You are never alone

Published 10:04 pm Friday, May 31, 2013

By Rev. Chris Surber

It’s easy to feel alone in trials, even if you aren’t.

A baby is born to a woman whose husband is serving overseas in the Navy. Though her mother and his fly in to support her and the baby, something is missing. She feels alone. Her husband, though surrounded by hundreds or thousands of friends and fellow servicemen, feels alone on a ship. He longs for home.

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This is just one of a million examples of hearts aching, feeling alone. Sometimes the circumstances are more severe.

What about Jon Hammar? He is the 27-year-old former U.S. Marine who was wrongfully jailed for months last year in an infamous Mexican jail. According to several news reports, Hammar spent those months chained to a bunk in a makeshift cell in solitary confinement for his own safety from other more dangerous inmates. His only companions were a Bible and “The Last Stand of Fox Company,” a book about the Marine Corps in North Korea.

Hammar was alone. His family in the United States, though they had each other, felt alone, restless, their hearts aching. I don’t know Jon Hammar personally, and I can’t speak to the substance of his Christian faith. But I have to wonder whether during that time of solitary confinement in a Mexican jail he knew the comfort of God that only suffering alone makes available.

I have to wonder if he encountered an unusual kind of grace, reserved almost entirely for those who experience the worst kinds of loneliness and suffering.

There were no other people in that cell with him. Nor were there any familiar or caring faces in that Mexican prison. But he wasn’t alone. God is not only with us when times are good. It’s easy to mistake our present happiness for the joy of God. Very often it is when times are toughest, and our emotional state is at its worst, that God’s presence is the deepest and richest, carrying us through the pain and trial of today.

Speaking of the martyrdom of St. Stephen, the first martyr of the church, evangelist Leonard Ravenhill said, “Everyone recognizes that Stephen was Spirit-filled when he was performing wonders. Yet, he was just as Spirit-filled when he was being stoned to death.”

God’s presence doesn’t leave us in the hard times. That’s when His Spirit is all the more active keeping us. He has promised never to leave us or forsake us. Though He allows us sometimes to fall, He keeps us from falling apart.

It is easy to feel alone, but we never are. The God who calls in mercy and is rich in love through Jesus Christ neither sleeps nor slumbers. You are never alone.

“So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6 NLT)

Chris Surber is pastor of Cypress Chapel Christian Church in Suffolk. Visit his website at www.chrissurber.com.