You Are Never Alone
“God is for us a refuge and strength, a help that is readily to be found during distresses. That is why we shall not fear.”—Ps. 46:1, 2.
1, 2. How did a reporter react to a missionary’s seven-year isolation, and how did the missionary explain his successful endurance?
IN 1965 a missionary was released from a Red Chinese prison where he had spent seven years in isolation. Arriving in Hong Kong, he was met by newspaper reporters. One of them told the missionary, “Why, I could never endure to be alone. If I had to be alone for seven years I would be climbing up the walls.”
2 Whom would you be like—the news reporter or the missionary? What was the source of that missionary’s strength? He later explained how he could endure such long isolation. Speaking as one of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses, he stated: “We have something to think about. We have some spiritual food inside us that feeds us, and we can stand firm in faith. Of course, we have to study first. We have no inner strength if we don’t study. So the best thing is to keep studying your Bible and building yourself up. And then when trouble comes, if it does come on you, you will be able to ‘stand firm.”’
3. What does the missionary’s experience illustrate, and why is this so?
3 This experience illustrates that true Christians are never alone! Persons without faith simply cannot understand this, yet it is true: Dedicated Christians are never alone, because their knowledge of spiritual matters is like a strong, ever-present companion with whom they can confer. Moreover, they have Jehovah God the Almighty as their Helper wherever they are, no matter what their circumstances may be. Showing that those who have faith like the psalmist are never alone are the words at Psalm 121:1-3: “I shall raise my eyes to the mountains. From where will my help come? My help is from Jehovah, the Maker of heaven and earth. He cannot possibly allow your foot to totter. The One guarding you cannot possibly be drowsy.”
WHEN DISCOURAGED OR DEPRESSED
4. When a person feels alone due to despair or discouragement, what can he do, but what attitude must he avoid?
4 There are times, outside of prisons too, when one may feel lonely. This is especially true when one is despondent, discouraged or feeling despair. Whatever the cause for the discouragement, a person should remember that he can throw his burden of anxiety or frustration upon Jehovah, even as the psalmist said: “Throw your burden upon Jehovah himself, and he himself will sustain you. Never will he allow the righteous one to totter.” (Ps. 55:22) We can be certain that Jehovah God will not let his servants totter or fall to ruin. But here is a warning: Do not take an independent attitude. Rather, lean upon Jehovah God; completely depend on him. Then he will uphold and keep you from falling.—Prov. 3:5-7.
5. (a) How can we show our reliance on Jehovah? (b) When Jesus spoke of finding “the faith” on the earth when the Son of man arrives, to what was he especially referring?
5 Prayer is one way by which we show our reliance on God and by which we can throw our burdens upon him. Never neglect the medium of prayer. (Eph. 6:18) It takes faith to persist in prayer. In fact, the Lord Jesus once raised this question with regard to prayer: “When the Son of man arrives, will he really find the faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8) At the time Jesus was teaching his disciples the need to pray, the need to “cry out to him day and night” in prayer, as Lu 18 verses one and seven show. Thus his question about “the faith” is especially related to faith in the efficacy of prayer to God. Who have this kind of faith today? Do you? Happy are those who do! They are never alone.
6, 7. When is prayer especially important, and why can we have confidence that God can sustain the faithful Christian who comes to him in prayer?
6 Especially is prayer important when one feels discouraged, despondent, almost crushed. (1 Sam. 1:5-18) Cast your reasons for anxiety upon him. Certainly he can sustain you. (Phil. 4:6) Why, Jehovah God sustained a great crowd of Israelites in the wilderness for forty years. He swooped down as an eagle with outspread wings to sustain them! (Deut. 32:11, 12) God provided for them miraculously so that their sandals and clothing never wore out.—Deut. 29:5.
7 Since Jehovah God can sustain not only a great crowd of people, but, in fact, the whole universe, can he not sustain one of his servants who may feel that he stands alone? Of course he can! But we must pray in faith to Jehovah for this sustaining power that even our Christian brothers cannot give.—Phil. 4:13.
WHEN TEMPORARILY AWAY FROM OTHERS
8, 9. (a) What Bible examples show the value of solitude? (b) So, how can temporary periods of being away from others be beneficial?
8 Do you feel all alone when you are temporarily away from others? Some persons do, and their first inclination may be to turn on the radio or television. But, really, temporary periods of being alone are beneficial; in fact, a certain amount of solitude is a basic need of humans. Even Jesus sought solitude as a relief from the crowds. In the mountains and the gardens he prayed. (Luke 4:1, 42; 6:12; 22:39-41) There are other examples in the Bible of godly men who also sought solitude at times. Jehovah spoke to Moses in the lonely recesses of Mount Horeb and then he used him to lead Israel. The psalmist David produced some of his loveliest psalms in solitude. John the Baptist resorted to the desert wilderness near the Jordan River. These men knew the need for solitude and used it to good advantage and to the glory of God.
