Here is my latest installment of the temptation tracker blog posts. This will be my last entry for the next 3 or 4 weeks. My speaking schedule is intense during that time. Please be in prayer for that. I will continue to ask you to post the link to this blog to your facebook or twitter, etc, and you can also post this link to a sermon I did about the temptation tracker specifically:
Where did this come from?
Temptation Tracker (created by Doug Hutchins with goingtransparent.com)
To see more on this on my site, click on this link: TempationTrackerPage
Reminders: We must identify the idolatry issue of our heart, and the temptation tracker can help us determine the root issue behind our idolatry struggle. One of the things the temptation tracker helps us identify is what emotionally triggers us to bow down to other idols. Every time a person is tempted to bow down to a false idol, they need to account for what they were feeling emotionally during that temptation. It looks like this-
Feeling: how were you feeling when temptation hit (Remember: BLAST)
Today let’s look at L, the issue of feeling lonely.
I really understand loneliness. I wish I didn’t, but I really do understand it because I have experienced it a great deal in my life. There are a variety of reasons why I have battled feeling lonely, but the bottom line is I truly know what this feels like.
However, me feeling lonely is not as big of a deal as knowing that Jesus felt this way. If you read Matthew 26, you will find Jesus in the garden praying right before He is to die on the cross. While praying, He asks His disciples to pray with Him. They continue to fall asleep on Him. As He is praying, it seems He is in intense distress, and His closest friends are not with Him. Wow!
His loneliness continues in Matthew 27 on the cross. As He bears the weight of mankind’s sin on His back, God the Father turns His back on Jesus. Christ cries out, “Why have you forsaken me?”.
It is encouraging to know that Jesus Christ struggled just like you and I struggle. Hebrews 4 tells us that we have a Great High Priest who understands our weakness. How does He understand? He experienced being lonely.
Genesis 2 tells us that it is not good to be alone. This is before the fall. Perfect garden with perfect man with perfect God, and there is loneliness. God said being alone is not good. Wow!
Loneliness is not a sin, but God does not want me to stay in a place of loneliness. What do I need to do when I am lonely? If I am not careful, feeling lonely will lead me to bowing down to idolatry.
Here are some practical ideas I have to combat loneliness:
- Remember that Jesus wants relationship with me. My sin keeps me from relationship with God, but God made a way through Jesus for me to have a relationship with Him. It is possible you are lonely because you don’t have a relationship with Jesus. You need to come to faith in God. How? Surrender yourself to Him by repenting of your sin and receiving the free gift of Jesus.
- Remember Jesus wants to dine with me. Revelation 3:20 communicates to me that Jesus Christ wants to have an intimate relationship with me and spend time with me. When I am lonely, I am usually resistant to spending that time with Jesus. I must remember that He wants that intimacy with Him and spending time with Him helps me in my loneliness.
- Surround myself with people who point me to Jesus. In Mark 2, there is a paralyzed man who can’t get to Jesus. He had four friends who literally carried him to Jesus. I need friends in my life who will point me to Christ. Many times when I feel lonely, I don’t want to reach out to people that are connected to me. One of the greatest things I can do is to reach out to those one or two people in my life who will remind me to take my loneliness to Jesus.
- Sometimes there will be times when I don’t want to reach out to Jesus or my closest friends. These are usually really dark times. I have found one Psalm to really help me during that time. That Psalm is Psalm 88. I think it is the loneliest Psalm in the Bible. There is really no resolution to it either. I am glad that chapter is in Scripture because it helps me to know I can talk to God that way when I feel super lonely.
All of these above ideas have helped me in my loneliness, but I want to specifically focus on #4. One of the loneliest times in my life was when my son, Caleb Micah, was born stillborn. It was brutally hard. His death came right after our church plant had collapsed. I was in a really dark place.
I stumbled on Psalm 88. One night in particular I was having a really tough time, and I went outside to work in my yard to take my mind off of how I felt. I started trimming hedges. The next thing I knew I had destroyed those hedges. I decided to just take them out of the flower beds. There were 6 of them. I used a tool to cut the limbs of the hedges down to where all that was left were 6 stumps.
At this point I am really crying out to God about how I feel and how lonely I am and how my heart is not in a good place. I start using a shovel to pull the stumps out by the roots. I finally get to my last stump. As I am pulling on the last couple of roots, I trip and fall. On the ground, I just look up to heaven and cry. I felt so lonely, but somehow in that moment I knew God was with me.
I look back on that night as a turning point for me. Jesus met me in my loneliness as I was destroying those shrubs. It would have been much easier for me to run to anything idolatrous there (examples: distract myself with going back to work, go watch porn, go watch sports, play a bunch of video games, eat a bunch, etc.)
I am so thankful to the Lord that He gave me some shrubs to destroy so I could cry out to Him in my place of deep loneliness. That was my Psalm 88 moment. I took my loneliness to Christ, and I was finally able to see that He was with me.
Where are you today? Wherever you are, don’t take your loneliness to idolatry. Take it to the feet of Jesus!