After facing persecution, he had been arrested and was now imprisoned. One can only imagine the sparse, bitter, reduced conditions of his existence.
While in prison he wrote a letter to Timothy, a cherished friend and colleague. At one point in the letter, he lamented the fact that so many had abandoned him. “At my first defence, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me.”(2 Timothy 4:16)
And since being imprisoned, he grieved that there was now only one friend who had remained.
He implored Timothy, “Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me, and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me.” (2 Timothy 4:9-10)
He requested that Timothy bring his warm, heavy cloak because winter was coming, and also his writing materials, parchments and scrolls, so he could continue to write and read.
There is an urgency in Paul’s appeals to Timothy. He is cognizant of his impending death.
And while Paul’s grief and loneliness radiate throughout the closing paragraphs of his letter, it is also evident that his faith and his eternal perspective were providing him sustenance and strength in his trials.
As I read Paul’s letter to Timothy, among its many rich teaching, I am reminded of how critical it is we remember those who are suffering.
Because so often, the initial cause for the suffering, whether it is through a chronic illness or a loss of some kind or an imprisonment, is just the beginning. For as friends and family carry on with their lives, the suffering is compounded for the stricken as they begin to feel left behind, and forgotten.
The increasing sense of isolation and abandonment can often be the hardest wounds to bear.
So we are called to remember.
To remember those who are sick, isolated, disenfranchised. And to engage in the simple, but profound gifts of love, which provide support and a sense of connection. Simple acts such as sending a note or making a phone call. Dropping in for a visit or cooking a meal.
Or bringing a cloak to warm them during a long, cold, winter season.
Providing companionship for the long roads, and battles ahead.
For an index of all my posts in the series, please click here.
Photo credits: Andrik Langfield Petride and Joseph Pearson, from Unsplash