Saturday, March 1, 2014

It Is Not Good...

ALONE. Have you ever felt completely and utterly alone? I don’t mean the occasional feeling of missing a loved one or even the feeling of being ostracized for an opinion. I’m referring to the deepest sense of the word. Have you ever felt as if you had nobody to turn to, nobody to love you, and nobody who cared about you? I can honestly say I haven’t ever felt this deep feeling of loneliness yet I know there are many who have. It is discouraging to me whenever I hear of someone who feels this way. As mankind, God has decreed that it is not good that we be alone (Genesis 2:18). As saddening as it may be to me, I can only imagine how depressing and devastating it must be in the life of the one who has lost all hope of human connection. Sadly, we all too often see the tangible results of such thoughts and feelings. While the holidays are meant to be a time of reconciliation and family togetherness, for many, it is a time of hopelessness. Instead of smiles and laughs, we read of suicides and mourning loved ones who just couldn’t be seen through the fog of despair.

I recently had an encounter with a random stranger. He confided in me that he had renounced the Christian faith. His reasons were plenty but one in particular stood out to me. He felt like God had abandoned him. In a time of extreme struggle and hardship, he reached out to God but felt as if God had not reached out in return. To him, this was the final straw. How could a loving God leave a man in such turmoil? How could a kind God sit back and watch as he suffered the indignities of cruel humanity? How could the Father not respond to His child when he was pleading for help? At this moment, he had lost all hope in man and had reconciled in his mind that God was nothing more than the imaginary hope that man wanted Him to be. He was now hopeless. He had nobody.

How do we respond to such confessions? Do we treat them as any other criticism of the Christian faith? Do we bust out our Bibles and begin the Scripture recitations? Ashamedly, this is how many self-proclaimed Christians behave when faced with similar situations. There is a time and a place for standing firm in the Scriptures at all costs but there is always time to let the Scriptures speak in love. I saw it as the perfect opportunity to share with him God’s redemptive story beginning in Genesis all the way through Revelation. I shared how God had created mankind perfect and upright in His image (Genesis 1). I explained how mankind fell to the temptations of Satan and how, as a result, mankind was cursed (Genesis 3). I shed light on some practical examples and how sin shows itself in our daily lives. I explained how we have all sinned (Romans 3:23) and are worthy of death (Romans 6:23). We looked at Ephesians 2:1 telling us we are dead in our trespasses and sins. He had shared with me how he had done so much for his fellow man only to be greeted with thanklessness in return. This prompted a review of Isaiah 64:6 where he states that even our greatest works are as filthy rags. Sin is nothing more than a failure to put God at the center of all things. Regardless of what we may deem good, it will always be in the relative sense. Unless God is at the center, it will always be as foul as filthy, blood-stained rags. Nothing we can ever dream of doing will ever earn God’s favor nor should we expect it to net us something in return. Even if our entire life should reflect the portion where Job suffered worst, it would only be a small portion of what we actually deserve for our rebellion against God Almighty.

My goal in all of this was to show how, as mankind, we are depraved and sinful beings. We have a sense of entitlement when, in reality, we deserve nothing. Yet, as sinful beings worthy of nothing, God has decreed that it is not good for man to be alone. Indeed, even when we have nothing, we know that God does not want us to feel alone. I could’ve left our discussion at that but then I’d be no better than those fierce Christians I spoke of earlier. Where would my demonstration of Christ-like love be? After all, he was already feeling the bitterness of being alone. Should I kick him while he’s down and tell him he deserves nothing due to his sinfulness? No, there was too much left to the story to leave it at that. I wanted to make it abundantly clear that God has promised never to leave nor forsake His own (Hebrews 13:5). If we have been reconciled to the Father through Christ the Son (2 Corinthians 5:18), He will always be with us. Though we may not always feel His presence, we can be assured He is there with us. Just as He has declared it is not good for man to be alone, He has also declared we will always have communion with Him through the Son.

Of course, none of this would be complete without tying it into Christ’s redemptive work. I wanted to highlight the fact that Christ, God in the flesh, came to this Earth with a specific purpose. He lived a sinless life only to be met with contempt. He demonstrated love in its perfection only to be met with hate, mockery, and an excruciating death. He who knew no sin became sin on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:21). Hanging on that cross, he was cursed by God (Galatians 3:13) so that we would not be. Christ knew communion with God better than any of us could ever imagine. He was God! He had the most intimate of relationships with the Father. Yet, this innocent man came of his own accord to give himself up as the ultimate sacrifice to appease the wrath of God and reconcile all of His own. That moment when Christ became sin (note, not a sinner), he experienced perhaps the greatest agony of all. No, it was not the nails piercing his skin nor was it the scourged flesh hanging off his body. Nor was it the salted sweat dripping into his wounds. In the midst of such torment, Christ had to endure the fact that God the Father turned His back on His Son (Matthew 27:46). This was the most unimaginable sorrow any man had ever felt. Christ had the feeling of absolute loneliness on that cross. His own Father had forsaken him. It had to be this way if Christ were to accomplish that which he came to perform.

As alone as a person may feel, it will never come close to what Christ had to endure. God Himself has assured us of this. Friends, if you or someone you know ever feels totally alone, I encourage you to remember that God is with you. Even if your heart tells you there is nobody there, please understand that the heart is deceitful above all else and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). Though the Christian has been set free from the shackles of sin, there is still a very real battle against the flesh. If you are a Christian, I implore you to pray harder than ever before and to not lose hope that God is by your side. Whether or not you feel He is answering your prayers, they will be answered in His perfect time and we need to place our unwavering trust in the God who created the universe. Trust that the God who forsook His Son has promised never to leave nor forsake us. This should be an encouragement of the utmost degree. If you are not a Christian, it is my prayer that you would look to God, cast all of your burdens upon Him, show yourself before Him, and trust in the miraculous gift of Christ. Only then will you truly understand the hope that is found within (1 Peter 3:15). Friend, you do not have to be alone.

~Travis W. Rogers

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