Never Walk Alone

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In the course of the last two years, the major lesson God has been teaching me has hit home. That lesson is this:

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
—Romans 8:26-31

I used to think that the worst thing anyone can do is to quote Romans 8:28 to a hurting person. Such a wielding more likely leaves marks than heals the hurting. When life is waterboarding you, and the person uttering that verse is completely safe and sound within her ivory castle, that verse has all the comfort of a kick in the teeth.

I’m sure many of you reading this know what I mean.

Recently, I was thinking of some songs that I really like, even if some people consider them corny. John Denver’s amazing “Rocky Mountain High” is perfect from start to finish, even down to the ride triangle. I loved “Could It Be Magic” by Barry Manilow from the first second I heard it. Paul Williams’s “Love Theme from A Star Is Born (Evergreen)” as sung by Barbara Streisand is a great one. And Karen Carpenter’s lush vibrato on “For All We Know” never fails to grab me.

Yeah, I know. Not very hip.

Last night, I recalled an old Rogers & Hammerstein tune from Carousel. Plenty of people have done it as their own, but I particularly like Jim Nabors’s take on “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” That song may very well be a product of the 1940s, but it still works for me.

I think that most people walk alone. They have themselves alone to count on. And when they reach the end of their rope, when it’s too much to bear…well, that’s tough. The darkness settles in like a black, malevolent mold, the rope frays, and all that is left is the numbing fear.

Yet in the last year, especially, I have learned that I am not walking alone. I knew that mentally. Most of us do. But I didn’t really know it in my heart of hearts. I still relied on my own smarts to get us in and out of tough situations. The last year cured me of that.

Never walk aloneI also see that no matter how grim things might be, all thing work together for good for those who are in Christ Jesus. I learned that Romans 8:28 isn’t for people who have reached the end of their ropes. It’s for those who lost track of even that end and are falling from the high point of where they once stood. That verse is for people who are dying, for those who are learning what it means to abandon self. It’s for people who trust God from their hearts, not their heads.

The funny thing about this post is that I intended to write it for Monday morning. Today seems more appropriate, though.

On the island in the kitchen sat a nondescript envelope. As I stumbled downstairs and slogged into the kitchen this morning, that lone envelope seemed out of place. I didn’t recognize the return address or the company represented. After less than six hours sleep, I wasn’t sure I was reading the letter enclosed correctly after I opened it. Less than a page, it stated a very clear reality that may change our future and make me rethink everything.

A couple years ago, I think I would have been storming around the house, racking my brain to come up with some ingenious plan, some way out, some buffer against what the letter said. But I don’t have a plan, and I probably won’t have one. I realized in the last year that I am not smart enough to outwit life. And when that truth finally dawned on me, when I finally made peace with Romans 8:28, I found that no matter what the world throws our way, we are not walking alone. The world may be against us, but God is for us. Always, and in everything.

And that makes all the difference.

33 thoughts on “Never Walk Alone

  1. Paul Walton

    There is no difference in the statistics between believers and non-believers in the realm of divorce, illness, wealth, happiness, or any other category. The difference is on the inside, our unseen soul. Which is why John Calvin the late influential French theologian reformer states:
    “The believer must not expect Heaven on earth or hope to reap the fruit of victory or to live in rest. Here he lives in need, imperfection and trouble, and there is externally no difference between believers and heathen. Yet the life which is promised is real and no shadow. It is in the Christian like the life of trees in winter, hidden, but waiting to show itself in the fulfillment of time. Our life is elsewhere; it is now hidden, but it will be revealed to us at the coming of the Redeemer.”

    Boy, he kind of makes me feel all warm and cuddly inside. Best for him that he died in 1564, his message would be hard for most Christians to receive now-a-days.

    • Great quote from John Calvin. It goes aginst so much of the teaching going on today in some churches. I think that is why so many believers do not grasp hold of the Sovereignty of God. As Dan wrote so well, “I found that no matter what the world throws our way, we are not walking alone. The world may be against us, but God is for us. Always, and in everything. And that makes all the difference.”

      Wonderful post!

      • Cheryl,

        God is sovereign. He disciplines those He loves. But He also knows when a sparrow falls to the ground. As His children, we are much more worth than sparrows. Also, as His children, we have certain rights and privileges not afforded to those outside the family. I think the Calvin quote levels the playing field in a way that diminishes what the Scriptures teach about sonship.

    • Paul,

      With all due respect to Calvin, David says that he would despair unless he saw the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. The Bible also states that there is an external difference between the believer and heathen. The righteous cry for help and are delivered; the heathen reap the whirlwind. The righteous prosper; the wicked do not. The righteous go to bed in peace; the wicked toss and turn, worrying what will happen to their wealth. Our life is both here and in the world to come. We either believe that God will provide in the land of the living or else we stew about what we are going to do to keep afloat until we die.

