Requiem for Eleanor Rigby

God teaches us about loneliness and offers a way out

Have you ever watched a homeless person from a distance and wondered whose daughter she is? Whose sister or mom or classmate? How did she get where she is? How did she get so alone? In the sixties, the Beatles wrote a song about Eleanor Rigby, a woman who led a life of quiet desperation. We are told she “waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door. Who is it for?” Then the chorus: “Look at all the lonely people. Where do they all come from?”

Where do all the lonely people come from? The ultimate answer comes not from the Beatles, but from the Bible, and it is not a comfortable answer: Lonely people come from the ranks of those who choose to live apart from God.

Ephesians 2:12 tells us that before we became Christians we were “without hope and without God.” That hopelessness can take a lot of forms, but it all comes down to the simple truth that without a living, growing relationship with Jesus, we will regularly experience loneliness. Even our closest relationships will not change that, because no matter how closely we’re connected to another human being, there will be times when we’re separated from them. And then there’s that really big separation that awaits us in the future. Contemplating death can really get our fear factory pumping.

That would be the last word on the subject, except that God offers us another way. In John 10, Jesus promises a rich and abundant life to all who follow Him. The apostle Paul said he received a peace from Jesus that was beyond his wildest imagination.

Peace and abundance sound good to us, but how, exactly, do we get those? In Ephesians 2, God says that we receive them by His grace, through faith in Jesus.

Okay, but what does that mean? What is this “faith in Jesus” that brings us peace and joy and abundance? Well, for most of us, it begins with what has been called “blind faith.” We call it blind because it’s not based on anything we know for sure. We have little or no awareness of how God is moving in our life, but still we believe. We have faith that, even though we don’t understand how it all works, God must be in control of things.

If that’s where you are today, be glad that you have any kind of faith in God at all, because most people in the world don’t. Celebrate the faith you have, but at the same time don’t be content to stop at blind faith. The life God created us to live is one where we get to participate in what Christ is doing in the world around us. And blind faith can’t get us there. It’s not enough to have a faith that allows us to see God moving in a particular direction–we need a faith that allows us to talk with Him and walk with Him and participate in what He is doing.

The ability to live this way is not acquired overnight. It’s an awareness that’s developed over time and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. On a practical level, this conversational relationship with God happens in two ways:

First, by developing a mutual conversation where we speak to God in prayer, and He speaks to us through His Word and through the Holy Spirit. This can only happen when we approach our Bible reading with the expectation that God wants to personally talk with us about whatever we’re reading in the Scriptures.

A second way we can develop an intimate conversational relationship with God is through shared activity. We come to know Him better by taking part in what He is doing all around us. We simply do what we can to bless others.

A good example is friendship. Most of us have friends who will help us if we have a need and ask, and some of us have best friends who won’t wait to be asked–when they hear of our need they will show up on our doorstep ready to do whatever they can.

What might that look like in your relationship with God? He obviously doesn’t need your help to keep the universe going, so why does He want it? Because God knows that shared activity deepens intimacy.

Now here’s a crazy thought: what if becoming intimate with God is life’s ultimate goal? What if your whole purpose for being born was to become best friends with God and participate in His amazing activities in the world?

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2 thoughts on “Requiem for Eleanor Rigby

  1. Beautifully written, a simple, straightforward message we all need to hear. One I need repeated to me at times. I love that you do not encourage blind faith, that you point out we must participate in this journey, and that it takes time. Usually way more time that we think it should, sadly, way more time than some of us are willing to give. And thank you for emphasizing shared activity. How can we know God if we do not serve others? Again, thank you for this post. I read all your posts but so far this is my favorite.

    • Pennie, thanks for the encouraging words. Folks that want to just “let go and let God” miss out on the adventure of participating in what the Lord is doing all around us. I thank God for people like you who are not content to sit on the sidelines. May the Lord continue to bless all you do in Christ Jesus!