I’m going to touch on the issue of loneliness today, and what I have to say is neither Jesus-lite nor Hallmark-approved. Sometimes people are alone – heartbreakingly alone – and NOT because the world is cold and uncaring, but because God is merciful. I will repeat this so that there’s no misunderstanding me. Sometimes people are all alone because God, in His infinite mercy, has arranged that very isolation.
I don’t say any of this to be needlessly provocative. Rather, the more the Lord brings me to make peace with my entire life-story, the more deeply I see His great love for me behind and over some of the more desperate hours I’ve spent on this earth. And part of what I’ve seen is that there are much greater pains than being friendless and alone.
Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, “O God, heal her, I pray!” But the Lord said to Moses, “If her father had but spit in her face, would she not bear her shame for seven days? Let her be shut up for seven days outside the camp, and afterward she may be received again.”
So Miriam was shut up outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on until Miriam was received again.
Numbers 12:13-15 NASB
Mercy covered Miriam with the shame and repugnance of leprosy and shut her outside the camp for seven days. Everyone knew about her, and probably knew why she was being disciplined by God. After all, the entire camp had to stay in one place until the seven days had passed. Miriam got jealous and judgy and was sowing seeds of serious rebellion, but I still winced when I read the above passage. Seven days all alone, full of leprosy, probably terrified that your fingers or toes will fall off, nothing to do but relive one epic slap by God Himself in front of witnesses—that must have been a long, horrible week for her. Maybe the worst she ever had. It also likely saved her life.
It wasn’t too long after that that Korah instigated a rebellion, on awfully similar lines to the one that Miriam herself staged. Had she not received such a crushing blow at God’s own hands, Miriam might have been right there with Dathan, Abiram, Korah, their households, and everyone who “belonged” to them when “the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up” (Num. 16:32). Which is worse, an anguished week of shame and total humiliation in front of everyone you know, or going “down alive to Sheol?”
This is the time of year when we’re told that there’s nothing worse than being alone. Well, that’s just not true, and it’s why it’s so very important to be led by the Spirit. I want the Lord’s compassion, not my fleshly pity, to lead the way where others are concerned. If God has completely isolated someone – no family, no friends, no spouse, no NOTHING – for the purpose of saving their soul, then I don’t want to step where angels fear to tread simply because my idea of Christian kindness is more important. I’ve got to hear the Holy Spirit! It’s just so easy to forget that a life usually hangs in the balance.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Eph. 6:12 KJV