Visiting the sick

By Brian Croft

The stress and anxiety that often accompanies visiting the sick can cause us to miss the joy that comes from them. As we visit, we must be mindful to enjoy all that God will accomplish for His glory. Here are a few opportunities in which we should anticipate God’s providence. We should enjoy caring for the sick because of…

The divine opportunity to care for those who may not care for us.
Richard Baxter exhorts this opportunity in this way: “Even the stoutest sinners will hear us on their death-bed, though they scorned us before.” One of the hardest things to do is to love those who despise you, but that is what our Savior has commanded for His followers (Matt. 5:44; Luke 6:35). A struggling relationship I had with an elderly lady in our church greatly improved after I visited her at the hospital. Baxter’s counsel is profound, and obedience to Jesus’ command is expected. Enjoy what God does when you are faithful to this exhortation.

The opportunity to care for those who are hurting.
There is a spiritual sensitivity that is continually present in affliction and suffering. There is a joy in caring for those when they are most in need of care. This is a privilege we only have while on earth. David Dickson writes in regard to this privilege:

“It is our part…to do what [angels] are not privileged to do—to sit beside a dying believer, to smooth his pillow, to moisten his lips, to remind him of the rod and staff that are ready for his help in the dark valley (Ps. 23:4), and to direct his dying eye to Jesus. All this is a precious service we cannot render in heaven, but only on earth.”

Caring for the sick and hurting is an honor that brings great joy to the Christian if we are mindful to recognize it.

The gift of seeing a real and unshakable faith in Christ.
There is no better place to experience this than next to suffering saints who anticipate meeting their Savior in a matter of moments. Christians’ faith is magnified in suffering. Therefore, we should not only enjoy experiencing the gospel shining in suffering, but we should also rejoice to be a witness of lives that end with rejoicing in the person and work of Christ as their only hope.

Even if we come to realize it is our biblical calling to care for those who are sick and afflicted, we too often do so with feelings of fear, anxiety and assumed awkwardness. However, take note. There is much to be thankful for and enjoy that should cut through those feelings that would discourage our efforts, but we must be courageous and faithful to put ourselves in these positions before we will experience the joy that comes from them.

Published June 22, 2017

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Brian Croft

Brian Croft is founder and executive director of Practical Shepherding. He is also the senior fellow for the Mathena Center for Church Revitalization at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and has written over a dozen books on pastoral ministry. He is married to Cara and they have four children. You can follow him @pastorcroft.