He [Abba Poemen] said that Abba Theonas said, “Even if a man acquires a virtue, God does not grant him grace for himself alone.” He knew that he was not faithful in his own labour, but that if he went to his companion, God would be with him. 
Grace is not given to us to be individuals separated from each other. We are called to be the Body of Christ, the Church, a community. While there is an element of our spiritual development in which we work out our own salvation within ourselves, developing different virtues to combat various vices, not everything can be done all alone. We need to be with others, to work with them, and indeed, for them. We will find out that when we sin, when we fail God, going out to be with our brother or sister, we will find out God’s presence will be there with us, giving us the grace we need.
“Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:19-20). When we are united with others in faith, we become more than the sum of our parts. To be with someone else, we have to open ourselves up to them. We stop being closed in upon ourselves. We are open, not only to our brother or sister, but to Jesus and his grace, allowing us to transcend ourselves in the process. When we cooperate with such grace, we will find ourselves growing in virtue, becoming the one God meant us to be. Not only do we attain such grace by opening ourselves up to others, we find that grace leads us back into the world, to be a vehicle of grace for others. The more we go out and spread that grace, the more grace we can get, the more virtuous we can become (we must, of course, continue to strive for virtue, otherwise God’s grace has not yet been activated in our lives).
Our attainment of virtue is not to be seen as a thing for ourselves, but for those around us. We are called to follow the example of Christ. What he has given to us is not to be seen as a possession to be kept to ourselves alone, but to be shared; we are the stewards of God’s grace, and we are to seek out those who need it and offer it to them. The more we give according to what we have been given, the greater we will be transformed, and the more like Christ we will become. That is, of course, our goal. “Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1John 3:2). We shall be like him, because we shall have striven for that purity and attained it. “And every one who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1John 3:3). But that purity, like Christ’s purity, is not achieved so that we can rest in ourselves, but it must always be achieved to improve our relationship with the other.
People often ask, why can’t I experience God in my life? Where is he? Perhaps we would do well to remember what Abbas Poemen and Theonas have told us here. If we want to experience God, we need to go and work with others. When we strive not for ourselves, but for someone else, we will see that we can and do more than we can do by ourselves. When we notice this, we will see the work of God in our lives, and know that he whom we seek is there with us, however subtle his presence might be.
 The Sayings of the Desert Fathers. Trans. Benedicta Ward (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1984), 188.