9 Today life is very crowded. It moves fast, and man needs time to evaluate the events that flash by. Being alone for a time allows a person to catch up, so to speak. It provides the mind moments for necessary reflection and meditation on the truths of the Bible, a sheer pleasure in itself. It also affords one the opportunity to thank Jehovah for one’s blessings and to seek his guidance and holy spirit.
10. What did God say as to why he let the Israelites wander forty years in the wilderness, and what lesson is there in this for us?
10 Do you remember why God let the Israelites wander through the wilderness for forty years? In order “to put you to the test so as to know what was in your heart,” God said. (Deut. 8:2, 3; compare 2 Chronicles 32:31.) So, what we do with our time when we are alone can also be a test as to what is really in our hearts. We need to put physical interests secondary to spiritual needs, feeding on the words of God whenever there is an opportunity.
11, 12. Explain purposeful meditation, and what example did Jesus set in this regard?
11 So, when we have periods of being alone, we can seek to use the time most wisely. We can use the time to meditate. Now, by meditation is not meant lazy daydreaming, a mind rambling, but, rather, guided thinking. Meditation should be purposeful, enabling one to think things over and arrive at some definite conclusion. To that end we need guidance when we meditate, and the best guide of all is the Holy Bible. When reading it, pause and mentally expand on what you read. Thus you will avoid helter-skelter thoughts with no definite goal.
12 Christians can imitate Jesus Christ, who, in the wilderness, meditated on God’s Word. And he thought deeply, undisturbed, about it. This meditation equipped him well, so that he could later repel the Devil’s attacks.—Matt. 4:1-11.
IN TIMES OF TRIBULATION
13. Why may true Christians at times find themselves isolated?
13 Sometimes true Christians find themselves isolated due to persecution. Here again they need to keep in mind that in such times of tribulation Jehovah’s spirit comforts those who rely entirely on Him. Knowing what to do in troublesome times is vital because the Lord Jesus, in giving the Revelation to his apostle John, said: “Look! The Devil will keep on throwing some of you into prison that you may be fully put to the test.” And the apostle Paul stated: “All those desiring to live with godly devotion in association with Christ Jesus will also be persecuted.”—Rev. 2:10; 2 Tim. 3:12; 2 Cor. 1:3, 8-10.
14. How can a Christian fortify himself so as to be able to endure isolation?
14 How strong is your faith? Could you face up to constant interrogation and years of isolation in prison because of your desire to keep integrity to God and yet not falter? The time to fortify yourself is before such persecution comes. How? By wise use of your time now, by studying and meditating on God’s Word so that it becomes deeply rooted in your heart, by regularly associating with Jehovah’s people, and by putting to use in His kingdom ministry what you learn. If you rely on Jehovah now, availing yourself of the spiritual provisions at hand, you will be in position to draw strength from him in time of crisis, strength that will sustain you through it all.
15, 16. (a) If a Christian is thrust into isolation, what can he do? (b) How did the psalmist Asaph cope with distress?
15 But when a person is thrust into isolation, just what can he do? Well, he can review the Holy Scriptures in his mind, think upon God’s dealings and his work. He can think of Bible examples of endurance and faithfulness. There is Joseph, who spent years in prison, and yet he was not really alone, for God was with him. (Gen. 39:20-23) There is Samson, who, in the prison house, seemed all alone, but Jehovah did not forsake him. (Judg. 16:21-30) There are the apostles, who were often in prison, and yet they kept integrity. (Acts 5:17-21; 12:3-17; 16:19-34; 2 Cor. 6:3-5) A Christian in isolation due to persecution can do as the psalmist Asaph did when he was in great distress. This “visionary” who did ‘prophesying with the harp’ writes at Psalm 77:2, 12: “In the day of my distress I have searched for Jehovah himself. . . . I shall certainly meditate on all your activity, and with your dealings I will concern myself.” (1 Chron. 25:1; 2 Chron. 29:30) That is what one of the Watch Tower Society’s zone overseers did when under restraint and when undergoing both verbal and physical abuse due to keeping integrity. Telling of his experience afterward, he said: “We did a lot of praying; in such a situation a person does a lot of thinking.”
