If you suffer, you will find yourself feeling lonely. You will feel all alone.
Some days are great. Some days are not. I tend to feel alone and trapped in my circumstances and it happens more than I talk about.
When I first was sick, people came around frequently. I was in a coma so I don’t remember this, but plenty of people came to pray, just be around for support, and eventually, children at our local church sent us a huge box of cards. They came around for the immediate gut-wrenching pain my wife was going through. But, it slowed down, and eventually, people stopped showing up.
People would ask, “What can I do for you?” She had no idea. The question was elusive and became quite infuriating to be continuously asked.
When we first got home from a four-month stint in the hospital, we had a daughter 12 days later, so there was no time to focus on our needs.
We were confused and increasingly pessimistic.
Confused and Pessimistic
I didn’t know what I wanted. What I did know was that I wanted to love my wife and daughter. I wanted to “get better,” but I had no idea what that really meant.
I was confused. Confused – and curious – about what just happened, why it happened, and how to survive my day-to-day. I was confused about what I would need from friends, and I was genuinely confused by what’s right to expect of them. Most significantly, I was confused as to why God allowed this to happen.
Pessimism didn’t really settle in until 18 months had passed. Once my friends started dropping off the map, it became easier and easier to become pessimistic about God’s people. At the very same time, I started realizing God’s purpose for my suffering didn’t seem to get any clearer.
I woke up from a coma feeling blessed and lucky to be alive, but over time I became a confused and pessimistic man.
Friends With Us
Friendships don’t only happen in private; friendships also happen through public times together. One is not more or less essential but both are vital to be loved by God’s people in the midst and aftermath of suffering.
During that transitional time, there was one reminder of the importance of friendship throughout suffering. One friend checked in, came over once a week, mowed my law, and helped with repairs around the house (etc). We built a deep and lasting friendship that remains a tangible evidence of God’s grace and example for the Church.
I wrote in an earlier article that being a friend to someone suffering requires listening and opening up. Without quoting the whole thing, check the article out: Be a Friend to the Hurting.
Thank you TJ. I love you.
Yes, Sundays are a great time of the week to be encouraged, but my experiences make me value small group time as most crucial. Small groups allow a small group of men and women to hear the Word of God discussed, shared, and proclaimed to remind us all of our need for the gospel. When I returned from my stay in the hospital, my entire family needed to be reminded of God’s work in His people and His love for us in the midst of our pain.
Don’t let others tell you that because others don’t fully understand your pain or can’t fully empathize with your suffering, they aren’t there for and with you. That’s a lie.
Yes, Jesus was deserted by His followers and friends at the end of His life, but that’s an example of what NOT to do and remind us of all of our sinful inclinations to fear and suffering!
God With Us
Spending time with God is always good for us, but I’m convinced that spending time with Him when you are “not feeling it” or “blah,” is used for great payoff in the future. During the past three years, I’ve had to force myself to spend time with on my own and I’ve had many weeks of worshipping with His saints on a Sunday when I wasn’t into it.
Our private time with God consists of two things: reading the Bible and praying. Simple, right? Absolutely not. Reading the Bible has at times felt a chore and an unhelpful task. But, because I knew before my suffering how amazing the Bible is in my life, I’ve relearned the wonder of His work and plan for me. I’ve also been comforted when I’m focusing too much on my suffering and challenged by His demand for my life.
Prayer has always been difficult for me, but some of the most cherished times of my life have come from prayer after my hospitalization. Prayer at times has felt like another chore, but its something I have the gift of doing with my Lord. Conversing with my God and just spending time with Him has been essential in my suffering.
Spending time with God in public (Sunday gatherings) is the one thing I sincerely longed for while I lay in my hospital bed in the summer of 2015. I used to count down the weeks until I’d be released from the hospital so that I could rejoin my brothers and sisters to worship our Lord and Savior. I used to cry on Sunday mornings because I didn’t have the privilege of singing songs in worship, hear the Word of God preached, and take communion alongside my friends and family in Christ.
Attending Sundays became burdensome: I was confused and pessimistic. I didn’t want to see everyone and fake it, but I still forced myself to go. Unsurprisingly, my love and passion for joining the local church worship Jesus came back. It didn’t just show up in one day, but God is with me when I am worshipping alongside my eternal family.
If you’re suffering and feeling lonely – or just feeling all alone in this world – I encourage you to look to Jesus for healing and hope that the world can not offer. He lived a perfect life, died alone and rejected on the cross, rose again defeating sin and death. Jesus died all alone so that through His perfect sacrifice He could save a people, a family, to love one another until He comes back to make all things right.