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You're Not the Only One


I am currently preaching through Ezra, and my text last Sunday was Ezra 4. It’s the most challenging section of Ezra to follow because the story begins in 536 B.C., jumps to ca. 480 B.C., then to ca. 450 B.C., and finally returns to 536 B.C. It’s such a unique chapter that liberal scholars dismiss it as evidence that the narrator was confused and did a poor job compiling the book. However, the narrator clearly marks each chronological jump, and if you pay attention to the timestamps, the chapter is fairly easy to follow.

But this post is not an argument for inerrancy. Rather, I want to consider an important human tendency that the author anticipated and answered in Ezra 4. Specifically, when we endure trials and temptations, we often despair because we believe things like, “I’m the only one who has ever faced this,” “This is the worst thing ever,” or “My trial will never end.” Satan wants to isolate us in our hardship and overwhelm our perspective. If he succeeds, we spiral into despair, apathy, and bitterness.

The author was concerned that Israel would have these responses to the opposition their ancestors faced. Therefore, he answers with a brilliant strategy. He steps back from the opposition in 536 B.C., and he compares it to other periods of opposition to demonstrate that evil always resists God’s work. Therefore, our pain is not unique, and we are not alone.

Hebrews 11–12 make a similar argument. The original audience was enduring great hardship for following Christ, and some were tempted to quit. Therefore, Hebrews 11 references godly saints of the past who faced great trials and temptations but who endured by faith. Hebrews 12:1 applies the illustrations by stating, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb 12:1). In other words, plenty of godly people have been where you are. You are not alone. And God’s grace sustained them; therefore, you can be certain that his grace will sustain you and carry you to the finish line.

Remember the example of Ezra 4 and Hebrews 11–12 the next time you face a difficult trial or temptation. Satan wants to isolate you, cause you to panic, and deceive you into believing there is no way forward. Step back and remember that many godly people have walked your path before you. It’s possible that you have walked this path yourself. Then remember that God has repeatedly sustained his people through similar hardships; therefore, you can be sure that he will sustain you through whatever is ahead.

In particular, remember that those who have gone before you may be nearer than you realize—sitting next to you in church. Yet sadly, Christians often feel isolated within the church. I’ve heard them say, “I feel like the only sinner here,” “Everyone around me is so perfect,” or “I’m the only one with problems.” These claims are never true, but Satan uses them to isolate Christians from the grace available in the community of God’s people. Do not be fooled, and do not let fear or pride keep you from running to your brothers and sisters. In your darkest moments move toward the church and cry out for help. Yes, making yourself vulnerable can be scary, and people will not always offer a perfect word of encouragement. They may even say something really stupid. But as a rule, you will find that you are not alone. Some are fighting the same battle, and you can lean on each other through it. Others have gone before you and can offer hope, wisdom, and perspective for the fight. Still others are eager to love you and pray for you even if their struggles are different.

Resist the narrow, isolated perspective of your trials and temptations that Satan wants you to believe. Many have gone before you, and others are right beside you. You are not alone.

1 Comment

When my husband died it felt like the entire world had collapsed around me. That is when I was encouraged to come to church and meet with others who had gone through periods of grief and how God helped them not go around the feelings but to go through them. When I was able to see others live normal lives I came to realize that God is always with me and will hold my hand through all events. I can always count on Him.

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