“Lonely, I’m Mr. Lonely . . .” Bobby Vinton’s 1964 song is winding through my brain fissures like a snake on an Olympic bobsled. And no wonder—Silly Willy has to sing it for children’s Sunday school this week. Silly Willy is my right-hand man—literally. He’s a puppet teaching a lesson on dealing with loneliness.
Silly Willy believed nobody liked him, because they didn’t want to do what he wanted to do. So he blew them off. Now he’s lonely. Except for my arm, he has no one to uphold him.
Loneliness is a creepy feeling. What is loneliness like?
• It’s the sound of a distant crow.
• It’s the wail of a midnight train.
• It’s waking up alone in bed with someone next to you.
• It’s phony smiles on a family photo.
• It’s reaching out for a brass ring you can’t touch.
• It’s saying for the hundredth time, “You just don’t get it!”
• It’s walking alone with a crowd of strangers.
• It’s the night before a major operation.
• It’s staring at a full moon on a quiet summer night.
• It’s the clang of the prison door.
• It’s walking home from school with an “F” on your report card.
• It’s a blank screen, an empty mailbox, a silent phone.
• It’s the wave of the last guest leaving the funeral.
• It’s believing you can when others say you can’t.
• It’s being summoned to the boss’s/principal’s/policeman’s/doctor’s office.
• It’s the feeling of failure.
The feeling of loneliness can spring from a lot of different wells. Loneliness is just that: a feeling. It can come when you’re in the midst of a crowd, and it can pass when you are completely alone. It is usually an unjustified, self-centered feeling.
Elijah was one of the greatest prophets of Israel. It was his job to confront one of its most wicked kings—Ahab—and his notorious, nefarious wife, Jezebel. Elijah’s great mountaintop victory over 450 prophets of Baal is related in 1 Kings 18. However, his valley of misery follows close by in chapter 19.
Jezebel was not too happy about the defeat of her prophets, so she promised to kill Elijah the next day. So, Elijah took off for the desert, where “He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, LORD,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors’” (19:4).
Elijah had just won a decisive spiritual victory, standing alone in the midst of 450 pagans. You would think he would have felt lonely in the midst of that crowd. But he was brave. So, what happened when he was threatened by one lone woman?
The answer is found in verse 10: “[Elijah] replied, ‘I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.’” God asked him what he was doing alone in a cave. Elijah had already forgotten Who was with him when he defeated the false prophets, and focused on his own misery. He thought everyone else had deserted God and him, and he was the Lone Ranger.
If you want to have a party that no one will come to, make it a pity party. This will guarantee that you will be alone. God, as the angel of the LORD, sought out his prophet, nourished him, and sent him on a task. He proved to Elijah that he was not alone, for “I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him” (v. 18). Elijah was to continue the work of God by anointing new kings and, alas, Elisha—his replacement.
For the believer, there is no such thing as being alone. Notice how, in Elijah’s suicidal desperation, God met him and provided for him, even though Elijah preferred to play “hide and sleep.” God’s remedy for loneliness was to get Elijah’s eyes back on Him, show him that life goes on, and that there is work to do. In fact, God made Elijah part of the solution.
Elijah had forgotten that God promised to always be with his people (Deuteronomy 31:6, 8; Joshua 1:5; 1 Kings 8:57). The New Testament believer has the same promises (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5). In the darkest hours, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).
Silly Willy is silly for a lot of reasons, but he and Elijah share one silly characteristic: they both forgot that God was with them. Once they realized that, the loneliness disappeared. Willy went to his friends and made things right, while God went to Elijah so Elijah could make things right. The only thing that changed was their perspective. Like the hymn says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus.” He’s here. And there. And everywhere you turn.
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