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Never Alone

I’ll never forget Marie’s words.

I am never alone.

She spoke in French, her mother tongue, with a reassuring tone. We were sitting in her living room at the time, and though the words came out of nowhere, I knew exactly what she meant.

I knew immediately because of what we share.

Marie is my first cousin once removed—my father’s first cousin. She’s ninety-four years of age. I first visited her when I was sixteen. It was my first solo trip abroad. Back then, she lived in Basel, and I would sit in her presence for hours. In her kitchen, I learnt how to make salad sauces and helped her prepare the evening meal. I never felt in the way; she always made room for me. On this past visit, in June 2023, I felt just as welcome. Her home is a place of warmth, order, and love. The view from her balcony is breathtaking and so beautiful.

I am never alone.

These words are so precious to both of us now. In 1983, unknown to each other, we both began to follow Jesus. I was twenty-three and she was fifty-five. Of course, it radically changed our conversations. From then on, we grew much closer, learning and growing together in our faith. She lived in a different country, but we wrote to each other and spoke on the phone. She was, and is, truly a gift of God to me.

Marie has not had an easy life. Her husband, who’s now passed away, did love her, but he was also emotionally abusive most of their married life. Indeed, he was so brusque and unpleasant at times that due to his behaviour, she lost several friends. Not only that, but one of her sons is estranged from the family to this day because of the way his father treated him. I also felt this man’s harsh tones. Once, he even asked me why I bothered coming to visit. He probably expected me to abandon Marie as others had. I told him that I loved my cousin, though I don’t think he understood what I meant.

Through it all, however, Marie never lost hope. She believed that in spite of the many difficulties she faced, God had given her husband to her for a purpose. As he declined in his later years, she displayed immense patience and love, nursing him right up to his death at the age of eighty. That was eighteen years ago.

I am never alone.

These words were especially important to her in moments of profound grief. Her grandson fell to his death on a hike. He was just sixteen. As she grieved, she still opened her heart and her home to me, inviting me in and displaying the same extraordinary hospitality that I had always received.

I am never alone.

Where did this conviction come from? I believe it grew. I believe she made room for it to grow. And I believe it grew from a habit known as ‘practicing the presence of God.’ Each day, she rose early and completed her chores. Then she made breakfast and by 9.30am, everything was put away, her husband had left for work, and she was alone. That’s when she disappeared into her craft room for between thirty minutes to an hour. This was her ‘alone time’. This was her chance to spend time with her Lord, listening to him, reading his Word, and praying. Without this time, I’m not sure she could have survived her marriage.

It was essential to her wellbeing. It gave her inner strength and resilience.

Her story reminds me of another—the movie, War Room, released in 2015. The main character also has a prayer room and like Marie, comes to faith later in life. Her prayer room is her ‘war room’, the location where she pours out her heart to God, doing battle in the spiritual realm, and trusting her Saviour to answer her prayers.

I wonder if you have a ‘war room,’ a place where you come to spend time each day with your Saviour. Recently, I’ve been impacted by the teaching of Brother Lawrence and Frank Laubach, two men who wrote about the spiritual life—especially as it relates to our daily dependence on God. Here’s Brother Lawrence.

The difficulties of life do not have to be unbearable. It is the way we look at them - through faith or unbelief - that makes them seem so. We must be convinced that our Father is full of love for us and that He only permits trials to come our way for our own good. Let us occupy ourselves entirely in knowing God. The more we know Him, the more we will desire to know Him. As love increases with knowledge, the more we know God, the more we will truly love Him. We will learn to love Him equally in times of distress or in times of great joy.

The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence

On a similar theme, Frank Laubach wrote these words in 1930.

Oh, this thing of keeping in constant touch with God, making Him the object of my thought and the companion of my conversations, is the most amazing thing I ever ran across. It is working. I cannot do it even half a day — not yet, but I believe I shall be doing it some day for the entire day. It is a matter of acquiring a new habit of thought. Now I like God’s presence so much that when for a half hour or so He slips out of mind — as He does many times a day, I feel as though I had deserted Him, and as though I had lost something very precious in my life.

The writer of Hebrews addresses our daily dependence on God by linking the key to endurance with the practice of keeping our eyes on Jesus.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

Heb 12.1-2a

I am never alone.

A life in ministry can be lonely at times. Leaders sometimes feel isolated from those they lead. They need support and encouragement. Living Leadership can help, but so too can the habit of practicing the presence of God.

For you are never, ever alone.

A verse from the prophet Isaiah has been of immense comfort to Marie. I pray that as you read, you too are comforted by it.

So do not fear, for I am with you;

do not be dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you;

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isa 41.10

Even in the depths of loneliness and struggle, Marie held onto her Saviour and the truth of this verse. For her God did strengthen her, did help her, and continues to do so. She is ninety-four, and close to the day when she will meet her Saviour face to face. Yet still she clings to him. Even after all these years.

For she knows her God is faithful and true.

He upholds her with his righteous right hand.

May he do the same for you. Each and every day.


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