Ministry Can Be Lonely
“Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus remained at Corinth, and I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus. Do your best to come before winter. Eubulus sends greetings to you, as do Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brothers. The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.” (2 Timothy 4:9–22, ESV)
Paul seems to feel isolated and alone. He wants Timothy to try and visit Paul soon. Paul's situation in a Roman dungeon was difficult, to say the least. He longs for companionship as he faces his final days. There is a sense of urgency in these words as Paul entreats his friend. When reading the Bible, it is important to remember that God is working through actual people facing real circumstances. Paul is not immune to loneliness, and his body suffers from the cold. He needs to occupy his mind, and there is a profound sense of loss as he recounts being deserted by friends. Dumas had defected because he was in love with the world. Other companions were called away for service in different places. Crescens had made his way to Galatia while Titus had journeyed to Dalmatia. The Christian is made for community and fellowship. God himself exists in a community of Father, Son, and Spirit in perfect unity and harmony. Man was never meant to be alone. The Genesis speaks of God declaring that it is not good for man to be alone.
Surrounded But Lonely
Loneliness can be more than just physical. One can be surrounded by a myriad of people and still feel alone. It is possible to feel isolated emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Ministers may experience a sense of despair, loneliness, or failure when there is little or no response to ministry efforts. Depression is seen in many biblical characters. Suicidal thoughts, frustration, irrational responses, disconnection from reality are all exposed in the God's story. Think of people like Moses, Elijah, or David as they faced demons that no one else could see. There can be a distance experienced when one is called to be a leader, pastor, or Christian minister. Paul knows that God is with him, but he does not need a cheer up and recognize that everything is going to be okay pep talk. Paul needs his friends. Luke is there, but he feels that he needs more. He sent Tychicus to Ephesus perhaps to free up Timothy so that he could come for a visit. In his cold, dark, miserable cell, Paul could feel winter approaching and knew that the shivering would only get worse. Paul requests the books and the parchments to occupy his mind during the long hours of solitude.
Gloom, Despair, And Praise
Paul had suffered harm at the hands of Alexander the coppersmith, but he was leaving judgment and vengeance to the Lord. He cautions Timothy to be wary of him and guard against being harmed as well. Evidently, Alexander had actively opposed Paul and his message about Jesus. This action may have proved particularly hurtful since no one attended Paul at his preliminary trial and not a single person from the Christian community in Rome came to speak in his defense. Paul found himself all alone. There may be an occasion where one has to stand alone, but God is faithful and will never abandon his own even in death. The Lord strengthened Paul, not because he wanted Paul comfortable, but because God wanted the message of Jesus fully proclaimed to the Gentiles. Paul declares that God rescued him from the lion's mouth. God would always rescue Paul even if it meant his ultimate rescue which would bring him safely to his heavenly kingdom. Even in loneliness, hardship, and isolation, Paul cannot help but worship his God as he exclaims that he is worthy of glory forever and ever. Imagine that. Paul narrates his suffering and ends with words of worship and grace. Paul concludes this letter with greetings, information, and instructions. One may recognize some of these names, but there will be some that are not very prominent. God often works through ordinary faithful believers. There are many faithful people whose names may not emerge from the annals of history, but God knows, and the righteous judge will reward them for their faithfulness and may the prayer that concludes this letter be the prayer that rests over them, “The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.” (2 Timothy 4:22).