Calvary Road Baptist Church


Ecclesiastes 4.1

Sometimes the problem is felt to be the experience of loneliness:

Jodi Picoult, author of My Sister’s Keeper wrote, “Let me tell you this: if you meet a loner, no matter what they tell you, it’s not because they enjoy solitude. It’s because they have tried to blend into the world before, and people continue to disappoint them.”

Noted author John Steinbeck wrote about loneliness in Of Mice And Men, “Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other.”

Charlotte Brontë wrote, “The trouble is not that I am single and likely to stay single, but that I am lonely and likely to stay lonely.”

Mother Teresa was once quoted as saying, “The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.”

Sylvia Plath wrote, “God, but life is loneliness, despite all the opiates, despite the shrill tinsel gaiety of ‘parties’ with no purpose, despite the false grinning faces we all wear. And when at last you find someone to whom you feel you can pour out your soul, you stop in shock at the words you utter - they are so rusty, so ugly, so meaningless and feeble from being kept in the small cramped dark inside you so long. Yes, there is joy, fulfillment and companionship - but the loneliness of the soul in its appalling self-consciousness is horrible and overpowering.”

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote, “Depression on my left, Loneliness on my right. They don’t need to show me their badges. I know these guys very well.”

Joss Whedon wrote, “Loneliness is about the scariest thing out there.”

L. J. Smith wrote in Night World, No. 3,    “People Die...

Beauty Fades...

Love Changes...

And You Will Always Be Alone”

The last quote brings to light a distinction between loneliness and being alone. Sometimes a person is lonely who is not alone. On the other hand, sometimes a person is alone and is not consciously lonely. God knew that it was not good for Adam to be alone, so He created a companion named Eve. Then came sin, which does always separate and isolate, from God and from other people.[1]

Then, of course, there are different personality types. Some people are naturally somewhat reflective and contemplative, while others are not, tending toward being far more given to activity and expression than to reflection and contemplation. This is reflected by the perception of loneliness and isolation. The one type of personality would tend to be more conscious of being alone, more given to feelings of loneliness, while another personality type would discount feelings of loneliness and see the challenge as being little more than going to where people are gathered, calling or texting someone, or losing yourself in a computer game. If the aloneness and feelings of loneliness and isolation becomes more pronounced, people resort to various remedies. Some resort to therapy, including medication, exercise, dieting, hypnosis, electro-shock therapy, acupuncture, herbs, amongst others. Another treatment for both loneliness and depression is pet therapy, or animal-assisted therapy, as it is more formally known. Some people get a pet without ever realizing the reason for the pet, to offset loneliness. Of course, one way to counteract loneliness is to live with other people.

One study compared the effectiveness of four interventions: improving social skills, enhancing social support, increasing opportunities for social interaction, and addressing abnormal social cognition (faulty thoughts and patterns of thoughts).[2] Zig Ziglar would have labeled abnormal social cognition as stinkin’ thinkin’. The problem with the various approaches that I have rehearsed to you is that they deal only with symptoms, while ignoring the underlying problem. People really are, where it counts most, alone and isolated. Related to their aloneness and isolation is the absence of comfort and consolation. By various means, people frequently attempt to acquire comfort and consolation at some level. Sadly, however, such comfort is very shallow and does not address the real underlying problem at all, but only the most superficial symptoms.

I propose we turn to the consideration of a real expert. He was a man who gave himself over to a most thorough exploration of the issues we face that result in aloneness and feelings of loneliness. His name was Solomon, and in Ecclesiastes 4.1 he wrote something I would like you to consider with me.

Turn to Ecclesiastes 4.1 and stand for the reading of this portion of God’s Word, reading in unison with me:

“So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.”

Solomon was the son of good King David, who succeeded his father to reign over Israel during their glory years, a thousand years before the time of Christ. His wisdom was legendary, and he was inspired to write the Song of Solomon, this book of Ecclesiastes, and most of the book of Proverbs. This book of Ecclesiastes is a book written from the perspective of a man who observes the world around him, but strives not take into account anything he cannot see for himself. Of course, this under the sun perspective means God is left out of everything wherever possible.

