Key Scriptures: Genesis 39:20-23 and 40:1-22 and 41:1, 1 Kings 19:1-18, Psalm 23, Ephesians 3:16-19, Romans 15:13, Ephesians 5:18, Romans 5:5, Philippians 4:13, Acts 11:22-24
Guiding Question: How can God help us when we are feeling all alone?
Introductory Activity: The movie Cast Away with Tom Hanks is actually an adaptation of the book Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. You may want to choose a short clip from each movie or just give them a brief synopsis of the story. In both, Hank’s character and Crusoe were alone on an island after a crash/wreck. They both experienced tremendous loneliness. In Cast Away Tom Hanks finds comfort in making a “friend” out of a ball he found in the wreckage. Crusoe, on the other hand, finds a Bible. While reading the Bible, he finds God and gets his solace from it. (Note: Neither is a Christian and thus both characters have beliefs and actions that aren’t necessarily godly.) Ask students to name things people do when they are feeling lonely. They can list things that are positive and negative in their minds. Don’t evaluate the list at this point, but save it for the skills activity.
Lesson: (Questions for students are in bold italics.) Read Genesis 39:20-23, 40:1-22 and 41:1. Point out that Joseph was in prison an additional two years after he interpreted the dreams of his fellow prisoners. How might Joseph have felt when he was thrown in jail for a crime he didn’t commit? How do you think he felt when the butler was released from jail? How did Joseph feel when two years had passed from the butler’s release and he was still in jail? Do you think the fact that he was separated from his family, in part by the cruelty of his brothers, made him feel even more alone in his waiting?
God did not create robots when He created humans. He wanted us to have the freedom to choose whether or not we worshiped and obeyed Him. Unfortunately, many choose to disobey God…beginning in Eden. As a result, bad things happen. Potiphar’s wife wanted Joseph to disobey God. When he refused, she lied and had him thrown in jail. Things probably looked hopeful when the butler was released, but the butler forgot to mention Joseph for two whole years! Yet there is no indication in the Bible that Joseph whined, complained or lost all hope. What is the hint in scriptures that lets us know how Joseph was able to stay hopeful and productive even in prison? When Joseph kept his faith in God and did the good he could do in his circumstances, he was able to see God was still at work in the world and in his life. He was able to trust that God knew what was best and was with him – in spite of the evil or carelessness of others.
Joseph wasn’t the only one who might have felt isolated in where their circumstances placed them. Elijah had been a mighty prophet of God. He had to endure the wrath of evil Ahab and Jezebel more than once. Read 1 Kings 19:1-18. How did Elijah feel at this point in his life? How did God remind Elijah He was with him? How else did God remind Elijah he was not alone? God let Elijah know he wasn’t as alone as he thought. Not only did God remind Elijah He was there for him, but he reminded him there were several thousand other people who still obeyed God.
One of Satan’s weapons is the lie that no one loves us. That we are all alone. He may even convince us God doesn’t love us. Satan knows when we feel like we are all alone in the world, we are more likely to sin when he tempts us. It’s one of the reasons he tempted Jesus after he had been alone in the wilderness for forty days. He knew if there was any chance at all for him to convince Jesus to sin, it would be when Jesus was horribly hungry and had been isolated for many days. It didn’t work, because Jesus always allowed God to fill him up. He spent most of his life surrounded by family, friends and followers. But even in those moments when he was alone, he knew God was always with him. He was never truly alone.
When are some of the times it is easiest for Satan to convince us we are isolated, alone and unloved? Why are we most vulnerable to Satan’s lies at those times?
When we believe Satan’s lies that we are all alone in the world and that no one loves us, we have forgotten that God is always there and wants to fill that lonely part of our souls with His love. Read the following scriptures. What do they tell us about how God can fill us up?
- Psalms 23
- Ephesians 3:16-19
- Romans 15:13
- Ephesians 5:18
- Romans 5:5
- Philippians 4:13
When someone becomes a Christian, they not only receive the forgiveness of sins at baptism, but God gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit. It may sound a little scary at first to think of the Holy Spirit living within you, but it’s just the opposite. The Holy Spirit has many functions, but one of them is to remind us of God’s love for us. He also can fill us with joy, peace and hope – no matter what the circumstances are in which we find ourselves.
There are two potential issues when we feel all alone in the world. Either we aren’t yet a Christian and so we don’t have the Holy Spirit inside of us to remind us we aren’t alone. Or we are not “listening” to the Holy Spirit when he reminds us of God’s love. You won’t hear a voice in your head, but most likely a thought will pass through in your brain as you have your internal pity party. “Yes, but God loves you.” will float through your brain. God wants us to listen to that “voice”. But what do we often do, when we are reminded of God’s love? We push the thought right back out of our heads. It’s almost as if we tell the Holy Spirit to be quiet so we can hear our pity party better!
There’s another reason God wants us to stop the pity party and remember He loves us. Read Acts 11:22-24.What does it tell us Barnabas did because he allowed the Holy Spirit to fill him? God knows when we feel sorry for ourselves in our isolation, it takes a lot of our energy. We can’t do the good works he has planned for us to do, because we are so focused on ourselves and feeling sorry for ourselves. Barnabas probably had times when Satan tried to convince him he was all alone in the world, too. But instead of throwing a pity party, he allowed the Holy Spirit to fill him. As a result, other people became Christians. Had Barnabas not allowed the Holy Spirit to remind him he wasn’t alone, those people may not have become Christians.
Skills Activity: Review the main parts of the lesson. Explain to students that research has found feeling isolated and alone is not good for us. When people are isolated or feel especially lonely for long periods of time, they can develop depression, have sleep issues, experience cognitive decline including a reduction in their executive function thinking skills, develop heart problems, have a weakened immune system, have a higher risk of stroke and increased inflammation and engage in more unhealthy habits.
Just like Joseph, however, we can allow God to fill us when our circumstances might make it seem we are isolated or all alone. The question is, “How do we allow God to fill us?”
Have students look back at the list you created in the introductory activity. Which of those ways people try to cope with loneliness need to be crossed off because they are ungodly or sinful? Which ones need to be eliminated because, while perhaps not sinful, they may not be the wisest things to do? Based on the lesson, what other things can be added to the list? Make sure students include the following ideas on their list:
- Remember the feeling that we are all alone is a lie of Satan. The reality is that God loves us.
Point out to students that God didn’t allow Joseph to be placed in solitary confinement. Even though he was in jail, Joseph had contact with the jailer and other prisoners. God reminded Elijah that there were several thousand people who obeyed God just like him. He could have conversations with those people and remember he wasn’t actually all alone in the world. Part of the way God fills us up is by providing a community of people to love and support us. It’s one of the reasons He created the church instead of just letting people worship Him only individually. We need to do the last few things on the list in community with others. That, too, will remind us we are never truly alone.
Have students create a personal “battle plan” to use the next time Satan tries to convince them they are all alone in the world and that no one loves them. Encourage them to keep their battle plan handy and use it at the first signs of trouble.
Application Challenge: Review the scriptures from the lesson. Look over the “battle plan” you created. Some of the items you may want to do daily, like prayer and reading the Bible so it will be more difficult for Satan to convince you that you are all alone and unlovable.