By WALTER ALBRITTON
It was more than an “Aha” moment. More like a gripping moment of conviction. I was reading these words in the 16th chapter of John’s Gospel: “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me” (16:32).
Jesus was explaining to his disciples that the time of his crucifixion was near and that they would all flee in fear, leaving him alone. Yet he quickly added that he would not be alone, for his Father was with him.
As I read those words, I heard the Inner Voice say to me, not sternly but firmly, “You need to stop talking about feeling lonely, for you are never alone; I am always with you.”
I knew immediately this was a message from God, and I knew why it had come. Since the death of my wife, I had often found myself sharing with my family and friends how lonely I was now. I made light of it by saying I had no one to talk with but my dog Buddy. Honesty compels me to admit the truth: I wanted sympathy for my loneliness.
Remorse settled upon me like a fog as I reflected on the difference between my loneliness and that of Jesus. I had a large family surrounding me with love and encouragement. I had friends who were constantly interrupting my loneliness with visits, calls and meals. He was being beaten and nailed to a cross while his friends cowered in terror, hiding in their homes.
That same day my friend Roy Jordan, from Demopolis, Alabama, called and asked me a strange question: “Do you know where I can get the choral music for our church choir to sing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone?’”
Why ask me? There must have been a dozen people in his hometown he could have called. I knew the answer. God wanted Roy to put that song in my mind. I told him where to find the music and then began pondering the words of that song:
When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark
At the end of the storm
There’s a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark
Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Tho’ your dreams be tossed and blown
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone
Written by Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers, this is one of the most popular songs ever written, but there is no Jesus in it. I wondered why. How can you walk on through the storms of life, with hope in your heart, and never feel alone without the assurance that the Lord is with you? I checked and found that Hammerstein, though a Jew, had been raised an Episcopalian but never took his faith seriously. Rodgers, also a Jew, became an atheist. His wife said Richard felt that religion was based on fear. I would like to think that Hammerstein wanted to add Jesus to the song, but Rodgers rejected the idea.
If I were to sing that song, I would have to compose a final verse that might read something like this:
Yes, praise God, I’ll walk on
With hope in my heart
For Jesus is with me
And He has promised
I’ll never walk alone
No, praise the Lord,
I’ll never walk alone
As though it was orchestrated by God, Roy Jordan called me a second time to remind me of the story of Bill Tucker, the Auburn quarterback who was stricken by polio in 1951 while Roy and I were students at Auburn. Bill was Roy’s “Big Brother” in their fraternity. Roy remembered pushing Bill around in his wheelchair and sometimes taking him to share his testimony with youth groups. Bill usually concluded by singing, of all things, the song, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” And because Bill loved Jesus, I’m sure he must have added Jesus to the song!
My friend Roy never dreamed he was teaming up with God to help me stop talking about feeling lonely. When he reads this, he will know I have stopped, with his help and the Lord’s. And I am walking on, with hope in my heart, because Jesus is with me, and I’m not alone.