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The Reformation Herald Online Edition

Jesus, Fully God

Fortifying the Family
Solace in Solitude
Families are not always treasured as much as when they’re absent, yet Christ is our best Comforter
T. Stockler
Solace in Solitude

Jesus found His disciples “asleep on the job.” Emotionally challenged beyond anything we can understand, our Saviour looked for human sympathy. The olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane were familiar, but the full weight of human sin and wretchedness was not. Jesus hated the very sin He was now carrying. How could His humanity and Divinity cope with something so foreign to both of His natures?

“Christ expressed his desire for human sympathy, and then withdrew himself from [Peter, James, and John] about a stone’s cast. Falling upon his face he prayed….

“At the end of an hour, Jesus, feeling the need of human sympathy, rose from the ground, and staggered to the place where he had left his three disciples. He longed to see them. His human nature yearned for human sympathy. He longed to hear from them words that would bring him some relief in his suffering. But he was disappointed. They did not bring to him the help he craved. Instead, he ‘findeth them sleeping.’ . . .

“At the most critical moment, when the Son of God was in need of [the disciples’] sympathy and heart-felt prayers, they were found asleep. Even the ardent Peter, who, only a few hours before had declared that he would die with his Lord, was sleeping.”1

What did Jesus do when He was lonely? How did He address His own need for sympathy? Does He have a negative word, an expression of frustration, an act of emotional immaturity? No! The suffering Saviour offers sympathy to those who disappointed and betrayed Him.

“Even in [the Lord’s] great agony He was willing to excuse the weakness of His disciples. ‘The spirit truly is ready,’ he said, ‘but the flesh is weak.’”2

Jesus wanted friends to be with Him in the hardest hour of His life. He looked for their companionship and empathy. But when we, as fellow humans, let Him down, He was kind and generous to us. He offers an excuse on our behalf: Our flesh really is weak.

Our human nature often demonstrates much less patience with those that disappoint us. When friends fail or hurt us, we often behave terribly or at least whine endlessly. To be alone is hard for many of us. We will lower our standard of behavior just to avoid loneliness. The fear of loneliness is probably the most effective tool Satan can use against us. His satanic majesty conquered Adam with it.

“Having herself transgressed, [Eve] became the agent of Satan in working the ruin of her husband. In a state of strange, unnatural excitement, with her hands filled with the forbidden fruit, she sought [Adam’s] presence, and related all that had occurred.

“An expression of sadness came over the face of Adam. He appeared astonished and alarmed. To the words of Eve he replied that this must be the foe against whom they had been warned; and by the divine sentence she must die. In answer she urged him to eat, repeating the words of the serpent, that they should not surely die. . . .

“Adam understood that his companion had transgressed the command of God, disregarded the only prohibition laid upon them as a test of their fidelity and love. There was a terrible struggle in his mind. He mourned that he had permitted Eve to wander from his side. But now the deed was done; he must be separated from her whose society had been his joy. How could he have it thus? Adam had enjoyed the companionship of God and of holy angels. He had looked upon the glory of the Creator. He understood the high destiny opened to the human race should they remain faithful to God. Yet all these blessings were lost sight of in the fear of losing that one gift which in his eyes outvalued every other. Love, gratitude, loyalty to the Creator—all were overborne by love to Eve. She was a part of himself, and he could not endure the thought of separation.”3

Satan is just as successful today as He was with Adam. He urges us to abandon God, just so that we will not be lonely. Does a man or a woman seem attractive to us? Does this potential lover love God and keep all of His commandments? How many times do we abandon honesty, integrity, Sabbathkeeping, respect for our own parents, and love for God Himself, just because we “want to be happy”?

Let us be plain. To marry another person, is to accept them as they are. It is to acknowledge their moral values and condition to be as good as your own. Neither spouse is to be the complete conscience of the other. Once you are married, your spouse has as much right as you do to define what is right and wrong behavior for family members. If your spouse enjoys eating the flesh of animals or disrespects the sacred activities of the Sabbath day from before the consummation of the marriage, they have every right to teach your children to do these wrong actions afterwards. (Beware of whom you choose to marry!) Marriage is a compromise between two individuals. Neither spouse is always right. Neither spouse has the right to demand that we follow “my way” all of the time. A family’s standard of morality is defined by its unholiest member. Choosing a spouse may very well be choosing one’s destiny. Too many people today are willing to lose eternal life and reject God, if only they can be “happy” with some lover next to them. (Asking unmarried church members to marry within the church is not a desire to limit their marital choices, but a recognition that unequally yoked marriages are a lifelong experience of suffering as a house divided against itself which cannot stand.)

“Few have correct views of the marriage relation. Many seem to think that it is the attainment of perfect bliss; but if they could know one quarter of the heartaches of men and women that are bound by the marriage vow in chains that they cannot and dare not break, they would not be surprised that I trace these lines. Marriage, in a majority of cases, is a most galling yoke. There are thousands that are mated but not matched. The books of heaven are burdened with the woes, the wickedness, and the abuse that lie hidden under the marriage mantle. This is why I would warn the young who are of a marriageable age to make haste slowly in the choice of a companion. The path of married life may appear beautiful and full of happiness; but why may not you be disappointed as thousands of others have been?”4

“Upon [parents] depends in a great measure the well-being of their children in this world, and their happiness in the world to come. To a great extent they determine both the physical and the moral stamp that the little ones receive.”5

Can you be happy and alone? Yes! Loneliness and contentment seem to be contradictions. Certainly some personality-types find it easier than others to be alone. But you can find contentment without companionship. Jesus succeeded in choosing to face Calvary alone. You and I can face our cross (that is so much easier than His) with no one to help but Him.

