If I am honest, I am prone to loneliness. When I was younger, I masked this by being the center of attention. As I get older, I still see that tendency. Because I am more aware of it, I counter the unhealthy attention with isolation, another unhealthy choice. The result of both is loneliness. Most people are hesitant to spend time with someone loud and attention-seeking. At the same time, people who intentionally withdraw cannot get upset when people do not invest in a relationship with them. Lately, I have been wrestling with this.
This Sunday, I will conclude my preaching series through 2 Timothy. I will be preaching from 2 Timothy 4:9-22. One thing jumps out at me repeatedly; the value of relationships. The reason relationships are so important to Paul is because ministry can be challenging. What follows are a few of my initial thoughts on this passage. I was gripped by this text early this morning and thought perhaps someone reading this might be encouraged.
- We all need that one confidant. Paul urges Timothy in verses 9 and 21 to visit him quickly. The context of this visit comes at the end of Paul’s life. A time when even though his confidence is in the crown of righteousness that will be granted him “on that day,” his humanity is still considering the grim face of death. Paul felt the effects of being lonely and desired an encouraging visit from his “beloved child.” We all need that person, the one we can call when life looks grim, the one we can trust to encourage, and when required, correct. This kind of relationship is valuable.
- Not all relationships are encouraging. In verse 10, Paul identifies one specific relationship that has brought him great angst. Demas has loved the present world, in contrast with those who have loved the appearing of the Lord. Having loved the world, Demas deserted the apostle during his time of need. Paul then provides a list of people who are no longer with him. Some for moral reasons, others for immoral reasons. Ministry is unique and unlike anything else. So often, when you need encouragement the most, you are expected to provide encouragement to a member in need. Sometimes, like Paul, the ones we think will be there are not. When you value relationships, this can be very discouraging.
- Loneliness is real. Paul warns Timothy about a coppersmith named Alexander, who did him “great harm,” he follows this with a point of great honesty. Paul says, at his first defense, “no one came to stand by me.” Paul faced accusations on account of the gospel alone. It is ok to acknowledge what is a reality for 70% of pastors; loneliness is real. Not only is this true, but for pastors, it is challenging because we try to invest so much of ourselves into the people God has entrusted us with. Brother Pastor, if you are lonely, acknowledge it.
- There is only one relationship that matters. Paul brings his letter to a close by saying that the Lord stood by him and strengthened him when everyone else deserted him. He drives this point home in verse 18 by saying the Lord will rescue him from every evil deed. Paul was confident in the Lord and found comfort in the face of loneliness on account of his relationship with his Lord. People will let you down, and you will let people down yourself, but the Lord has promised to never leave nor forsake you. In Christ, we have a friend who sticks closer than a brother. If you are lonely, lean into your relationship with the One who has purchased you by his blood and has made the way for you to be adopted into his family as a co-heir.
Friend, loneliness is real whether you are in vocational ministry or a stay-at-home mom. You can mask it by trying to be larger than life, or you can isolate yourself. Neither address the real issue; are you delighted in your relationship with Christ? If you are struggling with being lonely, I genuinely pray that you will lean into the Lord today. Cry out to him, and trust him to strengthen you and rescue you.