Birds in Formation

Not Alone

Have you ever been stood up?  You get ready to meet someone (maybe a person you know, or perhaps a blind date) at a pre-arranged time and place, but when you get there, the other party hasn’t arrived.  If you were early (which is one of my vices), you settle in and wait for a while.  If you showed up a little late, you start to wonder if the other person already came and left.

As the specified meeting time comes and goes, the second-guessing kicks in: Did I get the time (or day) right?  Is this the correct place?  Should I stay put so that the other person can find me, or should I walk around and look for them?  In today’s era of smartphones, we can check our previous notes, and even text the other party, but even these sources (compared to the limited communication methods that were available in the past) only tell us a certain amount.

When more time has passed, you start to feel more awkward.  If you’re outside, passers-by give you sideways glances.  If you’re at a restaurant, the servers start checking back on you less often, or maybe suggest that you go ahead and order food for yourself.

Finally, after you’ve waited a socially-appropriate amount of time (and maybe some more), you acknowledge that you have been stood up, and head home.

Take a look at what Jesus prophesied to His disciples at the Last Supper, shortly before His betrayal:

But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me.
John 16:32 NLT

https://bible.com/bible/116/jhn.16.32.NLT

From a human standpoint, Jesus was going to be about as alone as one could be.  After leaving the Passover dinner and praying in Gethsemane, Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot, one of His chosen disciples, and taken into custody by hostile men.  At a series of rigged “trials”, it doesn’t appear that anyone stood up for Him.  His punishment (for telling the truth, and being the Truth) was to be hung on a cross for the world to see.

I’ve been stood up before, but there is no comparison to the abandonment that Jesus faced by the rest of the humankind.  Friends left Him, enemies kicked Him around to multiple governmental leaders in order to get approval to execute Him, and even the occupying Roman forces abused Him.

Yet, in all of this, Jesus confirms that He was not going through His trial alone.  God the Son had walked through life in the company of God the Father, and the two were closer than any family relationships or friendships that we know here on earth.

It is true that there finally came a terrible moment (see Mark 15:34) where it appears that God the Father – being perfectly holy – had to look away from the sins (committed by us) that Jesus had taken upon Himself.  However, even when Jesus was left alone by His disciples, who fell asleep as He prayed and agonized over what He had to face, I believe that God the Father heard Him.  I believe that God the Father was with Jesus through His arrest (when the disciples fled), the accusations and physical assault, and Jesus’ condemnation by Pilate.  I can’t imagine the pain that the Father went through as His Son experienced each of these events, despite knowing that they were a necessary part of a greater plan and that Jesus had chosen to become the means of salvation for sinners like us.

Some good news: none of us need to die for the sins of the world.  Jesus took on that great burden, because our sins disqualified us from a relationship with God.  We aren’t good enough for our own salvation, much less anyone else’s.

But, through all this tragedy, Jesus brought us hope.  No matter what trials, suffering, and anguish that we may be going through, God is near to us.  As Jesus promised to His disciples (Matthew 18:20, Matthew 28:20), we do not have to be alone, even if friends, family, and even blind dates abandon us.

As we look at those who have endured great suffering for the sake of their faith in Jesus, it seems that only this hope could get them through the difficult times.  Paul – who had earthly friends leave (2 Timothy 4:9-10) and probably felt pretty alone through other times – said the following:

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:13 NASB

https://bible.com/bible/100/php.4.13.NASB

When we know that we are with friends, we can stand up to almost anything, as Ecclesiastes 4:12 explains.  When we are alone and feel abandoned, though, we tend to look inward for some element of strength.  We weren’t meant to be individual, loner superheroes, though.  While there is value in learning about the fortitude that God gives us, He also gives us many examples of the importance of relationships:  It was not good for the first man to be alone.  Jesus called disciples to minister with Him and learn from Him.  Even the three persons of the one God live in communion with each other, making Jesus’ time on the cross unimaginably alone.

Through the hope that Jesus provided for us, we never have to experience this separation, though.  Even if our friends cannot be found, and lunch or dinner dates don’t show, we can rest in the permanent, unchanging relationship with God.  He never stands us up, never ghosts us, and never leaves us.  You are not alone.

 

 

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation.

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