Archive | January 2013

You have put away my acquaintance far from me…

8 You have put away my acquaintance far from me; you have made me an abomination to them: I am shut up, and I cannot come forth. Ps. 88:8

C. H. Spurgeon wrote eloquently on the subject of chronic illness and suffering. He was no stranger to the experience.  Here a few words taken from his study on the 88th Psalm:

“If ever we need friends it is in the dreary hour of despondency and the weary time of bodily sickness; therefore does the sufferer complain because divine providence had removed his friends. Perhaps his disease was infectious or defiling, so that he was legally separated from his fellow men, perhaps their fears kept them away from his plague stricken house, or else his good name and become so injured that they naturally avoided him. Most friends require but small excuse for turning their backs on the afflicted. The swallows offer no apology for leaving us to winter by ourselves. Yet is is a piercing pain which arises from the desertion of dear associates; is is a wound which festers and refuses to be healed.

“You have made me an abomination unto them…” They turned from him as though he had become loathsome and contaminating and this because of something which the Lord had done to him; therefore, he brings his complaint to the prime mover in his trouble. He who is still flattered by the companions of his pleasure can little guess the wretchedness which will be his portion should he become poor, or slanderously accused, for then one by one the parasites of his prosperity will go their way and leave him to his fate, not without cutting remarks on their part to increase his misery. Men have not so much power to bless by friendship as to curse by treachery. Earth’s poisons are more deadly than her medicines are healing. The mass of men who gather around a man and flatter him are like tame leopards; when they lick his hand it is well for him to remember that with equal gusto they would drink his blood. “Cursed is he that trusteth in man.”

“I am shut up and cannot come forth…”  He was a prisoner in his room, and felt like a leper in the lazarretto, or a condemned criminal in his cell. His mind, too, was bound as with fetters of iron; he felt no liberty of hope, he could take no flights of joy. When God shuts friends out, and shuts us in to pine away alone, it is no wonder if we water our couch with tears.”

Psalm 88 is primarily a desparate cry for help from a suffering soul.  I cannot leave this post without a note of hope. By the amazing divine grace of God,  you and I can be Christlike in our friendships. We can be friends who love at all times. We can be faithful to pray and encourage one another, for our old man has been put to death in Christ’s death. BUT, it will take recognition of our natural tendency to be fickle and unfaithful, and true repentance, and putting off of the old man. We must “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in us to will and to do of His good pleasure.”   Another year, another breath, and another opportunity to grow is presented to us!

When I was sick, you visited Me

Recently I heard from a client who was sick, lonely, and discouraged. In fact, she has been chronically ill for years, but the past few months have taken the cake, so to speak. She has a wonderfully supportive , godly husband, loving family, and loving church family.  But the plain truth is, even with all of the above, being chronically ill gets very lonely. The Son of Man is perfectly able to understand our weaknesses. Matthew 25:31-46 illustrate His compassionate understanding of situations of human vulnerability and how TRUE saints respond.

In fact, Christ goes so far as to warn His listeners, then and now, that those who blindly ignore the needs of the poor, the prisoner, and the ill will be separated from the sheep in the “last day”.  Compassion and mercy may be the special gift of some saints, but all are required to practice these virtues.   Some are truly in the position to always have to be on the receiving end of charity when they would rather not be.  I think of saints in other countries, especially, who suffer persecution for their faith, famine, etc…  Even so, just being sick qualifies one for acts of mercy and compassion. Please don’t forget your chronically ill friend.

As Matthew Henry so succinctly expresses, “He will take the kindness done to them, as done to Himself…which shows a respect to the poor that were relieved, as well as to the rich that did relieve them. Note, Christ espouses his people’s cause, and reckons himself received, and loved, and owned in them. If Christ himself were among us, how readily would we relieve him?”

My friend and client’s discouragement blew a little spark into a flame today. When I struggle with loneliness and discouragement, I will keep looking out for those around me who need a special word of encouragement.  Even a “visit” of an e-mail or card can lift someone’s spirit’s heavenward for that moment.  My little pile of saved cards from caring friends is stored in a special place. Even without the finances to fund generous mercy, I have the ability to practice this Christ-like virtue. My Savior also takes note, and remembers every caring visit and loving word and work. How great is His condescension to us!  All His sheep are recipients of amazing, undeserved mercy and compassion.

SMILE- It’s catching!

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Some people make you smile just by being around them. My little nephew is just one of the happiest babies you will ever meet.  To look at him you would never know his mommy endured brutal treatments for stage 4 cancer this year. He has been shipped around  to loving folks for babysitting while momma was undergoing treatment and his little applecart has been completely turned upside down quite frequently this year.  But look at the smile from just a few weeks ago!  Look what it did to my face, too!  However, he is a baby, and babies can be blessedly oblivious.

On the flip side, sin is a very catching, infectious disease.  We all arrived grumpy at church this past Lord’s day because one of us woke up that way and it spread. Thankfully, that was not the end of the tale. Repentance brings a lot of hope and joy!

Joy and gratitude are in the top ten goals I have listed for this year.  Those goals have already been sorely tried this year. Part of this is because my heart just breaks for a number of friends who are suffering in various forms at this moment.  Another part is that I cannot seem to find a way to climb off of our financial treadmill. So many families with chronic illness be it a spouse or child find this issue a continual challenge. Challenges will always be there. So will our faithful Friend, our risen and coming King. “My soul, why are you cast down within me?… Hope in God…who is the help of my countenance.”

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering…”  I think I am still stuck working on the first four, hoping that He who works in me to do will and to do of His good pleasure will truly bring these to be manifest in my life. Maybe wives of chronically ill husbands have a double opportunity?  We need a double portion of grace, too. We need to pray with Jacob, “LORD, I will not let you go unless you bless me.”