On this day in 1973, the last U.S. fighting troops pulled out of South Vietnam, the result of the Paris Peace Accords held in January. Sadly, the war did not end with the withdrawal. The North Vietnamese violated the cease-fire agreement and resumed fighting in early 1974.
On April 30, 1975, American civil workers still in South Vietnam were airlifted out of the country as Saigon cratered to communist forces. “You have nothing to fear; between Vietnamese there are no victors and no vanquished,” commented North Vietnamese Colonel Bui Tin as he accepted the unconditional surrender of South Vietnam later that day. “Only the Americans have been defeated.”
Even as death and defeat loomed over Jesus, he promised not to forsake his disciples. His words must have seemed empty as Peter and the others witnessed his arrest. Later all hopes were crushed when word came to them that their Master had been flogged and hammered to a Roman cross. As soldiers rolled the stone over his grave, his followers dashed into secret rooms, barring the doors in fear of the authorities. Jesus was gone, all his promises dead.
Then came the first day of the week. The stone had been rolled away, the graveclothes deserted, unbelievable reports of an empty grave. Jesus later appeared to his amazed disciples, sharing a meal of fish and inviting them to touch him. Finally, gathering them on a hillside, he parted with the assurance that “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:16-20). His promises were true!
Yes, sometimes it seems that God is not with us. When a loved one dies, the pain seems to override his presence. When a child or friend disappoints us, we wonder where the Divine Presence went. During this COVID-19 pandemic, we may wonder if God has permanently left us.
Christian, do not despair! In the whirlwind of tribulation, we must stand firmly on this bedrock truth: God is here, even when we can’t “feel” him. We are like children who feel abandoned when our father goes away on a business trip. Still, we have food on the table, a roof over our heads, clothes on our back. Our father still provides. He is still with us in spirit, working behind the scenes to ultimately give us what we need.
It is the same with God. In the physical absence of Jesus, we have the Comforter with us, wrapping us in the presence of Christ. His Word remains. His Spirit abides in us. We are not orphaned, after all.