So, what is a man to think about what he sees if he leaves God out of the equation? Ecclesiastes 1.2-11 begins with Solomon’s rehearsal of the everlasting sameness of existence. “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”[3] He concludes that all is vanity, from the beginning to the end, and all the way through.[4] Notice what his experiences and their results are along the way to our text. He finds that striving after wisdom is unsatisfactory.[5] After all, what is the point if this is all there is? He next discovered that the pursuit of joy was unsatisfying.[6] Then he notes that the end of the wise man and the end of the fool is the same, since they both die.[7] Therefore, he hated life.[8] Added to that was his conclusion that the accumulation of wealth was a waste of time, since you end up dying and leaving what you worked so hard for to someone else. Therefore, selfishness is the only consistent and realistic approach to living life apart from any consideration of God.[9] Solomon also observes the inherent structure of life in terms of times and seasons:

3.1    To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

2      A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

3      A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

4      A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

5      A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

6      A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

7      A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

8      A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

9      What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?

10     I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.

11     He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

12     I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.

13     And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.

14     I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.

15     That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.

Notice that the order and structure of life leads him to an acknowledgment of God’s involvement in man’s affairs. Yet he still notes the wicked conduct of men left to themselves, and that the end of men seems to be the same end as the beasts.[10] “All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.”[11] You now have the context of our text and the thoughts of the man who wrote it:

“So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.”

Three observations about the condition of men and women, related to their aloneness, related to their loneliness, from Solomon’s perspective:


Can we put ourselves in this man’s shoes? Can we consider his reflections to be our own, his ponderings to be ours? Most of us are not as retrospective as Solomon was, or as brutally consistent in our willingness to draw inferences to their logical conclusions. Therefore, we can benefit from piggybacking his inspired thoughts:

It was back in Ecclesiastes 3.16 that he wrote, “And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there.” Notice what he is saying. In the institutions of men where one ought to find judgment, there was instead wickedness to be found. In the institutions of men where one ought to find righteousness, there was instead iniquity to be observed. It is a sad day when judges are corrupt, when leaders are corrupt, when those who serve as guides are corrupt. What kind of society results from fathers who are drunkards, who are drug abusers, who are violent men, who are profane, who do not honor God. Their destructive impact resonates long after their children reach adulthood. The same goes for mothers who are promiscuous, who do not raise their children to worship and serve the one true and living God. Wickedness instead of judgment and iniquity instead of righteousness. You cannot look at the human race and find evidence that rightly concludes mankind has the potential for self-improvement. Technology improves while man spirals downward to worse and worse sins, calling good evil and evil good. Those who think mankind will somehow improve himself are the same people who live as if there is no God. They expect unattainable dreams and aspirations, and instead produce in their own lives only wickedness and iniquity.

Here in Ecclesiastes 4.1 he indicates he has come back to this subject of thought: “So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun.” My friends, Solomon is giving this matter some very careful consideration, though I am sure that many men who are careless to think as consistently and as deeply as Solomon will be very quick to disagree with him. After all, they have their myths and illusions to protect. In Ecclesiastes 4.4, he visits the issue from another angle: “Again, I considered all . . . .” In Ecclesiastes 4.7, he does the same thing: “Then I returned . . . .” It seems that in Ecclesiastes 4.1, Solomon is reflecting on whatever oppresses someone, whatever wrongs a person, be it a wicked individual occupying a position of authority, someone with an advantage of some kind, or even an impersonal affliction. People are experiencing pain, heartache, affliction, sufferings of some kind, and he looks at their situation with a clear eye.


Shifting from the perspective of the observer, Solomon, we now focus our attention on what we are told about their pain, the pain of those he labels oppressed: “So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter.”

Three things can be said about those Solomon observed. Three things can be said about you, since he is describing all mankind to some degree:

First, they shed tears. “Behold the tears.” My friends, life is hard, brutal, cruel, difficult, and filled with the profoundest kinds of disappointments and personal hurts. Therefore, unless you are the hardest and coldest kind of human being, you suffer as they suffered, and as they shed tears so do you shed tears. You are, after all, a man or a woman and not a brute beast without feelings.

But why? Because, they are oppressed. “Behold the tears of such as were oppressed.” Oppressed translates a Hebrew word that means wronged.[12] Wronged how? Through neglect? Because of intentional discrimination or misuse of authority or power? Is someone showing off or throwing his weight around, or giving you less service than you paid for, or treating you with less care as a patient than you need? Perhaps you are ill or advanced in age, and you find that those who are younger or healthier simply discount you. Whatever the cause, be it personal or impersonal, an event or an accident, you receive the full weight of it pressing down on you and you know that when it comes to this you are in it all by yourself.