      Honestly, Calvin’s perspective is quite grim and negative. It is the position of just muddling through until we die. It trusts God for very little in this life. It is the position of so many young Calvinists I have met who practice a very cynical, nihilistic worldview. It is the very position that God has been leading me out of, not into. And I feel much better now for not being in that place!

      Yes, our ultimate life is elsewhere, but the stage play of it is going on right now. Not rehearsing our lines properly will only have us caught unprepared when the final curtain rises.

      • Paul Walton

        Dan I would have to respectfully disagree, that we who are in Christ are externally different than unbelievers. The research shows that Christ followers and unbelievers statistically are very much alike in the areas of divorce, health, wealth etc. I’m not a Calvinist by the way, but I do agree with his statement though, that we will not experience heaven on earth.(presently) We will go through trials, and tribulation in this life, some that may bring us to the very edge of our cliff. But like a tree in winter, there is life, even though at times it is unseen. With God all things are possible!

        • Paul,

          The Bible says we are different, even in the externals. The way a Christian lives looks nothing like that of the pagan. I think the entire Bible backs that up. If people are not walking in that, it is the failure of the people, not the Lord.

          As to heaven on earth, I experience heaven on earth every day in my walk with Christ and in the blessing of the life He has given me. If Calvin (or others) have no experience of this, then they are people most pitied. Also, the Kingdom of God is both now and not yet. What are we doing about the now? That makes all the difference!

          • Paul Walton

            Dan we live in a fallen world, the rain falls on the just and the unjust. In heaven there will be no need for forgiveness, healing, etc, but these are issues I deal with each day. Paul spoke about how he battled his flesh, how he wanted to do the right thing, but found himself doing the exact opposite. I experience God’s grace each and every day, and for that I’m grateful. We cannot prevent the sorrows of this life, only with God’s help, we can overcome them.

          • Paul Walton

            Travis I copied this from the link you provided.

            In fact, when evangelicals and non-evangelical born again Christians are combined into an aggregate class of born again adults, their divorce figure is statistically identical to that of non-born again adults: 32% versus 33%, respectively.

          • Paul,

            If you look at the numbers, they interviewed four times as many “non-evangelical born again Christians” as they did “evangelical born again Christians.” So the non-evangelical rate will hold sway when the two are combined.

            Evangelical Christians: 26% (339 interviews)
            Non-evangelical born again Christians: 33% (1373 interviews)

          • Paul Walton

            Travis, I would say that a 4% difference is fairly close, I didn’t say the stats were exactly the same. Just very much the same.
            Evangelical Christians 26% 339
            Atheist or agnostic 30% 269

  2. Peter P

    Great post.

    I’m a supporter of Liverpool Football Club (translation: Liverpool Soccer club for all you Americans) ‘You’ll never walk alone’ is our club motto and theme song so you pretty much had me at ‘Never walk alone’.

    God is with you, things don’t always go the way we expect or want but we do know that God works in all things for the good of those who love him.

    Gotta tell you, not knowing the contents of the letter is killing me. 🙂

    Let us know how to pray for you and your family.

    • Peter,

      We appear to be facing some of the situations I have written about previously that deal with the cost of certain items rising above that level of sanity.

  3. Dan,

    I believe that all of us believers are going through some purification right now in our country and the world with everything going on.

    Echoing what Peter P said about the contents of the letter. I can only glean that maybe it’s not a good thing and I can identify with those feelings.

    Thanks for this post. My family is going through a lot and has been for about a year or so. We all just need to hold fast right now.

    @Paul Walton: thank you for that quote from Calvin.

    Joe.

  4. I still think that, in light of James 2:16, simply quoting Romans 8:28 is about the worst thing most believers could do to someone who’s hurting.

    I’m sorry to hear about the week your family had, Dan. I’d offer more than prayer, but we’ve found ourselves in a somewhat similar pickle (as of yesterday evening).

  5. Sometimes I think I might be nuts, but I love the Calvin quote and love what Dan had to say about it. Both statements together put me in mind of those 2D pics you see from time to time on cereal boxes and the like. It looks slightly different depending on which way the light hits it. There are times and hearts in which Calvin’s perspective offers great comfort and times and hearts in which those sentiments become an excuse for complacency. I’ve been in both those places.

    Anyway, when my husband called a couple of weeks ago in the middle of the day to tell me he was on his way home because he’d been laid off. An incredible calm settled over me. We’d been praying for direction and change, sensing it was time, but having no idea what it would entail. When I got that call, I knew it was an answer to prayer. He’s still looking for work. We still don’t know if we’ll be able to keep our little house our not, but we know God is in it with good purpose. Romans 8:28 is a great comfort.

    May God continue to bless you with peace and comfort. And thank you for sharing your hope with us.

