The disciples were despondent. They were anxious. They faced an uncertain future. The Jesus who had walked with them and talked with them had died and in His risen life He had continued to walk and talk with them. But now He was to leave them, and they faced the prospect of life without Jesus.
They would be alone, appallingly alone, bereft of His presence. Jesus, understanding this, assured them, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) He had also promised them His Spirit, the Counsellor and Comforter, “to be with you forever” (John 14:16).
Some years ago I knew two Christian sisters who had survived the tragedy of Rwandan genocide and had managed to make their way to the UK. The girls, aged 17 and 18, had lost their parents, siblings and all the rest of their relatives. The question which they often asked was, “Whom shall we marry and who will be with us? For we are all alone in the world.”
The parents of Nigeria’s Chibok school girls still wait and weep for their daughters to come home. Two of the 200+ teenagers were rescued in May, but what of all the others and their grieving families?
In Erbil, northern Iraq, a story that causes much distress whenever it is recalled is that of Miriam, a mother whose blind husband was killed by Islamic State and their three-year-old daughter abducted to sell as a slave.
Miriam, left bereft, could do nothing but weep and murmur her daughter’s name over and over. With a past she cannot contemplate and a lonely uncertain future, she continues to weep.
The tragedy facing many today, particularly in conflict zones, is the loss of loved ones, by death, kidnapping or separation across the oceans as some flee and others remain. They face the appalling prospect of being alone.
And yet it was in this context that a Middle Eastern Christian leader affirmed, “Though they take everything from us, they cannot take Jesus out of our hearts.” Jesus is the air that they breathe and the life that they live. They are encompassed in His eternal everlasting arms, and there they rest, knowing that they are not alone. The Christian does not walk alone. And the Christian lives with hope, a hope that is centered on Jesus and His coming again, on the fact that He is with us, that He holds us and so we will never, never be alone.
It is difficult to fathom the anguish of those who have suffered so much and lost so much and who are now alone in the world, yet we can be sure, that the Lord is with them. It is the Lord who walks with them and it is the Lord who will instil His hope in their hearts and who will bind Himself to them with cords of hope.
“Though they take everything from us,
they cannot take Jesus
out of our hearts.”
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