When I think of loneliness in the ruins, the prodigal son immediately comes to mind. He had friends whilst he had money. Once he depleted his funds, they vanished. Except for the hogs, he was lonely in the hog pen, facing the ruins of choice and consequences. When Job was in the ruins of disease, his family and friends deserted him as well. He complained, “My relatives have failed me; my friends have all forsaken me” (Job 19: 14).
Although he had three colleagues who sat with him, they were being more critical than friendly. Moses ran away to a lonely desert. Joseph was friendless in a heathen country. As for Jesus, He traveled the path to the cross all by Himself, while His disciples scattered. Ezekiel walked the streets of exile alone. And you? If you are feeling lonely in the ruins of your life, know that loneliness is an important and necessary part of the ruins.
No one can endure the ruins for you. God didn’t make Job for what He gave Joseph. He didn’t make David for what He gave Daniel. Ezekiel had to face his ruins and the people of Israel had to face theirs. Although we are all on this earth, we experience the ruins from different depths and varied perspectives. None can teach you what the ruins will. None can mature you like the ruins can. None can save you like the ruins can. No one can take your place in the ruins.
No one will comfort you the way God can. God gave Ezekiel a clear message for the people in the ruins, “tell the exiles that the Lord God says: Although I have scattered you in the countries of the world, yet I will be a sanctuary to you for the time that you are there” (Ezekiel 11:16). People will offer help, pledge financial support, lend a listening ear or give advice, but none can give peace, assurance and comfort like God’s word. When God is your Sanctuary, the encouragement you receive will come from His mouth. And, with power and audacity He declares, “I, the Lord, have spoken it.” The truth is, God’s pervasive presence is there with you. Though unseen, the light of His love shines all around you. Though unheard, He calls out your name. Though unnoticed, He is there.
No one will understand YOUR ruins like you do. God prepared and strengthened Ezekiel for the ruins. At first he was bitter and angry, but later we see him working along with the Spirit. A few times he cried out to God, “O Lord God, are you going to kill everyone in all Israel?” In Chapter 3, God told Ezekiel that he had to plant the message in his heart first, before he could graft it in the heart of others. Eventually, Ezekiel understood what the ruins meant for himself; God needed Him to work. He understood what it meant for the Israelites; God wanted to reveal Himself as Lord of the ruins. He understood what it meant for you and me today; God calls us out of sin into holiness. The journey through the ruins is personal; it’s your journey from failure and fear, to faith, to finding God. Don’t expect others to understand what is private between you and your heavenly Father.
No one will understand the work like you do. The people didn’t understand Ezekiel’s work in the ruins. Some of them said, “He only talks in riddles!’” (20: 49). Some watched him shave his head, packed his bag, climbed through a hole, lay on his side for days and watched him blink away the tears when his wife died. God gave him difficult duties to help the people understand their detestable sins, but they didn’t. Instead they asked, “What does all this mean? What are you trying to tell us?” (24: 19). If you are called to work in the ruins like Daniel or Nehemiah was, the balance scale of importance will dip on the side of those who don’t understand your purpose or God’s call on your life.
The ruins have lessons that are uniquely yours. In your times of loneliness, listen to the voice of conviction; then Turn, Turn and live. Follow the voice of direction, Go Straight Forward. Heed the voice of instruction; devour God’s word and Eat up the scroll. Welcome the voice of comfort; I am with you. And if you need help, look to the Lord of the ruins. In your lonely times, many voices are speaking; amidst them is a still small voice, your challenge is to find it, focus on it, and listen to it.
Isaiah 30: 17 – 18, “…You will be like lonely trees on the distant mountaintops. Yet the Lord still waits for you to come to him so he can show you his love; he will conquer you to bless you, just as he said. For the Lord is faithful to his promises. Blessed are all those who wait for him to help them.”
Artwork: Donald Keefe ( Used with Permission)