Revive Our Hearts Weekend Podcast

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Not Lonely in Alone

Dannah Gresh: Many people say that the pandemic is to blame for the epidemic of loneliness. Erin Davis says maybe we shouldn't be so quick to look towards outside forces when we feel alone.

Erin Davis: So often loneliness is not something that is forced upon us. It’s not just our circumstances. Most of the time loneliness is a path that we choose to walk. And while painful, loneliness is the path of least resistance. 

Dannah: Are you lonely? We want to help you. We’re talking about the cure for loneliness today on Revive Our Hearts Weekend.

Welcome to Revive Our Hearts Weekend, I’m Dannah Gresh. 

Imagine with me for a sec. Spending days, weeks, months without speaking to another person. There’s no one around to share your day with, no one to joke with, unless you consider the morning news show hosts as someone to talk to. 

Hard right? Yes . . . and lonely. Can you feel the ache within your soul if that was you? You’d feel, as many people do right now, lonely.

But what if this problem isn’t caused by our circumstances? What if it starts within ourselves? Well, that perked your ears up, didn’t it? Or maybe it riled you. But hang with me. We’re gonna talk through this together. Together.

There’s a small book in the Old Testament by the name of Ecclesiastes. Let me read chapter 4, verses 7–8 “Again, I saw vanity under the sun: one person who has no other, either son or brother, yet there is no end to all his toil, and his eyes are never satisfied with riches, so that he never asks, 'For whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure?'” 

I’ll repeat part of verse 7 again “one person who has no other, either son or brother, yet there is no end to all his toil."

This was the starting point for some teaching that Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth gave about loneliness. I want you to hear what she had to say were some possible reasons for loneliness. Here’s Nancy.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: As I meditated on this passage and on the whole subject of aloneness in relationships, it occurred to me that there are a number of possible reasons for aloneness. We won’t address all of them, but obviously sometimes people feel alone because they are alone. There really is no one in their immediate life, no one who really cares, no one who is plugged into their life.

I think of some widows I know who have really had to wrestle with loneliness, aloneness, and having to care for themselves, or having just minimum of human connection. That’s an alone season of life, or can be.

I think of some single women who have written to me and expressed just how they struggle with this sense of aloneness, a desire for companionship, for someone to connect or someone to care.

There are other reasons for our aloneness, and I think one of them has to do with what we have talked about in the last few sessions, and that is the pain of oppression and injustice. The pain of damaged and sinful relationships is what leads many people to withdraw from relationships. “I’ve been hurt. I’m not going to get hurt again.” Like a turtle sticking its head out. It gets stepped on, it’s going to think twice before it sticks its head out again. “I’m not going to stick my head out again.”

I know there are women listening to this program who, as children, were physically, sexually, emotionally abused. Now you’re grown women, and you’ve gone for years just not being willing to connect into the lives of others because it hurts, and you don’t want to get hurt again. There’s that sense of fear and shame in many women’s hearts.

What it does is cause them to put up walls, and we’ve all done this to greater or lesser degrees. If we have a relationship that has been difficult for us, that’s been stressful, where we’ve experienced pain—and it may be with a family member—we’re not going to walk into that relationship.

Some of you dread calling your parents. Some of you dread calling your in-laws. Maybe there’s a son or daughter, and you just dread getting a phone call because you know the conversation is going to be tense, it’s going to be angry, it’s going to be heated, it’s going to be hard.

So that fear, that shame, that sense of oppression or injustice can cause us to put up walls. It can leave us alone.

Then I think this verse, Ecclesiastes 4:8, gives us a hint about another reason for aloneness. It says, “There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth.” I think this touches on the matter of selfish greed. Here’s a person who says, “I want to live my life for myself. I want what’s best for me, and if my plans and my goals don’t fit in with anyone else’s, then I’m going to live my life for me. I’m going to look out for my own happiness, for my own benefit, for my own gain.” This is a person who’s selfish and greedy. The problem is, most of us who are selfish and greedy don’t realize that we are. Other people may see it in us, but it’s hard to see it in ourselves.

“There was no end to his toil.” Here’s a person who lived with endless labor, always working, always striving, always trying to achieve, but he’s doing it apart from the context of relationships, apart from the context of community, apart from the context of responsibility to and for others. He’s got endless labor and toil but apart from the context of commitment and committed, loving, caring relationships. “I’ll do this on my own.”

