“Hi you’ve reached ____________, I’m not here to take your call just now, but please leave me a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as I’m able.”

I can’t tell you how many times I heard this sort of voicemail message in the early days of my return to faith. I was struggling painfully with a host of personal issues, and both my therapist and my recovery group had been generous with their contact numbers. And still, I would come to a particularly hard place and find myself utterly alone in it. I never seemed to be able to get anyone on the line when I most needed them.

I have a strong suspicion that were it not for that experience of feeling repeatedly abandoned by others, I might never have heard the message most likely to occupy God’s voicemail (were God to ever make use of such a thing): “Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

It’s a lot harder to call God up and receive that beautiful message when we ignore the basic human need to be alone, at least sometimes. In solitary stillness, as we grow to know our pain, our glory and everything in between, we also become more able to experience God working through it all.

I would love to tell you that whenever I am alone, sad or afraid now, I instantly feel God with me. The truth is something more like this. I have begun…to be able…to consider the possibility that…whatever life’s various fails – whatever the mini-Armageddons I face – I am able to be especially present to God if I allow myself to experience the pain of the moment.

Somehow, being present to that pain is also the way I am able to hear pain’s ultimate answer, love in God Most High.

Thankfully, though, God doesn’t depend on me getting it right in order for love to keep working in my life. That’s the promise we get in Jesus, that whatever the catastrophic end in which we find ourselves, God is constantly there, working the new out of the ashes of the old.

We are not alone, even to the end of the age. Thanks be to God!