The Despair of Loneliness: A Classic Message from Billy Graham

A few years ago, a young Hollywood star with apparently everything a woman could want ended her life. In the brief note that she left was an incredibly simple explanation—she was unbearably lonely.

H.G. Wells said on his birthday, “I am 65, and I am lonely and have never found peace.”

The Psalmist said, “I am like a pelican of the wilderness; I am like an owl of the desert. I lie awake, and am like a sparrow alone on the housetop” (Psalm 102:6-7).

The Psalmist again said, “I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind; I am like a broken vessel” (Psalm 31:12).

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There are many kinds of loneliness. First, there is the loneliness of solitude. The sentry standing duty alone at an outpost, the thousands in mental institutions, and those in solitary confinement in prisons and concentration camps know the loneliness of solitude.

In his fascinating book Alone, Admiral Richard E. Byrd told about the five months he spent in bewildering and soul-shattering darkness. He lived alone in a shack that was literally buried in the great glacial ice cap that covers the South Pole. The days were as black as the nights. No living creature of any kind existed within a hundred miles.

Probably you think that in that frozen wasteland, Richard Byrd was of all people most lonely. But the second loneliness, the loneliness of society, is far worse than the loneliness of solitude, for I have seen loneliness in New York City far worse than his.

In John 5, we read about Jesus as He winds His way through the narrow streets of Jerusalem. When He reaches the sheep-gate by the pool of Bethesda, He observes the great multitudes plagued with various infirmities, waiting to be moved into the water. Suddenly He notices a poor man who seems more needy than all the rest, and tenderly He asks, “Do you want to be made well?”

The helpless paralytic looks up and answers, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up.” Think of it—for 38 long, weary, doleful years this bundle of pain had been buffeted by the surging human tide of Jerusalem, and after all these years he still had to say to Jesus, “Sir, I have no man.” He was absolutely friendless.

You can have a friend that sticks closer than a brother. Jesus Christ can make life joyful, satisfying and glorious to you. All over North America are millions of men and women who love and serve Jesus Christ. The moment you accept Him, you are closer to them than you are to your own blood relatives.

But first, you must repent, surrender and commit your heart and life to Christ. Let Him forgive your past sins, and He will take you into His family; He will bring you to the hearth, and you will feel the warmth of His fire. If you are lonely today, I beg you, come to Christ and know the fellowship that He brings.

Third, there is the loneliness of suffering. Some time ago we received a letter from a radio listener who for five years had been crippled into a sitting position by arthritis. For five long, weary, painful years she was unable to stretch out or to lie down, yet she wrote, “I have spent many a day alone, but never a lonely day.” Why? It was Christ who made the difference. With Christ as your Savior and constant Companion, you too, although alone, need never be lonely.

Fourth, there is the loneliness of sorrow. In the 11th chapter of John, we read of Mary and Martha. Lazarus was dead. Jesus had not yet come. They stood beside his body and wept.

For you, too, perhaps the world has become a vast cemetery containing but one grave. You have stood in the sick room and watched the one dearer than all the world to you slip beyond your reach. You crave fellowship.

You want someone to come along with a helping hand to wipe the tears away and put the smile back on your face, and give you joy through the sorrow. Jesus can do just that. The Bible says, “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). God loves His children. If you are willing to trust Him and give yourself to Him, He can carry your sorrow.

Fifth, there is the loneliness of sin. In John 13, we find the story of the Last Supper. Jesus prophesies the betrayal of Judas. In amazement, the innocent disciples look at one another. John asks, “Lord, who is it?” And Jesus says, “It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.”

And when He had dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon; and then we are told that Satan entered into Judas.

Immediately Jesus said, “What you do, do quickly.” And the Bible says, “Having received the piece of bread, he then went out immediately. And it was night.”

“As you confess and forsake your sins, your fellowship with Christ will be restored. ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.'”

Perhaps you at one time knew the joy and peace of being born into God’s family. You knew the sweet fellowship of God’s people. You knew the complete happiness and satisfaction of Christ’s presence with you, but you sinned. You went out from the presence of Christ, and you have found that it is night. You have neither the fellowship of Christians nor the fellowship of sinners, and certainly you no longer have the fellowship of Christ. Perhaps there is no loneliness quite so bitter as the loneliness of a backslidden Christian.

Yet there is forgiveness for you. As you confess and forsake your sins, your fellowship with Christ will be restored. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Perhaps you say you are having a pretty good time sinning—and you well may. The Bible says there is a certain pleasure in sin. However, it is short-lived and fatal. Perhaps you have read surveys about behavior that the Bible calls sinful, and you are finding a certain satisfaction in knowing how many sinners there are who are as bad as—or worse than—you. You’re not alone. No. You’re in the vast majority.

Where then, you ask, does the loneliness of sin come in? You may be one of a crowd now, but the day is coming when every person must stand alone before Almighty God and be judged. That will be the climax of all the loneliness of earth for you, and just a preview of the loneliness of hell.

For all of those who travel the pathway of sin, there is an engulfing pall of night that isolates them from all good and true fellowship. Sin always has been darkness. Sin always will be darkness. Judas was lonely because of his sin. God says in Hosea 4:17, “Ephraim is joined to idols, let him alone.”

There are thousands of lonely people in the city and in the country who carry heavy and difficult burdens of grief, anxiety, pain and disappointment; but the loneliest soul of all is the man or woman whose life is steeped in sin.

Christ can give you power to overcome every sin and habit in your life. He can break the ropes, fetters and chains of sin; but you must repent, confess, commit and surrender yourself to Him first. Right now, it can be settled, and you can know the peace, joy and fellowship of Christ.

Last, there is the loneliness of the Savior. Thousands of human beings were swarming around Him.

“You can have a friend that sticks closer than a brother. Jesus Christ can make life joyful, satisfying and glorious to you. All over North America are millions of men and women who love and serve Jesus Christ. The moment you accept Him, you are closer to them than you are to your own blood relatives.”

There was great joy at the Passover season everywhere, but Jesus was “despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:3-6).

Jesus was alone. He had come to His own, and His own received Him not. “But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled” (Matthew 26:56).

The crowds who had so recently shouted, “Hosanna,” had that very day shouted, “Crucify Him. Crucify Him.” Now even His loyal 12 had left.

And at last we hear Him cry out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34). Not only had He been forsaken by His human companions, but now in that desperate and lonely hour, He—because He was bearing our sins in His own body on the Cross—had been forsaken by God.

Hell, essentially, is separation from God. Hell is the loneliest place in the universe. Jesus suffered its agony for you, in your place. Now God says, “Repent, believe on Christ, receive Christ, and you will never know the sorrow, the loneliness and the agony of hell.”

“For ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved’” (Romans 10:13).

Will you call on Him today? ©1952 BGEA

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New King James Version.