July 30, 2003
As musicians, we need to learn to deal with loneliness. Is loneliness a good thing? In Godís economy it is. It sounds silly, I know, (that hasnít stopped me before) but loneliness is good. Are you feeling just a little lonely now? If you arenít, Iím glad. I donít want to wish loneliness on anyone. I donít like being lonely. Do you? I doubt it.
But, loneliness is good.
Now satan wants to have at you whenever youíre lonely. His strategy is to divide and conquer. He is at the root of most of my feelings of loneliness. Heís the one who wants to convince me I donít "fit in" as though fitting in is a good thing. Heís the one who wants to convince me I donít have many friends, liar that he is. Oh, poor me, no one really loves me or cares about me. My songs are so bad and my attempts to share them are so pathetic that no one wants to hear them-- theyíre just too nice to tell me the truth, because they know Iíd fall apart.
Thatís what the enemy wants to do with our loneliness. Get us to feel sorry for ourselves and throw a big pity party. You know that when you have a pity party no one comes but old satan. Heíll agree with every negative statement you make about yourself and heíll even recommend doing something youíll regret later, like telling off your boss, or screaming at your wife, or maybe itís time to put yourself out of your misery!
But, loneliness is good.
Loneliness is what drives me to reach out to God, knowing how empty my life is without Him. Loneliness is what causes me to ask myself who am I and what am I doing with my life. Loneliness is what causes me to ask God who am I and what am I doing with my life.
As musicians it can be very intoxicating to play a song well to a responsive audience. When the song is over the people begin to clap. What does that do to you? Wow...listen to them clapping. They really liked my song. Heck, they really like me.
This past weekend in a little western Pa. town we had an inspirational music festival. It featured more than twenty different songwriters sharing their original music in an outdoor setting. We had wonderful musicians playing for free for people who came just to listen. We had many different sounds, a wide spectrum of styles and skill levels. I sensed Godís pleasure throughout the Friday night three hour concert and the ten hours of continuous music on Saturday.
Many people came from far away-- Iowa, Maryland, North Carolina, Illinois, and Ohio-- just to share songs and be part of something new God is doing. These are men and women like you and like me who have a musical gift and want to share it. Many stayed through Sunday, singing at local churches and coming to our house for lunch. One couple who are dear to us stayed until noon yesterday.
I feel lonely this morning, but less lonely as I write to you. Loneliness is good when it becomes a motivator to be a doer of the word and not just a hearer. I love the Lord. I know you do, too. So what can satan do to us really?
Itís not quite 10 am, as I listen to some wonderful music from Companions of the Lamb, one of the groups that came to our area to share songs this weekend. (Thatís a free plug because I love you all: www.companionsofthelamb.com).
Iím not hungry yet. Usually I donít get hungry until around noon. When I do, Iíll eat. Iím a little thirsty, and we have a gigantic supply of bottled water, because we bought almost 200 bottles for the weekend and only used half of them.
Whatís the point, Benrexi?
Hereís what Iím trying to say. I ate yesterday, but Iíll be hungry today. I drank yesterday, but Iíll be thirsty today. In fact, let me get a bottle, and Iíll be right back. You may want to get a drink of water, coffee, tea, milk, juice, punch, or... (notice I didnít say beer.) Am I making you a little thirsty?
So itís all becoming clear now isnít it? When youíre hungry, eat. When youíre thirsty, drink. When youíre lonely, _________________. (Fill in the blank.)
Itís tempting to just turn on the TV and be distracted from our heartís promptings because they may be making us uncomfortable. Click--click, hereís Jim Rockford pretending to be Jim Taggart to bust into an office and get information. Hereís the Seahawks against the Steelers, three hours of blitzes, screen passes, blocked kicks, car commercials, beer commercials, and over a hundred other pitches to make you want something. Donít get me started about "reality" programs.
I had a pretty bad episode of loneliness about seven weeks ago. Finally, I just sat on my couch and held my guitar up toward the sky (ceiling, actually) and said silently, "I need Your help." I started to feel better simply because I knew God cared about my feelings and would help me. After a little while, I started to hear a song swimming around in my heart:
I was sad and blue/ ĎTil I put my trust in You/ Now Iím walking in the light/ And eIverythingís all right/ I was sad and blue/ ĎTil I put my trust in You/ Now Iím walking in the light/ And everythingís all right
I just started singing what I was hearing, and after a little while, there were more words and more tune:
You gave me a new heart/ You gave me a new life/ You gave me a new attitude/ And it makes me want to smile (chorus)
By the time Iíd finished the song, I was no longer in a blue funk. I was rejoicing.
Youíll never leave me/ And I want to thank You/ For healing my sadness/ And filling me with joy (chorus)
Your love is amazing/ Iím never forsaken/ Whenever I stumble/ You are there to pick me up (chorus)
Loneliness is good! I need people in my life. I need one on one companionship with God. Loneliness reminds me that itís time to do something. Itís time to pray. Itís time to sing. Itís time to write a letter. Itís time to call someone. Itís time to praise the Lord. Itís time to express my love to someone. Who? Ask God, and Heíll tell you. Yeah, He will.
When I sing for an audience, the applause can fill a lot of holes. Maybe our parents didnít tell us they were proud of us. Maybe they talked about how foolish or lazy they thought we were. Maybe we grew up in the shadow of another family member who won all the awards. We never got much approval, so we love that applause.
