”I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.
John 14: 18-20
If we look around us, we can see orphans of some kind every day. There are thousands of children alone in this world due to the AIDS epidemic. There will undoubtedly be thousands of children alone in the world because they have lost a parent or both of them to the coronavirus. Yet it doesn’t take a pandemic or epidemic for people to feel alone in the world. If we really look, we encounter people every day whose primary fear is that they are alone and unlovable. Thus they will always feel alone and isolated in the world because somehow the world is telling them they are not loved.
We encounter people every day, if we choose to see them, deal with so much—financial trauma, job loss, physical illness, spiritual desperation, emotional isolation, instability, want, disrupted relationships, abandonment, violence …and the list goes on. Any one of those things not only can make us feel abandoned, but also unworthy and unloved.
Jesus uses the word “orphaned” as he talks with his disciples, which is such a potent image for what he was about to do, which was to leave his beloved disciples and go and die. I am sure he knew that his death would strike fear and terror in those who loved him, and those he loved so closely. He surely knew they would be vulnerable and that they would panic. He surely felt they would turn and run for their own lives, abandoning him in their fear. Yet, knowing all of that, he loved them anyway, and tried to reassure them that he would send an Advocate to be with them after he was gone. As he speaks these reassuring words to them he does not reveal his own sense of loss of being orphaned. He speaks only of the love of God and the Holy Spirit, who will never leave them alone, “the Spirit of truth, …who would abide with them and in them.
Those words to his first disciples are words he speaks to us today, encouraging us to trust in his abiding presence, which is with us unceasingly. He wants us to remember we are never alone, no matter what. Just as he spoke these words to his fearful disciples he speaks them to us today who are in the midst of a coronavirus and all the fear, illness, death and loneliness it brings with it. These words of reassurance come with the assurance of “I am with you until the end of the world.”
Jesus has kept this promise and will continue to keep it, and in doing so, he calls us every day to grow stronger by the constant gift of God’s love that we receive through the Holy Spirit that lives in us. Still, in the midst of life, all of us may sometimes feel alone or orphaned, and fearful of the future. In those moments let us proclaim with the joy of our faith: God is with us. We are not alone. His Holy Spirit is guiding us through whatever comes. Thanks be to God!
- Have you ever felt so alone you did not know who you could turn to?
- Do you know anyone who is alone or feeling orphaned? Can you find a way to reassure them that God loves them and is with them all the time?
Sue is NLS Spiritual Director, since 2019 and is a retired Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). Active in VdC since 1995, she has served two terms on the Board of the Texas VdC Secretariat, and also on the Texas Gulf Coast VdC Board as Spiritual Director since its start-up in 2017.