16 Similarly, the psalmist Asaph did a lot of thinking when he was in a difficult situation. He appeared to be forsaken by God, and the situation looked black. But what did he do to sustain himself and hold fast to Jehovah God? As already cited, he said: “I shall certainly meditate on all your activity, and with your dealings I will concern myself.” He concerned himself with God’s past activities and dealings, how Jehovah had delivered his people in the past. Asaph knew that God does not change, just as it is written: “For I am Jehovah; I have not changed. And you are sons of Jacob; you have not come to your finish.” (Mal. 3:6) Certainly, then, Jehovah will not allow his people, if faithful, to be consumed or finished off.
17, 18. What can the Christian do to prepare himself to face a difficult situation?
17 So, there is good reason to familiarize ourselves with God’s activities, past and present, on behalf of his people as well as what he has done for his organization. Now is the time to store up all this information in our hearts and minds. To this end we have God’s Word and various publications of the Watch Tower Society to help us. Then if we are ever in a difficult situation, such as Asaph was, we can do the right kind of thinking so that we can stand firm. We will have good things, noble things, praiseworthy things, lovable things in our mind upon which we can meditate.—Phil. 4:8.
18 So, it is a good pattern that the psalmist sets for us here—to meditate on Jehovah God’s activities and dealings. Then it will stand us in good stead in time of need.
19, 20. How did a modern-day servant of Jehovah cope with five years of isolation?
19 As Asaph the visionary was never alone because of his meditation and his trust in God, it is also true of God’s modern-day servants. Consider, for example, a missionary who spent five years in isolation in a Red Chinese prison. This Christian witness of Jehovah related how he kept spiritually alive:
20 “Right from the start I realized that I would have to take steps to stay strong in faith. No sooner had I been locked in my cell on the day of my arrest than I got down on my knees to pray. . . . To keep alive my appreciation of spiritual things I arranged for a program of ‘preaching’ activity. But to whom does one preach when in solitary confinement? I decided that I would build up some appropriate Bible sermons from the things I could remember and then preach to imaginary characters. Then I started out on the work, as it were, knocking on an imaginary door and witnessing to an imaginary householder, visiting several doors during the morning. . . . All this I did aloud, so that the sound of these things would further impress them on my mind. I am sure that the warders thought I was going out of my mind, but it was really keeping me strong in faith and of a sound mind.”
21, 22. (a) How did this missionary explain that he was never alone? (b) And how did another imprisoned missionary beneficially use his time in isolation?
21 That missionary was not alone, though in isolation, and this is true no matter where any of Jehovah’s servants may be. As that missionary further said: “I might be isolated from my fellowmen, but no one could isolate me from God. What spiritual strength and comfort prayer brought to me! . . . There are no guns, no walls, no prison bars that can keep the spirit of God from reaching his people! If we have applied ourselves to a study of his Word and allowed it to sink down deep into our hearts, there is nothing to fear. We do not stand in our own strength. But with God’s almighty power he is able to make even the most frail of us come off victorious in the face of persecution!”
22 Another imprisoned missionary in similar circumstances explained: “I had so much time on my hands. . . . Many Scripture texts began to come to my mind and I would write them down. . . . When I had written out enough scriptures I would select one for a daily text, copy it and keep it somewhere prominent so that I could consider it throughout the day.”
23, 24. How did a modern-day servant of God in Germany explain his basis for endurance in a Nazi concentration camp?
23 From all parts of the world come modern-day examples, proving that true Christians are never alone. In Germany, during World War II, thousands of Witnesses were put in Hitler’s concentration camps, usually deprived of their Bibles. One of those Witnesses, after his release, wrote: “When I was arrested I was thankful that I had not neglected personal Bible study, as it helped me to have the faith to endure. Frequently I thought about the endurance mentioned by the Bible writer James, who said: ‘Look! We pronounce happy those who have endured.’—Jas. 5:11.
24 “Although the prison officials took the Bible away from me, they permitted other prisoners [who were not Witnesses] to have it. They thought that my faith would become weak if I did not have the Bible, and I would renounce my faith by signing a declaration to that effect prepared by the Nazis. They failed to realize that I had impressed the truth of God’s Word deeply upon my mind by personal and group Bible study long before I was imprisoned. They could not remove those faith-strengthening truths from my mind.”
25-27. Explain how Jehovah’s people in a concentration camp in the United Arab Republic felt, and how in that situation did they manage to feed on spiritual food?
25 Witnesses in the United Arab Republic who were put in a concentration camp also experienced the faith-strengthening power of God’s Word and they too never felt alone. Observed one Witness who had been a traveling representative of the Watch Tower Society before his imprisonment: “Regardless of the amount of insults and beatings that we received, a few seconds would pass and we would not feel anything more, even though the beatings continued. We were feeling that Jehovah God was always with us.”