Sunday morning in church can be the hour of the week that we point toward every other day, because we get our strokes when we lead or assist with "worship." This regular assignment may insulate us from ever dealing with the feelings that are pushed aside whenever that applause begins. While avoiding pain and discomfort is always tempting, there are at least two inherent dangers.
Number one: We may become an approval addict. Approval addicts are easily manipulated and controlled by other people. They are willing to do almost anything to get the approval they crave. Since approval usually comes from doing what someone else wants us to do and receiving their praise, we can completely lose touch with who God created us to be. We learn to repress our desires and opinions as we become a champion for someone elseís program. We devote our energy into being compatible with another personís personality, while avoiding conflict at all cost, for fear of losing our position and the approval that goes with it. We learn to say what others want to hear whether we believe it or not. Ultimately, we will not like the person weíve become.
Number two: We begin to believe our press clippings. Our being part of something that appears successful feeds our pride and opens us wide to deception. We view others whose gifts may not be receiving the same amount of "airplay" as ours as people who need to be more like us to fulfill their calling, when it may well be exactly the opposite. We may even resent it when someone else gets praise and attention other than us, like the older brother did in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). We can deceive ourselves into thinking that we have done noble things unselfishly purely for the benefit of other people, when itís been more about receiving than giving from the beginning.
Friday night, we had five musicians who shared beginning at 7 pm. All four were excellent and there was a responsive audience of around seventy people for most of the evening, but as it grew dark the mosquitoes began to bite, and the crowd dwindled to about thirty. I had the pleasure of introducing each musician and when the last one finished singing, he called me back on stage to conclude the eveningís festivities. I had a strong sense God wanted me to do something, so I did. I asked each of the other four musicians to come on stage plus their helpers, which meant counting me there were nine on stage.
I said, "I believe God wants us to applaud you!" And we all clapped enthusiastically for the people who had stayed until the end. I guess the normal thing is to elevate the performer above the listener, but thatís not how God sees it. It was very cool!!!
I think when we encourage someone in their gift(s) it pleases God, since God always encourages every single one of us in our gifts. So if I encourage you in your gift(s) Iím following His good example. WWJD? EYING! [What would Jesus do? Encourage you in your gift(s)]
That old devil keeps deceiving people and heíd love to deceive you. We think that there are only so many claps to go around. In church, itís about the worship team. In music circles, itís about ticket sales and record sales. Who has the best web-site? Who is the best known? Do you have your calendar filled up for the next year? Are you playing in the "A" churches or are you on the lowly "B" tour for musicians who are less talented?
Once you have a reputation to defend, an idol has been erected which will demand more and more of your attention. Will I turn to that idol when Iím lonely? Do I need more and more recognition as I book more and more singing and speaking engagements as demonstrating my gifts becomes my very reason for being?
Do you avoid loneliness at all costs? Loneliness is good. Jesus experienced loneliness. Always it drove Him to draw nearer to His Father and pray for others. Satan tried over and over again to tempt Him to sin, to divert Him from doing the Fatherís will.
During the late 90ís when I played in an empty sanctuary every Sunday, I knew God wanted to set me free from needing human approval. He knew I would be doing many things that would NOT be understood, approved, or appreciated. He taught me to become completely deaf to applause. Sometimes I receive fairly loud applause, and sometimes, not. Honestly, it doesnít matter. What matters is giving applause, not receiving it. It means not being too busy to respond to people who are trying to get my attention.
Ever play for a really "bad" crowd? Probably. I know I have. They make a lot of noise. They donít pay any attention to you. They donít listen and they donít respond. They either want something else, or they just donít care.
God is calling us to be caring and concerned. In fact, He commands us to love one another, and love is all about giving, not about taking. We learn to take the undesirable things and keep reaching out with the good things. All our lives weíve heard about how we need to be selective with our affection and guard ourselves against saying or doing anything that could result in our loss or embarrassment. Self-preservation and self-protection becomes a way of life. Itís not a way of life, beloved. Itís a way of death.
Loneliness is a good thing. It tells me thereís a lot more to this life than what Iíve experienced and discovered. It tells me I have wants and needs I donít even know about. It tells me I need more of God. He wants to express His love for you through me. He wants to express His love for me through you.
Shall I tell You again/ What You already know?/ How You changed my life/ How You filled me with hope/ Would You like me to sing about Your awesome ways?/ About Your mercy and Your amazing grace/ What can I give You/ That isnít already Yours?/ Youíve given me so much/ And now You want me to ask for more/ Your will for me/ Is all I need/ To be like You is my only plea/ A child of God filled with Your holy love/ Is more than enough for me
This song may be accessed at www.mydaddylovesme.org Itís track #2 on Ď1949í.
I feel a little less lonely and a little more hungry. If you ever need someone to encourage you in your gift, I would like to do that. If you need someone to pray for you, not the metaphoric "Iíll pray for you, brother" but someone who will pray for you in your time of need, Iíd be privileged if you call on me. My phone number is 412-727-2526.
If our message has blessed you, bless someone else and share it.
If you are lonely today, thatís good. God has something for you if you will just call on Him.
So keep on drinking/ That living water/ keep on drinking/ That new wine/ Keep on feasting/ On His goodness/ keep on rejoicing/ Redeem the time
And now Iíd like to applaud you, to express my appreciation that you read my message today. Thank you!
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