There are times when we can feel very alone in our faith. Where we may be the only Christian in a family who may give us a hard time over what we believe and practice. Or we may be the only Christian in our workplace which can create difficulties too, and in this increasingly Christianity-hostile society, we may sometimes feel as if we are the only Christian for a long way around. As a result of this we can feel that God isn’t really with us at all, but when that happens it is important to note that in this we are ‘not alone in feeling alone’!
We see people feeling the same way in the Bible. For example, there is the case of the prophet Elijah in (1 Kings 18:17-19:8). He had been passionate for God in challenging the pagan ‘gods’ imported into the Israelite nation by King Ahab’s wife Jezebel. Elijah had been God’s agent in a great victory on Mount Carmel where Jezebel’s ‘gods’ and prophets had been overwhelmed by the power of God, but this enraged Jezebel who set to hunt him down and have him killed.
Elijah flees for his life into the desert and ends up sitting under a tree, feeling very alone with that ‘where is God?’ feeling, and just wanting to die and at one point complaining to God that he is the ‘only one’ of God’s people left. However, God speaks to Elijah and encourages him with the statement that He is still working ‘behind the scenes’, for He still has seven thousand faithful people left in Israel.
A similar despair is experienced by the prophet Elisha’s servant who is with his master in the city of Dothan where they are isolated and trapped, with no hope of escape, by the army of the King of Syria, the people of God’s enemy (2 Kings 6:1-17). However, Elisha prays to God to open the servant’s eyes to spiritual realities and reveals the previously invisible ‘horses and chariots of fire’ of God’s army on the mountains surrounding the Syrian army. The servant, in the midst of his alone-ness and hopelessness has an experience of the God who is working ‘Behind the scenes’ God.
I was recently reminded of both of these stories at the Blood Bank when I was donating blood. One of the nurses was disconnecting me from the machine and we got into a conversation. I had spoken to her before about general things but not previously had any type of spiritual conversation. However, on this occasion, and I don’t really remember why, the topic of death came up. Maybe not that surprising with a nurse!
She turned to me and said “But that (i.e. dying) wouldn’t be a bad thing would it?” That surprised me because there are not many people who have that view of death these days, most don’t see anything positive about it! So I asked her what she meant to which she replied ‘well I know I’m going to heaven’. Now I was fully engaged, and dug further into her statement by asking her why, on what basis, she was so sure, expecting a version of the generally held ‘because I’ve tried to be a good person and live a good life etc’ type answer.
But no! What I got was a beautiful, succinct and very rare gem of an answer. What she said was ‘Because Jesus died for me!’
Here was a Christian woman, evidence of God’s presence, (a reminder of the ‘Seven thousand in a sense’) in whom God was working ‘Behind the scenes’ in a place I have been going to for years without seeing any sign of God’s presence. A not unusual experience in 21st century Australia.
There may be times when we have that ‘Elijah’ experience and feel alone, isolated and even threatened in our faith in this increasingly Christian-hostile society and, even in places crowded with people, where the ‘SALT’ is spread ever more thinly, that we are the only Christian for a long way around. It is in those times important to remember the ‘Behind the Scenes God’. God’s invisibility does not mean His absence.