He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.
-- Revelation 21:4
It was a place of suffering known to this day as The Rock.
It's Alcatraz, the infamous maximum security prison situated in the midst of San Francisco Bay. Originally a pre-Civil War era military outpost and later a military prison, Alcatraz was the last stop for society's worst-of-the-worst when it re-opened in 1934 as an escape-proof penitentiary.
The Rock's ultra-strict code of discipline helped the facility earn its nickname "Hellcatraz." In its infamous "D" block, prisoners lived in 4' x 8' cells and were allowed out just once a week for a 10-minute shower. "Harsher punishments," reports the Legends of America website, included "solitary confinement, in total darkness, for days without any release, or confinement in the dreaded steel boxes."
Alcatraz finally closed its doors in 1963. But today there are still millions of Americans suffering in solitary confinement. Not in a prison or jail--but through loneliness. Even in a crowded nation of more than 300 million, too many people are on their own without close friends or family. They know all too well that it's possible to be lonely without ever being alone.
This was never God's plan for His people. But we all to some extent have trouble forming relationships--with each other and with God. If you go back to Genesis, the first book of the Bible, God put the first man and woman in a perfect, carefree existence called Eden. There were no job deadlines, traffic jams, illnesses or broken marriages. And it was a place where God literally walked with His creation. But when the man and woman intentionally disobeyed God's instructions and sinned, things were never the same. Adam and Eve's eyes were opened and they realized the damage they had done. And then they literally hid from their Creator. Their sin had built a wall between them and God.
We're no different today. In addition to our own sins, we also run from relationships because of what others have done to us. We're determined to avoid being disappointed or hurt again. It's too easy to be let down. And it's much easier to run.
The good news is that God has a two-fold solution to this problem. First, He re-established a relationship between Him and us through His Son, Jesus. As Christ-followers, we're literally God's sons and daughters. And there's an incredible inheritance awaiting us. Second, there's the Church, which is made of all the Christ-followers around the world. It's a body of imperfect people like you and me who are all looking for the same thing: a safe place to rest from the world, heal our spiritual wounds and make lifelong relationships.
Are you in a place of suffering? You're never alone in Christ.