By Dot Bowen
At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion's mouth. 2 Timothy 4:16-17 (ESV)
“I knew my dad loved me, but when he left our family, I felt abandoned,” were the words I heard from a precious woman as tears streamed down her face. I had no idea how many women struggled daily with the pain of abandonment until I began a women’s ministry. Everyone wants to be loved and accepted. When this need is not met, we feel alone, rejected—and often—abandoned. The woman who breaks my heart the most is the woman who feels God has abandoned her when she needed Him the most. The truth is God never abandons His children, but difficult circumstances tempt us to feel otherwise.
I was shocked to learn the Apostle Paul had his own experience of feeling alone and abandoned. When I think about Paul, I imagine everyone wanting to be his best friend and getting involved with whatever Paul was involved in. The last thing I imagine is Paul ever being deserted and abandoned by Christians. Even though Paul lived under the power of the Holy Spirit, he longed for human companionship.
When we go through difficulties, we often expect family or friends to be with us through thick and thin. But this is not always the case. Husbands and wives are walking away from their family at an alarming rate leaving a trail of broken hearts feeling alone and abandoned by the very people they trusted. Jesus never taught that people wouldn’t walk away and abandon us, but He did promise that He wouldn’t. As wonderful as it is to know Jesus will never forsake us, it doesn’t eliminate the pain when others walk away.
So what do we do when the pain of feeling alone and abandoned? We acknowledge our feelings and admit we are hurt and feel abandoned. When I look to people to meet my needs, I am often disappointed. People are not capable of being everything to us; only Jesus can be everything. People do not make great gods. I must admit when my feelings are hurt and I feel alone, it’s usually because I have put unrealistic expectations on someone who cannot meet my needs. I have expected others to be more than they are capable of being. I realized a long time ago that some people only have a certain capacity to love; it’s not that they’re rejecting me, but their own struggles prevent them from seeing past their own hurt.
Paul was in a dark dungeon facing the Roman Court alone. Where were his Christian friends? In his own words, Paul said, “At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me…” I don’t know what you may face in the days ahead or what has happened to you in the past, but I do know you can face any trial knowing God will give you strength to endure. I think one of the keys to Paul’s story is forgiveness. We must learn to forgive and realize we aren’t responsible for others’ action so we can give our pain to God and let Him handle the people who have abandoned us. Hurting people hurt people, but God will repay each of us according to our own deeds. It’s not up to us to make people pay for their actions, but it is up to us to choose to forgive. Forgiveness does not excuse someone’s behavior, but forgiveness frees me from allowing their behavior to bring me down to their level. Paul was a prisoner of Rome but emotionally free of any bitterness. Paul kept his focus on his purpose—preaching Jesus the Messiah—and let God take care of the people who abandoned him. We must do the same!
Further Reading 2 Timothy 4; Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19; Hebrews 13:5