She appears younger than she actually is. I have trouble believing that she will soon have her 40th birthday. Perhaps it is because she is so terribly thin. The bones in her wrists, cheeks and arms stand out starkly, broadcasting that something is very, very wrong. Despite her gaunt appearance, however, there is still an aura of beauty about her. The dark circles under her eyes betray her deep fatigue to the world, but there is still a sparkle in her eyes—of love, hope and determination.
Her long, blond hair still retains its glory. It falls straight down the middle of her back, every strand in place. I see her smile indulgently at her small son as he reaches for a second cookie from the tray. She has lost 36 pounds since I last saw her less than three months ago, and I am frightened for her.
Her little boy is small for 18 months, but he has a lot of spirit. Thankfully, her daughter is not afflicted with the illness that has robbed her husband of life and now threatens her and her son. What is it like to be a young widow with small children when you know you may be dying? I don’t know, and a feeling of helplessness overwhelms me. Though I am seldom at a loss for words, I stand there after Bible study with my friend, not knowing what to say or do. I can only put my arm around her. I am a mother, too. I can feel her pain—the anguish of not knowing whether she will live to see her son grow out of babyhood or her daughter blossom into womanhood. And if she doesn’t make it, who will be there for her children when she is gone?
Yet despite the sorrow in her life, this lady has a glow about her. She tells me that Jesus has been so real to her in this past very difficult year. She has discovered that God’s Word is true. He is indeed a father to the fatherless and a husband to the widow. When she is physically weak, God’s joy becomes her strength, and she finds the courage to go on and take care of her family. His promises leap out at her from the printed page as though they were written especially with her in mind.
My eyes cannot remain dry as she shares all these things with me from her heart. Her attitude seems to echo Job’s memorable cry of faith: Though he slay me, yet will I trust him.” I feel convicted about my own sins of grumbling and complaining when my plans go awry or my desires are thwarted. This lady rejoices to be able to make it through yet another day, grateful for the little things. She is quiet about her illness—people these days are terribly afraid when they hear the words “immune system disorder.” I myself am afraid when I hear them.
I pray and ask the Lord for the courage to be a loving friend to her not just in words, which can be empty and hollow, but in practical, tangible ways. I despise this impotent feeling.
I say, “Can I bring you a meal or watch your kids while you see the doctor? Just tell me what to do. How can I help?” Then I put my arm around her again. I tell her that I love her, and I cry and rejoice with her over how faithful our Messiah Jesus is.
In the days ahead, many of us in the Body of the Messiah may find ourselves in similar situations as we come in contact with people who have immune system disorders, AIDS or ARC (AIDS Related Complex). It is inevitable and unavoidable. We will need to ask the Lord for the courage to show his love through us to those afflicted people. We must ask for the compassion to be there for them, to minister with the Word of God, and to provide whatever help and comfort we can to ease their burdens. In the future, some of us are going to be called to a radical kind of loving—the kind that causes us to roll up our sleeves and get involved.
Please pray for my friend, that the Lord would give her wisdom and physical strength and increase her days. And pray for us all, that God will help us as he calls us to minister with his comfort to those who are afflicted.