“A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for My Father is with me.” John 16:23-33 (NIV)

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18 (NIV)

Well, it's been a while, but I'm back … and I don't mean that I'm back writing articles (but I am) for Ironmen. I mean that I'm back to honoring God as best I can for a person of my spiritual growth. Where is that, exactly? Dunno. It's different for all of us, and all the time. Like many, when a new Christian begins their walk, they're “on fire” for Jesus and bursting at the seams with their enthusiasm to share the Gospel, their own personal testimony, or maybe just how they feel about Christianity in the world today and how they're going to improve their little corner of it with their newfound knowledge, given even half a chance. It's a wonderful feeling when you realize that the Holy Spirit has taken up residence within, and an even more wonderful one the first time some “obscure” verse, that just happens to fit perfectly into the conversation at hand, pops into your mouth, and you might not even remember reading it!

Talk about confirmation of His presence inside you!

Then there are the times that you've backslid a little bit.

Who, me? Backslide? ME? There's not even the slightest chance that I've ever done that!

Gimmie a break!

What we've been through (we've all been through it, so there's no need for me to elaborate) for the past 2 years has been enough for the strongest of us to lose touch with our faith, even if it's just a little bit. Being isolated in our homes during the lockdowns. Spending our time with only immediate family members for months at a time. Only being allowed to venture out for food, medicine, and other “essentials”, and only when absolutely necessary. And to make it even worse, when we actually have a respite from the monotony by venturing out to the grocery store, we encounter only masked strangers, mere shadows of the people we once interacted with. People we shared anecdotes with, smiled at, or even … God forbid … even touched in some innocent way like a hug or a handshake. But now, we fear them (and maybe even hate them a little) because of the potential of spreading the scourge of our age any further and suffering the wrath of our leaders who have enacted these policies of xenophobia only because they know better than we what's best for us. No school, no work, no church, not even a picnic in the park, in the virus killing sunshine, to offer us any relief from the boredom and cabin fever.

So much for me not elaborating.

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” Ephesians 4:31 (NIV)

“Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:9 (NIV)

Now, let me tell you a little bit about my personal experience.

It wasn't pleasant.

I live alone. I have for more than 20 years. I do have a beautiful, German Shepherd mix rescue companion named Rogue, but she isn't much of a conversationalist, and she rarely offers me any advice … unless you count the times that she suggests that I scratch her in various places, behind the ears, her chest, the base of her tail, or her belly, because she's sure that the act will make me feel better.

Surprisingly, this process often works.

But, for the most part, I was seriously lacking in human contact, apart from an occasional phone call. If I'm honest, this made for quite a miserable existence. Not to mention the fact that it gives the enemy plenty of time to sneak up from behind and start to subtly work on my remaining nerves. He attacked not only my character and self-worth but that of everyone that I knew. Everyone, on a rotating basis, became my enemy because of their lack of consideration when it came to me. The selfishness that developed in me due to my sequestration became almost palpable. I became the most important thing in my life.

Because, obviously, it's all about me!

I resented everyone. I began to wonder why I had relationships with these people at all. Why I missed attending church in person, or at all for that matter. I even wondered why I needed the fellowship of friends and family who cared nothing about me because they had their own friends and family to worry about.

Wait … what?

All I needed was my TV, or my computer … and of course Rogue.

Rogue knew better.

When everything began to open up again, and an occasional person happened by my house, Rogue clearly expressed her excitement at the prospect of seeing anyone at all who wasn't me without reservation or restraint. She was elated by the presence of literally anyone else. And, do you know what? I didn't blame her. Why, because I had become a jerk.

Nuff said.

Lately, I've been realizing the error of my ways. I've realized that my friends and family hadn't stopped being my friends and family because they had other, more pressing, and more immediate issues to deal with than the fact that I was lonely. James chapter 1 says:

“Consider it pure joy … when you suffer trials …”

Well, the past 2 years have been a trial, but they're over. Now we have new trials to deal with.

I don't know about you, but I'm going to try to bask in the joy that I find knowing that Jesus never abandoned me, even when I thought everyone had …

and He never will.

Today is the day. Now is the time. The battle is on!

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV)

G. J. Fortier is a member of Ironmen Ministries and First Baptist Church, Centerville, GA. Look for his novels on Amazon on Kindle and paperback. Or visit his website at www.GerardFortier.com