Samuel Taylor Coleridge is famous for having written a picturesque poem about an ancient mariner who set sail for a distant shore. An albatross followed the ship, mile after endless mile. The mariner shot it. At once the helpful wind died away, and the sea became calm. The sailors put two and two together. The albatross had brought the wind. Their messmate had killed the albatross. The wind had died with the bird.
In time, the sailors began to die of thirst; and they died cursing the ancient mariner! At last he alone was left. There was nothing to do, nowhere to go, no one to talk to, He was alone with his remorse. As he said,
"Alone, alone all, all alone,
Alone on a wide wide sea!
And never a saint took pity on
My soul in agony!"
Loneliness is indeed a visitor to be dreaded; and often, once it comes, it stays. There is the loneliness of a young man, far from home and friends, wandering the shops and malls of a foreign city, surrounded by people but never a one to be his friend. There is the loneliness of a childless widow wandering the rooms of a home that has now become a house filled with lifeless furnishings and haunting memories.
The psalmist had tasted loneliness. He describes himself as being "like a pelican of the wilderness." A pelican belongs on seashore, not in the wild wastes of the wilderness. He was, "like an owl of the desert," he says. An owl belongs where there are forests and fields. He was, "like a sparrow alone upon the housetop." A sparrow belongs in the noisy, busy fellowship of its kind (Ps. 102:6-7). The psalmist flinched at the thought of loneliness.
Jesus knew what it was like to be lonely. It came upon Him, overwhelmingly at times. In a graphic statement, unfortunately spoiled by a chapter division, we read: "Every man went unto his own house." (Jn 7:53); "Jesus went unto the Mount of Olives" (Jn 8-1). Foxes had their holes, and the birds of the air had their nests; but Jesus had nowhere to lay His head.
And who among us has ever fathomed the depths of His dreadful cry on the cross: "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" (Mt. 27:46). That was at the end of his ministry. It had its echo in the dark days of His temptation at the beginning of His ministry. (Mt. 8:20).
Mark tells us that Jesus "was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and was with the wild beasts (Mark 1:13). Perhaps Satan sent them, as the Romans sent starving beasts into the arena to devour Christians. If the devil imagined Jesus would be attacked by those wild beasts, he was very much mistaken. They would be tame as lambs to Him, and companions to Him in his loneliness. Yet, in time, they, too, drifted away.
After forty days without food, Jesus, as a mere man, now depleted of all physical strength, faced Satan with his malicious temptations. But he faced the Evil One, empowered by the Holy Spirit, for He never left him alone. Jesus had full confidence in God's promises: Promises such as, "He giveth power to the faint, and to those who have no might He increaseth strength" (Isaiah 30: 29). Our Lord Jesus triumphed gloriously over his temptations in the wilderness; and in doing so he left us with a mighty lesson to follow. The child of God must learn to trust the God he cannot see. That's what we call faith.
There can be no faith, no trust in God without trial, without testing. But when the child of God faces the trials of life, he is not alone. He is to remember our Lord's promises; "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee" (Heb 13:5). "Lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." (Mt 28:20).
The child of God needs never to feel lonely, for he is never alone!