Recently, I came across an essay by the Christian author A.W. Tozer and what it means for the godly man to be alone. Here it is, in part:
The Saint Must Walk Alone
MOST OF THE WORLD’S GREAT SOULS have been lonely. Loneliness seems to be one price the saint must pay for his saintliness … The prophets of pre-Christian times differed widely from each other, but one mark they bore in common was their enforced loneliness … [Jesus] died alone in the darkness hidden from the sight of mortal man and no one saw Him when He arose triumphant and walked out of the tomb, though many saw Him afterward and bore witness to what they saw. There are some things too sacred for any eye but God’s to look upon …
Sometimes we react by a kind of religious reflex and repeat dutifully the proper words and phrases even though they fail to express our real feelings and lack the authenticity of personal experience. Right now is such a time. A certain conventional loyalty may lead some who hear this unfamiliar truth expressed for the first time to say brightly, “Oh, I am never lonely. Christ said, `I will never leave you nor forsake you,’ and, `Lo, I am with you alway.’ How can I be lonely when Jesus is with me?”
Now I do not want to reflect on the sincerity of any Christian soul, but this stock testimony is too neat to be real … This cheerful denial of loneliness proves only that the speaker has never walked with God without the support and encouragement afforded him by society.
Always remember: you cannot carry a cross in company. Though a man were surrounded by a vast crowd, his cross is his alone and his carrying of it marks him as a man apart. Society has turned against him; otherwise he would have no cross. No one is a friend to the man with a cross. “They all forsook him, and fled.”
The pain of loneliness arises from the constitution of our nature: God made us for each other. The desire for human companionship is completely natural and right. The loneliness of the Christian results from his walk with God in an ungodly world, a walk that must often take him away from the fellowship of good Christians as well as from that of the unregenerate world.
His God-given instincts cry out for companionship with others of his kind, others who can understand his longings, his aspirations, his absorption in the love of Christ; and because within his circle of friends there are so few who share his inner experiences he is forced to walk alone. The unsatisfied longings of the prophets for human understanding caused them to cry out in their complaint, and even our Lord Himself suffered in the same way.
The man who has passed on into the divine Presence in actual inner experience will not find many who understand him. A certain amount of social fellowship will of course be his as he mingles with religious persons in the regular activities of the church, but true spiritual fellowship will be hard to find. But he should not expect things to be otherwise …
The truly spiritual man is indeed something of an oddity. He lives not for himself but to promote the interests of Another … He finds few who care to talk about that which is the supreme object of his interest, so he is often silent and preoccupied in the midst of noisy religious shoptalk. For this he earns the reputation of being dull and overserious, so he is avoided and the gulf between him and society widens. It is this very loneliness that throws him back upon God … His inability to find human companionship drives him to seek in God what he can find nowhere else. He learns in inner solitude what he could not have learned in the crowd that Christ is All in All …
Two things remain to be said. One, that the lonely man of whom we speak is not a haughty man, nor is he the holier-than-thou, austere saint so bitterly satirized in popular literature. He is likely to feel that he is the least of all men and is sure to blame himself for his very loneliness … The second thing is that the lonely saint is not the withdrawn man who hardens himself against human suffering and spends his days contemplating the heavens. Just the opposite is true. His loneliness makes him sympathetic to the approach of the broken-hearted and the fallen and the sin-bruised … This is typical of the great mystics and masters of the interior life from Paul to the present day.
The weakness of so many modern Christians is that they feel too much at home in the world. In their effort to achieve restful “adjustment” to unregenerate society they have lost their pilgrim character and become an essential part of the very moral order against which they are sent to protest. The world recognizes them and accepts them for what they are. And this is the saddest thing that can be said about them. They are not lonely, but neither are they saints.
(The full article can be found here.)
The basis of Tozer’s reflections here are from the story in 1 Kings 22, where a prophet of Yahweh is pushed away by the wicked King Ahab of Israel because he does not give favourable words to the king. But it is a true reflection of what life is like this side of heaven. A fine example of this is the prophet Elijah (pictured left). To be perfectly frank, it is the number one reason why in June of 2013 I reconsidered my employment with Liberty. I enjoyed working for Liberty and seeing men and women not only leave the ‘gay scene’ but also put to death the very attractions that took them to the scene in the first place. It demonstrated to me very vividly the power of God to KILL unwanted same-sex desires (Col 3:5, 1 Peter 2:11). But the sting in the tail was that many of those in the church who were meant to support me didn’t. What was most difficult for me was not the indifference and animosity of non-Christians (that was to be expected) but the indifference and unsupportiveness of so many ‘disciples’ of the Lord Jesus. Tozer here puts in words what it is really like to be living like that and I am still wrestling with a lot of this. Just wanted to be real and talk about these things to encourage others who may be going through the same. Please pray for me as I get through these things, to keep clinging to God and learn to forgive others and foresake bitterness and to truly have God as my comfort (2 Cor 1).