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.”
“God never leaves us, but we sometimes think He has done so.
The sun shines on, but we do not always bask in his beams.
We sometimes mourn an absent God—it is the bitterest of all our mourning.
As He is the sum total of our joy, so His departure is the essence of our misery!
If God does not smile upon us, who can cheer us?”
~ Charles H. Spurgeon
Lost and Alone
When our oldest son was young, he had a tendency to rush ahead and wander off. Once while we were camping, we decided to use his adventurous nature to teach him a lesson about staying close to Mom and Dad.
We deliberately allowed him to stray away from our campsite and didn’t call him back when he exceeded the limits we had set for him. He went off exploring the nearby forest with no concern whatsoever for where we were.
We didn’t let him go alone though. We followed closely behind him but with enough distance between us that he didn’t know we were there. Our eyes never lost sight of him, but we kept ourselves hidden from him.
The idea was that we would let him wander until he discovered the fear of being lost and alone in the forest. Then we would swoop in and rescue him, reassuring him we were there all along. He was supposed to learn a valuable lesson and never desire stray from us again.
Only, it didn’t go the way we planned. We trailed him for almost an hour. He didn’t go very far, but he was having a high-ho time playing in the woods. Meanwhile, Mom and Dad were crouched behind a bush getting eaten alive by mosquitoes that didn’t seem to bother him in the least.
Turns out, he wasn’t afraid of being lost and alone in a forest he’d never seen before. The little stinker was even more adventurous than we thought. So, we decided to rescue ourselves him from the exciting scary mosquito-infested forest.
While my son was not worried about left alone, I myself have often struggled with feeling alone and forsaken—even by God. Let’s examine how to overcome that forsaken feeling with the truth of God’s perpetual presence.
I Feel So Alone
Sometimes, the hardest part of our struggle is feeling alone in the midst of it.
We are never alone. God will never abandon us or forsake us.
But we do have an enemy who desperately wants us to think we are. He has been rightly compared to a lion (1 Peter 5:8) and we all know how a lion hunts. It isolates the weak from the rest of the herd for easier access. Our enemy wants us to feel alone, forsaken, and forgotten so he can separate us from God and from each other. He knows that if we think others don’t understand or will judge us, we won’t reach out for help. And that if we think God has left us, we will no longer cry out to Him either. The result is that we get cut off from the source of our strength, power, and hope. That’s when he goes in for the kill.
When we go through hard times, it is easy to think we are the only one dealing with this particular issue. Trust me; you’re not the only one. The core struggles are common to us all (1 Cor 10:13). Some specific details may vary, but our root issues are much more shared than we generally think. Usually, it only takes one person to have the courage to speak up and then the gates are opened for a flood of “me too’s”.
God Won’t Abandon You
Not only are other humans in the same boat as you, but God Himself has promised He will never leave you nor forsake you. It’s true whether you feel like it’s true or not. He is here.
When we are unaware of His presence, the disconnect is usually because we moved away, not Him. If we aren’t actively cultivating our awareness of Him, it’s all too easy to get distracted and forget He’s there. When we lose sight of the truth that He is with us, our emotions follow and we no longer feel His presence either.
Sometimes He Hides
My children love to play hide-and-seek. They love to hide because they crave the joy of being sought-after and found. Sometimes I think God is the same way.
I love the story about the Road to Emmaus (Lk 24:13-35). After the resurrection, two disciples were travelling to Emmaus and chatting about the recent events that had stirred up both believers and non-believers alike. While they were walking and talking, Jesus Himself came near and journeyed with them.
Here’s the kicker though—they didn’t recognize Him! They had a lengthy conversation with the man. They poured out their hurt and questions and listened to and accepted His answers (though His answers were different than they expected.) Apparently, Jesus didn’t look the same to them as He had before. You know, in our own lives, Jesus’ participation in our midst may not look the same as it did before. He may not choose to work the same way every time, or even twice. The key is to be open and accept Him even when He doesn’t come the way or at the time we expect Him.
The guys must have liked His answers because they begged him to stay. It was only after they invited Him in that they recognized Him for who He truly was (Hebrews 13:2). They shared a meal together and it was when Jesus took the bread, gave thanks, and broke it Last-Supper-style that the lightbulb went on.
As soon as they recognized Him, He was gone. His work with them was done. He had explained and revealed Himself. They now knew for themselves that all the buzz about the resurrection was totally true. Their grief turned to joy, their confusion relented to faith. They were so excited, they immediately turned around and retraced their steps the 7 miles back to Jerusalem to tell the others what they had seen and learned.
Who is walking with you that you haven’t noticed because of your own pain and grief? Can you see Jesus there? Ask him to help you be more aware of His presence, knowing He may choose to stay hidden. He has His reasons. He will make His presence known at just the right time.
