ISOLATION AND COMPASSION

 

The memes and the quips scrolled by me faster than I could keep up. It seemed that everyone had something to say about self-isolation, quarantine, lockdown, and the restrictions that (with very little warning) were suddenly thrust upon us.

I hit the “like” button more times than I could count …

Finally, the rest of the world would understand what many of us had been feeling for years. Finally, the rest of the world would feel the isolation that many of us in the never-never land of chronic illness had already been coping with … or not.

I hoped that the rest of the world would soon learn compassion. I hoped that the rest of the church would see that the new online benefits could remain in place for those of us who have been in lockdown for more days than we would care to count.

While wishfully hoping, however, I felt a nudging in my heart. 

 

ISOLATION AND COMPASSION: THE GENTLE NUDGE OF JESUS

I recognized the nudging. It was the kind that would lead to conviction, and I wasn’t sure if I was ready for it.

Couldn’t I stay a little longer in this place of “I told you so”? My finger-pointing rapidly lost its appeal as the compassion of Jesus flooded over me.

For you see, it was the Easter season. We were many weeks into Lent, and we were all focused on the suffering of our Lord and what He had carried for our sakes. Then, the pandemic shifted our gaze to what WE were suffering. Many were experiencing the isolation already well known in the chronic illness community.

If you are anything like me, MY suffering soon ramps up into a place of bitterness that can run with the best of the world’s angry chatters:

Give us our rights!

Give us back our positions!

Give us back our lives! 

 

ISOLATION AND COMPASSION: WEEPING OVER OUR RIGHTS

The Spirit weeps over our hearts as we weep over our rights.

The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now, if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:16-18)

He came to bring us back to the heart of our Father so we could see ourselves as His children. We have inherited ETERNAL LIFE with Him but we begrudge our shortages and the restrictions placed upon us.

We have forgotten the joy of sharing in His glory that comes with the privilege of suffering. He has called us to join with Him, to bear the sufferings of this age, so that we could more fully know the glory of sonship.

My heart was broken.

He has already poured His compassion upon me in this place where I have felt so isolated. He has given me glimpses, moments, and hours of intimate fellowship with Him as I was pulled back from the rush of mainstream busyness.

Shouldn’t the memes and graphics I long for have a different tone?

 

COMPASSION AND COMFORT IN THE UNEXPECTED JOURNEY OF SLOW

I remembered His invitation to me early in my journey of slow:

“Come with ME. Your weakness does not shame me. Your weakness is what draws me to you. I am already inside; the Kingdom of God is within you. Your pain does not offend me.”

I knew where the conviction would fall in my heart. He gave me HIS comfort so I could return that comfort to those joining this rank of isolation. For however long it might last, however temporary this fellowship of suffering might be, He gave me a gift to share while we are on this path.

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. (Isaiah 40:1)

The verses flowed over me:

You who are my Comforter in sorrow, my heart is faint within me. (Jeremiah 8:18)

Now, the most convicting of all the passage that so many of us can quote from memory:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)

What if those of us in the chronic illness community let our voices be raised in comfort instead of bitter moaning? Yes, we deal with isolation, and so many have forgotten us. Yes, so many trampled on and ignored our rights  but shouldn’t we have compassion, knowing how hard isolation is?

 

ISOLATION AND COMPASSION: THE PRIVILEGE OF SUFFERING

Jesus has never forgotten us and I can fully express that I have known comfort in this place of weakness that I never would have known otherwise. This is the privilege that He asks me to share now:

  • Smiling when a delivery man leaves a package on my step
  • Sending a text when I hear about a neighbor who is hurting
  • Calling  my loved ones when they are shocked over restrictions they are facing
  • Sending a card expressing my love when I read about another’s aching
  • Saying a prayer when my heart sees so much suffering

Turning away from the large and busy has given me a benefit. I have come to see the gift that is in the small and the slow. I may not have seen it had I not been placed here in chronic pain, but I would not trade it now for any of the BIG this world has to offer for my Jesus took the way of the humble and the meek, and I want to walk with Him.

 

PRAYER FOR THE DAYS OF ISOLATION 

Will you join me in prayer?

Dear Lord Jesus,

Thank you for giving Your life so that we could become the sons and daughters of God. Your resurrection has opened the way for us to find new life in You, and we are filled with gratitude. Forgive us for clinging to our old ways of life. Help us to lay down the bitterness that so easily tries to latch onto our hearts again. Show us how You have never left us. Remind us how You have carried us when the pain and weakness shut us away from the rest of the world. Would You help us to join with You in loving those who are now facing new hurts? Show us how we can share the comfort You have given to us. Stir our hearts to humbly give love, even as You have loved us. In the name of Jesus our Lord, amen.

Bettie Gilbert

Bettie Gilbert

Chronic Joy Contributing Writer

You can find Bettie blogging from her home in the far north suburbs of Chicago at bettiegsraseasons.com. She is walking forward with Jesus in the middle of her pain and weakness from multiple chronic illnesses. The beauty of nature and her family (including nine young grandchildren) are Bettie's joys. She and her husband have been married for over 40 years and take great delight in their weekend coffee breaks together.

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