"At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was rescued out of the lion's mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus remained at Corinth, but Trophimus I left sick at Miletus. Make every effort to come before winter. Eubulus greets you, also Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brethren. The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you." (2 Timothy 4:16-22)It is unclear if Paul is here referring to his first defense relating to his present imprisonment or if he is referring to his first imprisonment from which he was released and after which he continued to carry the Gospel as far as possibly even Spain. The truth is, life does not always work out the way we would wish it to, nor do we always get what we believe we deserve or have a right to expect. Paul had given his life to the church, yet when it was his turn to be in need, no one showed up to help him or encourage him. I know many people who live their lives in bitterness wondering, "Where was the church when I needed them?!" They had given to the church and yet in their time of need the church was no where to be found.
Paul understood that life does not always happen as we would wish and, in these times, we have a choice, either to blame and judge those who let us down or to turn to God to find the strength and support we need. Sometimes I wonder if God puts us in positions where our earthly and human support is removed from us so we have opportunity to learn to trust in and lean on God. When we are always surrounded by people, its easy to lean on them and to trust in their support, but when we are alone, who else do we have but God?
There is a story of David before he became king. He had a mighty friend named Jonathan who, in David's time of despair, encouraged David in the things of God. "And Jonathan, Saul's son, arose and went to David at Horesh, and encouraged him in God. Thus he said to him, 'Do not be afraid, because the hand of Saul my father will not find you, and you will be king over Israel and I will be next to you; and Saul my father knows that also.'" (1 Samuel 23:16-17) This would be one of the last times these two would meet together. David loved Jonathan and Jonathan, David. Jonathan was a constant encouragement and help to David. However, years later, when Jonathan was dead, David found himself all alone and with no one around him to help and support him. It is recorded that, "Moreover David was greatly distressed because the people spoke of stoning him, for all the people were embittered, each one because of his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God." (1 Samuel 30:6) There was a time when Jonathan had encouraged David in the Lord, but since then, David had learned to encourage himself in the Lord; something he might not have learned if he had never been separated from Jonathan for all those years.
Life can make us angry and disappointed, yet our responses to these feelings are a matter of our own choosing. We can choose to react to our anger and disappointment through judgment and unforgiveness or we can choose to forgive and see beyond the immediate to the very hand of God who is waiting to strengthen and uphold us through our time of difficulty. If we can loose sight of our own hurts for just long enough to see with the eyes of faith, we might see that our situation is not as hopeless as it seems and that there is one who loves us more than all others who is waiting to be our friend and to help us in our time of need. If we can learn to reach out to Him, then we will never truly be alone.