But sometimes, I still wonder. What does it really mean to be a Christian?
Alone as a Christian
After much pondering, I've come to the realisation that one aspect of being a Christian means accepting loneliness. I found in my own personal walk with God, that often despite going to church and having fellowship with fellow Christians, having a close-knit family and friends, a loving devoted husband, I often still feel lonely and unsatisfied.
At first, I thought I was being unappreciative and unable to feel happiness. But I realised it is because I am always reflecting on my walk with God and my experiences in life and how true joy can only come from leaving everything behind and taking up my daily cross.
Mark 8 verses 34-35 says; ""If anyone would come after me (Jesus), he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it."
This verse really is about obedience, commitment, sacrifice and loneliness. Loneliness is manifested in the image of, when you take up your cross; you carry it on your own. Nothing and no one can help you. If you want to follow Christ, you are required to give up or at least be ready to give up all the temporary things of this world in order to obey the call of Christ.
Alone in Modern Society
In the Old Testament, the prophets did extreme things to obey the call of God. In our modern society, we may not need to do exactly what the prophets did, but our decisions as Christians in our jobs, church, marriage and families separates us from non-believers. As a follower of Christ, you try to make decisions that are right, noble and pure.
It is often making the decision to not follow what other's consider normal but isn't right, like premarital sex or taking drugs. There is the notion, "Everyone's doing it, so why not do it?" And yet, we should not, because as Christians, our decisions and actions should not be defined by society, but defined by Christ. And thus, in our modern society, we are alone as well.
A. W. Tozer explains this beautifully in his article on "The Loneliness of a Christian" where he says, "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".
Loneliness throws us back upon God
Sometimes I feel it is as if loneliness is the price of being a good saint. And it sure does look like that, when we see in the Bible the greatest prophets were all alone, and felt loneliness and cried out to God about being alone. The greatest loneliness is the cross. (Mark 15 verse 34: Around three o'clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?")
But it's not all bad. No matter how much loneliness scares us, it is this very loneliness that throws us back upon God. Our inability to find the perfect companion or find true happiness should drive us to seek in God what we can't find anywhere else. This was the case for my conversion. In a world where nothing satisfied me, only God and Jesus Christ fully satisfied me.
In our temporary world, we are nothing but strangers and pilgrims in a foreign land waiting to enter our true home, which is the Kingdom of God. As said in Hebrews 11 verse 16: "But as it is, they aspire to a better land, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them."
Our journey of life in this world should not be on our feet, but in our hearts. It is God that walks with us in the garden of our own soul. I have learned in inner solitude that Christ is my All in All. But the weakness of so many modern Christians, including myself, is that we feel too much at home in this world. In our effort to achieve balance in an ungodly and unregenerate society we have lost our pilgrim character and become part of the very moral order against which we are sent to protest. The world recognises Christians as the same as non-Christians and this is the saddest part.
If God has called you to be really like Jesus, He will draw you to a life of crucifixion and humility and put upon you such demands of obedience that you will not be able to follow other people or measure yourself by other Christians. This is the lonely road of a Christian. But once our hearts are possessed with the living God, we have a glimpse into Heaven and our loneliness has served its purpose.
Clarissa Yates is from Singapore but moved to live in Perth, Western Australia in 2008. Clarissa completed a BSc. in Molecular Biology at the University of Western Australia. She is now working as a Graduate Research Assistant at the University of Western Australia in the Tumour Immunology Group. In her spare time, she runs her small home-based Perth Cake Pop business, Lollicakes.
Clarissa Yates' previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/clarissa-yates.html