We underestimate the power of distractions.
One time in Colorado, I took a rafting trip on the Royal Gorge with some friends. I had what you might call an exciting time. Because of the way I’m made-up physically, I’m a little top-heavy.
From the moment I saw the rafts I only thought one thing: I’m going to fall out of that raft. I stood on the bank of the river and listened to the kind instructor explain the ‘do’s and don’ts’ of white water rafting. All I really thought about was falling in.
The instructor taught us commands that our guide would use to direct our paddling. As we all climbed into the raft, I repeated them to myself a few times until I had them down. But when we hit our first little patch of rapids every command except for the one being repeated at that moment flew out of my head.
Once again, all I thought about was not falling out.
Somewhere around the fourth or fifth set of rapids I was catapulted up and did a complete flip sideways out of the raft. I know I did a complete flip because my left hand never let go of the safety rope and my body basically spun around that one solid point like a top until I was hanging out (pun intended) in the Arkansas River while still attached to the raft with my left hand. You may laugh but my first thought was, “Hey, this isn’t so bad”.
The fact that my life hadn’t ended immediately upon being deposited into the river actually overwhelmed me with joy for more than a few moments.
Thankfully with the help of my friends I was dragged back into the raft and we continued on our way down the Arkansas. But my elation at the fact that I had fallen in and survived continued well after I got back into the raft. I was quite soaked but I was also happy as a clam because my worst nightmare of that day had come and I had survived.
I was so happy that I forgot the command used to indicate that the raft was taking on too much water and it was time to do everything (but panic) to fix the situation. This command came down the pike about 10 minutes later, but it went right over my head because I’d forgotten what it meant. Since I didn’t remember the exact meaning of the command I just paddled harder.
Thankfully our entire raft didn’t capsize on the rock that we were sitting up against at that moment. But it was a little jarring when my friends later had to explain that we came incredibly close to a real crisis as I sat clueless at the front of the raft. Both my distracting fear and my lazy happiness kept me from really hearing the instruction of my guide.
My fear caused me to not really take the commands to heart. Then, my lazy happiness distracted me from actually listening to the commands when they came my way. Since I had been so hyper-focused on my falling out and the fact that I had lived through it, the guide’s commands were entirely lost on me.
The Distracting Power of Loneliness
We do the same thing in our faith when it comes to following God’s commands, especially about our romantic lives. We all know that we should take God’s instructions to heart focus on his commands but all we end up thinking about is how alone we feel and whether we’ll end up with someone.
The loneliness we all feel affects us in very deep ways and directly interferes in our walk with God. The power of loneliness and the doubts that comes with it can distract even the most faithful believer. When we get distracted, we don’t take God’s instructions to heart and we won’t act on them when the time comes later on.
Keeping Things to Ourselves
It’s important to step back and point out that there is no problem with being lonely. Part of the reason our loneliness haunts us stems from the fact that we feel guilty about how it distracts us and we don’t think it’s worth telling anyone. This is the point where the loneliness becomes a real problem.
When we attempt to carry this load by ourselves, we guarantee that loneliness will distract us and trip us up later on. Believing that our loneliness isn’t worth mentioning or that other people don’t care will make us try to carry it on our own. This will create a small but important rift between us and others.
Put very simply, we will assume that other people, even other Christians, don’t understand what we’re going through.
The Doubts of Loneliness
When this assumption infects your relationship with God, the real trouble begins. I clearly remember that while the instructor explained all the do’s and dont’s this thought played around in the back of my head, “He does not understand the very high chance of me falling out and how that will definitely mean the end of me. I know I’ve listened to sermons and read the Bible with a similar thought sitting in the back of my head that sounds something like “Yeah I get it, but you don’t understand that I’m going to die alone and that’s going to be terrible.”
I wouldn’t call either of those perspectives great ways of interpreting very important information intended to help me survive. Proverbs 4:7 says that “whatever you get, get insight”. That statement makes a clear point that insight or perspective is vitally important in our lives.
When I assume that God doesn’t really understand what’s best for me or where the danger really lies, I find myself unable to successfully interpret and take to heart his instruction. That faulty perspective causes me to forget his commands when a real crisis arises. That means I probably won’t realize the raft is sinking as I just paddle faster and faster.
Many of us know what it’s like to paddle faster through the problems of life and feel like we’re getting nowhere.
When I stood on the bank of that river before we started our little adventure, I tried to pay attention to the instructor and I eagerly listened for all the instructions. Unfortunately I didn’t interpret them the right way because I only interpreted them in the context of whether or not I thought they would help me keep from falling out. In the same way, God’s truth has a tendency to go in one ear and out the other, especially when I’m really worried about ending up alone.
All I can focus on is, “God I’m not sure you understand, I’m never going to get married or have sex and that’s a real problem”.
These thoughts start as simple distractions, but these distractions can change your beliefs or approach to the Christian life. Loneliness, like the fear of falling out, causes us to experience really big highs and really deep lows in our mood and perception of our lives. We perceive our situation based on how lonely we feel and the chances we think something will change that feeling.
The loneliness that I’ve experienced changed my perception so much that it changed what I thought about God and his love for me.
The Performance Perspective
I lost my father to cancer in 2005 and my mother to Alzheimer’s in 2011. These losses deepened my loneliness to an incredible degree. My loneliness dramatically impacted my perspective of life and how I interpreted Scripture. I approached my relationship with Christ like a performance because I wanted him to reward me with a wife.
I thought a wife would fix my loneliness. Basically, I tried to earn my way out of loneliness. My world in many ways revolved around whether I was getting closer to that goal or not. I experienced incredible highs and terrible lows because I centered my world on finding a girlfriend or wife.
Even though I loved Jesus, my world slowly became more about escaping my loneliness and less about serving him.
My desire to escape the loneliness eventually led me into an addiction to pornography that lasted for years. This addiction only increased my loneliness and made me feel more distant from the people around me. Even though nothing appeared wrong with my life, my life was on a very slow spiral downwards.
God’s Love Breaks Through
My life turned around when I joined a small group of Christian believers and let them speak Christ’s unconditional love into my heart and life. I had become so obsessed with earning a wife that I began to believe I needed to earn God’s love in order to receive the gift of marriage. This made everything in my life become some kind of performance and that perspective held me back from talking about my loneliness and porn addiction.
When my community group reflected Christ to me, I began to realize that I don’t need to earn God’s love. God used my small group and other Christians in my life to slowly heal my lonely and broken heart.
I still experience ups and downs like everyone else, but now God gives me a source of peace, joy, and love I never thought possible. The more of God’s love I experience, the less loneliness distracts me and changes my perspective. I experience joy unaffected by the doubts of loneliness and I approach the crisis of life with more clarity.
I’m still single and I still feel lonely every now and then. My loneliness still distracts me from time to time and tries to pull me down. Thankfully God’s unconditional love and my CG, help keep me from despairing and wandering from the path of life.Image Copyright Subliminal Fox