  6. Dan said:
    “Honestly, Calvin’s perspective is quite grim and negative. It is the position of just muddling through until we die. It trusts God for very little in this life. It is the position of so many young Calvinists I have met who practice a very cynical, nihilistic worldview.
    ———
    Calvinism’s view is based on an erroneous understanding of God’s sovereignty. An understanding that in effect denies any human choice and ultimately no human responsibility. It sees that God’s sovereignty would be diminished if humanity was able to choose or act according to our own will. That view sees God as being solely responsible for EVERYTHING that happens in this world*, that He alone controls every aspect of His creation. In that sense Calvinism trusts God for EVERYTHING in this life †“ but it is a fatalistic trust, in which we can only resign ourselves to what God has ordained (which includes whether we are saved or damned). This is totally different to the relationship between God and man as demonstrated throughout scripture.
    Scripture shows us a two way interaction between man and God. God does not stand aloof in ordaining what will happen – leaving man to resign himself to that ordained fate. God includes mankind in His plans. As we put our trust in Him He has promised to respond to that trust and will act on our behalf. And He lets us know that He IS for us and not against us.

    It cannot be denied that the ultimate decisions regarding creation have been made by God and He directs His creation to ensure His will is done.
    Where Calvinism’s wheels fall off is in the failure to understand that God sovereignly gave man the responsibility of choice and limited free will in order to achieve a particular outcome that He desires. That desired outcome is a willing people who will FREELY love Him by choice and not by compulsion (He wants a willing bride for His Son not a Stepford wife).
    Does that God given choice diminish God’s sovereignty? How can the outworking of God’s sovereign plan have that effect?

    ———
    *Take a while to consider the implications of that belief when taken to its logical conclusion.

    • Paul Walton

      I think you misunderstand the Calvinist objection to “free will.” Every true Calvinist believes sinners are responsible moral agents, free from any external force or coercion in the choices they make. They choose freely. But they inevitably choose wrong, because their choices are determined by their own nature and their nature is sinful and corrupt. Scripture often calls us to make choices that involve a decision for good rather than evil. That in no way suggests that we are morally neutral, or inclined neither to evil or to good. Choosing “good” goes against the sinner’s nature (Romans 8:7-8), so unless God graciously intervenes to awaken and empower us, we will always make the wrong choice (Jeremiah 13:23). And we do so without any external force or compulsion. In that sense our choices are perfectly free. But apart from divine grace we would be hopelessly enslaved to our own lusts (Romans 6:20). So the sinner’s “choice,” though free in every meaningful sense, is always predictably wrong.

      • Paul,

        I don’t believe in the slightest that people with free choice always choose wrong, especially if they are filled by the Holy Spirit. That demeans what it means to be a saint. In short, I was a sinner, but that is not how Christ identifies me now, as I am moving from being a mere “sinner” into the sonship that Christ affords me. (“And such were some of you”—past tense.) That sinful taint will always be there this side of eternity, but I am not to live in the taint. I believe that wallowing in the taint is a major, major misunderstanding by many in the Church today and is one reason to explain why so few people ever reach the level of spiritual depth needed to flow adeptly in the power of the Spirit. Such people are still trapped by what they were, never fully embracing what they are now in Christ. (Which is the whole point of the book of Ephesians.)

        I also object to the simplistic notion that choices always come down to good or evil. The fact is that most decisions are neutral of any moral consequence. And even when they are not, the choice that is morally excellent today may degrade in time to encompass terrible outcomes that were not and could not be known at the time of their choosing. It can also be said that one man’s morally perfect decision is another man’s veiled evil.

        Life is not as simplistic as merely black and white. God is bigger than that.

        I will also protest the natural outcome of what you are claiming by saying that it necessitates that there is only one course a man’s life may take, and I don’t believe that in the slightest. Thousands of possible outcomes may be possible that all fall under the blessing of God. This is one of the bounties that grace affords us. God is not so small that He cannot allow His people to explore the limits of who He has made them while still remaining in the light.

        Tozer uses the illustration of an ocean liner bound for a paradise destination. Those on the ship are destined to arrive in that paradise. But what they do upon that ship is their choice. Whether they elect to learn ballroom dancing or write a brilliant novel is their decision, and the captain of the vessel approves both—or any of the other options the cruise provides. The destination of the ship is assured, but the passengers are given grace to enjoy whatever they choose to pursue on board that falls within the guidelines and rules set by the captain.

        I do understand Calvinist objections to free will; I simply believe they are too limited in their understanding, especially when their positions are taken to their natural extremes. So while I am sympathetic to most parts of Calvinism, this area of free will is not one of them.