God is our Rear Guard
When God led the children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt, He did so with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. This spectacular manifestation of God’s presence was in front of them, showing them the way to go.
But when the Egyptian army came up behind the Israelites and the Bible tells us that the angel of God who was traveling with them withdrew and went behind them. The physical symbol of God’s presence moved too. God positioned both the angel and the pillar between the vast Egyptian army and the unarmed Israelites. He kept the two groups separate all night. The menacing Egyptians were unable to harm the children of Israel. (Exodus 14:19-20)
But you will not leave in haste or go in flight;
for the LORD will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard.
~ Isaiah 52:12
God leads us from the front, protects us from behind, and ever walks with us through the battle. He is always near, even if we do not see Him at work in the same way we are accustomed to seeing Him. If He’s protecting us from danger behind us and we therefore can’t see Him out in front of us, He is still very close. If He has moved to be our rear guard, it is because it is necessary.
Now, of course, God is no regular soldier and He can be in multiple places at once—before, behind, and with all at the same time. Still, I think the metaphor is a powerful one to consider.
If we can’t sense God’s presence, and we know it’s not because we’ve rejected Him, then He’s got a good reason for allowing us to feel this way. He knows dangers that truly threaten us better than we do ourselves. The devil likes to keep us distracted with imaginary troubles and dangers that are not really a threat (like how we look, or what we own, or which car we drive). God, however, knows where the real threats are and He positions Himself to protect us. It may feel like He left, but He’s vigilantly watching over us.
When We Hurt, God is Near
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;
he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.
~ Pslam 34:18, NLT
When your child gets hurt, what is your irrepressible reaction? You get there as quick as you can to bring comfort and fix what you can, right? Let me ask you this: Do you think you are a better parent than God? Don’t you know He cares more for you than you care for those you love the most in this world?
His love is infinite. Ours is not. We have limits. He is limitless.
Can you picture Him running to you when you fall to kiss your owie and help you get back up again? But it gets even better! He knew just when and how you were going to fall before it happened. He doesn’t need to come running to you. He was already there waiting.
Sometimes you just have to KNOW it more than you FEEL it. Faith is a gift, but it also requires a decision.
“The Presence of God is not to be measured by your realization of it.
When you cannot tell that He is with you at all, and you are singing and crying after Him, those very sighs and cries after Him are the holy fruit of His secret Presence!”
~ Charles H. Spurgeon
Search Your Heart
Can you recall a time when you felt God had abandoned you?
Do you feel that way now?
Why do you think you feel alone?
Have you moved away from God?
Are you rejecting His presence or just too self-absorbed to be aware?
Could God be hiding Himself from you for a season? If so, what do you think His purpose may be?
Take these questions to God and seek understanding from Him (remember Proverbs 4:7?).
Call to Action
- Read Scriptures about God’s continual presence with you. (Deut 31:6-8, Josh 1:5, 1 Chron 28:20, Ps 37:28, Ps 94:14, Is 41:17, Heb 13:5)
- Tell your feelings that you are going to trust God instead of them from now on. They have led you astray for too long.
- Know that you are not alone—never ever ever—no matter what it feels like.
- Spend more time talking with and listening to God (prayer and Bible). It’s hard to be aware of someone you are ignoring. It’s difficult to feel the comfort of a relationship you are neglecting.
- Reach out to someone near you who may be feeling alone— a new mom, a single parent, a widow, an empty-nester; someone who is new, shy, or going through a rough time; the elderly, depressed, or chronically ill; someone in the hospital, prison, or ; a person you know from work, school, or church…Remind them they are not alone. Help them believe it’s true.
Seek His Face
Father God, I feel so lost and alone sometimes. My head knows it’s not true, but my run-away emotions twist my thinking and convince me otherwise. Forgive me for doubting Your presence and Your care. Forgive me for wandering away, caught up in my own silly adventures. Help me to remember You are always closer than a whisper, nearer than my own heartbeat.
If I reach my hand out for you, I have reached too far. You have made your home inside my heart. If it feels like You are hiding from me, for a season, I know you have a good reason.
What do you want me to learn in the silence? Help me close my eyes and picture you watching me in love, never taking your eyes off me for one second, and waiting for me to turn around and acknowledge that You’ve been there all along.
In the Name of Jesus, my Friend and Brother, Amen.
Find Strength in the Song
“I am Not Alone” by Kari Jobe
This is a very powerful song. If you are struggling with feelings of loneliness, I strongly encourage you to crank the volume on this one and sing it like you mean it. It doesn’t matter what your voice sounds like, only that your head and heart mean it. God has told us to make “a joyful noise”. He never said we had to be on key. (I thank Him for that!)
On the days when my head is having a hard time convincing my heart that God is truly with me, I have put this song on repeat and listened to it all day long. It never gets old.
Let us know in the comments how you stay aware of God’s presence with you.
To read other posts in this series, click the image below.