When Longing and Loneliness Leads to Sin
God loves us and wants the best
We are asked to wait, or told no to things we think we need, because God has something better for us, not because he wants us to be unhappy.
Have you ever seen what someone else has and wanted what they have? I don’t mean that you wanted to take what they have or wished that the exact thing they have was yours instead of theirs, but that you wanted something similar to what they have, which is the important difference between longing and coveting. It is not a sin to see a person who has a happy life, a good job, a loving spouse or a nice car and wish that your life was equally blessed and equally happy, but it is a sin to want to take what they have and make it yours, and I would also say that it is a sin to be angry at the other person for having what you don’t. Wanting Jessie’s girl is a sin, sorry Rick, but wanting a girl that loves you the way Jessie’s girlfriend loves him is not. This episode is about longing for things that we don’t have and think will make us happy, not about coveting what other people have, and how those longings, while not not sinful in and of themselves, can lead to a diverse manner of sins.
We all long for things, and as I already mentioned, longing is not, in and of itself, a sin. However, if we don’t guard ourselves and proceed with a Biblical mindset than longing can lead to sin and no small amount of heartache and more troubles than we care to have. It is a natural part of being human to want things that we think will make us happy or will make our life easier. It is especially natural and expected to desire to have a a romantic someone in our lives, someone to love us and be there for us, and when we are the only one in our circle that is single it is natural to feel left out and to feel lonely and sad, but we should not let ourselves be weighed down by worrying about what we don’t have, instead we should be grateful for what we have been given. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 tells us that there is a time for everything, so we should not be impatient when it is not our time for some event, nor should we sin by being angry with those who have what we don’t.
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
While relationships is not the only thing we long for as humans, it will be the main thing I focus on today, but not to exclusion of all others. I think that practically all sins that have ever been committed or ever will be committed are linked to the desire for money, power or sex. The devil himself sinned and was cast out of heaven because of his desire for power; Satan wished to be equal or greater in power to God and was not satisfied to worshiping God, which is ultimately what all creation was created for.
Loneliness, while often undesired and uncomfortable, is not a sin, and longing for a relationship is not a sin, but loneliness and longing can lead to sin if it is coupled with impatience, lack of faith in God or a sense of injustice or entitlement. I will deal with each of these four issues, impatience, lack of faith, a false sense of injustice, and a sense of entitlement separately.
A lot of us feel that it is so important to have whatever it is we think our life is missing, and to have it right now, that we don’t trust God’s timing and try to rush things according to our time schedule. When we try to rush God or go according to our schedule we don’t make God work faster, we are just going along with our plan instead of God’s plan.
I might have told this story before in another episode, but I like to tell the story I once heard of a Marine company that had been sent to the enemy camp and the major was told to have his men at the ready at the ridge overlooking the camp at 05:00 but to wait until precisely 05:10 to enter the camp. When the troops showed up at 04:58 and the major saw that the enemy was sleeping he decided that if he waited one of his men might accidentally make a sound and they would loose the element of surprise so he ordered his men into the camp while he remained on the ridge.
The marines bravely went into the enemy camp and did what marines do best but at exactly 05:00 heavy artillery opened fire from somewhere on the other side of the camp killing the enemy and the marines alike. The major was horrified but there was nothing he could do. When the artillery stopped the major looked at his watch and it was exactly 05:10 Realizing he had sent his men to their death the major cried, "I didn't know what the general knew."
God knows what we don't and doesn't tell us to do or not to do things just because, he always has a good reason and when we fail to listen there are always consequences, often disastrous.
A lot of us are so impatient to have someone in our life that we feel that having anyone, regardless of how badly they treat us, is better than being alone and relate to the song by Florence and the Machine, “Kiss With a Fist” where one of the lines says, “A kiss with a fist is better than none.” I for one can tell you that the sentiment from the song is wrong and that a bad relationship is much, much worse than being alone, and in fact, being alone is not a bad thing. No person can fill that hole in us, only Jesus can, and if we expect another person to fill the hole and to complete us than we are setting ourselves up for failure.
