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The Loneliness of Ailment. 307. April 29, 2021

My kinsfolk have failed, and my familiar friends have forgotten me.

Job 19:14

Job, that high priest of patience, is sitting in the dirt, covered in sores and stench, responding to so-called friends. By this stage, everybody had left him. If not in physical form, at least in spirit and companionship. His familiar team had deserted Him — every one of them.

The stroke of God put a division between Job and those who were once his friends and family. Some ailments convince people to drop themselves off visit lists. It's called shaking the tree. We find who are fairweather friends and who are our genuine companions. You see, Job had more than the common cold. He had an illness nobody understood. It looked horrific. More like a combination of diseases. When they saw Job, others understandably felt he'd sinned against God. Nobody wanted Job to contaminate them with his unfamiliar and unidentifiable one-person plague. We feel the intensity of Job's lamenting spirit, "They that dwell in mine house, and my maids, count me for a stranger: I am an alien in their sight. I called my servant, and he gave me no answer; I intreated him with my mouth. My breath is strange to my wife, though I intreated for the children's sake of mine own body. Yea, young children despised me; I arose, and they spake against me. All my inward friends abhorred me: and they whom I loved are turned against me."

What a heart-emptying realisation? The rude awakening for this former deliverer of righteousness is that now he's despised by all, old and young. With people all around him, he remains in abject loneliness.

Verses 25-27 illuminates the despairing situation some of us have found ourselves in, as Job's mind fixates on his only friend, Jesus. Yes, he knew Jesus would be killed, then resurrected, and then come the second time as king, and that he, Job, would also be resurrected to see his saviour.

"For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me."

Many of us have been lonely. Job was lonely and despised. He found no friends on this earth. None of those he had represented in law for free came to see how he was. His wife had estranged herself. As with Jesus upon his trial, Job's familiar friends and family had all deserted him in his time of trouble — in his affliction. Isaiah 53:3 tell us of Jesus' despair when all had left Him. "He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not."

When we become physically or mentally afflicted, a subtle estranging sometimes occurs between friends . They begin making excuses for not visiting. Like rings in a pond, they remove themselves out a ring or two until they hardly visit or even write. It might be the disease they're afraid of catching or the remoteness brought on by the ailment. it may be the ugliness of disfigurement we can't bear to look upon. Or worse. They may no longer be useful to us.

Did Christ despise the sick, the lame, the blind, the deaf? What about the leper? And Palsy? In times of health, we rarely need anyone. In times of sickness, people need more of Christ and those who follow Him, not less. Jesus would have sat with Job for months if that's what it took to be a friend. Today's prayer: Dear Lord, please help me to be more understanding and compassionate with others in their time of woe. Help me to overcome any undesirable issues, and to see others as Jesus did. He didn't care about disfigurement or a breakdown of body parts. He cared for the people.

Photo by Brett Jordan

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