I have lived the last six weeks alone, or so it seems. My best friend, my wife, makes regular, annual trips each year to visit family living 2,000 miles away. I knew these trips would be necessary before we were married, but knowing it before-hand does not make it any easier for us to be apart for extended periods of time.
Though I feel alone, other than Mister Bear, our kitty, I am not truly alone. I am never alone. You are never alone. We need to tune our senses to recognize that reality.
Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
Psalm 139:7-10, ESV
This has always been the case with God. Hiding from him is like trying to get away from the air that touches my skin. It simply cannot be done.
Going all the way back to Genesis, God promised Jacob that he would never leave him.
Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you. Genesis 28:15, ESV
God has always protected his people, but not necessarily for the reasons we might suspect. Our God is a God of honor and integrity. He will not dishonor his own name.
For the LORD will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake. 1 Samuel 12:22a
Note that Samuel does not say God will not forsake us because he loves us. It is true, he does love us. But he does not forsake us, because doing so would dishonor his own name. Personal integrity is uncompromised with God, and so it should be with us. Feel the force of that reality in this text from Isaiah:
For my name’s sake I defer my anger;
for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you,
that I may not cut you off.
Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.
For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it,
for how should my name be profaned?
My glory I will not give to another.
As God’s people were about to cross the Jordan River to enter into frightening combat, God assured Joshua of his continuous, protective presence.
No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous. Joshua 1:5-6a
David told Solomon,
Yahweh, even my God is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you,” 1 Chronicles 28:20
Hebrews 13:5b strongly emphasizes this idea with no less than five emphatic negatives leaving us with a difficult task of translating. In the end it looks something like, “No! I will not leave you. No! Neither will I utterly forsake you.” But even that does not truly do justice to the original text.
Such assurances from God of his enduring presence are found throughout scripture. They blot out our loneliness, and purge our anxieties.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39, ESV
And though it is not long, and eloquent like the quote from the apostle Paul, above, I do find one of the most comforting such statements to be that from Jesus to his disciples following his resurrection:
And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Matthew 28:20b, NASB