In my personal devotions for the past several weeks, I've been focusing my attention on Paul's words to his spiritual son, Timothy, spoken with intensity and tenderness and challenge in the letter we call 2 Timothy. Toward the close of this book--which was written toward the close of Paul's life (rather like the changing of the guard)--the Scripture quoted above captivated me. I suppose that's partially because, as you and I both know, so often we caregivers feel exactly like Paul did.
All deserted me, is what he wrote. I'm in this alone--is what he felt.
Now, it's true that Paul was being dragged in chains into the venues of pagan magistrates--so, truly his plight was more immediately life-threatening than ours. But the emotion he expressed is so often the same as we experience in our daily drudgery.
Which of us, in the middle of the most intense caregiving seasions, hasn't felt what Paul is expressing here? I'm here--and all the people who said they'd stand with me are somewhere else. For some, helping me was too challenging--too saddening, so they went away. For some, other priorities drew them elsewhere--to their own work. For others--and this is the worst--my tragic predicament may even bring an opportunity to wring their hands in glee, as they stand by and watch me dangle here on the precipice of despair.
That's the situation Paul paints for us. He, the great apostle of faith, experienced the depths of discouraging abandonment. I don't know about you, but that makes me snap to attention to discover how he made sense of it and how he found the strength to hold onto faith in the midst of it. I want to know--because down deep that's how I want to face my day today.
First, he forgave and prayed for those who deserted him. Don't let God hold this against them, he prayed. Sounds a lot like Jesus on the cross: Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they're doing. Come to think of it, Jesus felt that same abandonment--our same abandonment--as He prayed in Gethsemane and hung on the cross. We couldn't find two better examples to follow.
It's tempting to soothe my hurt feelings by harboring bitterness against those who ought to be a help and even moreso those who have become hindrances instead. But the apostle (and Christ before him) would have none of that. Because that would lead to wallowing--and perhaps even to sin if I allow it to take root. Let this sin against me go, God. Don't count it against their account. It takes some serious spiritual strength to pray that prayer.
Then, Paul turned his attention toward a greater truth than what he could touch with his hands or see with his eyes or hear with his ears: I may have looked alone. I may have felt alone. But I was never alone--because the most important One of all was with me. Not only with me, but standing shoulder-to-shoulder beside me, accompanied by His vast throngs of warriors. And in His mere presence, He gave me the strength and courage and energy and ability I needed. I know it came from Him--because in myself I was empty, but at once I found myself strong enough to endure. I've been there, too, finding a resevoir of strength--and wisdom--at my disposal, with no earth-based explanation of how it got there. Yes, we may feel alone, but for the Christian, we can place our life-grip firmly on Christ's promise, I will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).
Finally, Paul looked ahead at the outcome he knew to be true, even if it was absolutely hidden from his sight in that moment: God's still greater than my circumstance. He promised He'd get me out of this and set me firmly into my home in His heavenly kingdom. I know that to be true. So, I'll hold to that promise in faith--and bring Him praise and glory right now. That's what I will do. And I'll continue to do it until my faith becomes sight.
I hope and pray that Paul's example has strengthened your resolve, as it has mine. Our challenge is to place our eyes on the God Who is with us and in us--and press on into our day. You may feel alone, as may I, but we're not alone--not by a longshot!
Blessings and prayers,
© 2011, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: firstname.lastname@example.org