I opened the messaging app for perhaps the fortieth time that day. All of my friends were busy, and I knew that, but I still felt lonely. Something about this felt familiar. I was transported back to my teen years, when many of my friends didn’t understand my chronic illness, and I often felt forgotten.
Have you ever experienced this? Many chronic illness warriors struggle with feeling unseen. After all, many of us spent our days at home, even before the pandemic. Keeping up with a social life is difficult when just getting out of bed is a challenge. Even when you do get out of bed, your church members don’t always remember to check in on you.
Maybe your chronic illness doesn’t limit your relationships during an ordinary time. But you struggle to feel seen right now. It’s been a year since the pandemic started. After the pandemic ends, your pain, the endless doctor appointments, the symptoms, the medications and supplements… they won’t just go away.
Sometimes, it seems if someone would just look at us and see us, sympathize with our pain, care enough to ask the hard questions, we could fight on. But it feels like no one can ever really understand.
Yet, even when we feel alone, we are not abandoned.
Even when it seems no one can understand, there is One who does.
Dear friend, your struggles are not overlooked by your heavenly Lover.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”Hebrews 4:15
This verse is speaking specifically of sin and temptation, but I believe that it can also be a great encouragement to anyone feeling lonely or forgotten. There is one beautiful word, dear chronic illness warrior, which reminds us what a loving heart Jesus has.
In the Greek, this word is sympatheō, to be affected with the same feeling as another, to sympathise with, and to feel for, have compassion on.
Jesus sees our weakness, and sympathizes with us. And even He has also felt forsaken.
What would it feel like to be truly and utterly forsaken by God?
In this life, no human has ever learned the depth of despair of being fully forsaken by their Creator. No matter how tragic our life, everyone experiences the grace God bestows on each woman and man.
Because of our sin, Jesus became the only one who was truly forsaken. As He hung on the cross, the physical pain was only part of His anguish. For the Father forsook Him. But He will never forsake us.
Beloved, if you believe in the work Christ did on your behalf, to pay for your sins, that His righteousness might be accounted to you, remember: God will never forsake you utterly.
In this struggle, draw near to the throne. You do not have to hang back for fear you won’t be accepted. We are accepted on His behalf.
Ponder the truth in these verses.
“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”Hebrews 4:14-16
In one of my favorite scenes of Anne of Green Gables, Anne is supposed to learn the Lord’s Prayer. But en route to retrieve the card from the sitting room, she is distracted by a picture of Christ blessing the little children. Marilla, exasperated, asks her what she is doing. Anne’s reply reminds me of so many of us, who are afraid to draw near to Christ:
“I was just imagining I was one of them–that I was the little girl in the blue dress, standing off by herself in the corner as if she didn’t belong to anybody, like me. She looks lonely and sad, don’t you think? I guess she hadn’t any father or mother of her own. But she wanted to be blessed, too, so she just crept shyly up on the outside of the crowd, hoping nobody would notice her–except Him. I’m sure I know just how she felt. Her heart must have beat and her hands must have got cold, like mine did when I asked you if I could stay. She was afraid He mightn’t notice her. But it’s likely He did, don’t you think? I’ve been trying to imagine it all out–her edging a little nearer all the time until she was quite close to Him; and then He would look at her and put His hand on her hair and oh, such a thrill of joy as would run over her!”Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery, Chapter VIII Anne’s Bringing-Up Is Begun
Don’t underestimate His love for you. He longs for you to draw near.
You are seen and known.
Jesus sympathizes with our pain. He does not reject us. When you are tempted to believe you are neglected, abandoned, or unloved, remember: He has never abandoned you.
You are known.
“But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.”I Corinthians 8:3
“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.”John 10:14-15
“O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.”Psalm 139:1-5
“The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.”Nahum 1:7
When you are feeling forgotten, take refuge in the Lord. He sees you. He knows your heart better than you know it yourself. He is longing to take this trial and use it to refine your heart. Let your anxiety fade away in the light of being fully known. Think on the Cross and the great love with which He loves you, and let that grow your own love for your Savior.
May your heart be filled with the peace of being known by your Creator.