Didn’t See It Coming – Loneliness and Disconnection
This message is a part of our Didn’t See It Coming Series. Find the rest of the messages in this series here.
In 2013 Derek and I did a Tough Mudder in St Louis. 10 miles and 20 obstacles. They told you there would be 20 obstacles, but they didn’t tell you what all of the obstacles would be until a week before… As we got closer to the day of the event I was checking their website every few hours trying to see if they had posted the list of obstacles and the course map yet… I was afraid I was in over my head and wanted to know what was coming. I wanted to know what obstacles we were going to face.
When you’re first starting out on your own, you’re not worried about what’s ahead because you’re pretty sure you can handle it… then the first unexpected obstacle or issue blindsides you and a little bit of that optimism get’s knocked out of you… As time goes on, you eventually get to a place where you live your life wondering what’s going to happen next!?!?!? When you feel in over your head, you start looking really hard down the road to see what obstacles are ahead.
On that first tough mudder in 2013, I was terrified I was in over my head, so I wanted to know what obstacles were coming. One of the obstacles that they have at every event was called Funky Monkey and it was an inclined set of monkey bars over a pool of muddy water.
I knew that one was coming and I did a good amount of work trying to prepare for it, but when I got to it, near the end of the event I was tired, my arms were exhausted, and I failed to make it across. Knowing the obstacles that are ahead can be comforting and give you knowledge to prepare, but some obstacles are too tough, no matter now much heads up you have…Other obstacles are impossible to prepare for, even when you know they’re coming…
Last year I read several books, but no book worked on me as personally and directly as Carey Nieuwhoff’s “Didn’t See It Coming.” As I read through the book, and specifically the chapter on Cynicism which we’ll cover next week, I found myself relating to so much of it… I found my self at 35 completely broadsided by these issues that I hadn’t see coming, and I realized that they were not just personal problems, but they were human nature problems that scripture deals with directly. In this series I want to not only give you a warning, I want to give you the solutions to these problems… The truth is that these 5 obstacles that we will cover are issues that no one expect they’ll face, but research shows that almost all of us struggle with them.
5 obstacles no one expects but everyone experiences.
Cynicism (lack of trust)
Emptiness (searching for meaning and significance)
Burnout (when you’re just over it)
Insecurity (which is pride in hiding)
Today’s issue is Loneliness or disconnection.
One of the reasons this catches us by surprise is that we are more connected than ever before… However, we are also more lonely than ever before.
Generation Z is the loneliest generation yet. Millennials are just behind…
In Great Britain they have appointed a “Minister for Loneliness” – a government posting for the purpose of facing the epidemic of loneliness.
In Great Britain there are 200,000 senior citizens that have not had a face to face interaction in 30 days.
50% of people say they feel alone or left out either sometimes or all of the time. – Cigma Insurance Study
54% of people say no one really knows them well. – Cigma Insurance Study
40% of people say none of their relationships are meaningful.
Now the go to reaction here is that technology is making us more isolated and connected… that this is a symptom of social media and smart phones.
I want to push back on that and point out that this is a human nature problem. We’ve been struggling with disconnection from the very beginning.
If you begin reading in the very beginning of the Bible, you’ll read about a beautiful paradise and a couple there named Adam and Eve and within just a few chapters they are hiding, blaming, feeling shame… they’re disconnected.
Throughout time new forms of technology have given us opportunities for greater connection or greater isolation.
Technology merely makes it easier for us to pursue what’s in our hearts…
When we flew to Virginia for Christmas the lady who sat next to Nicole on one of the flights was complaining to her that because of headphones that people don’t talk on flights anymore.
I remember people talking about the main reason to take a book on a flight is that it communicates that you don’t really want to talk…
Let me show you a picture from some time ago…
Now some people have argued that this is actually a picture of social activity because people are reading the news so they can have conversations about it around the water cooler at work…
The same could be said about technology today…
Problem is that we aren’t all reading the same stuff on social media. The meteoric rise of social media is largely based upon the fact that it is tailored to us, to want we want to see, what we want to read, what we want to engage with…
The most popular television show is only seen by 3% of the population. That means if you are watching the most popular TV show in America right now, you might be able to find 3 other people who also watch the show if you talked to 100.
Technology isn’t the problem, but technology is escalating our tendency toward isolation.
A habit that spreads germs isn’t the cause of sickness, but it makes sickness go further faster.
Straw maybe a way that germs can be passed from one person to another but straws aren’t evil… They should just be used carefully.
Kissing is a way that germs get passed from person to person, but I don’t want to do away with all kissing.
I’d recommend you be careful who you kiss…
The way to overcome sickness is to deal with the germs, or to deal with what’s making you sick.
This is the advice that James gives us in his book in the New Testament. He says to his readers in
13Is any among you afflicted? let him pray.
Is any merry? let him sing psalms.
14Is any sick among you?
let him call for the elders of the church;
and let them pray over him,
anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:
15And the prayer of faith shall save the sick,
and the Lord shall raise him up;
and if he have committed sins,
they shall be forgiven him.
16Confess your faults one to another,
and pray one for another,
that ye may be healed.
The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
Now, this was written in Greek originally and the word that he uses for afflicted means suffering or struggling, dealing with a difficulty.
