Reading – 1 Thessalonians 4:13, 16-18
“Left” seems to me one of the most sorrowful words in the English language, at least in the sense of an object or person remaining behind or apart from a group; I don’t know how sad “left” as in the direction is.
I, for one, have always hated the idea and the experience of being left behind, being forgotten, being ignored. As an introvert, I like my alone time, and a lot of it. However, in those times that I want to be with a group and the people in that group, whether actually or just in my perception, move on without me, I feel suddenly and terribly alone. I believe that God is always here with me, but that belief does not always remove these feelings of isolation or sorrow.
The early community of Christians must have felt similarly left behind once the first followers of Jesus started dying. They had thought the coming of the Kingdom of God as certain within a few years of Jesus’ ascension. Where was he now, then? Where was God? Did any of their beliefs still hold true or even matter? What had happened and what would happen to those Christians who had already died? These people could turn to each other with their concerns and doubts and could even voice them collectively to Paul. At the same time, though, they as individuals each had their own experiences and, thus, their own confusions and misgivings.
Paul reminds the Thessalonians in this reading that God, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is indeed with each of us every moment of our lives. His presence isn’t distant or aloof but rather immediate and empathetic. God cares deeply about us – not just our strengths and joys but also about our struggles and challenges. Moreover, God understands our sorrows. God, of course, created us and knows us better than we know ourselves. And, after all, God came into creation as a human being, living a fully human life (meaning experiencing great happiness and great sadness) in the person of Jesus.
God isn’t exclusive but inclusive. God will not leave anyone behind who truly desires to be with Him. He won’t “forget” to save a seat for you at the banquet of heaven if you truly ask for and desire it. Even should you completely reject God in this life and, on seeing Him in all His unfathomable love and life and light, turn your back in despair and horror, God will still hold you in His heart and always remain ready to welcome you into His presence should you ever decide to turn around.
The basic point here is that God is here with and for us. God wants us to approach and honestly talk with Him about our problems, even when they seem beneath or beyond His help. We are also to bring God’s presence to each other, reminding each other that God indeed loves us deeply and holds us always in His heart through self-giving deeds and consoling words. If anyone knew what it was like to feel left behind/out/alone, it was Jesus. Abandoned or misunderstood by his disciples and betrayed by one of them, he still put his trust in God, and he found that that trust was not misplaced.
I returned to college yesterday for the spring semester. I’ve felt alone, left behind, since then, at least until now. Reading Paul’s words, I still have a twinge of sorrow (mostly due to my maudlin personality), but I also feel consoled and understood. I am not alone or ignored, even in my darkest hour. It’s my job – the job of every Christian – to bring the knowledge, the hope, and the belief that no one is unloved or unnoticed to those around us and to the whole world.
May we trust in your loving presence, Lord, and show that presence to others in our daily lives. Thank you. ~