Solomon observed, “And they had no comforter.” Though he deals with a much wider set of issues than I initially raised in my introduction about loneliness and being alone, there is complete overlap. Then as well as now, who is on your side? Who will help you? Who is there to sympathize? Who can you vent your emotions to and lean on in your weakness? What Solomon observed was at a deeper level than family and friends who sympathize when you have a problem, or someone you work with or work out with. “Hey man, cheer up. It will be okay.” No. Solomon saw that at the root level of human existence you are alone. You can find yourself in the middle of a crowded room of friends and family and yet, in reality, you are cosmically alone and you sometimes feel the awful loneliness. You bear all the pain alone.


“and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.”

Again, three things Solomon observes. Three things can be said about you:

First, they, you, have oppressors. When everyone suffers together the suffering frequently seems somewhat more tolerable. A child grows up experiencing grinding poverty. So long as the other children that poor youngster plays with are also in poverty, I have heard testimony that the poverty was not so much realized until years have passed. However, when you are singled out for ridicule, for persecution, for bullying, or for mistreatment of any kind by someone else or by numbers of others, the matter becomes far more difficult to deal with. What happens when the oppression takes the form of indifference, and preoccupation, and you are left alone to face this beast we call life? Who do you go to? How do you deal with it? Sometimes your oppressor is a loved one. Betrayal by a father or a mother, or someone who should be a father or a mother. Betrayal by a husband or a wife. Betrayal by a brother or a sister. Betrayal by a son or a daughter. Someone has made a decision or engaged in an activity that isolates you, frustrates you, hurts you, disillusions you, and stabs you in the heart with searing pain and a sense of loss. And you are alone.

What do you do when you are powerless? Solomon: “and on the side of their oppressors there was power.” Who has the power? Your oppressor. Who can do things to you that hurt you, that make you suffer, that torment you, that betray you, while you are powerless to stop any of it? Such a one is identified as your oppressor. Why would someone do that to you? Because he cares only for himself. Because she cares little or nothing for you. You are a convenience or a useful tool to be discarded when something else presents itself. Some will do hurtful and destructive things to you simply because they can. They enjoy wielding power over others, and if you were a fly such people would pull off your wings.

How do you respond when you are oppressed, and you have no power, neither do you have a comforter? The little boy, who is an idealist until he is oppressed to the point that he can bear the heartache no longer, becomes a cynic, or a skeptic. It is the only way he knows how to deal with the disappointment, the isolation, the absence of a comforter, and seeing wickedness in the place of judgment and iniquity where there should be righteousness. The young woman, who is tormented on social media to the point that she is humiliated, betrayed, ridiculed, held up to scorn, and who thinks there is no comfort or understanding at home, may tragically take her own life. It is not unusual to hear from some that their response to the pain they endured from oppressors was dealt with by drug use, by heavy drinking, by promiscuity, and by violent conduct in company with others dealing with the same issues. Notice that each of these unhealthy responses, as well as the so-called healthy responses many would suggest, do not address the problems, which are two: First, there are the oppressors. Then, there are no comforters.

Some people would suggest focusing all their energy on attempting to deal with the oppressors. Okay, so you can pass a law to restrict what people can say on Twitter or Facebook. Does that really address the overall issue, especially when many who favor such laws will also oppose what they call attempts to legislate righteousness? You cannot have it both ways. Do not mistake what I say. I am strongly opposed to oppressing anyone by any means, especially children. However, we live in a world of sinful people who will always find a way to oppress others. Make things illegal on Twitter or Facebook, try to make rules at school to demand that students act nice, and those same people will find another way to inflict harm on others, while their victims are still without a comforter. Reaching adulthood, you find the oppressors take on other forms, from nameless and faceless clerks and functionaries who make your life more difficult than it needs to be, to spouses, relatives, neighbors, bosses at work, and the list goes on. In this world that we live in, populated as it is by sinful people who are quite capable of oppressing others, we frequently find ourselves quite powerless to stop all of them.