26 And how did those Witnesses arrange to take in strength-giving spiritual food? One of them answered: “Each morning we would discuss an appropriate Bible text, selecting one that would be encouraging to our Christian brothers. We would also select two chapters from the Bible to talk about. Then each of us would draw from our memory the information we could remember from these chapters. Each evening, too, we would gather for a Bible talk. These daily Bible discussions and talks indeed proved strengthening to us.”
27 Many indeed are the modern-day examples that prove that true Christians are never alone; Jehovah is with them if they trust and rely entirely upon him.
KEEP A MENTAL VISION OF GOD
28-30. (a) As indicated at Psalm 16:8, what will help us to rely on Jehovah? (b) How can we imitate David and Jesus in this respect?
28 What will help us to rely on Jehovah is to do as the psalmist did, that is, keep Jehovah at our right hand constantly. At Psalm 16:8 we find these encouraging words: “I have placed Jehovah in front of me constantly. Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be made to totter.”
29 Now, it is well to keep in mind that the apostle Peter applied Psalm 16 to Jesus Christ: “God resurrected him by loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to continue to be held fast by it. For David says respecting him, ‘I had Jehovah constantly before my eyes; because he is at my right hand that I may never be shaken.”’—Acts 2:24, 25.
30 We can do the same as did David and the Lord Jesus Christ! We can mentally put Jehovah in front of us. As Jesus did, so we too can keep Jehovah in front of us constantly by trying always to please him. Be positive; know your God. By your keeping him at your right hand Jehovah can uphold you with his left hand as he fights for his people with his right hand. Yes, we know the prophetic promise given to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Melchizedekian king-priest, as foretold at Psalm 110:4-6: “Jehovah himself at your right hand will certainly break kings to pieces on the day of his anger. He will execute judgment among the nations; he will cause a fullness of dead bodies.” So, by following the example of Jesus Christ our Exemplar, and by placing Jehovah God in front of us constantly, keeping him at our right hand, we will never be alone; we will never totter.
31. What will our God-given hope do for us if we steadfastly hold to it?
31 Our hope helps to keep Jehovah close to us. In fact, the apostle Paul likens the Christian hope to an “anchor for the soul.” “This hope we have as an anchor for the soul, both sure and firm, and it enters in within the curtain, where a forerunner has entered in our behalf, Jesus.” (Heb. 6:19, 20) Since this anchorlike hope originates with God, it in effect enters into heaven, where Jesus Christ and Jehovah are. By our holding to this hope, never relinquishing it, it will bind us fast to Jehovah God and we will never drift away. So never let anyone sever your intimate connections with Jehovah or his organization.
32, 33. (a) In view of Psalm 46:1, 2, why can it be said that God is nearer than any enemy? (b) From the apparent background of this psalm, how is it evident that God’s servants are never alone during distress? (c) How do we make God our Refuge?
32 As a faithful Christian keep ever in mind that you are never alone. Jehovah God, moreover, is nearer than any enemy. And as the psalmist put it at Psalm 46:1, 2: “God is for us a refuge and strength, a help that is readily to be found during distresses. That is why we shall not fear, though the earth undergo change and though the mountains totter into the heart of the vast sea.”
33 The wording of this psalm seems to accord with the crucial time in the days of King Hezekiah, when Jerusalem was threatened by the king of Assyria. Hezekiah could have felt that he was all alone, but he realized that God is “a help that is readily to be found during distresses.” So he prayed to Jehovah, and the city was delivered from its distress. (Isa. 37:14-37) Therefore, when true Christians are in distress, they too can keep this psalm in mind. In order to make God our Refuge we must flee to him, and to do this we need ever to stick to his righteous principles. By trusting in him, sticking faithfully to his organization, we make Jehovah our secure Tower and Refuge.—Prov. 18:10.
34. What should we determine about the future, and with what grand result?
34 There is a time of great distress still ahead, when Gog of Magog, Satan the Devil, launches his foretold assault on us as Jehovah’s people. (Ezek. 38:1, 2, 8-12) But we are never alone, and Jehovah will help us to endure, whether we be in solitary confinement or not. We are determined to stand firm no matter what the future brings. In due time Jehovah God will go into vigorous action against all his enemies, and we will stand triumphant with his kingdom. After it is all over and the “great tribulation” is past, we will find that Jehovah has been our ready Help, our secure Height, our sure Refuge and our Strength.
[Picture on page 524]
By prayer and meditation on Bible texts those imprisoned for serving God have endured long isolation