A couple of years back a friend told me a story about a pastor we both knew from Northern Ireland. The story centered on the fact that this particular pastor was unwilling to cancel the midweek service in spite of the expectation that few people would be in attendance since it fell between Christmas and New Year. The pastor had even been alerted to the fact that his deacons would not be there and that they were in favor of canceling the midweek service as a practical matter. Undeterred, the pastor held the service. On the following Sunday he was asked by one of his deacons how many people attended. Without apology or embarrassment he said, “There were six of us! Myself, my wife, the organist, and the Holy Trinity; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!”

On the one hand you could make an argument that this story is a testament to a minister’s stubbornness and unholy commitment to tradition. While on the other hand it could also be seen as a testament to a man’s delighting in the company of God. For him it mattered not who was absent if God was present. For him it was enough that God would not forsake him even though his congregation had.

The quirkiness of this story aside, it serves as a wonderful reminder of the fact that the Christian constantly enjoys the love of God, the grace of our Lord Jesus, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 13:14). Wherever we are and whatever is present, God is always with us and has promised to never, ever fail us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5; Josh. 1:5; Psalm 23:4; Isaiah 43:2). It is a glorious gospel fact that the Christian is never without company even when alone; Immanuel is with us through the indwelling Spirit and therefore, we are not alone (Matt. 1:23; 28:20). The follower of Jesus Christ is always in the company of another (Luke 24:15). Although others may forsake us, let us down, leave us behind, and let us go, the Lord will stand with us and walk beside us (2 Tim. 4:16-18).

Forsaken is a terrible and terrifying word; a child forsaken by a parent, a man forsaken by a friend, or a wife forsaken by a husband. It is hard for the soul to survive the cold and bitter climate of abandonment. But survival can be experienced through a knowledge that because of Jesus’ abandonment on the cross and the reconciliation we have with God, we as Christians will live and die in the forever embrace of a loving and ever present God (Mark 15:34; 2 Cor. 5:19). As Tim Keller notes, “This forsakenness, this loss, was between the Father and the Son, who has loved each other from all eternity. This love was infinitely long, absolutely perfect, and Jesus was losing it. Jesus was being cut out of the dance. Jesus, the maker of the world, was being unmade. Why? Jesus was experiencing our judgment day. ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ It wasn’t a rhetorical question. And the answer is: For you, for me, for us. Jesus was forsaken by God so that we would never be.” Amen and amen!

It is a wonderful thing to know that of the many prayers we will pray, we will never have to pray, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?”