        • Paul Walton

          Dan,

          I never said that believers (filled with the Holy Spirit) will choose wrongfully. Only those who minds have not been renewed, by the spirit of God. A person who is dead in their spirit, is making decisions from a carnal view of life, they operate in the flesh. Romans 8: 7-8 “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; For it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then those who are in the flesh cannot please God”
          By the way I love the spell check feature on this comment area.

          Peace,
          Paul

  7. I don’t think I could have reconciled Romans 8:28 with the diagnosis of cancer 6 years ago but now that I’m on this side of it and can look back, it makes more sense.
    But the peace in that text is for those who “love God and are called according to His purpose.”
    You are one of those who loves God and you are one of those who is called according to His purpose. I pray that the trial will be brief.
    By the way, hip is in the ear of the beholder. I love those old songs too.

    • Jerald,

      Health issues catch people off-guard. The trial that is on us now is related, but tangentially. That’s all I can say.

      I think all those songs are great because they are so well crafted. The instrumentation and mix on “Rocky Mountain High” are superb (as are Denver’s vocals), “Could This Be the Magic” has lovely minor/major key changes and chord progressions that you rarely hear in pop music today, Streisand’s vocals and the melody on “Evergreen” are stunning (and I really enjoy Paul Williams’s work), Karen Carpenter’s vocals on “For All We Know” epitomize lush, and “You’ll Never Walk Alone” has that sense of power in it that so much music today lacks.

      • Just Joan

        “Could This Be the Magic has lovely minor/major key changes and chord progressions that you rarely hear in pop music today

        Dan, that’s because he “stole” it from Chopin’s “Prelude in C Minor (Op. 28, No. 20).”

        Still, I agree, quite a moving song.

        Peace of Christ to you and yours Dan.

  8. tc

    Great post Dan,

    I think many of us are walking out something similar in nature -walking out our faith while fully trusting in the Lord.

    The fullness of God is not a cliche.

    Trusting that He will be faithful to you even in this.

  9. While I have never enjoyed any trial or pain, I have always been amazed at how powerfully God works in my life during that time. I can’t always recognize it at the time, but when I turn around, later, I am amazed. God really does redeem everything, even if it doesn’t feel like that in the moment. The trick, I think, is trusting God enough to get to the other side.

    At any rate, even if you don’t have a plan, I will be praying God moves powerfully in your life and lifts this burden from you.

    • Thanks, Don. It’s an issue i have thought and prayed about quite a bit. I grew up Lutheran and came to the charismatic movement from within a Lutheran context. My theology is still largely Lutheran and very much in tune with the Reformation. I am, however, sympathetic to some Arminian thought—but not all. And I am sympathetic to some aspects of Calvinism— but not all. Add in the charsimatic thought and you have in a me a real mongrel. In a way, I am a man without a theological “country”—at least one this side of heaven.

      One of my greatest concerns about Calvinism is that too many of the young Calvinists I meet today have such a fatalistic attitude about life. I don’t believe that Calvinism must naturally takes you down that path, but I think one has to be a little fuzzy in a few of the particulars of Calvinistic thinking to avoid some traps of going to its extremes. That won’t endear you to the purists. But then some of the purists are too pure for Calvin, so there you have it!

      And to provide a counter, Arminianism keeps people in a constant fear for their salvation when it is practiced in its extreme too. It tends to wallow in do’s and dont’s instead of focusing on the person of Jesus Christ. As Calvinist pastor John Piper says, “God is the Gospel,” yet too many Arminians forget this. I’ve run into people who have been baptized over and over and over again because they are always being converted over and over. There’s no confidence in Christ there; it’s all confidence in performance. And that’s not Christianity.

      So both “teams” have got problems. I come down somewhere in the middle. This means that either both teams like me because they think I’ll eventually fully play for their team, or they write me off as a heretic. Either way, I’m cool with it!

      • “One of my greatest concerns about Calvinism is that too many of the young Calvinists I meet today have such a fatalistic attitude about life.”

        This drives me nuts more than almost anything else I’ve seen in “young Calvinism” (rampant arrogance being the lone exception).

        The takeaway point about the Calvinist understanding of God’s sovereignty isn’t, “it doesn’t matter what we try to do, so who cares?” Rather, “stop worrying about what will be; simply trust God to ‘work in you both to will and to act according to His good pleasure,’ and leave the results of those actions in His hands.” I’ve noticed that Calvinists with Type-A (some might say “choleric”) personalities seem to be the ones with the most trouble recognizing this distinction.

        I can’t “make” someone love me, but I can love regardless. Jesus calls me to do the latter, not the former.

        (Shoot, I can’t make the mechanic up the road look at my only car in a reasonable timeframe! But I can hold my tongue when every inch of my body wants to yell and scream and curse him. And I can pray that they fix the thing and get it back to us before my pregnant wife’s appointment with her midwives on Tuesday.) 😉

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