As Ecclesiastes says, there is a time and a season for everything, and it is important for us to not get impatient when it is not our time. When we get impatient we often settle for far less than what God had in mind for us, in relationships or with anything else we are longing for, and we get ourselves into contracts that are not easily broken when the thing that God had in mind for us comes along. If God tells us to wait but we don’t we might have a mortgage on a house we can’t afford or don’t like when the right house comes along, a contract for a job we don’t like but can’t get out of when the job we wanted comes along, or far worse, we could be married to a person who does not love us when the person we should have married come along, and at that point it would be a sin for us to try to be with them because we already committed ourselves to the person we married.
Being impatient will not force God’s hand or make him give us what we think we need or cause him to change his timing, but it will almost always mean that we are following our own plan and not God’s, and that is never good.
When I was younger I was engaged for over two years because my fiancé’s parents kept pressuring her to keep putting the wedding off, mostly because they assumed that if they kept moving the date I would eventually get the hint and move on. Despite the fact that when I asked her father for her hand it was given, her parents did not like me because I was did not come from money and had no aspirations to ever be rich or famous.
Eventually I did get the hint and I realized we would never have a happy relationship because her parents did not like me much and denigrated me every chance they got and she would never be able or willing to stand up for me. It was the most difficult decision I had ever had to make up to that point, but I broke up with her and did my best to move on with my life. I was sad and depressed for quite a long while, and everything else in life seamed to be going wrong at the same time, so I eagerly accepted the next relationship that came along, even though there were red flags everywhere.
We got married after only dating a few months and that led to an unhappy marriage and a painful and costly divorce five years later. I don’t think that either of us were the person God had in mind for the other person, nor do I think it was my time or season to get into a relationship, much less a marriage, because I was deeply depressed and felt like I needed someone to love me in order to have any value. That is never a good state to be in when entering a relationship and will almost always lead to heartache. I am not even sure if I prayed about it before we decided to get married, and if I did, I certainly didn’t wait for any kind of an answer because the obvious answer, which was no, was practically slapping me in the face. I tried to make the marriage work, but eventually I came to terms with the fact that she was going to leave me, regardless of what I did or how hard I tried and I gave her what she wanted and let her leave and be happy with someone else.
Lack of faith
When we long for something and have weak faith we don’t trust God’s timing because we don’t believe he will give us what we need when we need it, or even that he truly has our best interest in mind, and decide that we must look out for ourselves. Even the mighty King Saul made this mistake and did not trust God’s timing or his order for things, and when the prophet Samuel delayed in coming Saul offered the sacrifice on behalf of the people on his own, which is something that was strictly forbidden by the law of Moses. For this and other sins, God decided to remove Saul as King and place another in his stead.
Like Saul, if we don’’t trust God’s timing and rush things based on when we think they should happen we are setting ourselves up for failure and are telling God that we don’t trust him, which certainly does not please him. As it says in Hebrews 11:6, without faith it is impossible to please God.
I think that all sin is linked to a lack of faith because I have a difficult time believing that when we are full of faith we would sin against God, and all sin is ultimately against God, but in moments when our faith is weak we allow small concessions that are either sinful in themselves or lead to sin, and of course, when we sin it weakens our faith and continues the downward spiral.
False sense of injustice
The third issue that when coupled with longing can lead to sin, which is also linked to a lack of faith, is a false sense of injustice. When we have a false sense of injustice we falsely believe that we are being unfairly treated by people we know, by society, and even by God when we don’t have what we think we should have. We often feel we are being unfairly treated when everyone we know owns a nice house and we rent a trailer. We feel we are being unfairly treated when our cousin makes more than us, even though we did not apply ourselves to learn the job skills that he or she did. We feel we are being overlooked by God when everyone we know is in a happy relationship, or at least seams to be, and we have been single for many years, especially if it is difficult for us to get a date or when we do date it ends in disaster. We feel that we are being unfairly treated whenever there is something we want and don’t have, especially when we have convinced ourselves that it is what we need to make us happy and when we are comparing ourselves to those who have what we think we need. It is never good to compare ourselves with other people, for a whole host of reasons, one of which is that we see people’s success and their happiness and their nice things but fail to see all of the time, blood, sweat and tears it took to get them and keep them. Everything in life has a cost associated with it, and only a fool or a thief expects to get something for which he or she did not work for. The only exception for this is salvation, for which Jesus paid the entire cost with his suffering and death on the cross.
