Day Three: The Promise to Never Leave Us

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you.  He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”  Deuteronomy 31:8

For the third day of Lent I want to focus on God’s promise to never leave us.  Don’t we all need a reminder of this promise?

I want to share with you my experience with loneliness from a ministry leader’s standpoint.  I have served in the ministry for 16 years and although it has been an amazing experience to serve the Lord, it also has had times of silence and loneliness.

The writing below is an excerpt from the book I have written called “Rise Up:  Letting Go of Ministry Fear and Faithfully Serving God”  (hoping to have it published one day).  As much as I am excited about sharing this with you, I am also very nervous.  It’s not easy to share your experiences of loneliness, especially while you are serving the Lord.  I pray those of you called by God to serve Him will find hope and encouragement through these words.

The Fear of Loneliness

For anyone who serves in the ministry, I think I can safely say that you have, at some point, experienced loneliness in your calling even though you are surrounded by many people.

The loneliness in my calling comes and goes.  At times I have felt loved and surrounded by others who love Jesus as much as I do.  The churches I have served in have been welcoming, supportive, and I have made some wonderful friends.

At other times, I have felt isolated. Sometimes that isolation came from a lack of support from the church in my job.  I felt like no one was for me and all were against me.  That’s a hard part of ministry, too.  If you are like me, you want everyone to like you.  But, reality is, not everyone will.  It’s part of the calling.  One that’s often difficult to accept.

There’s also the isolation you feel when, because of your calling into ministry, you are put on a pedestal and held to a higher standard.  That means people around you think you are holy and they can’t socialize with you outside the walls of ministry life.

I once had someone tell me they thought I was the holiest person they’d ever known.  And while that was an amazing compliment, it was also hard to hear.  I don’t want to be seen as “holier than thou”.  I don’t want to be seen as someone who can’t be approached or as someone you can’t socialize with.  I want to have friends and I want others to see me as another human being; one who is a sinner and messes up.  I laugh at times when others ask me if it’s okay if they drink a beer.  Or when they let a bad word slip, they apologize and ask forgiveness from me.  I’m not sitting up on my pedestal looking down on others.  That’s not my job.

I’m not holy.  I’m just a servant of God who loves God and tries hard to live by His Word.  I mess up and make mistakes, just like anybody else.

I don’t like the loneliness that comes with serving the Lord.  It’s difficult.  But to be in the ministry requires the willingness to follow God wherever He leads.  That may mean you serve Him abroad, leaving behind a world that has been your safe zone. Or it could mean you serve right where you are. No matter where you serve the Lord, I am sure at some point you will experience a loneliness where you crave the presence of people, and especially long for the presence of the Lord.

One of the first things we do when faced with loneliness is question our calling.  Did we hear God right?  Are we sure we are doing what He wants us to do?  Why would God call us to serve Him only to experience a loneliness that hurts?

And then, just like David, we question God and His presence in our life.  David was not afraid to cry out to God in his loneliness and affliction.  In Psalm 13:1 he says, “How long, Lord?  Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?”  And in Psalm 10:1 David cries, “Why, Lord, do you stand far off?  Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”

When we experience loneliness, we so desperately want to feel God’s presence.  When we look throughout the Psalms, we see a man who not only questions God, but one who drops to his knees and begins praying.  And so we follow the example of David, and are driven to our knees and pray.  All we desire is to feel the closeness that the Lord promises us.  We long to feel the companionship that God provides each day.  We truly want to feel the peace that He gives when He is with us.

The main promise we need to stand on when dealing with loneliness is to remember that God promises that He will never leave us. We can see that from the following Scriptures:

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you.  He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”  Deuteronomy 31:8

 “No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life.  As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.”    Joshua 1:5 

 “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff – they comfort me.”    Psalm 23:4

“Do not fear for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God.”    Isaiah 41:10

What powerful words for all of us to hear.  God’s Word is the same today as it was back then.  He will never leave us.  When you are fearful or lonely, cry out to God, just like David did.  Also, get out your Bible and turn to Scripture.  All throughout the Bible, we see how God is present, even in the lonely times.  His promise to never leave us is true and we need to stand on that promise when the waves of loneliness come crashing over us.

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