The Scripture says, “His eyes were not content with his wealth.” He’s not satisfied. This is a picture of selfish greed. He’s living for himself. He’s not alone because there is no one in his life, but because he has cut himself off from relationships.

I can think of seasons of my own life where this has been true, to some degree at least, where there were people who God provided to be a part of my life. I was a part of a church; I have a family; there were people around me; I had people in my work place. But for various reasons, mostly because I was just focused on my own goals and objectives, I wasn’t nurturing those relationships, and I ended up cut off, feeling very alone, but of my own doing because I wasn’t functioning and doing my labor and my toil within the context of relationships and community as God has designed that they should be.

Listen, the choices that we make have consequences, and if I choose to live periods of my life for me, for my goals, for my ambitions, for my gain, for my benefit, then I should not be surprised if some day I end up feeling very alone. You lived for yourself; then live by yourself. And this man found out, as we women often find out, we can’t enjoy the toil of our labors if we’ve just been doing it for ourselves.

So ask yourself: “For whom am I toiling?” Think of your role as a wife, as a mother, as a homemaker. Who are you doing it for? Are you doing it just so you can have a beautiful house? Are you doing it so people can think you’re this great, creative Martha Stewart? Or are you doing it to serve God and your family? Who are you doing it for? Is it for selfish or greedy reasons? Or are you doing it as an expression of love? Are you doing it because you care, because you’re connected to the lives of others? Why do you work in your work place? Just so you can have a living for yourself, just so you can pay your own bills?

Listen, if you’re just doing it for yourself, that’s selfish greed, and you’ll end up having to enjoy it by yourself, and that’s not very enjoyable, Solomon is saying here.

We need to be working for others, for the glory of God, for the benefit and the blessing of others.

Ask yourself: What’s the purpose of my labors? Sacrifice with no others-centered purpose is meaningless; it’s vanity; it’s emptiness. If you’re serving, laboring just for yourself and not for the sake or the benefit of others, if you’re living life for yourself, if you’re self-absorbed, you’ll find that it’s vanity and meaningless.

Sacrifice with no others-centered purpose is meaningless.

Now, God has a solution. He has a prescription for both the pain of oppression and injustice and for the problem of isolation and aloneness. God’s prescription is the word relationship. God’s prescription is not painful and broken relationships, but whole and healthy relationships, relationships characterized by—if I can use another “I” word here—intimacy. Not injustice or isolation, but intimacy, oneness of heart, oneness of spirit.

Listen to the entire episode "The Plague of Loneliness." This comes from the series "The Power of Relationships."

Dannah: Nancy had a great question: For whom are you toiling? Serving God and your family? Or Yourself? Or keeping up with others?

But maybe your loneliness is coming from a different place.

I know something about loneliness. I suffered through ten years of great loneliness until I discovered one powerful verse from Scripture that set me free. I’d love to share it with you, but first I need to tell you that the source of my loneliness . . . was shame.

I think shame is one of our deepest, strongest, and most private emotions. But what is it?

Shame is pain caused by a consciousness of guilt or maybe even just a failure. The pain is caused not just by our own sin or failure, but fear that others will see those things.

Here’s the irony of shame: the fear is usually about being disconnected from God and others. We imagine that happening in the form of rejection. “If they only really knew me.” But to avoid being rejected, we withdrawal and hide. Enter loneliness. Think about that! Hiding is illogical and counterintuitive, and actual does guarantee disconnection from God and others, but we do it anyway.

Shame kept me hiding in secrecy for almost one full decade. What was I ashamed of? Sexual sin from my teen years. I hid. I hid from those closest to me—just like Adam and Eve did. Remember what they did? How they hid in their shame. I did that.

God comes looking for them, even their hiding. And He’s looking for you and me. He created us to be known by Him and by others . . . not to hide.

Let me share with you the Bible verse that gave me the courage to come out of hiding.

The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him. And he will shew them his covenant. (Psalm 25:14 KJV)

“The secret of the Lord . . .” What was that? Well, it is a rich Hebrew phrase that described the people of God; a tight knit circle of friendship that they shared. I described how they shared the ups and downs of living. They celebrated each others victories. Unique to their circle of fellowship was that they were vulnerable and transparent and honest about their sin.

