There’s a neat little thing people sometimes say to bring comfort: ‘I’m always there for you’! How does it ring true to your own life experience? Growing up, we want to know that someone is with us and that we’re not alone. It is only natural for a child to find the dark frightening, to be anxious on the first day at school or if becoming separated from a parent’s reassuring hand in a crowded street. To be lost and alone is to feel helpless and hopeless. When the skies are dark and menacing, there is an inbuilt need to know that someone is truly near to bring help and a comforting presence. The childhood comforts of a dummy to suck or a teddy to cuddle may pacify a toddler but are of no use as adulthood approaches. Child or adult, the need to have someone always there remains despite the small comfort of substitutes, denial or just putting on a ‘brave face’.
- ‘Loneliness is my least favourite thing about life. The thing that I'm most worried about is just being alone without anybody to care for or someone who will care for me’ – Anne Hathaway
- ‘Don't go away. I don't want to be alone. I can't stand being alone’ – Arnold Rothstein
- ‘I find running life quite hard, and I like sharing that. Obviously, the companionship, being loved and loving, is fantastic. But I don't feel that I couldn't live without a boyfriend or lover or husband’ – Anna Chancellor
- ‘The thing I'm most afraid of is being alone, which I think a lot of performers fear. It's why we seek the limelight - so we're not alone, we’re adored. We're loved, so people want to be around us. The fear of being alone drives my life’ – Jennifer Lopez
We are made for companionship – mouths to talk, ears to listen, hands to shake, arms to hug and so on. Humans are social beings and seek ‘the other’ to share life with. Solitary confinement was introduced at the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia in 1829 as a punishment and led to high rates of mental breakdown. Whilst visiting there, Charles Dickens described the ‘slow and daily tampering with the mysteries of the brain to be immeasurably worse than any torture of the body’. The United Nations considers solitary confinement exceeding 15 days to be torture. Albert Woodfox was kept imprisoned alone for 43 years from the age of 26 and commented: ‘Solitary confinement is the most torturous experience a human being can be put through in prison. It’s punishment without ending’. It’s hard to imagine spending even just a month without speaking to anyone.
- ‘Then the Lord God said, “I see that it is not good for the man to be alone. I will make the companion he needs, one just right for him”’ – Genesis 2:18
- ‘Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee’ – St Augustine of Hippo
- ‘He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end’ – Ecclesiastes 3:11
- ‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord’ – Romans 8:38-39
And yet, even when we are physically alone, we are not spiritually alone. The Psalms are full of the prayers of those who seek after God but none is so thoroughly pertinent as Psalm 139. It shows how God is always there – there when we need him, there when we ignore him, there when we hide from him, there when we don’t know he’s there … ALWAYS THERE.
- There in our being - You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.
- There in our movement - You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.
- There in our beginning - For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body.
- There in our ending - All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand – when I awake, I am still with you. Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
The only reason that God the Father is always there for us is because he was willing for his only begotten Son to cry out on the cross: ‘My God why have you forsaken me’. For it was this supreme cost of temporary parting when Jesus took upon himself the due penalty for our sin that made possible our ‘forever connection’. This ‘forsakenness’ was so that we would have God always there for us. There’s a beautiful song that is sung by Libera and contains these lines:
You were there in everything I knew from the moment I began - Always there
In every way I go saved me falling - Held my hand
Stay with me through the dark - And bring me home
When you think of God, what is the primary attribute you think of? So many glorious things may come to mind – love, mercy, righteousness, holiness – but there is one attribute which repeatedly reaches the skies:
- ‘For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies’ – Psalm 57:10
This divine beautiful quality is one every human being desperately needs, even if they don’t know it or acknowledge it, the faithfulness of God who is always there. He is there in the depths and heights of our experience. He is there when we feel wretched, misunderstood and deserted by those we love. He is there when lovers are parted in death, when parents grieve over their child and when we ourselves walk through the dark valley and have to wave farewell to loved ones … always there.
Be comforted and enjoy Libera singing ‘You were there’ - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbpRZSZnSKA
TAGS – abandoned, forsake, united, loneliness, accompany, accompanied, journey