After my brother-in-law returned home from twenty days of hospitalized isolation for COVID-19, I asked him, “What would you speak about if you preached a sermon about your experience?” He replied, “The Holy Spirit.” I asked him to elaborate. He said, “I was alone but not alone.”
There are so many circumstances in life in which we find ourselves alone: being sick; driving to work; driving home from work; sleeping in; taking a private walk; being divorced; being a single parent with an empty nest. I left Jan alone when I traveled overseas with my two younger brothers last January. I’m sure you could add to my list your own times of being alone.
It’s easy to think that if we’re alone, then we must be lonely. This is true for many people, but it’s not true for everyone. My wife and I recently watched the movie Enola Holmes. It’s about Enola who is the sister of Sherlock Holmes and their older brother. The name Enola is the word ‘alone’ spelled backwards. At one point in the movie Enola is talking to the young man she befriended and she explained that her mother taught her that you can be alone but not lonely.
I wish to reassure you that if you find yourself alone as you read this, you are NOT alone. The Lord Jesus Christ is with you. I’d like to refer you to 2 Timothy 4:16-18 to support my point. The apostle Paul wrote these words to his younger friend and assistant named Timothy:
16 At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them. 17 But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was rescued out of the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Being deserted by those we consider friends is a serious negative. Paul considered his aloneness a negative, because those he considered friends left him to fend for himself when he stood before Roman officials for his preliminary hearing following his arrest. Even with this negative assessment, Paul still gathered up enough strength to wish them favor instead of trouble. At the same time, he experienced the companionship with Jesus Christ: “The Lord stood with me and strengthened me…”
Social distancing in our pandemic is a negative experience for the majority of us, even if it’s for our good. When social distancing is the result of friendship failure it’s even more hurtful. I was isolated with hepatitis A as a college freshman in Elgin, Illinois. The person who helped me start my relationship with Jesus Christ gave me the impression that he would visit me in the hospital on his way to California. It never happened, maybe because he knew hepatitis is contagious. I was very disappointed because I was eager to see him again. However, the encouragement and companionship, as brief as it was, came from another person, the president of the college, Dr. Harm Weber. He visited me and he gave me a book that I cherished for many years. Looking back on this visit, I understand better that the Lord was trying to make me see that He hadn’t left me alone, even if another person had.
Accepting that we are alone, that is, on our own, as Paul was, still doesn’t mean that we’re alone. The Lord repeatedly assures us that He will not leave us alone. In fact, He told his twelve disciples that He was going to send them the Holy Spirit to fill the void that would be created when He Himself returned to heaven.( See John 14:15-17).
As we mature in our faith, our confidence in the Lord’s presence grows stronger and we learn to adapt to our circumstances to fulfill God’s purpose for us. Adapting in the present pandemic is a major task for all of us. Paul had to adapt to his aloneness and in so doing the Lord gave him motivation to keep working on fulfilling God’s purpose of proclaiming the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Likewise, the Lord can help us adapt in our present circumstances in order to fulfill God’s purpose for us. In so doing the Lord rescues us.
Remembering the Lord’s previous help, reassures us that the Lord will help us in the future. Paul didn’t know how many more times the Lord would rescue him. In fact, he believed that his life was near its end. Even with that prospect, he was confident that the Lord would “bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom.”
My brother-in-law told me of the experience with the Lord that helped him endure his aloneness and anguish in the hospital. He sat in his chair desperately needing sleep. He saw the dust particles floating in the air that the incoming sunlight illuminated as specks of gold, similar to the white flakes in a snow globe when shaken. He wondered what the gold colored specks of dust meant. After a short time of reflection, he realized that they were all the prayers people were praying for him. With that thought percolating in his mind, he envisioned himself in the arms of Jesus Christ and he fell asleep. He was alone but not alone.
You may be alone, but you’re not alone. God is present. The Lord Jesus wants his presence to become more real to you in your aloneness. I wish I could give you a simple explanation how that will happen, but I can’t because I’m not the Lord. Know that the Lord is everywhere. For Paul, the Lord was in the prison and court room with him. For my brother-in-law and me, the Lord was in the hospital room. Tell the Lord you need assurance that he is with you. Recall other times when you needed help and how the help came to you. Let these memories give you confidence for your present aloneness. Ask people of faith to pray for you. Invite trusted family members or friends to visit you, if possible, and use pandemic safety precautions. Make a list of things you’re grateful for. Open a Bible and read Psalm 23 or google it online. Let its words reassure you that you are not alone. Finally, open your heart and mind to the Lord. If you have yet to establish a faith relationship with Jesus, do it today. Tell him you need him. Confess any known sins or wrongdoings. Ask for his forgiveness. Thank him for dying for you and being alive from the dead for your salvation. Ask the Lord to give you his Spirit to dwell in your heart. You may be alone but you’re not alone.