Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

December 13, 2020


The Joy of God’s Presence


            During the weeks of my wife’s rehabilitation from hip surgery, she and I both tested positive for the Covid-19 virus. Family members and dear friends asked repeatedly, “What can we do for you?” The key word was “do.” When you are hurting, the people who love you want to do something for you.

            One friend’s response was to bring us some black-eyed peas, cornbread and fried chicken. Mighty fine eating! Of course, that was a welcome blessing. Sharing good food is one fine way of doing something for struggling friends. However, the big question remains: Is there something more significant that you may do for friends who are not only sick but possibly facing death?

            After pondering that dilemma for weeks, I have come up with one solid answer: pray earnestly that your friends will experience the joy of God’s presence in their crisis hours. Nothing is more important to the human soul than the peace and joy of God’s loving presence. The Psalmist David said it well: “You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever” (Psalm 16:11).

            John Wesley was the founder of Methodism. After a short illness, he died at 87 in 1791. Too weak to get out of bed, Wesley was surrounded by his doctor and a few friends during his last week. One of them shared some of his last words. More than once Wesley tried to sing the hymn by Isaac Watts that he loved:


I’ll praise my Maker while I’ve breath;

and when my voice is lost in death,

praise shall employ my nobler powers.

My days of praise shall ne’er be past,

while life, and thought, and being last,

or immortality endures.


Fully aware of God’s presence with him on his deathbed, Wesley desired to praise God in his last hours. Friends said that with his final breath, he said twice, “The best of all is, God is with us!” The first Methodist was praising God for the joy of his presence!

            Some of my dear friends have shared with me that they are indeed praying earnestly for Dean and me to feel the joy of God’s presence in these days. And to help me realize God’s presence, they have been emailing me songs that affirm His presence. Several that do that for me are precious songs such as “Jesus is all the world to me,” “Trust and Obey,” “There is Power in the Blood,” “I Stand Amazed in the Presence,” “What a Day that will Be,” and “Because He Lives.”

            Corine and Van Free sent me the lyrics of a song I had not heard before. These words were like music to my soul:

“’I’ve seen the lightning flashing,

And heard the thunder roll,

I’ve felt sin’s breakers dashing,

Trying to conquer my soul;

I’ve heard the voice of my Savior,

Telling me still to fight on,

He promised never to leave me,

Never to leave me alone.

The world’s fierce winds are blowing,

Temptation’s sharp and keen,

I have a peace in knowing

My Savior stands between –

He stands to shield me from danger,

When earthly friends are gone,

He promised never to leave me,

Never to leave me alone.

When in affliction’s valley

I’m treading the road of care,

My Savior helps me to carry

My cross when heavy to bear.

Though all around me is darkness,

Earthly joys all flown;

My Savior whispers His promise,

“I will never leave you alone.”

He died for me on the mountain,

For me they pierced His side,

For me He opened that fountain,

The crimson, cleansing tide;

For me He’s waiting in glory,

Upon His heavenly throne:

He promised never to leave me,

Never to leave me alone.


There are no words to fully describe the glory that filled my soul as I read those words over and over again, sometimes singing them with a tune of my own choosing.

            My friend Ralph Freeman has published a wonderful book about his life as a Song Evangelist, and included with the book a CD of 12 songs he recorded. I wept as I listened to Ralph singing “Jesus Walked This Lonesome Valley,” “No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus,” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” (Ralph’s book, Surrender – The Ultimate Trail to Freedom, and the CD, are available from

            So, what may we do to help friends who are struggling? My best answer is this: Pray for them and share songs of faith with them. Pray that they will be constantly aware of the joyful presence of God and share songs that will remind them of our Lord’s precious promises. The one that brings peace to my soul daily is this one by Jesus: “I will be with you always.” Yes, Lord, Yes! + +