By Steven Norris

     In the midst of a week filled with questioning, pain, and unspeakable horror, we all need to be reminded that God is with us. Though darkness threatens us, it will not overcome us. May we stand secure on the promise that we are not (and never will be) alone.

     In addition to the familiar “I am” statements of Jesus in John’s Gospel, pastor Rich Villodas recently tweeted that Jesus also makes three “I am not” statements in chapter 8 that profoundly shape our understanding of what it means to live as His disciples.

     To begin, Jesus said, “…I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me.” (John 8:16). In the original context, Jesus is talking about the authority of his testimony. In doing so, however, he articulates an important point about his nature and echoes God’s promise to be present with us in the midst of trial.

     From the opening verses of our Bible, the story centers on the community of faith. Formed in God’s image (Genesis 1:27), humanity was created for interconnection and communion. The only thing declared “not good” in creation was that Adam was alone.

     Numerous times throughout the scripture, God affirms the commitment to be with us, to never leave us or forsake us, and to live within the hearts of people of faith. Consider the following scripture passages:

     “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

     “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8).

     “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

     “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 29:19-20).

     On Wednesday morning, I sat alone in the chapel of our church for quite some time. I wept for the senseless loss of life in the Uvalde shooting. I wept for the victims, the perpetrator, and for a community broken by the destructive chaos of sin. I wept because I felt helpless to do anything or say anything of substance that would ease the suffering of our world.

     But as I wept, I was reminded that I am not alone. As the Apostle Paul put it: And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gave you life . . . The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you” (Romans 8:10-11).

     God’s presence may not answer our deepest questions, but it gives strength to endure and reminds us that we are not alone.