Most people equate loneliness with being alone. The definition of alone, however, is defined as having no one present. They are not the same, but these two words are interchanged often by most people.
In fact, they are far from the same thing. Loneliness is a noun and alone is an adjective. For instance, you can be in a crowded room and feel loneliness, yet you’re not alone in that environment. You can be alone, all by yourself, and not feel loneliness.
Probably some of the loneliest people in the Bible were the prophets of God and there were many. There was Moses, Jonah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Malachi, Deborah, Zechariah, Gideon, Agur, Nathan, Aaron, Enoch, and John the Baptist to name just a few. Some of the prophets were allowed to marry and have children, but this wasn’t the case for all prophets. Married or not, at some point during each of their ministries, they felt emotional loneliness. Because of their God-given missions, they felt isolated.
This month we’re going to take a look into the emotional loneliness of the Weeping Prophet, Jeremiah. Jeremiah was called by the Lord at an early age. At approximately 17, he was to give the doomed nation of Judah, and its capital Jerusalem, the final warning of its demise. When he was called upon by the Lord to deliver this message, he was understandably very hesitant and insecure in his ability to be effective.
Jeremiah was sensitive to the people even though they refused to heed his warnings. He empathized with his people. He prayed and wept often for the lost rebellious nation. His emotional loneliness was deep and penetrating to his very soul. Yet in Jeremiah 7, the Lord tells him to stop wasting his emotional spring on them.
Pray no more for these people, Jeremiah. Do not weep or pray for them, and don’t beg me to help them, for I will not listen to you. Jeremiah 7:16 NLT
But when is enough loneliness enough? When is being alone enough for our Weeping Prophet? Jeremiah 10 starts to give us a hint.
Pour out your wrath on the nations that refuse to acknowledge you–on the peoples that do not call upon your name. For they have devoured your people Israel; they have devoured and consumed them, making the land a desolate wilderness. Jeremiah 10:25 NLT
Despite his frustration, Jeremiah kept preaching to the nation to repent of their evil, wicked, and sinful behaviors. He preached loudly for them to turn away from the false gods and prophets and return to God. And their response? Because the people didn’t want to hear the message and repent from their wicked ways, they decided to kill the messenger. However, the Lord let Jeremiah know about the plot to lead him like a lamb to slaughter. In this instance, Jeremiah didn’t weep. Instead he requested to see vengeance from the Lord on his behalf (Jeremiah 11:18-23).
Jeremiah would lament and wish he was never born. He continued to complain to the Lord because he was despised by the people for delivering God’s messages. He wanted the Lord to persecute his enemies. Then the Lord promises to rescue him (Jeremiah 15) but instructs him not to marry nor have children because of the punishment coming to the nation, adding to Jeremiah’s loneliness and isolation. Basically, though the Lord would rescue Jeremiah, it wasn’t going to end well for Judah (Jeremiah 16).
Now, having seen these outbursts by Jeremiah, we can see that he was only human. He has prayed, cried, and begged the Lord on Judah’s behalf, and they have repaid him with nothing but evil. The nation is plotting to get rid of him. They want to not just discredit him, but actually kill him for bringing the Lord’s messages. And then the Lord forbids him to marry and have children. At this point, tired, discouraged, and worn out, he’s done trying to protect them (Jeremiah 18).
The Lord sends Jeremiah to the people with a jar. Jeremiah then shatters the jar symbolizing what is going to happen to Judah! Jeremiah is arrested, beaten, and put in stocks. After his release, people mock him. No one celebrates him. Everyone anticipates him to slip up in some way so they can report him and get revenge against him. Sinking deeper into his isolation, Jeremiah feels his life has been filled with nothing but trouble, sorrow, and shame (Jeremiah 19-20). Can anyone relate to this level of loneliness?
Jeremiah’s story continues. For twenty-three years he faithfully delivered the Lord’s messages to repent and the people simply refused. Now because of their refusal to repent, Judah would suffer seventy years of captivity. They would feel the Lord’s intense anger (Jeremiah 25).
As we move further into Jeremiah’s life of loneliness, we find him still faithfully preaching repentance in front of the Lord’s Temple. The priests, prophets, and all the people at the Temple formed a mob around him, demanding his death. When the Judah officials heard what was happening, they rushed over to hold court. Some people in the court acknowledged that Jeremiah was speaking for the Lord. One of those persons was Ahikam, an influential officer of the court who, after presenting his case, persuaded the court not to turn Jeremiah over to the mob to be killed. THIS WAS ALL GOD! (Jeremiah 26)
Sometime after Jeremiah had faithfully preached God’s messages to the people over and over, God commissioned him to record his journey from beginning to end.
During the fourth year that Jehoiakim son of Josiah was king in Judah, the Lord gave this message to Jeremiah: Get a scroll, and write down all my messages against Israel, Judah, and the other nations. Begin with the first message back in the days of Josiah, and write down every message, right up to the present time. Jeremiah 36:1-2 NLT
When the current king became aware of what Jeremiah had written, he burned it without remorse and tried to arrest Jeremiah and his secretary Baruch, but God hid them. Now of course, God had him re-write everything again and more to the detriment of the king (Jeremiah 36). Soon afterwards, Jeremiah is arrested for defecting to the Babylonians. He is then flogged and imprisoned in a house converted into a prison. Later the king secretly requests Jeremiah to come to the palace. Jeremiah then tells the king of the Babylonians’ upcoming attack. He also pleads with the king to not return him to the prison dungeon he had been put in and instead he is placed in a palace cell (Jeremiah 37).
I can only imagine Jeremiah’s total isolation. No real friends he could trust. Everyone he was trying to help save only wanted him dead and gone! Still he trusted God to keep him safe. He trusted God to carry him through his journey. He trusted God enough to follow the Lord’s direction no matter how uncomfortable he became, no matter the danger to his well-being. Just as a child trusts innocently, so should we. We may feel loneliness, but TRUST and BELIEVE, WE ARE NOT ALONE!
Precious Heavenly Father, we seek Your presence in our loneliness. We may feel loneliness and isolation, but You promised never to leave us alone. During our storms and valley moments, let us take comfort in the knowledge that You are right beside us and carry us through our circumstances. Restore our childlike trust in You and Your promises. Restore our hope and faith as You combat the loneliness that threatens to overtake our souls. We love You! We Thank You for loving us! We thank You for NEVER leaving us alone. In the mighty name of Jesus, we pray. Amen
Written by Melony Henderson
Please note all scripture was taken from the NLT – New Living Translation
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.