Administrators at one of the largest hospitals in America researched the reason for their overcrowded emergency rooms. Parkland Hospital of Dallas, Texas, made a startling discovery as they looked for ways to unclog the system.
They analyzed data and found eighty patients who went to four emergency rooms 5,139 times in a twelve-month period, costing the system more than $14 million. They sent teams to meet with them and determine the reason.
Their conclusion? Loneliness. Poverty and food shortages contributed, but their main determinant was a sense of isolation. The ER provided attention, kindness, and compassionate care (https://thepastorsworkshop.com/sermon-illustrations-on-loneliness/).
The Harvard University Graduate School of Education surveyed approximately 950 Americans in the Fall, 2020. The report suggests that 36% of Americans deal with “serious loneliness,” including 61% of young adults and 51% of mothers with young children. Those results came in the thick of the pandemic, but three years later, loneliness continues to inflict our society (https://mcc.gse.harvard.edu/reports/loneliness-in-america).
As Jesus hung on the cross, He experienced a moment of intense loneliness. He felt completely abandoned by God and cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34). Have you ever felt that way?
Jesus understands everything we face. Think about His life: He was conceived before Mary was married, misunderstood by his family, rejected by the religious establishment, disappointed by his closest followers, and betrayed by one of His disciples. One time Jesus stated, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Matthew 8:20).
Think about His death: Matthew 27:47 records some people stood nearby. Where were His family members? His mother, His mother’s sister, and Mary Magdalene stood with Him (John 19:25). So did one disciple, John (19:26). Where were the other disciples? Where were the crowds who heard Him teach and saw Him perform miracles?
Jesus empathizes with our loneliness. In the process of crucifying Jesus, the moment came in which God placed our iniquity upon His Son. As Holy God looked upon the cross, He did not see His Son. Instead, He saw the awfulness of our sin borne by His Son.
Instantly, Jesus experienced something He had never felt in all eternity. Jesus sensed the pain of separation from God as God turned His back. Then Jesus uttered, “Why have you forsaken Me?”
In these days of having more social media followers than real friends, when emailing or texting is easier than sitting down and having a meaningful conversation with someone in person, how do we confront loneliness?
What did Jesus do with His loneliness?
First, Jesus turned to His heavenly Father. He cried out. He prayed. Though God turned His face away from sin, He never left Jesus. In that moment, even as this cry was leaving His lips, God was present with Jesus. God is always present with us. You are never alone, no matter what you are facing or what you are dealing with.
Second, Jesus turned to God’s Word. Jesus quoted Psalms 22:1. Jesus knew God’s Word because He spent time in God’s Word. So must we. When we find ourselves fighting the feeling of forsakenness, open the Bible and find passages that bring comfort. Out of curiosity, I did a search for “scriptures that bring comfort” and the first thing that came up was a piece in Southern Living from July 2022, “50 Bible Verses that Bring Peace and Comfort.” (https://www.southernliving.com/culture/comforting-bible-verses).
What if you wrote these verses down on 3×5 cards and posted them on your mirrors, or kept them in your pocket so you could read them again and again? What if you memorized ten of them? What a difference that would make!
Billy Graham said, “I am never lonely when I am reading the Bible. Nothing dissolves loneliness like a session with God’s Word.”
Third, Jesus trusted His heavenly Father. Jesus knew He was right in the middle of God’s perfect plan to bring salvation to the world. Even as He endured the cruelty of the cross and the pain of forsakenness, He knew God was in control and was still writing His story. And the story wasn’t over. This was Friday and resurrection Sunday was coming!
God is still writing your story, also. Do you trust Him?
[David L. Chancey is pastor, McDonough Road Baptist Church, Fayetteville, Georgia. Visit www.mcdonoughroad.org for more information and online worship options. Visit www.davidchancey.com to see more of Chancey’s writings and info on his new book.]