In the movie Cast Away, Tom Hanks played the role of Chuck Noland, a man stranded on a remote island after a plane crash. I still remember how I felt watching the movie. As remarkable as his survival skills and his tenacity to find a way off the island were, the most poignant thing was his connection with Wilson, a volleyball he found among the wreckage.

Noland painted a face on the volleyball and named it Wilson. He talked to Wilson as he would a friend. At one point in the movie, the ball was pulled out to sea and Noland grieved the loss.

There are times we might want to live on a desert island. We might long for a break from those who frustrate or annoy us. But in the end, we would discover the same truth that Noland did—we need other people. While we could find ways to feed and shelter ourselves, loneliness would be the one thing we couldn’t overcome.

We all have a deep need to be known—a need that goes all the way back to the beginning.

Made to Be Known

When God spoke creation into existence, it was a community event. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit were all actively involved in creation. After creating the sky and sea, the fish and birds, the plants and animals, the triune God created man: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth’” (Gen. 1:26).

After each act of creation, God declared that it was good. After creating man, God declared that it was very good. But there was one thing that wasn’t good; one thing was missing. “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him’” (Gen. 2:18). God created man in His image. Man imaged God in many ways, including his work in the garden, his rest from labor, and his creativity in naming the animals. But one way he had yet to image God was in community with others. Adam needed a co-image bearer. God made Eve, and the two of them enjoyed community together with God and one another.

From the beginning, we were created to be in community. We were made to be in relationship with our Maker and with one another. We were made to love, serve, and enjoy one another. We were made to work alongside one another in our labors. We were made to share in the mutual joy and affection for our Maker. We were made to be known.

That’s what life was like in the garden for Adam and Eve. Their relationship with one another and with God was intimate. They completely trusted God and one another. There were no secrets or barriers, no shame or embarrassment. They were fully known and completely accepted.

Broken Community

Our first parents lived in perfect community with God until the day that community was broken by their sin. At the first bite of the infamous fruit, their relationship with God changed. They became afraid and hid from Him. They went from complete intimacy with God to covering and hiding. Their relationship with each other changed as well. They blamed and accused each other. God punished them for their sin and barred them from the garden. Community was broken with God and with one another. Instead of desiring to be known, they went on to live lives of hiding, covering, pretending, and wall building.

The consequences of Adam’s sin fell on all his naturally born children. As Paul writes, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). We are all born into a world broken by sin, and we go on to create broken communities. We isolate ourselves on islands of our own making. We see this in conflicts with our spouses and our children. We see it in our selfishness and our failure to meet the needs of those who depend on us. We see it in racial tension and hatred for those who don’t look like us. And in a world surrounded by people, we find ourselves disconnected and alone. On the bus, in the elevator, in a room of cubicles, in church, and even in our own homes, we are lonely and isolated.

We were made to be known, but often no one knows us at all. We sense the disconnection in our heart. It’s an ache and longing that follows us all our lives.

Hope for Our Loneliness

After Adam and Eve’s fall into sin, God promised a child who would restore what was broken (Gen. 3:15). He would send the Redeemer, the only One born without sin, the One who would defeat sin and evil. Throughout the Old Testament, God affirmed this promise. From His covenant with Abram to bless the whole world through his offspring, to Israel’s rescue from slavery in Egypt, to the remnant that returned after their time in exile, God reaffirmed and pushed forward His plan to redeem and restore. He would create a community of rescued human beings where He would be their God and they would be His people.

At the perfect time, God sent His Son into the world. Christ came to redeem a people for Himself through His own blood—a community chosen before the world began who would wear His righteousness and once again reflect their Maker. Through their union with Christ, all those who by faith trust in Him for their salvation are part of that community God promised so long ago. “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:29). We are those countless stars in the sky, the grains of sand on the seashore that together make up the people of God. We are part of His body, the church. United to Christ, we are also united to the saints of old and to the saints sitting in the pew next to us.

As the Spirit refines us, we put aside selfishness and put on Christlikeness. And in the process, we are learning to know one another.

This community, the church, is being changed and sanctified. Through Christ’s Spirit at work in us, He is enabling us to love and serve one another. Instead of hiding behind fig leaves, we are learning to be vulnerable with others. We are learning to trust and depend on one another. As the Spirit refines us, we put aside selfishness and put on Christlikeness. And in the process, we are learning to know one another. We are learning to know when fellow believers are grieving so we can mourn alongside them (Rom. 12:15). We are learning to know when they are rejoicing so we can rejoice as well. We are learning to know when believers need encouragement so we can build them up (1 Thess. 5:11). We are also learning to know each other’s weaknesses, sins, and struggles so we can urge one another on in the faith.

Loneliness is a reminder that we were made to be known and to live in community. It is also a reminder that things are not as they should be. We should not live on islands of isolation but in community with the people of God. Our longing to be known is met in Christ and in community with His body, the church. And one day, the ache of loneliness will be gone for good when we worship Christ together forever before the throne of our God in eternal community with the saints from every tribe, tongue, and nation.
This post was originally published on September 15, 2017.

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