By A.W. Tozer
Most of the World’s GREAT SOULS have been lonely. Loneliness seems to be one price the saint must pay for his saintliness.
Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Moses all walked a path quite apart from their contemporaries even though many people surrounded them.
The prophets of pre-Christian times differed widely from each other, but one mark they bore in common was their enforced loneliness.
Jesus died alone in the darkness hidden from the sight of mortal man and no one saw Him when He arose triumphant and walked out of the tomb, even though many saw Him afterward and bore witness to what they saw.
The cheerful denial of loneliness proves only that the speaker has never walked with God without the support and encouragement afforded him by society. The sense of companionship that mistakenly attributes to the presence of Christ may and probably does arise from the presence of friendly people. Always remember: you cannot carry a cross in company. Though a vast crowd surrounds a man, his cross is his alone and his carrying of it marks him as a man apart. Society has turned against him; otherwise he would have no cross. No one is a friend to the man with a cross. “They all forsook Him and fled.”
The loneliness of the Christian results from his walk with God in an ungodly world, a walk that must often take him away from the fellowship of good Christians as well as from the unregenerate world. His God-given instincts cry out for companionship with others who can understand his longings, his aspirations, and his absorption in his love for Christ; and because within his circle of friends there are so few who share his inner experiences he is forced to walk alone.
The man who has passed on into the divine Presence in actual inner experience will not find many who understand him. A certain amount of social fellowship will of course be his as he mingles with religious persons in regular activities of the church, but true spiritual fellowship will be hard to find.
The truly spiritual man is indeed something of an oddity. He lives not for himself but to promote the interests of Another. He seeks to persuade people to give all to his Lord and asks no portion or share for himself. He delights not to be honored but to see his Saviour glorified in the eyes of men. His joy is to see Jesus promoted and himself neglected. He finds few who care to talk about that which is the supreme object of his interest, so he is often silent and preoccupied in the midst of noisy religious shoptalk. For this he earns the reputation of being dull and over-serious, so he is avoided and the gulf between him and society widens. He searches for friends upon whose garments he can detect the smell of myrrh and aloes and cassia out of the ivory palaces, and finding few or none he, like Mary of old, keeps these things in his heart.
It is this very loneliness that throws him back upon God. His inability to find human companionship drives him to seek in God what he can find nowhere else. He learns in inner solitude what he could not have learned in the crowd-that Christ is All in All.
Two things remain to be said about the man that is in this state of loneliness. First, he is not a haughty man, he is not holier-than-thou, and he is not an austere saint. He is likely to feel that he is the least of all men and is sure to blame himself for his loneliness. He wants to share his feelings with others and to open his heart to some like-minded soul who will understand him, but the spiritual climate around him does not encourage it, so he remains silent and tells his grief to God alone.
The second thing is that the lonely saint is not the withdrawn man who hardens himself against human suffering and spends his days contemplating the heavens. The opposite is true. His loneliness makes him sympathetic to the approach of the brokenhearted and the fallen and the sin-bruised. Because he is detached from the world he is all the more able to help it.
The weakness of so many modern Christians is that they feel too much at home in the world. In their effort to achieve restful “adjustment” to an unregenerate society they have lost their pilgrim character and become an essential part of the very moral order against which they are sent to protest. The world recognizes them (modern Christians) and accepts them for what they are. This is the saddest thing that can be said about them. They are not lonely, but neither are they saints.