You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes. 2 Timothy 1:15 (NIV).
When Paul wrote this verse, he was in prison, awaiting execution. Phygelus and Hermogenes were assistants, acolytes of Paul who (apparently) had helped him during his ministry in Asia Minor. Whether they had deserted him there or in Rome we don’t know for sure. All we do know from this verse is that they deserted him. Not only, but Paul wrote that EVERYONE he had met in Asia had stopped contact with him, denied him, deserted him; a hyperbole, to be sure, but that probably isn’t how it felt to Paul. He knew the Romans wouldn’t let him live long and he felt desperately lonely.
That must be how Jesus felt on the cross. Not long before the end, Jesus must have felt abandoned and alone. In a mystery we won’t understand this side of heaven, God the Father abandoned Christ there, turning his face from His Son while still being fully one and with and in Him at the same time. It’s how Jesus redeemed us from our sins. And we don’t know how long that time lasted, only that it happened.
It must have felt desperately lonely.
I think of Paul under arrest, probably in a cell. His friends have gone. His guards denigrate and mock him. He knows the feeling of the whip and knows what it is like to be bound in chains. Did Phygelus and Hermogenes abandon God by abandoning Paul’s ministry? That seems plausible, but we don’t really know; against Paul the intellectual, that might have been the worst thing a person could do. All we know is that Paul was there in prison, nearing his date with the executioner, and his soul was in pain because these two people, whom Paul had counted as friends, were dead to him.
It must have felt lonely but Paul wasn’t really alone. He never was, not even once. Neither are we.
When you’re going through divorce; when you’re fired from your job; when you’re in stage four chemo; when you watch someone die; when the car from nowhere slams into yours; when the IRS audits you; when your friend breaks your heart…when, when, whenever. Whenever you feel most alone, don’t believe it. It’s a ruse from the evil one to take your eyes off Jesus, who is with and in and beside you. When you hurt, He hurts. When you’re worried, He is saddened. When you’re in tears, He cries with you. He did with Paul, too.
I read the verse and I feel sorry for Paul. But take heart, good friend. There are better words ahead. Just as there were better days ahead for Paul, especially after the swing of the Roman axe.
For further reading: 2 Timothy 16.
Loving Jesus, You are never away from me. Forgive me for forgetting this. Stay with me today, and help me to help encourage others.