Sometimes you learn things from the good stuff that happens. Other times you view something and think, “I want to remember never to let that happen, to make someone feel that way, to do—that!” In still other moments, you want so desperately to do the right thing or say the right thing, but you end up doing nothing, because you’re just not sure what “the right thing” is.
Visiting someone in the hospital or talking with someone who has just received bad news both fall into all three of the above categories, primarily the third one.
I’m no exception. In fact, as “outgoing” as I have been throughout most seasons in my life, I’d much rather sit in the safety, comfort, and security of my own home, pen in hand (or computer in front of me), writing from my heart.
However, when it comes to serving others in their time of need, I’ve been reminded of a few important truths in recent years:
- It’s not about me. When my focus is truly on wanting to help and/or encourage someone else, it changes my perspective. There is seldom a “wrong thing” when my sincere motivation is to serve someone else through my words or actions.
“Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:1–5, NASB, emphasis mine).
- Obedience to God’s promptings is as much a gift as the gift itself. When God prompts you to pray, to give, to go, do it. My friend Sandy, director of Widow’s Jar Ministries, tells of God prompting people to donate unusual items to the organization, not even fully understanding why they were prompted to do so. Within days, weeks, or months, a missionary will walk into the warehouse and almost apologetically ask if Widow’s Jar may somehow possibly have this unusual item available, and Sandy is able to provide the seeker with an amazing gift! What if that donor hadn’t followed God’s promptings? What blessing might you be withholding from someone if you don’t act on what you feel you should do?
“And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22, KJV).
So how does this apply to visiting someone in the hospital or spending time with someone who has just received bad news?
When I had major surgery in 2008, no one came to pray with my parents, my sister, or me before my surgery. I had my family there to pray for me and with me, but my family needed the support and encouragement from others. No, I’m neither angry nor bitter, but I have chosen to be available if no one else is planning to be there. It was a lesson I learned from what didn’t happen!
When I was sick with the flu last year, a new (and elderly) friend made me soup, dropped it by the house, and simply included a note to let me know that she was praying for me. It meant the world to me simply to know that someone cared…and missed seeing me at church. It was a lesson I learned from what had encouraged me in my time of need.
It’s not about saying the right thing, doing the right thing, or “fixing” what’s wrong. It’s about caring.
But I’m going to let you in on a secret. Taking a small gift with you can at least serve as a conversation starter when you’re just not sure what to say. And depending on the gift you take, it can provide a visual reminder to the recipient that someone cares. Keep your visit short, listen, offer a verse from the Bible that encourages you when need to remember that God loves you and cares, pray with the individual, and leave!
Here’s a quick, easy, and inexpensive gift you can take with you to the hospital or to someone’s home (you can even use them as hostess gifts, Christmas gifts, birthday gifts, “just because it’s Thursday” gifts, etc.). See the corresponding numbers on the photo collage:
- Purchase an inexpensive ivy plant (or ask a friend for a “slip” from his or her existing plant).
- Water it approximately every two days (don’t over water it).
- Get a second pot/planter (small is best) and fill it with potting soil (usually under a dollar for a small bag, and you’ll hardly use any of it). In fact, you may want to start two or three planters while you’re at it! (I currently have four going!)
- As the original plant grows, simply use a pair of household scissors to cut off a few of the longest stems.
- Simply take those stems and plant them into the soil you placed in the new pots/planters (no roots needed; they’ll grow in the dirt).
- In a matter of days, you’ll have new plants, ready to take as a growing, thoughtful, inexpensive, kindness-filled gift to a friend who needs your encouragement!
For additional information on what to say and do when a friend is in crisis or need, I encourage you to read I Don’t Know What to Say, written by Dr. Nell Collins.
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