Wednesday, April 18, 2012

All the Lonely People

I have to admit, I've never watched Pulp Fiction, but for years, I've heard people quoting Uma Thurman from one of the film's deleted scenes:
"[T]here's two kinds of people in this world, Beatles people and Elvis people. Now Beatles people can like Elvis, and Elvis people can like the Beatles, but nobody likes them both equally. Somewhere you have to make a choice, and that choice tells you who you are."
Anyone who knows me very well knows I'm more of an Elvis person, but today I want to talk a little about The Beatles. The Beatles have been controversial at times, but whether you love them or hate them, there's no denying the influence they've had on the world of popular music, and sometimes they have a way of expressing things beautifully.

Generally, I prefer their earlier music, but in the later years, there were still plenty of great tunes. One of my favorite Beatles tracks came when they were transitioning from being primarily a touring band to being a more experimental, studio-bound group. Forsaking the traditional "guitars and drums" format I loved so much, they brought in a string octet to record Paul McCartney's tragic ballad, "Eleanor Rigby".

Loneliness is one of those feelings we can all relate to at some point in our lives. Sometimes we feel lonely because someone we love is far away, or because someone close to us has died. Sometimes we feel lonely because we feel like people have rejected us, or we just don't seem to fit in. You don't even have to be alone to feel like it. Like Ernest Tubb, perhaps you've said, "I'm with a crowd, but oh so alone." Sometimes, we don't even know where these feelings come from - they just overwhelm us! The Eleanor Rigby of the song may have been fictional (though a real Eleanor Rigby is buried in Liverpool near where Lennon and McCartney met), but her story is all too real to us.

Grave of Eleanor Rigby, St Peter's Parish Church, 2008
Grave of a real Eleanor Rigby in Liverpool
What these songs remind us is that lonely people are all around us. We often talk about the need to remember the lonely around Thanksgiving and Christmas because holidays can be especially difficult, but just because the holidays have passed, that doesn't mean the loneliness has passed. You can be lonely any time of year. We especially should take time to remember those who have been widowed or orphaned or those who are bound to hospital beds or are stuck in nursing homes, but I'm sure there are others you know who wear a smile as a mask and try to put on a good show while they feel empty on the inside day after day.

The tale of Eleanor Rigby and Father McKenzie also reminds us that being a Christian doesn't make you immune to these feelings. Both characters spent time in the church, and yet both felt left out and neglected. We see, then, that loneliness and depression are everywhere. It's just that sometimes they're easy to spot, and other times it takes a little sensitivity.

So what does the Bible have to say to the lonesome?

First, the Bible tells us that God cares. Throughout the Scriptures, we are reminded of God's great love for all those whom he has created. Specifically to those who are suffering, the Psalmist offers this reminder:

"The Lord is near to the broken-hearted,
and saves the crushed in spirit."
- Psalm 34:18

Later, the Psalmist depicts God as the one who brings healing and cares for the wounds of the broken-hearted (Psalm 147:3). And repeatedly, the Scriptures remind us that no matter where we are or what we go through, God is with us (Deuteronomy 31:6; Psalm 139:1-18; Matthew 28:19-20). If you are lonely, remember that the Lord has not left you alone. He is near. He is only a prayer away!

Also, know that God never intended you to remain lonely. Immediately after creating the first man, God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone" (Genesis 2:18), so the Lord brought animals and other people in order to help the man and keep him company. Your pets, your friends, your family - these are all signs of God's love for you!

Drawing on this last point, you could even say that reaching out to the down-trodden and lifting their spirits is an act of worship, because in that moment, you are fulfilling part of God's purpose for creating you. Therefore, since we know that God loves us and has called us to a purpose:

"Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, 
for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke 
one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, 
as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, 
and all the more as you see the Day approaching."
- Hebrews 10:23-25

Today, I urge you to "look at all the lonely people" around you and consider: Who can you be a blessing to today? What lonely spirit can you encourage? Make a difference in someone's life now, before it's too late!

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