Merriam-Webster’s Thesaurus lists the following words related to alone:
cloistered, disassociated, hermetic (also hermetical), insulated, isolate, isolated, remote, retired, secluded, withdrawn
quarantined, segregated, separated, sequestered
separate, unattached, unconnected, unlinked
detached, disconnected, disjointed, dissociated, disunited, divided, fractionated
abandoned, adrift, deserted, desolate, forgotten, forsaken, lorn, neglected
After 2020, we should probably add locked down and socially distanced. Haha., Yeah, sorry… too soon. When my boss sent us to work from home, and we began to weigh the risk of going to the store against using our canned goods, I thought that was the most alone I’d feel this year. I was very wrong.
Talking to God.
“I can’t talk to anyone,” I thought to myself as I fought back the tears. It is a constant battle against my nature to talk to God instead of calling a friend. I gravitate to people. My sister-in-law gave me the solid “Throne before Phone” years ago, but I struggle in the moment not to run to a human person to share my feelings.
All I wanted was to talk to a friend, but my friends weren’t there. I needed someone who cared about me to say “Are you ok?” The answer was no, and the question wouldn’t change it — but I needed it nonetheless. The list of people who knew what we were walking through was small, but they had walked with us through storms before this one. So I waited.
No one called.
“God, do they even care? Do they even like me?” All the feelings were shouting at me. My insecurities were bubbling up – about to bubble over. Alone. I was facing this alone. Then came the still, small voice.
“There were four men in the fire.”
“What?” I responded.
“There were four men in the fire. They were not alone. I will not leave you alone. I will stand in the fire.”
They would not bow.
God’s still, small voice pointed my heart to a narrative to which I have clung since childhood. In the Book of Daniel, we meet the writer Daniel and his three friends: Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. They are among the physically and mentally “elite” young men of Israel that are taken into captivity in Babylon. We tend to know the friends more my their Babylonian names: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, respectively.
In Chapter 3, King Nebuchadnezzar orders the construction of a golden idol and further decrees a national “reverse musical chairs” that would be titled “Bow when the music starts playing.” Only not bowing would cost your life. Specifically “…whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.” (Daniel 3:6) The major problem for the three friends and any Christ-follower is that no matter the cost, we only bow to God.
When the music played, the friends did not bow. The king confronted them, reminded them of the punishment, and challenged their faith asking, “And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?” The three refuse and acknowledge that God is able to save them, but no matter what happens, they will not bow. The kind commands the furnace to be superheated and orders the execution.
And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace. Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”Daniel 3:23-26
Never Alone: God stands with me.
God is able to do anything. He could have stopped the fire or kept the men from being thrown into it. He could have changed the king’s mind or prevented the entire chain of events. Instead, he stood in the fire.
So many times, I wish events transpired differently. I do not always like the path God lays before me. People do bad things and hurt other people, and it would be so much cleaner if God would intervene and break the chain of events. Instead, he stands with us.
We won’t get to see him the way that the three friends did, but that does not make him any less there. When I am alone, I am never alone. When there is no one to share my grief and pain, he shares it, carries it, uses it for good. God never abandons me even when the dark is so deep that I cannot see, the roar is so loud that I cannot hear, and my emotions are so big that I cannot think. He is right beside me, always listening, always watching, always working.
Friend, the world will isolate you from your friends, family, and church, but it cannot isolate you from God. In the fire, he stands.