As someone whom God chose to drink the cup of loneliness deeply, let me observe a few points about living alone:

Acceptance. Generally those that live alone refuse to accept their condition. Often they whine and pine that this is not the way their life should be. If God has permitted it and the devil has handed you a lonely life, choose it! What you cannot change should be accepted. Refusing to accept it will only lead you to sin.

Living alone is always unnatural. “It is not good for man[kind] to be alone” Genesis 2:18. God, Who is all-wise, stated this. Living alone can become something you get very used to doing. But it will never be the ideal that God made us to experience. Sin has changed our environment. Humans were designed to live surrounded by a spouse, parents, children, and extended family. There is a community of family we are all designed to have. In this community, any individual that is missing from doing their part injures the entire community. Our individual sinful choices have a serious impact on those who are related to us. They suffer for our failures inside the family. And we suffer from the failures of our family members.

Persons who live alone are constantly reminded of how unnatural it is. Every time they see a happy family or come home to an empty house can remind them of their cross in life.

Living alone is dangerous. It leads us to develop imbalanced characters that are a problem socially and make us unfit for heaven. There is no more certain way to nourish selfishness than to live alone. There is no one around to prompt you to be unselfish. There is no one around to stretch your personality until it is more well-rounded. There is often no one to observe the little signs in your life that otherwise pass unnoticed, signs of health or disease physically, mentally, or spiritually. There is no one to take care of you when you are discouraged or sick, or when you die. And that often drives individuals into extreme forms of worrying and of distrusting God.

God intended marriage and close family members to alter our personalities in a positive way. “The cultivation of a uniform courtesy, a willingness to do by others as we would like them to do by us, would banish half the ills of life.”6

“All who enter into matrimonial relations with a holy purpose—the husband to obtain the pure affections of a woman’s heart, the wife to soften and improve her husband’s character and give it completeness—fulfill God’s purpose for them.”7

“When the wife yields her body and mind to the control of her husband, being passive to his will in all things, sacrificing her conscience, her dignity, and even her identity, she loses the opportunity of exerting that mighty influence for good which she should possess to elevate her husband. She could soften his stern nature, and her sanctifying influence could be exerted in a manner to refine and purify, leading him to strive earnestly to govern his passions and be more spiritually minded, that they might be partakers together of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. The power of influence can be great to lead the mind to high and noble themes, above the low, sensual indulgences for which the heart unrenewed by grace naturally seeks. If the wife feels that in order to please her husband she must come down to his standard, when animal passion is the principal basis of his love and controls his actions, she displeases God; for she fails to exert a sanctifying influence upon her husband. If she feels that she must submit to his animal passions without a word of remonstrance, she does not understand her duty to him nor to her God.”8

“The sympathy, forbearance, and love required in dealing with children would be a blessing in any household. They would soften and subdue set traits of character in those who need to be more cheerful and restful. The presence of a child in a home sweetens and refines. A child brought up in the fear of the Lord is a blessing.

“Care and affection for dependent children removes the roughness from our natures, makes us tender and sympathetic, and has an influence to develop the nobler elements of our character.”9

Living alone can be a blessing if you choose to make it that way.

The apostle Paul, who knew this experience firsthand, explains: “I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. . . . The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.” 1 Corinthians 7:32–35. God has special blessings that He gives only to those alone.

The church has an added responsibility toward those who live alone. Job tells us that he “delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him” (Job 29:12). God commanded the Israelites to remind themselves publicly that “Cursed be he that perverteth the judgment of the stranger, fatherless, and widow” by responding to that statement with an “Amen” (Deuteronomy 27:19). Certainly God expected more than just an “amen,” for “for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1 John 4:20.) “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep [ourselves] unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).

Living alone while developing heaven in our hearts is a challenge that it is only possible to overcome with Divine help. But Jesus was able to choose the cross, for your salvation and my salvation, while He was alone and lonely. Jesus died for the sin of Adam, who introduced sin into our world because the world’s first man refused to live alone without Eve. Jesus died for us. In His strength, those of us who must live alone, can do it cheerfully and successfully.

To those who do not have to live alone, thank God for every day that you have with your spouse, parents, and children. They are a blessing that others of us miss. Treasure them. Ask God to help you to be a blessing to them.

To all of us, may we find God’s help to live contentedly as a blessing to those around us. Amen.

1 The Signs of the Times, December 2, 1897. [Emphasis supplied.]
2 Ibid.
3 Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 56. [Emphasis supplied.]
4 The Adventist Home, p. 44.
5 Ibid.
6 Ibid., p.421.
7 Ibid., p.99.
8 Ibid., p.127.
9 Ibid., p.160.