One of the challenges sufferers face after they are diagnosed and disability begins to rear its ugly head is the treatment they receive from those closest to them. In many respects one expects “outsiders” not to “get it,” but when friends, family, and co-workers don’t, it hurts. The sadness derived by the sudden change in one’s relationships can, in many cases, be just as hurtful as the challenges of health. For this reason, people who suffer reach out to others who are suffering, knowing their voice will be heard by an audience that understands or, at least, wants to understand. On the
social networking site mymsteam.com, which offers support for those with Multiple Sclerosis, statements such as “my spouse no longer pays any attention to me since I have become disabled” and “my friends stopped calling me when I told them I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis” are very common. It is often the fear of being treated differently by others that causes some to try to hide their disease and disability. It has been fifteen months since my diagnosis, and I have not told anyone outside my immediate family that I have Multiple Sclerosis. In part, I have secured this information because I do not want to be treated differently by others. While we cannot control how others treat us, we can control how we respond to their mistreatment.
The book of 2 Timothy is an extraordinary book for several reasons. For one reason, it is inspired of the Almighty God (2 Tim. 3:16). For another, it was penned by the apostle Paul, who was facing tremendous adversity at the end of his life. The book of 1 Timothy is believed to have been written by Paul in a “hired house” as he awaited trial in Rome (Acts 28:30). After his release, it appears he went about ministering in several areas (1 Tim. 1:3; Tit. 1:5; 3:12; 2 Tim. 4:13, 20; Rom. 15:28; 1 Clemente 5:1-7) but was soon arrested again and taken to Rome to await trial in prison (2 Tim. 1:17). This time he would not be released; instead, he would be put to death (2 Tim. 4:6).
Before his death, he too was confronted with abandonment. In 2 Timothy 4:16a, Paul wrote, “At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me….” The word translated “answer” comes from a word which means “defense” and likely refers to Paul’s legal defense before the magistrates in Rome. It is not entirely clear whether Paul is referring to his first trial that led to his release several years earlier (Acts 28:30) or to a preliminary trial in connection with his present imprisonment. It seems less likely that Paul is referring to his trial in connection with his first imprisonment, because it appears from Acts 28:30 that Paul was far from abandoned. It is even more likely that Paul is referring to a preliminary trial when the political climate during his second imprisonment is considered. In A.D. 64 it is believed that Nero set fire to the Imperial city to cover his own failure and blamed Christians for the blaze. Christianity became an “illicit religion,” and as a result Christians were severely persecuted. It is this persecution that may have caused those who Paul called friends and Christian “brethren” to desert him during a time in which he needed them the most. A Christian friend could have testified on his behalf but no one was there. Fear, an emotion all human beings experience, likely was the culprit that caused them to leave Paul, whom they most assuredly loved, stranded during a desperate time. Is it a possibility that fear has driven some of your friends and family away from doing the right thing and remaining a loyal friend to you? Yet one might say, those Christians were in fear for their lives! They had a much greater excuse to abandon Paul! Perhaps this is true, but maybe those who were once closest to you may fear what the present and future may bring also. A spouse may be thinking, “the life we planned together is ruined, it will never be the same.” A friend may be fretting, “how can I really help? I hope I don’t say or do the wrong thing.” The emotion of fear takes over, and they choose to “pass on the other side” rather than fulfill their responsibility to you. This response is not right, and they will one day be held accountable to God for their lack of compassion (Job 42:7-11), but how should a sufferer respond to this type abandonment?
Paul continued with these words, “I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge” (16b). The word translated “laid to charge” is a “is a commercial term, used metaphorically; it signifies here “to place on one’s record” (Jackson 295). In other instances in the Bible, which are contextually similar, the word is translated “reckon, imputed” (2 Cor. 5:19; Jas. 2:23). Paul’s wish (optative mood) was that God would not hold them accountable for their poor choice on the final day of reckoning, the Day of Judgment (1:16-18). Paul had an attitude of forgiveness. Whether they would actually receive forgiveness from God would be determined by their subsequent repentance (Luke 17:3; Acts 8:22; 1 John 5:16). This type of abandonment was not unique to Paul. Remember, Jesus Christ was abandoned by His closest friends in a perilous time as well (John 16:32). One even cursed and swore that he didn’t know Him (Matt. 26:74), yet Jesus was not hostile toward him (John 21:15-17). He encouraged Peter to “feed His sheep” and, on the Day of Pentecost Peter delivered an inspired, masterful sermon that led to many being added to the Lord’s church (Acts 2:14-36, 41). Like Paul and Jesus, sufferers must determine in their minds to let go of resentment toward those who have forsaken them and instead cultivate an attitude of forgiveness. As one once said, “bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die.” Bitterness is of no value, it only hurts you (Heb. 12:15).
Sufferers, what should we do when you have been abandoned by a family member or friend? Have an attitude of forgiveness, they are likely just fearful about what the future might bring. Use the opportunity, if possible, to propel within them a greater confidence, so that when they are faced with a similar situation in the future they will not “pass on the other side” (Luke 10:30-36). Loved ones, abandon your fears about the future and invest in a friend who needs you desperately.
Thanks for commenting on this subject in such a kind and logical way. We have all felt this type of abandonment. Its good to see it discussed.
Thanks, I am glad you see the value of articles like these!