Not Alone and Other Stories

I recently read the Stories of Life anthology, Bones and Blue Eyes,* mostly because (shameless self-plug alert) I had two stories published in it, but also because I was genuinely interested in other people’s stories of everyday faith. 

The book was a blessing. There was a vast mixture of stories short and long, telling tales when God had been present in subtle and overt ways. One writer told of a friend who reached out for help when she was suicidal. Another told about her scars and urged us to tell our ‘scar stories’. There were wild elephants and blacksmithery, miraculous healings and non-healings, times of grief and slivers of hope. 

One story in particular spoke to me: ‘Not Alone’ by Rebekah Matson. Struck down by illness, Rebekah’s son was forced to spend time in hospital, where Rebekah faced the possibility of his death or lifelong illness. Feeling terribly alone, and doubting her faith, God visited her—in the form of two wonderful friends. One plays cards with her, and the other prays for her son. 

Rebekah shared about the blessing of those two visitors: ‘Sometimes our prayers aren’t answered by miraculously being healed or our troubles melting away. Mostly it’s by other humans being obedient to a prompting to enter an uncomfortable space and be present.’

Mostly it’s other humans being obedient to a prompting to enter an uncomfortable space.

Uncomfortable spaces. Illness, hospitals, crises of faith—these are very uncomfortable spaces. Yet in that place, Rebekah spoke a truth that rang true for me, that we do not have to face these things alone. We may feel terribly alone, and yes, there will be suffering only we can endure. But we do not have to do them alone. 

I need to remember that. I also need to get better at reaching out for, and accepting, that help. 

We do not have to face these things alone.

All too often, we get swept up in the knee-jerk ‘Let’s pray for healing’ response to illness. Yes, God sometimes heals, but there are a whole lot of times he doesn’t heal. Instead, God lets us walk through terrible things—but he never intends for us to walk alone. He is God-with-us, and he accompanies us through each weary step and every devastating turn. 

I am not suggesting we stop praying for healing, by the way. Let’s continue to ask for healing, but let’s also ask for other things we need: wisdom, peace that surpasses understanding, supernatural trust, helpful support people, and the grace to endure whatever adventure may befall us. 

God is in it with us. No matter what. 

God is in it with us. No matter what.

And the presence of true friends can be an even greater blessing than healing itself. Okay, healing would be pretty great too. But in the absence of healing, friendship can buoy us up in special ways, especially when accompanied by distraction, laughter and prayer. 

How do you cope with the challenges of illness and suffering? How have you experienced the presence of God and true friends in those times? Do you, like me, need to get better at reaching out and receiving help? Share your story. Let’s have a countercultural conversation. 

*Purchase at

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