couple months ago, one of my friends employed in a helping profession – we’ll call her Hope – traversed one of the darkest seasons you can go through in this kind of work. 

Being the patient, genuine listener that she is, she learned of something wrong in another person’s life, an unsafe situation. So she did what we’ve all been rigorously trained to do. She asked for help, gave the information to people who could bring safety. 

Instead of being lauded as a hero for paying attention to someone’s pain and responding well, the worst thing happened. She was accused. It was never clear what she was accused of, but it was enough to wreck her. She questioned her motives. Interrogated her heart, only to find she really did want the best. 

No matter. An accusation of any kind, especially ones invented out of the thin air, these sting. They crush. They distort our self-perception and stomp out our self-worth. 

Her friends rallied. We defended her in all the ways we could. Stood up to the lying bullies, face to face, and told them the truth. And we prayed. Oh, how we prayed. 

I knew she must have felt so alone at the end of the accusation finger. So one day I called her, and we talked about all the worst things that could happen. We dragged all the fear demons out and repeated their scary taunts aloud.

   “What if you lose your job?”
   “What if no one believes you?”
   “What if you have no money?”
   “What if they ruin your reputation?”

And then I said, “Hope, no matter what happens here, I am not going anywhere. Me and Josh have your back because we know who you are. So if the worst comes down, and you don’t have a job and you can’t pay the rent, you can move in with us for a while and go make coffee somewhere.”

“But no matter what happens, you’re not going to be alone.”

Terribly long, stretching weeks passed before her rightness quietly prevailed. Her name cleared with glorious, pure color. And maybe best of all, she grew deep and tall in the midst of the agony, surrounded by strong, brave friends she barely realized she had. 

Soon afterward, we looked back on conversations and relationships that formed scaffolding around her heart. One of them was the day we talked. The day I said, “Hope, no matter what, you will not be alone.”

She found she never was.

I remember another friend whose husband a year after marriage called it quits. He wrenched her heart into bits with words that he hadn’t loved her all along. And then he left for another relationship. She fought to save their marriage, but he would not have it. 

For weeks and maybe months, she and I spoke daily. On the hardest days, we talked again and again. And the craziest thing happened. The crushed heart healed. Packed tightly with friends and family and a God she learned was madly in love with her, she lived. She grew a shield around her, and I watched her become the most beautiful she’d ever been. Finally, she knew who she was. And it happened in the wake of tragedy. 

It amazed me what these courageous women survived. One lived through abandonment and betrayal, the other through an excruciating lie, created to ruin her reputation but preserve another’s. Besides sheer willpower, I wondered how they made it, until it hit me. The not-aloneness they felt was the thing. It was the weighted anchor of their souls on the days the winds of loneliness and accusation blew the fiercest. 

On days like yesterday, my friends could be anyone. She could even be the heart-crushed families in Newton, Connecticut. The mothers who will never hear their children play or laugh or cry again. Who will never tuck their sweet, curious five year-olds in bed after the goodnight story. I can only imagine what this feels like.

I am a mom now, and it’s hard to think of an injustice worse than this. We all keep saying in whispered disbelief, “Kindergarteners. Why? They were only in kindergarten.” It’s impossible to know why. And I think if we did, it would never help. Because the pain, I think, is not in the “why”. It’s in the enormous emptiness, the silent space these beautiful children’s souls filled in the lives of those who loved them. 

The aloneness. It’s vast. The black hole of ache in your insides, threatening to swallow you right up. I’m sure if I was one of these moms, I would wish to chase my little one into heaven to escape the pain. 

I’ve argued with God about pain so much, tried to make him promise me I wouldn’t have to go through loss like this. We’ve talked through several horrific situations I desperately want to avoid. I told him if he could simply assure me there would be no pain, I could trust him. But he never promised this.

I wrestled for years on this one, and then I figured out what I was really afraid of. It wasn’t what I thought. Our greatest fear is not pain. It is being alone in pain. 

My worst moments in my memory were not being in pain. They were the sensation that it was just me in the world, that I had no one. 

Jesus didn’t try to make it pretty: “In this world, you will have trouble.” But like a broken record, he promises he will never leave. 

“Be strong and courageous…for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

“…I will be with you; I will never leave you or forsake you.” Joshua 1:5

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:18

“…God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

One who doesn’t leave []

Getting left when your heart is shattered is the worst of the shattering. Being held, being with, being silently known, this is what cups our heart in the truest, darkest of hours. No logistical explanation of “why” could ever come close to the presence of someone who loves us. Could never touch the promise that God, that our friends or family, are not going anywhere. 

My prayer is that these families with bleedings hearts and agonized, weary souls will be surrounded on all sides by family and friends who walk under the pain with them. Who will sit quietly with the wounded hearts and not try to solve it with empty words. 

And I pray they will feel the comfort, the presence and the nearness of the One who promised with his life that he would never, ever leave.