I always thought I had a pretty good grasp on how to minister to the sick—until I became sick myself. Just as Jesus ministered to those with physical ailments, we are called to do so as well. Through my own sickness I learned a lot about how to minister and how not to minister to someone who is sick. Here’s what I learned.
Don’t Use “The Line”
It’s often a temptation for us to fill silence or awkwardness in the conversation with a certain line. It’s also used too many times to answer tough questions. The line? “Just have faith.” I’m not saying that faith isn’t a good thing or that we shouldn’t encourage others to trust in the Lord, but it isn’t what sick people want to hear. Doubt in times of hardship are understandable, and people need to feel that their fears are justified. “Just have faith” often feels like nothing more than a spiritual band-aid.
Random Conversation Works
People are often afraid to visit those who are ill, especially those who are terminally ill, because they don’t know what to say or are afraid to say the wrong thing. In truth, though, those who are sick aren’t usually looking for the “right words.” They just need someone to talk to about anything and everything. When I was in the hospital, I needed friends to cure me of my boredom as much as my illness. It didn’t matter whether we talked about sports, television or music. The important thing is that someone cared enough to take the time to talk.
A Little Means A Lot
One of the biggest disappointments I had during my sickness was the seeming lack of concern from “friends” in my young adults group. There were many days when all I wanted was at least a phone call. That hurt when people didn’t call, but I learned something very important through this—little surprises make up for big disappointments.
I had people who were practically strangers call our home for updates on how I was doing. Friends from out of town emailed my family to see how things were going. Many unexpected people came by to visit. All of these small things really made my day and reminded me that I wasn’t alone in this battle.
It’s easy to make excuses not to visit someone who is sick. Maybe the person is in your small group, but you don’t know him or her that well. Maybe it is someone seems to already have a lot of friends and support. Maybe their illness doesn’t appear to very serious. Don’t let excuses stop what could be a great opportunity to minister to someone in need. Make a phone call or send an email. It doesn’t take much time but has the potential to lift someone’s spirits and really make a difference in their day.
A Chance To Get Creative
If you really want to give something to someone who is sick, it doesn’t have to cost a lot. In fact, the most precious gifts that I received were worth nothing materially. One person came over to my house and sang me a song that God had placed on his heart. During a previous illness a friend brought me fruit that she already had at home. It may seem like a funny gift, but I still smile when I think of Mary coming in with her pear. The monetary value doesn’t matter to most people who are sick, but the fact that someone thought of you does.
What it all comes down to when you want to minister to someone who is sick is showing that you care. There are many different ways to do this, from visits to phone calls to emails to sending gifts. Get creative and do your part to show those who are ill around you that they aren’t alone.