Amid the pile of post-Christmas mail I discovered a treasure—a handmade Christmas card painted on repurposed cardstock. Simple watercolor strokes evoked a scene of wintry hills livened with evergreens. Centered at the bottom, framed by red-berried holly, was this hand-printed message:
Peace be with you!
The artist was a prisoner and a friend of mine. As I admired his handiwork, I realized I hadn’t written to him in 2 years!
Long ago, another prisoner was neglected as he waited in prison. “Only Luke is with me,” wrote the apostle Paul to Timothy (2 Tim. 4:11). “No one came to my support, but everyone deserted me” (v. 16). Yet Paul found encouragement even in prison, and he wrote, “The Lord stood at my side and gave me strength” (v. 17). But surely Paul felt the lonely ache of abandonment.
On the back of that wonderful Christmas card my friend wrote, “May the peace and joy and hope and love brought about through the birth of Jesus be with you and yours.” He signed it, “Your brother in Christ.” I put the card on my wall as a reminder to pray for him. Then I wrote to him.
Throughout this coming year let’s reach out to the loneliest of our brothers and sisters.
What lonely people can I think of right now? Newcomers to town? Prisoners? People in the hospital or in senior living centers? What can I do, no matter how small, to reach out to them?
Reach out in friendship and encourage the lonely.
The book of 2 Timothy is believed to be Paul’s final letter, written from Rome as he was awaiting execution. The clear sense of his impending death is seen in 2 Timothy 4:6: “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near.” His tone is very different in his prison letters (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon), where he is under house arrest awaiting trial (see Acts 28:30–31). This difference of tone contributes to the view of many scholars that Paul experienced two imprisonments—the first leading to trial and the second (seen here) leading to execution.