You Are Not Alone

This post in an adapted excerpt from my sermon in the series “Four Things,” preached at Morden Mennonite on January 31, 2016. See others in the series: “Loved,” “Forgiven,” “Needed.” Here is the audio of the full sermon:

It’s one of the most basic needs we have: the need for human connection. It’s one of the most common fears we have: the fear of being alone. They’re two sides of the same coin: fear on the one side, desire on the other.

As soon as our eyes begin to focus as babies, we are looking for faces: eyes and noses and smiles. And, as babies, we need that human touch: loving, gentle, firm, safe.

At the other end of our lives, not much has changed. We still look for kind faces with warm smiles. We still crave that loving human touch. Right to the end.

This desire to be connected to others, and its flip side, the fear of being alone, drives us far more than we realize. All social groupings are at bottom fueled by that need for contact with other persons. We form friendship bonds, and partnership bonds, and permanent pair bonds, because we have a deep need to connect with others, and a deep fear of being isolated from others.

Put another way, there’s a reason why solitary confinement is one of the most horrific punishments that can be inflicted on people. Even the most introverted among us craves social interaction with other persons. The difference among us is only a matter of degree.

We long for meaningful connection; we fear being alone.

There’s an interesting feature of the creation stories in the book of Genesis that many people have noticed.

When you read through the first story in Genesis 1, you hear this repeated refrain: “And God saw that it was good.” God separates the land and the waters, and it is good. The earth brings forth vegetation, and it is good. God separates the light from the darkness, and it is good. God creates every living creature, and it is good.

Seven times in Genesis 1, the Creator God shapes something, forms something, makes something, fills something—and then declares it to be “good.”

But then comes Genesis 2, the second creation story. And smack in the middle of it, you read this: “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good.’”

Keep in mind, this is before sin has even entered the picture. This is when everything is supposed to be untainted and unspoiled and perfect in its goodness. And in the middle of this very good creation is something that is “not good.”

Here’s the whole statement: “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the Human should be alone.’”

The very first thing in the Bible noted as “not good,” even in the pristine paradise of Eden, is human isolation, a lack of meaningful connection with others—being all alone in a big wide world.

We long for meaningful connection; we fear being alone. This parallel desire and fear is not only built into our DNA; it’s built into our most primal stories, our first Scriptures.

And to each of us, God speaks these words of good news: “You are not alone.”

You are not alone. Others are with you: companions on the journey of life, partners in the purpose of life. And God is with you: even if all others fail, God will never leave you or forsake you. You are not alone.

Right from the very beginning of the human story, then, the Bible highlights our need for connection with others, that it is “not good” for us to be alone. But as interesting as that is, what’s even more interesting is what God does about it.

We typically think of the story this way: God says, “It’s not good for the Man to be alone,” and then we jump immediately to the end of the story, where there is a Man and a Woman who come together to be “one flesh” in marriage.

But that’s not actually the way the story is told. The Hebrew word for “Man” here is adam, which can mean “man” or “male human.” But it can also mean “human” or “human being” generally, and in the context it’s clear that’s what it means here.

Because right after God says, “It’s not good for the adam to be alone,” God doesn’t immediately make a womanGod makes the animals. You see, the distinction is not between the Man and the Woman, but between the Human and the Animals.

All the Animals are paraded before the Human, and none of them is the “suitable companion” that God says the Human needs. And so God makes another Human, “bone of bone and flesh of flesh”—exactly the same, a fully human counterpart—to be the first Human’s “suitable companion.”

In other words, the problem is not that a man needs a wife, or that a woman needs a husband. The problem is that a human needs another human—we need meaningful human connection, human companionship. And God has provided for that need by creating other humans, other people around us, to give us the connection and companionship that we require. Marriage, then, is one specific and important way in which this basic need for human relationship is fulfilled—but it is not the only way.

I know, that way of reading the story goes against the grain of our received interpretations of Genesis 2. But it’s really the best way to understand the story. After all, if that need for companionship is only satisfied through marriage, then there have been a lot of single people through history who have not fulfilled God’s purpose for relationships—including Jesus.

So here’s the important takeaway from all this: We are not all mandated to get married, but we are all created for human companionship—and God provides us with human companions on the journey of life, human partners in the purpose of life.

You are not alone. Others are with you: companions on the journey of life, partners in the purpose of life. You are not alone.

Rubens - Jesus on CrossBut there’s more. God is with you: even if all others fail, God will never leave you or forsake you.

This can be hard for us to believe, to really believe. We can at times feel abandoned by God—usually when we also feel abandoned by others. We can, in other words, feel like Jesus on the cross, crying out in our hearts, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Yet, as Jesus himself would have known, God never really abandons us, God is always with us. Even that Psalm that Jesus quotes—his words on the cross are the opening words of Psalm 22—that Psalm goes on to say, “God did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him” (22:24).

So even in our loneliest moments, those times when we feel most isolated from others, most disconnected, even completely abandoned—God is with us.

If you feel like this—lonely, isolated, disconnected, abandoned—listen to these words from Scripture; let them wash over you:

From Isaiah 43:5: [God says,] “You are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you…Do not fear, for I am with you.”

From Hebrews 13:5: God has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”

You are precious in God’s sight, and honoured, and God loves you. Do not be anxious or afraid, for God is with you. Indeed, God will never leave you or forsake you.

You are not alone. Others are with you: companions on the journey of life, partners in the purpose of life. And God is with you: even if all others fail, God will never leave you or forsake you. You are not alone.

Cross-posted from © Michael W. Pahl.