Imagine what the apostle Paul experienced – “At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me” (II Timothy 4:16).
No one supported him? Everyone deserted him? How could this be?!
Paul was perhaps the most prominent Christian leader at the time. He led many to faith in Christ and founded many local churches. He spoke of many meaningful relationships in those Churches.
He sacrificed greatly for so many people. He was a teacher and an apostle of the Church.
No one came to his support? How could so many abandoned Paul in his time of great need? Is it possible that no one cared enough to show up?
It’s hard to be forgotten
Imagine how it feels to be forgotten and deserted.
Could you imagine Paul saying, “Well, I guess I’ll think twice before I sacrifice for these people again.” “After all I’ve done for them, this is how they treat me?” “I guess I know how much I am appreciated!”?
Self-pity and resentment are natural responses when we’ve been forgotten or unappreciated. It’s clearly super-natural to respond as Paul did. When he said, “May it not be held against them,” Paul chose forgiveness over self-pity and resentment.
Then we learn of a special visitor who came to his support – “But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength,…” (II Timothy 4:17).
If Paul had chosen resentment toward those who had deserted him, it’s unlikely that he would have been able to detect the Lord’s presence with him. A bitter heart cannot experience the presence of the Lord. If he had allowed his heart to be controlled by self-pity and resentment, he would not have experienced the comforting presence of his Lord.
In the footsteps of the Savior
Perhaps Paul’s experience is not so strange to the Christian life. Maybe it’s even a required course in the curriculum for followers of Christ.
Those who follow Christ are called to identify with him in his sufferings (I Peter 2:21) and to fill up in the flesh the sufferings of Christ (Colossians 1:24). Perhaps this life will require some experiences like the ones the Savior endured for us.
Jesus was deserted by his own disciples
- “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me” (John 16:32).
- “On the way, Jesus told them, ‘Tonight all of you will desert me. For the Scriptures say, ‘God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered’” (Matthew 26:31).
“All those who journey, soon or late, Must pass within the garden’s gate; Must kneel alone in darkness there, And battle with some fierce despair. God pity those who cannot say, Not mine but thine, who only pray, Let this cup pass, and cannot see The purpose in Gethsemane” (Ella Wheeler Wilcox).
It hurts to be forgotten and deserted. When faced with such experiences, we only multiply our pain when we choose bitterness over forgiveness. We also push away from the presence of the one who said, “…surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” and “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you’” (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5).
Reflect on these words
“Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close” (Psalm 27:10).