Guests: Brant Berglin and Jenn Ogden
Texts for this Lesson: Eccles. 4:9–12, Phil. 4:11–13, 1 Cor. 7:25–34, Matt. 19:8, Gen. 37:34, Isa. 54:5.
Memory Text: “And the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him’ ” (Genesis 2:18, NKJV).
The lesson this week invites us to think about what it is like to be alone in the journey of life. While the ideal in scripture is for us to be in a relational situation that provides companionship, there are most definitely times and circumstances in life that cause people to be alone, at least at times. And some people are constituted to live alone so, while singleness does not appear to be the preferred mode in the Bible, it is certainly not wrong or somehow strange. To push this even further, in many places now, there are more females than males which means that some people will simply never have the chance to get married. And in other places, there are more males than females with the same outcome – some people will never have the chance to get married even if they wanted to.
In the minds of many people, being alone is equated with loneliness. And loneliness is not good for people. When we experience it, we find it quite burdensome. But, when thinking about being alone it is important to realize that loneliness is not so much about being alone as it about not having any supporting relationships. And may occur even in the midst of many people at times. There are reliable indications that people in big cities, for example, can be very lonely even though there are a lot of human beings around. And young people who are in college also often report high levels of loneliness even though there are many others just like them all around. So what advice can be given, what actions taken to address those times in life when people are alone and lonely?
One situation that leads to aloneness is that of being unmarried. Sometimes this occurs because a person did not find anyone to marry even though they tried. But on other occasions, singleness occurs by choice. And let it be said, a decision not to marry may be good for some people. A single person is certainly freer to come and go, to make decisions about life and mission that do not encumber others so that decisions can be made very cleanly. There are other reasons not to marry, like service, or the presence of some disease, or the concern over bad relationships. Certainly, there are numerous biblical characters who did not marry, among whom Jesus would be chief. Forming friendships around mission, work, or some other event can be helpful to those who are alone. And those who have established companions can certainly work to include those who are alone in their family circles.
A more difficult situation comes when a marriage ends. Here we have in mind marriage that was disrupted to the point of divorce. Divorce is a difficult subject to trace through scripture because the comments on the matter are so diverse and even confusing. The best commentary on divorce is in Malachi 2:16. Here we discover God does not so much ascribe blame to people as he sorrows over the effect of divorce. Sometimes divorce is necessary while at other times it comes under inadvisable circumstances. Whatever the case, it should be noted that divorce is not listed as an unpardonable sin in the Bible. It is much more to be seen as a tragedy that prevents the intended blessings of marriage from being realized. Furthermore, the old idea of divorced and remarried people living in some kind of “state of adultery” is not thought tenable anymore. That understanding of things mistakes some advice about divorce as being in the form of a code that is to be universally applied, but the truth is that most of what the Bible has to say is more like a casebook study. And advice given in particular circumstances does not warrant attempts at universal application.
Some of the most difficult forms of being alone come because a loved one has died. This is especially true for those who have been married happily for a long time. There is no resolution for this kind of grief except for others to gather around and provide love and support.
One other type of aloneness mentioned in the lesson is that which comes about when one spouse differs from another in terms of religious belief or practice. In such circumstances, great loneliness can occur even if there is no hostility. Again, this calls for other believers to rally round to provide fellowship. Truth is, God calls very few believers to travel to the Kingdom all by themselves.
- Can you bring to mind occasions of being alone that might be insightful or informative or even therapeutic for others to hear?
- Talk about possible indicators in your community that might indicate that some people are lonely and could benefit from human contact.
- What suggestions can you come up with that your church community might use to come alongside those who are alone?