About six weeks ago my wife rushed me to the emergency room because I was experiencing some incredible abdominal pain. Before we left for the hospital, I checked my symptoms against those of WebMD (the website that empowers every idiot to make medical diagnosis). Sure enough what I was experiencing was looking like appendicitis.
After four days in the hospital, an open appendectomy, twenty-seven staples, and a liquid diet for four days, I was wiped. I didn’t really buy into the four to six week recovery time the doctor suggested. But here I am about six weeks later and I am finally starting to feel normal again.
As a pastor I spend a great deal of time ministering to folks sick and in the hospital. Admittedly, I’ve not always been the most attentive minister during these times for members of my Church. Ministry demands so much time in so many ways, I’m not always able to make a drive to the hospital or home when it’s needed most. However, after my appendectomy and being on the other side of ministry, there are a few valuable applications from which my life and ministry will benefit.
Praying WITH someone is a HUGE encouragement.
Sitting in a hospital bed can be pretty boring. Especially when the tv channel selection is slim. Visitors can be a great encouragement. However, depending upon how you feel at the moment, unexpected visitors can also be a burden. And while I never really felt this way, after having so many visitors in a single afternoon I was exhausted.
Application: Call ahead and make your upcoming visit known.
Visits from family, friends, and church members was a blessing. But honestly the visits that brought the most encouragement were those who willingly prayed WITH me. I didn’t ask them to. They offered. I was prayed for by some who I’ve never prayed with before.
Application: Don’t just offer to pray for them. Offer to pray with them right that moment.
You don’t always FEEL like reading the Bible when you’re sick.
Honestly you really don’t feel like doing much of anything when you’re sick. Not only did I lack the motivation, I simply didn’t feel good. I packed my iPad loaded with books to read while I was laid up in the hospital recovering and I didn’t feel like reading those either.
So it was an wonderful blessing to receive cards, text messages, and Facebook posts that included Bible verses with them. Sure they couldn’t fully nourish my soul; however, they did give me that small encouragement to stay faithful.
Application: Always share a Bible verse with someone, especially those who are sick.
Think About Ways to Help (In addition to feeding them.)
The quick and most natural way to help people when they’re recovering is to bring over a hot meal. When I came home from the hospital we were blessed with meals for the next seven days. This was an incredible blessing for my wife as she could focus on taking care of the kids and I and she never had to think about dinner.
But there are so many other ways you can pitch in and help besides cooking food. My yard was so neglected while I was in the hospital. It was a blessing that someone though to mow my yard for me while I was recovering. Our washing machine quit working a week after I came home from the hospital. Fortunately there was someone who was willing to help. There may be small projects around the house that you can take care of so there’s not a list a mile long waiting until after they’ve recovered.
Application: Ask yourself what would go undone temporarily if you were on the mend, and seek to help meet those needs.
Maintain LOW expectations during their recovery.
I mocked the doctor’s recovery timeline of four-to-six weeks. My plan was to leave the hospital and start working back into a normal routine. To my surprise that didn’t happen for about two weeks.
So I am grateful for others in the Church stepping up and taking care of my responsibilities. I am grateful for the members of my church who brought meals by for more than a week so we wouldn’t have to worry about cooking or buying groceries. I’m grateful for the friends who mowed our yard and took care of things around the house for me when I couldn’t.
It took me a little while to have the strength and the energy to work back into what I consider a normal routine. And everyone around me was incredibly patient.
Application: Go the extra mile to ensure someone in recovery has more than enough time to fully recover.
Now that I’m fully recovered and feeling 100% better, I’m going to remember these lessons as long as I can. Have you spent some time recovering from an illness that has taught a thing or two about how to minister to others?
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