At times I feel alone and on my own with my faith. This tends to occur when work becomes overly stressful, personal relationships become strained, or the unexpected occurs. This happened recently: hoping to have our first child, my wife and I discovered infertility issues. Though I yearned for it, I was not able to recognize God’s presence in these struggles. It was a lonely, painful time.

In today’s first reading, Paul encounters his own desolation while teaching and proclaiming the Gospel. God reassures Paul that “I am with you” and “I have many people in this city.” The vision affirms God’s presence and reminds Paul there is a community of support to help him move beyond fear and towards action.

The reality is, even when I feel distant, even in the midst of despair, God is present, surrounding me with a community of people who reflect God’s love, strength, hope, compassion, and mercy. Experiencing these gifts through others enables me move forward with courage.

How can I better recognize God’s love and support in the people around me even during trying times?

—Andy Rebollar is a Pastoral Associate at St. Pius X Parish in Grandville, MI and writes for Charis Ministries.