Sometimes when we long for something, especially a relationship, the desire is so intense that and the hole seemingly so deep that we are willing to settle for a cheap knock off and try to convince ourselves that it makes us happy when, if we were honest, we would admit that it made us more lonely than ever. When we feel that we have been unfairly treated by God and decide that it is up to us to get whatever it is we falsely believe God is holding back from us, we fall into the trap of accepting a cheap substitute for what God wanted to give us. Sometimes this cheap substitute comes in the form of an unloving and abusive relationship instead of the relationship that God had in mind for us. As the famous actor and comedian Robin Williams said, “I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel alone” (1). On some level, anyone who has ever been in a bad relationship knows that it is better to be single than to be in a bad relationship, and just because you are single does not mean that you have to be alone. If you don’t currently have any friends, get into a good church and get involved in a home group, and it is also helpful to find other groups to belong to where people share common interests that could lead to friendship. Being single is not a punishment and we should not think of it as such, and in fact, Paul the Apostle spent his entire life single and said that if we are able it is better to remain single so we can better serve God (1 Corinthians 7:8).
False sense of entitlement
Sometimes, quite often actually, our cheap substitute comes in the form of pornography which is one of the devils most convincing lies. This is especially likely to happen when we feel that God has somehow done us wrong by not providing us love and we feel that we are being unfairly treated and deserve to have love, or at least some sort of sexual fulfillment. I would like to mention that we should not use our feelings as the barometer of truth as the heart is most deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9). Whenever we feel that we are entitled to something we are almost always wrong, and if we feel that we are entitled something from God we are not only always wrong, as God owes us nothing, but we are headed down a dangerous road where we believe that God is somehow our servant. God created the universe, space and time, and all life, and we only have a chance at salvation because he loved us enough to sacrifice his son on our behalf; the Almighty God certainly owes us nothing. We, on the other hand, owe God everything.
But, when we do feel that God, society, life, the cosmos, or whatever, is treating us unfairly because we don’t have love and feel that we are entitled to feel like we are loved romantically or fulfilled sexually what we get is none of those things and we feel more alone and more unfulfilled than ever. If we feel such an overwhelming desire to feel loved that we are willing to get it regardless of the costs, we wind up in all sorts of situations that are not only against the word of God but also dangerous. The mindset that we are owed love can lead to pornography addiction, dangerous relationships with strangers, disease, abuse,heartache, broken homes, and all forms of perversions and sin.
The devil, and society at his behest, tells us that there is nothing wrong with pornography and that it is healthy and natural, despite the fact that even secular sociologist and psychologist say that it is damaging to both health and relationships, and despite the fact that the department of justice has linked it to sex trafficking and all sorts of other crimes.
Devil and society also tells us that there is nothing wrong with being promiscuous and having a one night stand, or with and form of sexual perversion. “Do whatever makes you feel good” is the common mantra of society today, but if those who were doing those things were honest they would say that it makes them feel cheap, lonely, depressed, and they are often unable to quit doing the action as it has become an addiction. Every year many, many men and women seek professional help to overcome addiction to pornography and other sex related habits, and I think it is a fair statement to say that if they made people happy instead of offering temporary pleasure in exchange for guilt, shame and other problems there would not be so many people seeking help to overcome them.
When the devil offers us cheap substitutes for the things God wants to give us it will never bring us happiness, and the devil know this; the devil is not interested in making us happy, he is only interested in keeping us away from God and making us feel like we either don’t need God, can’t trust God, or have gone too far to be forgiven.
We all need God, and so long as we are still alive we have not gone too far to receive his forgiveness. God has a plan for each of our lives, and even if it is not what we think we need or want, we should be happy with what he has given us and trust his timing and trust that he has our best interest in mind.