What Solomon observed and bemoaned 3,000 years ago has not changed at all. There are still tears to shed. There is still no power. However, one thing has changed, though most are unaware of it. Twice in our text, Solomon sadly concluded “they had no comforter.”

I am delighted to announce that I have a Comforter. One thing among many about the Lord Jesus Christ that was so attractive to His disciples was the comfort He gave to them. Oh, what a comfort He was to them. He quenched their spiritual thirst.[13] He nourished their starved souls.[14] He was gentle, kind, loving, and tender in a way they had never experienced before. He referred to Himself when speaking to them as their Comforter, certainly to reveal to them that He was what Solomon said every man needed but no man had.[15] Then He left them.[16] He was delivered up by His heavenly Father to do what only He could do to address the crux of the problem with men, to deal with what separates each of us from God and from each other.[17] He died on the cross to deal with the sins of many, the Just for the unjust that He might bring us to God.[18] Then He rose from the dead and ascended to heaven where He is presently enthroned.[19] Will our Comforter come back for us? Yes, He will. He promised, and He always keeps His promises.[20] So, what do we do until then? Thankfully, He has given to His own Another Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to lead us and guide us and live right inside us, to indwell us and seal us.[21] It is different now. There are still wicked people sitting in places of judgment, and iniquity seems to always be on display in seats of righteousness. Yes, there are still oppressors, and they still provoke us to tears as they wield their power over us in a million different ways. However, no longer can it be said about me, or about any other sinner who has turned to Jesus Christ for forgiveness full and free, they have no comforter.

I have a Comforter! The Holy Spirit is my indwelling comforter. The Lord Jesus Christ is my enthroned comforter. And in the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit He has given to me, my heavenly Father shows Himself to be to me “the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”[22] Am I tormented as before? Yes. Do I find the aloneness and the isolation intolerable? Yes. Am I sometimes overwhelmed by circumstances and events beyond my control? Yes. So, what do I do?

I can now cry out to my God, praying in the Spirit as prompted by my indwelling Comforter, the Holy Spirit, and trusting that my Advocate, Jesus Christ Who is enthroned on high understands, consoles, protects, encourages, and relieves me of my concerns. Until Jesus comes again, I must deal with the afflictions brought upon me by the oppressors, those wicked ones who occupy places of judgment and those filled with iniquity who are seated in places where righteousness ought to reign. However, with my comfort I will by God’s grace prevail.

My lonely, isolated, solitary friend. Understand that it is your sin that separates you, from God and from other human beings. Therefore, no matter what you do to minimize the symptoms, only the salvation that is found in Jesus Christ actually addresses the cause, sin. Come to Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of all your sins and you will never, ever, be alone again, for Jesus said, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,” Hebrews 13.5.

[1] Isaiah 59.2; Romans 3.15-17

[2] 5/23/13

[3] Ecclesiastes 1.9

[4] Ecclesiastes 1.2, 14; 2.1, 11, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 26; 3.19; 4.4, 7, 8, 16; 5.10; 6.2, 4, 9, 11; 7.6, 15; 8.10, 14; 9.9; 11.8, 10; 12.8

[5] Ecclesiastes 1.12-18

[6] Ecclesiastes 2.1-11

[7] Ecclesiastes 2.12-17

[8] Ecclesiastes 2.17

[9] Ecclesiastes 2.18-26

[10] Ecclesiastes 3.16-22

[11] Ecclesiastes 3.20

[12] Francis Brown, S. R. Driver & Charles A. Briggs, The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew And English Lexicon, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1979), pages 798-799.

[13] John 7.37

[14] John 6.35

[15] John 14.16

[16] John 14.2-6

[17] Acts 2.23

[18] 1 Peter 3.18

[19] Psalm 16.11; 110.1; Matthew 26.64; Mark 12.36; 14.62; 16.19; Luke 20.42; 22.69; John 3.13; 14.2-4; Acts 2.33, 34-35; 7.56; Romans 8.34; Ephesians 1.20; Colossians 3.1; Second Thessalonians 1.7; Hebrews 1.3, 13; 8.1; 9.24; 10.12-13; 12.2; 1 Peter 3.22; Revelation 19.11

[20] John 14.3

[21] John 14.16; Romans 8.9; Ephesians 1.13-14; 4.30

[22] 2 Corinthians 1.3-4

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