It’s amazing how much having a daughter with leukemia gives me a lot more to say to people in the hospital. You would be surprised how often I really don’t know what to say when I visit hurting people. I feel a lot like Peter in the Bible where it says “Peter did not want know what to say and then he spoke up” Mark 9:6 :-).
I want to explain a minute here. Pastors don’t visit hurting people simply because they have special training or always know what to say. Pastors visit sick and hurting people because they simply choose to show up. They simply show up and start talking about life. You would think that a pastor posseses a fountain of wisdom he bestows on someone those in need. And yes, sometimes I do have perspective to offer. But, especially for a guy at 31 years old visiting folks in their 80s and 70s… I don’t have a lot of wisdom to offer. So what do I offer? I show up.
Now, I get that my role as a pastor mean something. I get that me stepping through the door as pastor sometimes symbolizes the care and love of the whole church. I get that. But I want to argue that the majority of the help I offer comes from my simple presence as a living, breathing human being who showed up.
Someone who sits in a hospital bed fighting a chronic heart problem first wants healing. Healing, barring a miracle, sometimes remains out of the question. So, the second thing a person in that hospital bed wants is to know people care and people are walking with them.
My favorite thing about marriage might surprise you. 🙂 Having someone to share life with makes life meaningful and endurable. Simply knowing someone lives with me and witnesses my life somehow makes the pain of life easier to handle. And it certainly makes the joys of life far richer!
In the same way when I show up and witness the value of another human being I make pain a little more bearable. And I do this without saying a word.
Which meant more for you? When someone brought you a meal after surgery or when a pastor taught you the theology of suffering?
Which meant more for you? The people who commented their prayers for you on Facebook or those who called to see how you were doing?
I would argue from experience the best ministry involves just showing up. It involves just making that call, stopping by, and leaning in.
And now that I face leukemia with my daughter I understand better walking in the shoes of someone who hurts. I appreciate so much the love which simply shows up without something profound to say. It just shows up to care.
Please don’t ever assume you can’t care for a hurting person. All you have to do involves action, not necessarily knowledge or skill. It involves listening and loving. Write that card, make that phone call, stop by to visit your friend in the hospital. If you have life in your veins and breath in your lungs you have the capacity to care for someone else. Just do it! Someone else’s life will get a little better.