You're Not AloneBy Nathan Mates
God's people, throughout history, have had a history of getting discouraged and feeling alone. The instances of this in the Bible are so numerous that you can probably chalk it up to our human nature. While the constant discouragement is a long-running thread, it is comforting to notice God's response in return: a reminder that he's in charge, in control, and we are not to fear because we are never alone.
The Israelites, after escaping from Egypt and witnessing many amazing miracles, quailed at the thought of entering their promised land due to the lies brought back by most of the scouts. Instead of listening to Joshua and Caleb, who said it was conquerable, they listened to the others, who said "we seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes" [Numbers 13:33] So, the Israelites grumbled and complained, wanting to go back to Egypt. This was not God's plan. God was annoyed at them, to put it mildly. [Numbers 14:11-19]
After the Israelites were put in the equivalent of the penalty box for 40 years while they wandered around the desert, they were finally ready to enter. Moses gave them several words of encouragement as they were about to enter: "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." [Deuteronomy 31:6] as well as "For the LORD your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your forefathers, which he confirmed to them by oath." [Deuteronomy 4:31] and finally [Deuteronomy 20:4] "For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory."
The first quote (Deut 31:6) is one we can and should memorize, as it applies to every stressful situation. The Lord never will leave or forsake us, no matter how we feel alone, no matter what is going on. This quote is repeated almost verbatim centuries later in 1 Kings 8:57 "May the LORD our God be with us as he was with our fathers; may he never leave us nor forsake us."
Even God's prophets were not above feeling alone and discouraged. Elijah, when persecuted, felt as if he was the lone follower of God's plan in Israel, and complained to the Lord: 1 Kings 19:14-18 He replied, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too." The LORD said to him, "Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel--all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him."
Elijah certainly felt alone, but the Lord reminded him that while he did not personally know, or even know of other true believers, there was a remnant of believers that remained. In short, there's a committed core of believers that remain under the oppressive circumstances, while most of the rest have fallen away. It is a similar remnant that returned centuries later from the Babylonian captivity mentioned Ezra 9:8, all the way to the 144,000 sealed in Revelation 7:1-8. The remnant that God always keeps is a reminder that there are other true believers out there, even if you may feel alone.
David, as a psalmist, also praised God for his faithfulness to believers. "Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you." [Psalms 9:10] Later, another psalmist exclaims "In my anguish I cried to the LORD, and he answered by setting me free. The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? The LORD is with me; he is my helper. I will look in triumph on my enemies." [Psalms 118:5-7] These psalms and others continually remind us that God is with us at all times.
As a summary of most of the Old Testament comments on God's continued presence, the author of Hebrews quotes Deuteronomy again in 13:5-6 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?"
In one of the more poetic reminders of God's constant presence and care for his people, in Isaiah 49:14-16, we see "But Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me." "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me."
Yep, that's God with engravings on the palms of his hands-- the same engravings Thomas initially doubted, the same engravings caused by Roman soldiers nailing Jesus to the cross. His engravings stand as a permanent record of his love for us: while were yet sinners-- heck, while we today were centuries from being born-- Christ died for us.
We have an advocate with God, who pleads for our behalf, Jesus. While he is not present physically in the world right now, he is merely a prayer away from us. Further, he promised to send the Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts, yet another part of God to keep us from ever being alone. Jesus promised the Holy Spirit in John 14:16-17: "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever-- the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you." Later, in Acts 2:1-4, the Holy Spirit came on the apostles, just as Jesus promised, and the Holy Spirit is still available to those that ask and receive.
This is the same Holy Spirit that infused the apostles after all of them, to a man, deserted Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. While they could not stay with Jesus before out of fear, the Holy Spirit gave them strength and words to speak, filling them with the confidence to preach to thousands, kings, the Sanhedrin (the Jewish ruling council), heal the sick, and spread the gospel to the ends of the earth. In fact, their spreading the gospel to the ends of the earth is in response to Jesus's commandment to do so in the Great Commission. Once again, we have a reminder from Jesus that we're never alone: "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." - Matthew 28:20b
When you feel alone, open your eyes-- the truth that you're not alone is plain to see. God is faithful and keeps his promises even when we don't, and we have his word that he's with us. That promise should be sufficient to carry you through all circumstances.