- Visiting the Sick
Visiting the Sick
Visiting the sick and their families is a very intimate thing. For some of us, that makes it a bit scarey. It also makes it the most valuable type of pastoral ministry there is. But wait, you say, I’m not a pastor, I’m just a Bible Study leader or I’m just the Sunday school teacher. A visit from YOU then is far more meaningful because you know the person or a member of their family in a far closer way. Your visit will be a real encouragement. Having spent months at a time in the hospital or nursing homes with my sick family members I can tell you that a new face and a new person to pray is like a glass of cool water in a very dry place.
Here are some tools you can use:
TALK: In Clinical Pastoral Education I learned that when you go into the room with someone you don’t know well you must “get on the island” with them. In other words, don’t visit, get right in there with that sick person and how they are feeling. The person in the bed or chair is alone on an island in some ways. Think of ways to get onto that island with them. Perhaps talking about their family or hobbies or what they are going through. Don’t talk at them unless that seems to be the needful thing to do and it can briefly work in some very difficult situations. Be very sensitive to listen to the mood in the room, the feelings of the person and their energy level, and be sure to pray before you arrive for wisdom and grace in the situation.
If they are not intubated (tube down their throat) or otherwise hampered (as by breathing or mouth problems) they may enjoy a chance to talk. If they can’t talk then you may gently converse with them in ways that require only a brief nod or blink to respond. Bringing a card or flowers or funny small gift can help start the conversation but is not necessary. (When my son was hospitalized for many weeks, a friend of mine brought sporty games that she made that she could play with him while he was in the bed and while I took a break. One was a quart sized plastic take-out container and some ping pong balls. They took turns throwing the ping pong balls and trying to catch it in the container. Of course it was very difficult and my friend ended up crawling all over to find the ball but that gave my son a chance to laugh even though he could not talk or move around much.)
TOUCH: The nicest feeling in the world is a hand on your shoulder or a hand holding yours. Of course this can be inappropriate in some situations but it usually is appropriate. If you are visiting someone of the opposite sex and you are uncomfortable holding their hand, standing nearby with a hand on their shoulder, at least while you pray, is a good practice. Many would say that touch actually brings healing itself.
SCRIPTURE: The following scripture passages are from the Ministry Resources Guide of the Hendrickson NIV Minster’s Bible. If you are in a pinch, leaf through the book of Psalms until you come to something that seems appropriate and then edit as you read (the Psalms don’t pull any punches so be prepared to skip a particular verse if it doesn’t fit the situation). Note: most hospitals have a chapel where you can find materials and Bibles that you can borrow or use. Let the Holy Spirit be your guide. Be particularly sensitive to the feeling in the room. If you bring a “smart phone” with you, bookmark this page and you can read these verses right from your phone.
Deuteronomy 33:27; Job 19:25-27; Psalms 16:7-11; Psalm 23:1-6; Psalm 32:1-11; Psalm 33:13-22; Psalm 34:1-8; Psalm 84:1-12; Psalm 92:1-16; Psalm 103:1-22; Psalm 130:1-8; Psalm 139:1-18; Psalm 147:3; Isaiah 40:27-31; 43:1-3a; Isaiah 55:6-9; John 3:16; 11:25; 14:1-6; Romans 8:22-39; 1 Corinthians 15:50-57; 2 Corinthians 4:13-18; Ephesians 2:4-10; Revelation 21:1-5
MUSIC: Music, it has been said calms the savage beast! But it certainly calms a troubled soul and it often uplifts a downtrodden one. I have sung hymns to those who were on their death bed while holding their hands because they were too sick to talk or even acknowledge my presence. I have a niece who was in a drug induced coma after a very serious accident but when she heard praise music played for her, her whole body relaxed . I’ve seen pain therapists play music and do light massage on cancer victims racked with pain. Again, let the Spirit be your guide.
PRAYER: Last but certainly MOST important is praying with a person. Always ask permission, especially if you don’t know them well. Some people will benefit from your visit but may be angry at God for the situation they are in. When a person seems ambivalent about prayer you can ask if you can leave them with a blessing. Almost everyone will accept a blessing in my experience. Click here to see the Blessings and Benedictions page.