By: Samantha Edwards.
The oxford dictionary defines loneliness as “a feeling of being unhappy because you have no friends or people to talk to; the fact of a period of time being sad and spent alone”. Being lonely makes us crave human connection, which can be a good thing because it drives us into relationships with others. God created us for community. “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him’” Genesis 2:18 (ESV). “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen” 1 Peter 4:8-11 (NIV).
Physical solitude can help us hear God’s voice because we quiet the world around us, in a similar way the inner solitude that is produced by loneliness opens our hearts to understand the depths of God’s love. When we are overcome with loneliness, we need to turn to God and get alone with Him instead of letting the fear of being alone overwhelm us. The noise of the world can get so loud that it can become difficult to hear the Lord. Jesus is often shown in the gospels as choosing solitude over people. “But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer” Luke 5:16(NLT).
Loneliness is something that everyone has experienced, whether it is a time of literally being alone or surrounded by a crowd of people. Introverts and extroverts, married and single people they all experience loneliness at some point. This is nothing to be ashamed of, it is just a part of life. This is an uncomfortable feeling so naturally people want to run from it or try to suppress it by filling their day with distractions. Even the healthiest distractions can have a negative impact if they take away time from the Lord. We should not be so busy that we hide from our own personal pain, instead of sitting at His feet like Mary of Bethany.
“Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, ‘Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor.’ He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me’” John 12:1-8 (NIV). I’m not suggesting that Martha was lonely in this passage but it says that she was busy serving while her sister was busy worshiping.
Mary took a bold step of faith in this passage, the world doesn’t like extravagant expressions of love for God, they prefer everything in mediocrity. When she made the decision to pour out the expensive perfume, she opened herself up to judgement, criticism and being mocked by those in the room. Notice in the passage she never defends herself, she let Jesus do the talking. Waste is defined in the google dictionary as, “use or expend carelessly, extravagantly, or to no purpose.” Mary’s actions here were viewed by others as wasteful, why would she waste all of her perfume on Jesus’ feet? But Mary knew it was worth the waste, He was worth it! The cost of the perfume was 300 denarri, or $54,509.00 USD today. How many of us would consider this act wasteful? Mary poured out all that she had at the feet of Jesus, that is amazing!
We can all learn a lesson of what extravagant devotion looks like from Mary. There were probably many things going on that could have used her attention, she could have been helping Martha but she knew that time with Jesus was more precious than anything the world could offer her. Mary looked at life in light of eternity, it is good to help our family, it is good to help the poor, but it is better to sit at the feet of Jesus. Sometimes we have to sacrifice good on the altar of best. “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked” Psalm 84:10 (NIV).