Have you ever felt lonely and vulnerable at a time of great need? We did, until God reminded us in a special way that we are never truly alone.
On Friday, October 24, 1997, Howie and I rushed to Huntington Hospital following a mini-stroke which affected his left arm and hand. Dr. Beatrice Engstrand, his neurologist, was on vacation, and Howie's folks were in Brazil on a tour. His aunt and uncle were out of town and his brother Cliff were returning from a pastor's conference. Our normal support system was gone, so we had no choice but to lean on God alone.
God immediately raised up the support we needed. Pastor Steve came to the hospital as soon as he heard Howie was in the emergency room. The next day, Pastor Rich and several church friends came by to visit. Noticing that Howie's left arm and hand were weak, they lifted him up before the throne of grace in prayer.
As the paramedics got ready to transfer Howie by ambulance to North Shore University Hospital, our friend Joyce showed up and gave him a Danish roll to eat on the way. As I followed in our car, I turned on Christian radio and heard the song "I Know Who Holds Tomorrow" by Ira Stanphill. Tears were streaming down my face as I listened to these words: "Many things about tomorrow, I don't seem to understand. But I know who holds tomorrow, and I know who holds my hand." God has holding Howie's hand, and I thanked Him for what He had done for us in the past and what He was going to do now.
As the paramedics brought Howie into his room, several relatives of his hospital roommate were standing around. One of them, a young man named Elliot, thought to himself as he saw Howie, "This guy is eating a Danish as he's being wheeled in!" Elliot didn't realize it al the time, but he would soon be playing a vital roll in Howie's recovery.
Over the next couple of days, Howie had several more visitors. Even though his left hand and arm were very weak, he felt calm and peaceful. He lightened the heavy atmosphere in his room by quoting Scriptures and joking with our friends. Everyone was amazed at his attitude, including those who called and heard him say, "Hello, this is Howard. How may I help you?"
I spent the night before his surgery with Howie in his hospital room and we shed many tears together. God poured out His grace on us as we had a private prayer and praise time together . Before surgery on Monday morning, I followed along crying softly as Howie was being wheeling to the operating room. He quoted Isaiah 41:10- "Do not fear, for I am with you, do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely, I will help you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." That passage of Scripture gave us both the courage we needed to face the critical hours ahead.
While Howie was in surgery, I sat in the waiting room with my Bible on my lap. As I had done in his previous surgeries, I prayed Psalms to the Lord, inserting Howie's name in the verses and asking for the Lord's special touch of healing on his life. While sitting alone in that room; I didn't feel lonely for I sensed God's presence in a very real way: Later, our friend Joyce and Howie's brother Cliff came by to keep me company. Following surgery, Howie received several calls and visitors, cards and emails, flowers and fruit baskets. He was still in the hospital on my birthday, so Joyce took me out to breakfast to celebrate and gave me a lovely gift. And four days after the surgery; Cliff and Vickie brought Howie's folks to the hospital straight from the airport. They had returned early from their trip to Brazil and rejoiced to see their son well on the way to recovery: After Howie returned home from the hospital, several friends from Bible Baptist brought delicious meals.
We had felt lonely and vulnerable on the way to the emergency room the previous week, but now we felt secure and blessed knowing we had God' s presence and help, along with the love and support of many friends and relatives: We now have the assurance that we'll never be lonely again!
If you've placed your faith in Jesus Christ, you'll never have to face your burdens alone. The Lord has promised to always be there for you: "I will never desert you nor will I ever forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5). And He will put it on the hearts of His children to reach out touch you when you when you need them. You can feel great security knowing you'll never be lonely again.
I'll never be lonely again, never again;
For I have opened my heart's door to Him.
So I'll brush away the tears and forget my foolish fears;
I'll never be lonely again, never again.
FOR THOSE WHO HURT: You may be feeling lonely and vulnerable right now as you're facing the hardships of life. What you are feeling is a normal human emotion, but it is unnecessary. Look to Jesus and recall His Words: "...Lo, I am with you always, even until the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20). And don't be afraid to call out to others for support. When they know you're hurting, many will gladly reach out to help and encourage you. You never need to feel lonely again as you travel the journey of life with the Lord and fellow believers by your side. That's what true fellowship is all about!
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