"You are not alone …" This is a refrain from the final song in Stephen Sondheim's musical, "Into the Woods."
In the production, characters from childhood stories have adventures and encounter "dangers" in the woods. Little Red Riding Hood meets that devious wolf and strays off the path, Jack is tricked into selling his loved cow for those five worthless beans. Cinderella is afraid when chased by a smitten but flighty prince. In the final scene, after slaying a rampaging giant, the four survivors are comforted by that message, "You are not alone."
I'd seen this musical before and loved it, but this time I got the really important message it conveys. The woods are a metaphor for life, for the temptations, dangers, and challenges we all face.
I'd had my own time "in the woods" and seen the truth of that message, "You are not alone." For a long time, I've known that we are never alone. My certainty rests on what I know of God – that God is almighty power and infinite Love. Biblical passages describing God as our Father and indicating God as our Mother offer comfort. Knowing God as Father and Mother speaks to me of something very tangible, very practical about God. They imply an at-your-side God, a taking-care-of-your-needs God. So when I found myself living alone when I hadn't for over 30 years, I knew I could trust God. It wasn't always easy. But God's help for me was always there.
A nagging fear was that I might face a health crisis – alone. Again, the Bible's message was a comfort. Over and over, in so many different ways, the Bible says that God is Love and that God loves us. It includes countless examples of divine care and deliverance in all sorts of dire situations. Lions were not a danger to Daniel. The three Hebrew men weren't burned when thrown into a fiery furnace. Paul was safe after being bitten by a poisonous snake. Lazarus was raised from the dead. And I knew of present-day situations when friends had found God's care to be equally immediate and effective.
I knew that I could trust God to take care of me. And I saw multiple instances of God's practical help. Then there was one special, unmistakable proof that I was not alone or uncared for.
Early one morning, while I was moving in a normal way, something happened in my back. The pain was intense and movement very restricted. I was able to call a friend and ask her to pray with me. After that, I could only crawl, and once I sat down, I couldn't move without more pain than I could take.
I began to pray, out loud actually. My prayer was recognizing God's love for me and affirming that because of His love, I had to be safe and cared for. It surely didn't feel that way, but I knew I had to make a choice. I could be involved with the fear and pain, or I could keep my focus on God and His power, which meant He was rightly and wisely caring for me, and on His love, which had to be all-embracing and protecting. Keeping my focus on God was critical.
I don't know how long I prayed, but at some point a voice in my head, which I knew had to be God speaking to me, said, "Try to get up. I will help you." I was able to get up. Then the phone in the next room rang. It seemed natural to answer it. From that point on, I was able to move with more and more freedom. I was able to dress and do the work I had for that day.
I'm still in awe of this clear evidence that I was not and would never be, alone. I was with God. Always.
That promise of God's love is all-inclusive. God has no favorites. He doesn't forget or neglect anyone. His infinite love is there for each of us. None of us is ever alone.
The Lord will command his lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night
his song shall be with me. Psalms 42:8