. . . AND YOU VISITED ME

Sep
2019
07

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  “I will be your God throughout your lifetime— until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.” (Isaiah 46:4)

The conversation I overheard was between two friends, one of whom was caring for her sick mother at home. She was speaking in a terse tone about her cousin who lived in another part of the state. The cousin, her mother’s niece, recently drove past the town where they lived and sent a text that she would like to stop by to see her aunt in the next half hour or so. The daughter did not have her cell phone on her person and didn’t receive the message until hours later. She was expressing frustration that the cousin could have been more considerate in giving her more notice to respond. The friend remarked that the whole episode looked like an after-thought. The daughter said that to her it seemed more like the cousin wanted to appear as if she was trying to fulfill an obligation but really wasn’t all that anxious to visit. It prompted me to recall when my own father was fighting a terminal illness, some of his siblings pulled away. Either they were uncomfortable with his dying, or they just didn’t know what to say.

I remember the Biblical story of Job who the Lord referred to as “blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8). God allowed Job’s faithfulness to be tempted by Satan who said, “But reach out and take away his health, and he will surely curse you to your face!” (Job 2:5). God used the decline in health as a test and as part of His sovereign plan for Job’s life. “When three of Job’s friends heard of the tragedy he had suffered, they got together and traveled from their homes to comfort and console him” (Job 2:11). They stayed with him for seven days and nights and empathized with their friend in silence. Anyone who has spent time with a suffering friend knows how hard it is to remain present without grasping for answers.  The silence of these three men did not last forever, as they gave a series of speeches which included many inaccuracies, primarily involving why God allows people to suffer. Their overarching belief was that Job was suffering because he had done something wrong. A prevailing thought existed in that those days that if you were sick, it was a punishment from God. Many years later, the teachings of Jesus influenced a new way of thinking: “And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven” (James 5:15). While Job’s friends met their obligation by showing up, empathizing, and giving time – their repeated insistence that he repent so that God would bless him again was condemned by God (Job 42:7). In fact, following Job’s time of suffering – God blessed him with twice as much as he had before (Job 42:10).

Recently I heard a discussion of a non-fiction book (Finding Chika) by author Mitch Albom. While working at a Haitian orphanage, Mitch and his wife Janine became attached to a five-year-old girl who they decided to bring to their home in the United States, because she had a sickness that could not be cured there. Due to her weakness, it became necessary for Mitch to carry the child from place to place. As time passes, he decided that he needed to return to his primary work. When the child questions him, he tries to explain that he has to do his job. Without hesitation, the little girl says to him that he has to stay, because “your job is to carry me.”  After they embark on a two-year, around-the-world journey to find a cure, Chika ends up becoming a permanent member of the Albom family. Ultimately, there is a profound lesson to be learned from this little one. That is . . . we become defined by what we carry. This includes our physical presence with a hurting friend – an effort that can be a great comfort in and of itself, even if we have no words to say. In one of His parables, Jesus demonstrated how we are to respond toward those who are oppressed in society. One of His central statements is, “I was sick and you visited me.” (Matthew 25:36). When we are willing to enter into the pain of a suffering friend, we follow the example of Jesus who came to bear our pain and suffer in our place. In this one simple act, we provide a living illustration and witness to His sacrifice. While many of us are given to public professions of faith, our own self-interests can become obvious. When we absent ourselves from sitting next to one who feels forgotten, we must accept the burden of denying them our visit during their darkest hour.

REFLECTION: Every week you no doubt become aware of someone who is suffering from health concerns. How do you respond? Does visiting those who are sick or incapacitated make you feel uncomfortable? How will you challenge yourself to work toward you overcoming these concerns?

A NEW LOOKUP  DEVOTION IS UPLOADED EACH WEEK. THE NEXT WEEKLY POSTING WILL BE ON SAT., SEPTEMBER 14 , 2019. COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED.

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