In the New Testament we actually have a word for it: koinonia—koinonia fellowship.

You know what the opposite of the secret of the Lord is? Loneliness.

I don't know how you hide, but my hiding looked like: performance, success, workaholism, acting like I had it all together. But I was lonely. Very lonely.

This verse gives a prescription for that loneliness. It says, "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him." There's that topic, fear, again. But this is speaking of the fear of God. The Hebrew word actually meant “to worship, to bow before, to submit to.” It's talking about a constant state of awe and obedience. When we fear God, we have intimate fellowship with Him and with others.

But do you know what the opposite of the fear and reverence and obedience to God is? Fear of man.

I had such a fear that if Bob knew my past, he would reject me. I feared that if my mom knew, she would be so deeply disappointed. But honestly, it was that everyone would leave if they really knew.

One day, my courage had been gone for so, so long, but I dared to believe this verse. I was scared, but I pressed in to I confess to the first person. I sat for three hours in a dark bedroom with my husband until I finally confessed my sin from my teenage years. I had been married for almost five years—hiding in my sin and shame. And with one confession, it was all erased—the loneliness was erased, the shame was erased.

Bob held me. He forgave me. I grew to him in that moment, not further. He accepted me.

Listen, I knew the blood of Jesus was enough in my head every single day that I was confessing my sin to God—again and again. I knew that the blood of Jesus was enough. I just couldn’t feel it. I was lonely. But daring to allow my sin and failure to be exposed, that is what invited me back into that rich circle of fellowship with God and others. It erased my loneliness.

If you are feeling lonely because you are hiding in your shame, I want to invite you today to come out of hiding.

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Dannah: I want you to hear how God beautifully turns lonely into community with willing hearts. Samantha, a young woman who works here at Revive Our Hearts . . . You're going to love her story. She radiates Jesus. She shares how God pulled her out of her loneliness and gave her community . . . but it took some vulnerability on her part. Here’s Samantha.

Samanatha Loucks: I’ve been walking through some really tough things in my life, and Jesus has been on kind of a rescue mission for me. Part of the glorious beauty of that story has been community. It’s one of the ways He has rescued me and sustained me—through people. It happened when I least expected it.

There’s about seven of us in this sweet sisterhood. It’s amazing to see how He intertwined our lives and how much we needed that community. It’s this incredibly beautiful thing where we make space for each other, and I think that’s one of the things that Jesus did, always.

We might be running to something, but someone brings this burden. I think that’s a fear of mine, that what I bring to the group is a burden; that maybe a lot of us feel like. We’re always just carrying this heavy thing and no one else wants that all the time. I fear that when they think about me, it’s like, “Here she comes with more stuff.” 

But they made so much space, and they would always stop and pray, and they would check in. When you’ve experienced that kind of Jesus beauty, you keep bringing that as well. So it’s like I want to make space for you. And we have.

It’s beautiful because we do the fun things, but we’ve done really hard things together. We’ve watched; we’ve cried together, and we’ve jumped up and down together. So it’s that cliché of doing life together. I can’t even describe how transforming it has been to be seen and be known the way Jesus sees us and knows us. It’s something that these women do in my life often. 

I’m coming from a place of just being beat down, sinking in many ways. They affirm me. I’ve never experienced this kind of affirming happening between women before. Whether it’s something as simple as, “I love your sweater; where did you get it?” or it’s, “I see this in you, and it’s incredible, keep doing this. Keeping going, lean into this because Jesus has created you with this beauty.” 

There is also part of that community, a husband and wife, who just saw me struggling. They said, “We want to be a part of your life, is that okay?” 

I was terrified. I didn’t want that. They had to hunt me down. They even pointed out how much I was hiding from them, but they started. They had invited me over one Wednesday night, and they were like, “We’d like to keep doing this with you. What if you came over every single Wednesday night?”

I show up and I sit at their dinner table, and every week they send me with leftovers and the agreement is that if I bring the containers back, they’ll send me more leftovers. Their kids call me Aunt Sam, and I was in their Christmas picture. It’s been the most transformingly beautiful thing that I’ve ever experienced, because one couple said we want to love her.

