During almost 89 years, I never lived alone. Then my wife died. Sensing my need, my sons took turns spending the night with me for a couple of weeks. Since then, for two years now, I have lived alone. My sole companion has been my little dog Buddy, who sleeps in my bedroom but not in my bed.
I had several choices about the challenge of learning to live alone. I could wallow in self- pity. I could move into an assisted-living community. I could search for someone who might live with me. Since none of these options seemed wise, I decided to begin practicing what I had been preaching for 70 years: We can find strength and comfort in the presence of God.
That God is everywhere is a fundamental biblical truth. In Psalm 139, King David reminds us there is no place where one may escape the presence of God. There is no hiding place, even in the darkness, for “the night will shine like the day” to God. This is called the omnipresence of God. Its truth is reinforced by the familiar biblical name for God, Immanuel, which means “God with us.” So God is “with” us not now and then but in every circumstance of life.
The assurance of God’s presence with us provides awesome encouragement as we face life’s hardships. Just today, a card arrived from a dear friend on which he had written, “As you have often reminded us by the way you live, our Lord Jesus Christ is always with us. May what God said to Joshua bless you today: ‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.’” As I read those words, I felt the tender yet inexpressible presence of God!
Our faith is strengthened by the biblical stories of people who experienced the presence of God — from Adam and Eve to John the Revelator. As we struggle with our own adversities, we find hope in reading how Saint Paul endured persecution because “The Lord stood by me and strengthened me” (2 Timothy 4:17). In faith we cry out, “Lord, do for me what you did for Paul!” Then, blessed with the certainty that our Lord has been with us, we can affirm with the Psalmist: “In Thy presence is fullness of joy” (16:11)!
For countless centuries, God’s people have testified to the reality of God’s presence in their lives. Beyond those described in the Bible, we have the written testimonies of prominent Christians like Augustine, Martin Luther, John Wesley, C. S. Lewis, Billy Graham and others who have verified God’s presence in their lives.
One lesser-known Christian whose testimony inspired me was Nicholas Herman, a lay brother in a Carmelite monastery in Paris during the 17th century. Better known as “Brother Lawrence,” Herman was not a great writer. But after his death, a fellow monk compiled Herman’s unusual accounts of his intimacy with God in a book that became a Christian classic, “The Practice of the Presence of God.”
Brother Lawrence’s testimony has inspired many, including me, to believe that we can live a holy life pleasing to God within the daily routine of common life. Lawrence learned to “practice” God’s presence primarily in the monastery kitchen. There, while cooking vegetables or scrubbing pots and pans, and without the use of lofty rituals, Lawrence became keenly conscious of God’s strengthening presence. He called it doing common tasks “wholly for the love of God,” allowing the mundane to become a channel into rich encounters with God.
I love the way he described how he achieved intimacy with God: “It is not needful to have great thing to do. We can do little things for God; I turn the cake frying on the pan for love of Him, and that done, if there is nothing else to do, I prostate myself in worship before Him who has given me grace to work. Afterward, I rise happier than a king. It is enough for me to pick up a straw from the ground for the love of God.”
Imagine that — happier than a king! If Brother Lawrence could let his daily chores lead him into the joy of the Lord’s presence, I can do that too! So that has become my plan for overcoming the difficulty of living alone: Do what has to be done for the love of God while embracing the joy of His presence!
Frying an egg, heating a Pop Tart, washing dishes, refilling the bird feeder outside the window of the Glory Room, or serving Buddy another bowl of dog food — each chore becomes a holy moment. I talk to God, thanking Him for the sacrifices Dean made for me and our boys for 88 years, or praising Him for the friends whose support and encouragement keep me going. I don’t fret over having to scrub a pot because I am thanking God for the thousands of meals Dean prepared for me and my children, while, in her words, I “was out somewhere saving the world!”
Is it a challenge to achieve daily sacred moments with the Lord? Of course it is. I continue to be lonely for Dean’s presence, her affirmation and companionship. But when loneliness knocks on my door, I don’t answer it and remind myself that I am actually never alone because the Lord Jesus is with me — and He is all I need to make it to the finish line.
Since God is everywhere, He is with me. And because He is, I can shout it with joy that comes from the fullness of His Presence — Glory!