Not Alone is the title of our conference in October, and since we have to actually speak at this conference, we have been talking about it in our CCEF faculty meetings. We are finding, as you would guess, that the topic is a doozy.
Is there anything worse than isolation? Solitary confinement remains the worst punishment for an adult; time out is the worst for many children. Betrayal, ridicule, shame, gossip—their power is in how they distance us from others.
Being misunderstood or not known is a low-grade version of aloneness. “You don’t understand me—you don’t know me” is so common that we forget how much it hurts. Divorce after unfaithfulness is a result less of the adultery itself and more of the injured spouse feeling unknown or misunderstood in the relationship.
My father-in law died in the past year. Death is always horrible, but his wife and children also identified his death as good. Why? Because his wife, his six children, some children’s spouses, and some grandchildren were all with him when he died. He was not alone. With this in mind, it isn’t surprising that a friend who is single has one desire: “I don’t want to die alone.”
Of all the types of suffering, this is the one that is most painful and least discussed. If a preacher mentions something about how painful it is to be surrounded by people and still feel alone, then that preacher will have many people’s attention. Some will even be moved to tears because someone knows a little about their experience.
Is there anything better than unity, fellowship, true friendship, knowing and being known, God-with-us, Christ in you, “my people,” and the hundreds of other expressions of “not alone”? Sin separates and isolates us from God and others; redemption breaks down barriers and makes us one.
Read John 16 and 17. As a general rule, the closer we get to death, the more we talk about those things that are most important to us. Using that standard, Jesus makes the aloneness-unity dimension among the most critical for us: he comforts those who will feel alone when he is crucified by reminding them that his death will be the way toward “not alone.”
“Alone” gets to the very heart of the human predicament, and “not alone” gets to the heart of the gospel.
The question for the conference will be, “How can we contribute to ‘not alone’ in the body of Christ?” It is hard to imagine a more important topic.