December 1, 1992
A man took his elderly father to a psychiatrist. “I’m worried,” he said. “My father still drives a horse-drawn wagon but he is getting confused. His horse’s name is Joe, yet he drives down the road saying, `Come on, Joe! Come on, Steve! Come on, Sam!’”
The doctor asked the older man, “Is your horse named Joe?”
The old man nodded. “Certainly it’s Joe, but if I let him think he is pulling the wagon all by himself, he is apt to quit on me.”
Now that old gentleman was a thinker! Could it be that horses are just like people; we don’t like doing the job alone either? Furthermore, his way of encouraging his horse may have worked better than the techniques that psychiatrist used to encourage people!
Most of use words like “You can do it” or “We are counting on you.” Sometimes they do the trick, but whenever we are pulling a heavy load or doing a difficult job, it really helps to know we are not alone.
According to God, working alone is not good. After He created Adam, He said, “It is not good that man should be alone...” even though Adam was living in paradise! So God made Adam a companion to help him with his tasks.
Women don’t enjoy being left alone either. When Jesus came to dinner, Mary left her sister in the kitchen to visit with Him. Martha, “distracted with serving,” came to Jesus and complained, “Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her to help me.” (So Jesus invited Martha to join her sister in the living room with Him.)
Even when Jesus Himself went alone into the wilderness to pray, He did not do that work without companionship. He said, “I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me.”
All people need companionship, but we are so aware we no longer live in paradise. Sin and selfishness put wedges between even the best of friends. Husbands and wives struggle to maintain a sense of oneness. Everyone can feel alone in tough situations. Loneliness is acute when we have something very difficult to do and feel that no one knows or even cares.
Jesus understood that need. The disciples had been His closest companions for three years. When He told them He was going to die, they did not understand. It seemed as if their eyes and minds had thick clouds over them. Shortly before He was betrayed and taken to trial and crucified, He said to them, “Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone...”
Can you imagine how Jesus felt? It was the most difficult task anyone would ever face, yet none of them stayed. None of them even said, “You are not alone!”
But He knew. This verse concludes with “... and yet I am not alone because the Father is with Me” (John 16:32). Jesus was so convinced of the presence of God that even when every human support was pulled out from under Him, He knew He would not finish His life’s work by Himself.
Paul knew it too. He wrote a letter to another pastor, Timothy, and warned him to watch out for a coppersmith named Alexander who had done him much harm in his resistance to the gospel. Paul added, “At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me.” He was alone in the battle for truth.
However, this great Apostle was not angry at those who pulled out on him. He wrote, “May it not be charged against them.” He could pull his load alone because he knew the same encouraging presence that Jesus knew. The next verse says, “But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. And I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.”
I am a lot like that horse called Joe. When I think I am pulling my load all by myself, I get balky and want to quit. It is too hard. However, out of all the promises that God makes, one stands out. It is constant. It is always true. It is something His people can depend on: “He Himself has said, `I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”