If I asked, are any of you sick, maybe a few of you would raise your hands because you’ve been fighting off a cold or because you have been dealing with the some other ailment…
If I asked are any of you struggling, if you were honest, most of us would raise our hands…
Later he uses the word “Sick” and it literally means made weak.
Are any of you struggling? Have any of you been made weak?
Now, he’s definitely talking about physical ailment, but that’s not all he’s referring too…
He says that people should pray for the sick, and the elders of the church should come and pray over the sick to heal them from physical ailments and diseases… but the prescription he gives for struggling is harder.
He says, confess your faults to one another.
This is harder…
You know how I know it’s harder?
Because when we take prayer requests, it’s a lot easier for us to list off people who are sick than it is for us to ask for prayer for our issues.
We’d much rather ask everyone to pray for our 3rd cousin twice removed’s brother-in-law’s coworkers sprained ankle than we would say, “would you guys pray for me, I’ve just really been struggling with greed. I’ve been dealing with jealousy.”
You know why it’s harder?
We would all rather observe other people’s problems
than take ownership of our problems.
I’ve got a friend that I speak to regularly about ministry.
He’s older, wiser, and got more experience.
I’ve relied on him a lot over these past few months as we’ve worked to prepare for this shift to two services.
In those conversation he mentioned that they were going add another service (they were already doing 3), so I had some questions about how that was going to work logistically…
After he answered a few of the questions he sighed and then he joked, “listen. This is suppose to be about me thinking about your problems not you making me think about my problems…”
Confess your faults one to another so that you may be healed.
James tells us to confess our own faults, to confess them as ours, and to confess them as sins and faults, not excuses, rationalizations, or justifications…
In the confessing of faults we need to be clear on excuses, reasons, and self justifications…
We use Excuses to give ourselves a pass for the past.
We use Reasons to give ourselves a pass in the present.
We use Self-Justifications to give ourselves a pass for the future.
Excuses and reasons lead to self justification. In other words, making excuses for ourselves leads to keep doing the same things we’ve always done.
Now, there’s value in finding explanations… Explanation helps you understand why you have a hard time trusting people or why you are so angry…
Uncovering the root of the issues you are facing give you an explanation, not an excuse.
Once you’ve got an excuse you can start rationalizing.
Once you’ve got an explanation, you can start healing.
One of the hardest thing for me as a Pastor to watch people go through is when they are sick and the doctors just can’t figure out why…
Once Doctors run a test, do a scan, conduct a biospy, or whatever it is that they need to do to figure out what is going on inside of you, then they can begin to heal you-
They use that information to prescribe treatment…
Imagine if the doctor looks at your X-ray and said, hmmm. yep. Looks like a broken arm, well now you know why you’re in pain… and sent you on your way…
No one says, oh yeah I’ve got a broken radius, that’s the way I am the way I am… it’s used as an explanation, not an excuse.
There is something so satisfying about figuring something out about yourself.
In Growth Track I try to help people figure out what how they fit in the mission God’s called us to here in our community.
We do personality assessment and a spiritual gifts assessment and these are just tools for figuring out what your personality and God given abilities make you cut out for…
When we do those every time there are people who like, huh. Well that makes sense…
In Growth Track we figure out what’s right about you, so it’s a lot of fun, but what James is speaking of here is figuring out and owning what’s wrong about us.
Once you’ve named it you can treat it or rationalize it, but you can’t do both…
James says, CONFESS YOUR faults one to another.
James is telling us to own our mess, to own our shortcomings.
I know what some of you are thinking, you are thinking is this guy really telling me that the way to overcome loneliness is to tell everyone what’s wrong with me? Sounds like a great way to wreck the few relationship I do have…
But here’s what’s beautiful
In the context of Christian community confession leads to mercy, grace, love, and transformation.
James just assumes that within Christian Community a person will be able to confess their faults and experience love and acceptance, we know that James is assuming that in verse 16, because look at what he says in verse 19 and 20.
Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him;
20 Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.
The idea here is that if someone wanders off you go after them.
If someone stumbles into sin, you go help them up.
Paul gives his take on this in
1Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
Scripture not only encourages us to welcome and accept sinners, we are commanded to go find them.
We just kicked off a semester of community groups and this past week as we discussed the message from Sunday in our group we spoke about all that God has redeemed us from… People opened up about how God stepped into their lives in a big way and saved them from themselves, from heartache, from shame… it was powerful.
It was life giving.
That’s what James was calling them to, to “Confess your faults, pray for one another, that you may be healed.”
It’s not “Confess your faults so you may be punished.”
Or judged or ostracized or abandoned…
All of this takes time.
Love has a speed. It’s slower than you are. – Carey Nieuwhoff
The pace of the show was intentional.
1 Corinthians 6:11
but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
There’s progressive healing and restoration in Christian community, and there’s instantaneous forgiveness in the name of Jesus.
This passage refers to Elijah as a righteous man…
It’s giving us an example of the power of prayer, but the reference to Elijah as a righteous man is striking because Elijah was a good man, but he wasn’t perfect.
In fact, Elijah once got so discouraged and angry that he told God to just kill him. He didn’t want to do what God was asking him to do any more…
Elijah got so low he didn’t want to live any more…