“And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.” John 16:32)
There is a sweetness in every cup, a light in every cloud, a presence in every solitude of the Christian’s experience. It was so with Jesus, who will mold all his followers like unto himself. We have just considered him in loneliness — forsaken by man, deserted by God. But now comes the alleviation — the sweetening of the bitter, the gilding of the cloud, the soothing of the solitude. He was never less alone than at the moment that he mournfully said to his retiring disciples, “You shall leave me alone”; for, as if immediately recovering himself from the painful sense of man’s desertion, he added, “And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.” No, Jesus never was really alone. Shunning human society, and plunging into solitude the most profound, as he often did, his Father’s presence was there to sweeten and soothe it, to replenish and strengthen him for the work he had given him to do, and to make those long midnight hours of holy watching and wrestling prayer, melodious with the music, and radiant with the sunshine of heaven. Oh yes, Jesus was not all alone!
Nor are you really alone, O child of God! Alone, indeed, you may be as to human companionship, affection, and, sympathy. Nor is this trial of your spirit to be lightly spoken of. God has, perhaps, given you by nature a confiding, warm, and clinging heart; a heart that yearns for companionship, that seeks a loving, sympathizing friend, to whose bosom you may confide the thoughts and emotions of your own — “another self, a kindred spirit, with whom you may lessen your cares by sympathy, and multiply your pleasures by participation.” But the blessing is not permitted you; or, if once possessed and enjoyed, is possessed and enjoyed no longer — the coldness of death, the yet colder and more painful chill of “alienated affection and changed friendship,” has left your heart like a tree of autumn, stripped of its foliage, through whose leafless branches the wintry blast moans piteously.
But this discipline of the affections, though intensely painful to a heart gushing with sensibility like yours, may prove one of the costliest blessings to the soul. A heart that is satiated with the creature, has little or no place or yearning, for Christ. And when the Lord is resolved to be supreme, and finds a “rival sovereign” enthroned, or a “created idol” enshrined, he wisely and lovingly removes it, to make room for himself. Oh, it is when the heart is withered like grass — when its chords are all broken, and its fibers are all torn, and silence, desolation, and solitude reign within — wounded by one, betrayed by another, forsaken by all — that Jesus approaches and occupies the vacant place, takes down the harp from the willow, repairs and retunes it, then breathing his own sweet Spirit upon its wires, wakes it, to the richest harmonies of praise, thanksgiving, and love. My Father, I cannot be alone, blessed with Your presence, solaced with Your love, cheered with Your fellowship, kept by Your power, and wisely, gently led through the solitude of the wilderness, home to be with Yourself forever! “You are near, O Lord!”
You are near — yes, Lord, I feel it —
You are near wherever I rove;
And though sense would try conceal it,
Faith often whispers it to love.
Am I fearful? You will take me
Underneath Your wings, my God!
Am I faithless? You will make me
Bow beneath Your chastening rod.
Am I drooping? You are near me,
Near to bear me on my way;
Am I pleading? You will hear me —
Hear and answer when I pray.
Then, O my soul, since God does love you,
Faint not, droop not, do not fear;
For, though his heaven is high above you,
He himself is ever near.