Long Read: Fending for ourselves
“Never will I leave you, Never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5
This promise in Hebrews set me on a contemplative journey this morning. I immediately thought of Jesus on the cross asking the Father “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Jesus’ words pinpoint our quintessential fear as a human. To be left alone. Loneliness might be the worst possible place in times of pain and suffering. If life goes sour, loneliness is most always present. It is a base feature of hard times.
When my first child was born experiencing complicated health issues, our closest friends seemed to be miles away. They did not know how to support the situation. I think their recoil was natural. Or maybe it was my wife and I who recoiled. Either way, loneliness was a reality of our situation.
Name any addiction which we face in isolation. The man who drinks alone. The young lady purging to stay skinny. The porn addict. Its rare these things are done in a group. When ramped up to its most destructive peak, we leave our peers to indulge in privacy and shame. Loneliness is right there. We look around, forsaken. Inadvertently, we have become unacceptable. Convinced we are left to fend for ourselves.
I have recently encountered transition after working for the same company for thirteen years. This season is humbling. As a man, it strikes at the heart of so many identity issues. I have finely crafted headlines for what I do for a living. I can not be seen as “unemployed”. I see in the eyes of my closest buddies compassion. And they have been tremendous during this time, reaching out, checking in. Yet, there is my other friend, loneliness. He is right there reminding me of others who are working when I am not.
I think Jesus felt sincerely abandoned by the Father in that moment on the cross. The Gospels are wrought with the idea that He and the Father were One. Jesus said it over and over. Take John 14:10 as an example.
“Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.” -John 14:10
I believe Jesus was more than afraid, alone on the cross. I believe He was dealing with the crushing weight of loneliness. A far more terrifying emotion than the physical suffering. He felt separated from the Father in that moment. Possibly something He had never faced in His life as a human. Elevated above the ground. A crowd watching. Friends and loved ones near. Yet alone.
Now, Hebrews 13:5 comes full circle. Having been alone in horrible, violent suffering, He promises, in a spirit of “been there, done that”, we would never be alone. He understands our quintessential fear as sons and daughters of the Father. He knows we have tendencies to believe we will have to fend for ourselves. It is not true. He is here for us. And in addition, He provides His bride, the church, fellow friends, redeemed brothers and sisters to take this journey with us.
We are not alone. We are not forsaken. We do not have to fend for ourselves.