Towards the end of the fourth chapter of Paul’s second epistle to Timothy, there is a verse (16), that resounds with poignant loneliness :
“At my first defence, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them.”
Paul wrote these words in a prison cell. At a time of intense persecution of Christians under the Emperor Nero, Paul had been called to testify to the Roman authorities and had found himself standing alone. No doubt his friends were fearful of retribution if they were identified as his supporters.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you expected support and it wasn’t forthcoming? Friends disappeared and let you down?
Maybe you are the only Christian in your family or your workplace. You might be excluded from friendship groups or social events for that very reason. You may be the butt of ridicule or be passed by for promotion because of your faith.
Jesus was no stranger to betrayal and desertion. More than any other, he knew what it was to be utterly alone. He not only experienced the treachery of Judas, the scattering of most of the other disciples and the denial of Peter, but far worse than all, He suffered the absolute loss of His Father’s presence whilst suffering an agonizing death on the cross. A holy, just and righteous God turned His face away from the sin that Jesus had become for our sake, casting His Son into hell.
Praise God that was not the end of the story! For Jesus, by the grace and power of God, triumphed over sin and death and rose again, forever to be in fellowship with His Father. Paul, in his prison cell, understood so very well that even though he had been deserted by his friends, the presence of God was with Him. In his letter to Timothy, Paul continues (Chapter 4 verse 17) : ”But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength to proclaim the message fully, that all the Gentiles might hear it.”
We who have committed our lives to Christ will never have to endure the loneliness that He faced, for He has promised in His word “I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5). God has a special place in His heart for the lonely and alienated. He sees the deserted husband or wife abandoned to their despair. His eye is on the widow or widower, grieving for a lost spouse. He sits beside the unvisited patient in a hospital bed. And He has not forgotten those of the persecuted church, discriminated against or imprisoned for their faith.
Despite our best intentions, none of us fallible humans give one another the amount of care and attention that Christ alone can. “..you have been forsaken and hated, with no one travelling through” is a verse in Isaiah, (chapter 60:15), which succinctly describes how often Christians face opposition alone. Again, the following verse turns our attention away from man and onto Christ: “I [Christ] will make you the everlasting pride and the joy of all generations.”
It is a blessing to have Christian friends whom we trust and who care for us. We each hope that in time of testing and trial we will stand together for our faith. But we know that there is One in whom we can have unshakeable confidence. Proverbs 19:24 describes Him : “…there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” He is our Creator, Saviour, Counsellor, protector, comforter and guide. He is always good, always faithful, unfailing, ever-present, the most precious relationship we can ever hope to have in our lives. Father God, Lord Jesus Christ, wonderful Holy Spirit, blessed Trinity. Praise Him.