We all know the infinite pain that loneliness can bring. What happens, though, when loneliness becomes the only existence that you know of?
This week’s entry into our series comes from my dear friend, Benji. He and I have had many opportunities to work together and get to know each other. He has a strong heart! You will also see that he is incredibly intelligent. I’ve not met a smarter man.
I hope that you find encouragement because of his story!
Loneliness hurts. Loneliness is not simply being alone; you can be alone and be absolutely content and even happy. True loneliness is feeling totally meaningless, abandoned, and hopeless. This can be when no one is around, or when there are so many people talking that you can’t hear yourself think. Everyone who has experienced some level of this type of emptiness and feeling like you don’t matter to anyone can say that there is something painful about feeling alone in the world. I know that I feel the most lonely when I’m in a room full of happy, social, and energetic people.
For me, my story isn’t really about loneliness, it’s about not being content with the life God has given me. My story is about sin, the result of sin, reacting to this result with more sin, and finally seeing grace when I deserved it the least. I grew up with everything that should have made me content.
My family loved me, my parents were, (and still are), happily married, I grew up with pastors and teachers who loved Jesus, and I never had to worry about having what I needed. I was graciously saved at a young age in the church, and I have never fallen away from the faith. But it was in spite of this that I fell into a cycle that kept me in sin and depression.
When I was young, I was more or less a loner. This wasn’t really by choice, and as time went on, I became bitter about being alone. I thought that I was everyone’s “second choice”, and that no one actually wanted to be with me, or just that no one wanted to have anything to do with me. I let this loneliness get the better of me, and I became ever more bitter and angry.
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine walked me through some things, and it came about that loneliness is one of my triggers. Loneliness drives me to dark places, and loneliness makes the dark feel like home. That is exactly what happened to me the longer I let sin putrefy in my heart.
In order not to be too graphic, I won’t be using many specifics for the next paragraph or two. I don’t know what came next after being so bitter and self-absorbed, the depression or the sinful, lustful thoughts. Part of me thinks that it was the former and that I gave into the latter as a way to escape. The other part of me thinks that the latter came first, and depression came as a result.
Either way, my bitter and selfish heart lashed out in sin and was met with a new chain to keep me in this constant cycle. I didn’t read John Owen until I was 17, but he once wrote: “Be killing your sin, or your sin will be killing you”. Those words were painfully true about me. I gave into my sin over, and over, and over, and over, and I loved it. Of course, God is faithful, and He did not let me love my sin forever.
The Holy Spirit showed me my error and lifted my head. Unfortunately, I was too ashamed to be satisfied with infinite grace. I was still caught in the lie that somehow I could be more worthy of the grace I had been shown. This lie drove me to deeper and darker depression, and back to the same sins that put me there. This painful, guilt-ridden, and shameful cycle continued for over four years.
At the deepest points of my sin, I felt that I would be trapped in the sin that I had grown to despise, (but that my flesh so cherished), forever. I never understood what depravity meant until I had to look into its eyes in the mirror every morning. I realized that I could not gain any favor from a good God, and this thought tormented me. I was saved by grace, but there had to have been something in me that should motivate God or compensate Him for that grace.
This lie was grounded in a vision I had of myself. This vision was that I had, by my own power, moved toward God and invited Him to be in my life. I wanted to be sovereign, I wanted to be my own heart’s King, and I refused to give that honor to God. In my vision, God was too kind and too concerned with my own freedom to do anything in my heart without my permission.
When I was 17, some dear friends of mine showed me that this vision of myself and of God was radically misplaced. I had made God subservient to my will in everything that involved my heart. But, when I looked at the Bible I saw that I was wrong. There was nothing about me that should motivate God to save me, and there was nothing I could do to compensate Him for the grace He had shown me. Each time loneliness, anger, and bitterness had driven me to sin, and each time sin had led me to grace, and each time the Spirit has convicted me of this sin, and each time I had refused to rest in this grace, the Father had remained faithful to me. I had been unfaithful to God, but His faithfulness and His mercy had never wavered.
Learning of this again broke me. Learning that God chose freely and mightily to save me apart from my works, or the strength of my faith, broke my heart. I hated the idea that God would work in my soul apart from my permission, but over time I could deny it no longer. Even still, after the Spirit illuminated this precious truth to me, I found in the doctrine of God’s grace and strength a rock to hide from my sin, guilt, and depression.
In knowing the truth of the strength of God, Christ was made precious to me. He became a jewel to be pursued, a refuge to be found in, and a King demanding my loyal service. No longer did I feel shame when the Spirit pricked my soul, but I felt, and still feel the strong and loving hand of my Father and my God. For the first time, I saw the wretchedness of my sin as something to be hated more than anything else. The sin that had been killing me began to slowly die in the presence of the One who had overcome its reign.
I am still the same sinful wretch who was saved by grace nearly fifteen years ago, and the same unworthy, bitter, and weary rebel that has so weakly given into sin for so long, but Christ has mightily broken me. The Gospel of God is the only medicine sufficient to heal the soul broken by sin. I’m still being fixed, little by little, but the Gospel doesn’t end when with salvation; it is the Christian’s refuge, his precious medicine, and his dearest comfort.
“It never came into God’s thought to make a new covenant with you [on the basis of] your worthiness. If God should show mercy [only to those who are worthy] He would show mercy to no one. But it is God’s design in [this new covenant] to advance the riches of His grace, to love us freely, and when [we are not worthy, to accept us because Christ is worthy]. Therefore, do not let your unworthiness discourage you”. –Thomas Watson. A Body of Divinity, pg. 158.
God’s love far surpasses anything that we’ve ever done or will do. He loves you no matter where you are. Thank you, Benji, for that reminder.
I would love to meet you and hear your story. Feel free to comment down below! Subscribe at the top of the page if you loved what you read.
You can find me on social media by using the icons located on the sidebar on the right of the page!
Want to be a part of our monthly newsletter mailing? Subscribe here! Subscribe!