It’s so simple. They gave me a key, and I come in every Wednesday.  

Dannah: What a great story and a great reminder of what community looks like.

A soft heart before God and before others . . .we have a way to help you cultivate that posture. We’ve just released the latest study in the Women of the Bible study from Revive Our Hearts called Deborah: Becoming a Woman of Influence. I know we can all learn from Deborah. Remember, she was a judge for Israel. I imagine there were times she felt lonely in her leadership. 

This copy of the Deborah study is yours when you make a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts. It’s our way of saying thank you when you support this ministry.

Like any grandmother I love to share stories (and pictures) of my grandchildren. Next week, I gonna to share how my grandbabies are learning to model Christ with their words. I don't know about you, but it is something I can stand to practice.

My co-host on the videocast Grounded is Erin Davis. Erin wrote a book on loneliness, Connected: Curing the Pandemic of Everyone Feeling Alone Together

Erin loves the word and meaning behind koinonia. I think it fitting that she close out our time together. From the podcast The Deep Well, here is Erin Davis with a charge for each of us.

Erin: So often loneliness is not something that is forced upon us. It’s not just our circumstances. Most of the time loneliness is a path that we choose to walk. And while painful, loneliness is the path of least resistance. Connection on the other hand, takes effort. Koinonia can only ever be evidence of God’s work in our hearts and lives, but it is worth fighting for. 

And here’s the facts: we hurt each other; we disappoint each other; we miss this mark even in the church. Maybe you go to church and you hear that in church we are a family. Maybe you feel like the black sheep of that family. 

Following Jesus does not mean that we are never awkward with each other. It does not mean that we are never dismissive. It does not mean that we are never inattentive or that we never hurt each other’s feelings . . . we do. 

This is why don’t just need Jesus on the cross, we need Jesus in our hearts. We need Jesus in our midst, but koinonia is worth never giving up on. Even if you had it and feel like you lost it. Even if you feel like you tried it and couldn’t find it. Koinonia, the fellowship of the saints, is worth never giving up on.

German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said,

Wherever a people praise, there is church. And where ever the church is, there is never loneliness.

Now, the church is so much more than getting together to pray, just like it’s so much more than a building. But he was speaking to the way that koinonia can push back against the loneliness we experience. 

There is a pandemic of disconnection spreading. People are lonely. People without Jesus are desperately lonely, because they don’t know what it is to know and be known by God. And they don’t know what it is to experience koinonia. 

As the followers of Jesus, we hold the only cure, so let’s have church.

Listen to the entire episode "How to Make Real Connections." This is from The Deep Well with Erin Davis podcast, "Connected."

Singing:
The Lord bless you, and keep you,
Make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
The Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.
Amen.

Dannah: Amen. Let’s have church.

Thank you for listening today. And thanks to our entire production team.

For Revive Our Hearts Weekend, I’m Dannah Gresh

Revive Our Hearts Weekend is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

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About the Teachers

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.

Erin Davis

Erin Davis

Erin Davis is an author, blogger, and speaker who loves to see women of all ages run to the deep well of God’s Word. She is the author of many books and Bible studies including: 7 Feasts, Connected, Beautiful Encounters, and the My Name Is Erin series. She serves on the ministry team of Revive Our Hearts. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin chasing chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.

About the Host

Dannah Gresh

Dannah Gresh

When Dannah Gresh was eight years old, she began praying that God would use her as a Bible teacher for “the nations.” When she sees the flags of many countries waving at a Revive Our Hearts event, it feels like an answer to her prayer.

Dannah is the founder of True Girl which provides tools for moms and grandmothers to disciple their 7–12 year-old girls. On Monday nights, you’ll find Dannah hosting them in her online Bible study. She has authored over twenty-eight books, including Ruth: Becoming a Girl of Loyalty, Lies Girls Believe, and a Bible study for adult women based on the book of Habakkuk. She and her husband, Bob, live on a hobby farm in central Pennsylvania.

About the Guest

Samantha Loucks

Samantha Loucks

Samantha loves lazy lake days, strong coffee, and writing about the ways Jesus transforms our everyday messes into beautiful stories. She digs the four seasons in northern Indiana, is probably wearing a Notre Dame crew neck, and serves as the social media manager on the Revive Our Hearts staff.