“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” Matthew 25:35-36
Helping people deal with life’s hurts, even our own. For visitations, hospital calls, crises care, Hospice and grief counseling.
“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” Hebrews 10: 35-36
What we Face
We live in a world that has fallen into sin and sickness, aging, suffering, and death is the result. Our church members will be in distress, overcome with sickness and all kinds of hurt. That is when their greatest need for you arises. What we are to bring is not a solution, that is the role of Doctors and medical professionals, if that is even available. What we bring is what the heart so desperately needs, compassion and mercy. And we do so with tenderness, and a caring attitude, just as our Lord did when faced with similar situations, “When He saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36).
Struggles are real and are not often easily answered by reason or study for those who are hurting. They do not need a Bible lesson, unless It is asked for. They do not need a quick word or advice. There are no quick answers even though there seems to be an abundance of shallow annotations from others in their life or empty prayers meant to suffice one’s ills. In the midst of one’s dire times, even to the most mature Christian will be met with confusion and perhaps a loss of hope to their outlook.
Mental confusion can cause even more distress and confusion. Sometimes they are skewed or consumed by both past and current circumstances as well as our fears of the future. Sometimes it is guilt and unmet forgiveness that consumes. All of us in those situations will wonder if we can really do this; can we have real, effectual faith in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ? Is there meaning for me as I lay on my bed, unable to do as I once did or desire too? Can we live up to this? Can we do as Christ has called us to do? Can we process and get beyond what is behind us? Can we go through what lies ahead?
What we Bring
As a minister of the Word and Sacraments, what we bring is Hope! We use our presence, our listening, God’s Word, our limited and wise choice of our own words when necessary. We point to Christ, that our only hope in life is our alignment with Christ as Lord. To move away from sin, brokenness and our hurts by the Person and Work of Christ.
The key to any interaction or ministry with those who are on the journey of death and dying or in severe sickness is compassion and the time to actively and authentically listen!
Even though the hurts, fears or anger my block out that view Remember patience, and to play the long game. We need to accept the fact that God is in control, even if we do not understand how. It is by faith that we can endure and then learn from it, becoming better and recovered from it. We can place such faith in Christ because of the assurance we have through His Word, even when we do not understand.
Help them see what is really important. That’s our true home and purpose is not here on this earth; it is still to come. We are not made for this world, we are just here to sojourn and learn all we can, and with what Christ has given to us, make the best and most of the situations in which we find ourselves. Then, one day, we will be called to our true home in eternity, in Heaven. We So, let us cling to the Hope we have in Christ, not the things we experience or the losses we have endured!
My first pastoral visitations were to an AIDS Hospice in San Francisco, 1982. In this era, it was called the “Gay Problem,” no one knew the cause and people were hysterical with fear, especially Christians. It was not our finest hour. Christians were very harsh and judgmental. In fact, I was not ordained then, and have not even started seminary. I was a Youth Minister still in college who had a church member suffering from AIDS from a blood transfusion. People in my church reviled him, assumed, blamed, chastised. I was the only one who would visit him and I was fired from my church for doing so. I was the only ‘clergy’ whoever visited and helped in that makeshift Hospice at that time. I learned a lot then. I learned to trust God and His word. And I learned what to do and what to never do. And a few weeks later I was hired back.
Be Listening. To be effective in pastoral care we must know how to listen, all it takes is the will to turn it on and let it work (James 1:19-25).
To know how to listen is our ministry built upon a support structure on the foundation of the Lord where all the leadership aspects are part of the building of a real pastor. Listening makes up the frame that all the structure is built on. Without the frame and without a skeleton, our bodies and houses will limp and fall to destruction. Without the support of listening and caring, we will fall limp and surely fail, even if you may be good in other areas of ministry. Because no one cares what you know or do, unless you care and listen to them. How do I listen? Be still, open ears, close mouth, turn off the noise of your will. This is a natural ability and a skill that can be improved on. All it takes is the will to turn it on and let it work. We can also learn techniques to improve our abilities.
Remember, relationships are built on listening, to God’s Word and with each other. The words that we hear are not as important as the care and effort put into them; the effect of listening is that the words are not all of the meaning of the message. The primary focus in communication is the hearer and receiver of the communication in relationship to each other, that means the care is usually more important than the words, especially for those who are hurting!
Be Present. Just because you are there, does not mean you are present. Your mind must be there too, not on your phone or other thoughts. God gives us His presence first and foremost, we can do that to others in our care (Psalm 90:1-2; Luke 9:11).
Be Thoughtful. Pay attention to the person and be aware of their situation. Learn from them, do not think this is about you. This is how God deals with us, with care (Psalm 106:44).
Be Affirming. The biggest gift we can ever give someone in need or hurting is hope. Hope is something people can’t live without, it is showing our concern and best dispensed by being affirming and encouraging. Put your hand on their shoulder, hold their hand, if they are well and willing a hug. Say something that encourages. This is when a Bible passage does well (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
Be Accepting. If the person is not a Christian, a member of another religion, or not a member of your church, or have disfiguring condition, or has a scary illness, like HIV or a sexually transmitted disease or is belligerent, just be kind. Do not be embarrassed or judgmental or fearful. They may be more embarrassed or fearful of you. If you are afraid of getting sick, wash your hands after, and not in their presence. Never touch your eyes or mouth until after you wash up. Remember, it is not a sin to be sick, and it is not because they do not have faith. How are we to be? Look to our Lord as He encountered societies unwelcome with love, so can we (Matthew 25:35-36; Acts 15:4).
Be Praying. Know that God is here, bring Him into the encounter and conversation. Know that God can heal and give comfort and point to the fact He is present. Do not be quick or rash with prayer, do not let it be rhetoric; rather, let it come from the heart and be conversational. And see if they want to pray too (Colossians 4:2-4; James 5:16).
Be Observant. Make sure they are being properly cared for. That a qualified doctor has them in their care. If there are bed sores or no water or something afoot, that may be a red flag that something is wrong. Check on any caregiver and see what help they need or if they are negligent. If so, find out who oversees them and with tact, share your concern (Luke 10:25-37).
If you know your Bible, as you should, we are called to display kindness even to enemies, care for those who are lost, forgive others who are undeserving, provide help those who are hurting, and be patient with those who are difficult or different than ourselves.
When we are with others, as ministers of the Gospel, we must realize that God is at work in the lives of others that we have no idea about. Thus, do not make judgments or hold preconceived ideas or prejudices, for these are of the devil. And use a gentle touch when appropriate.
The ‘Nevers,’ no matter who they are. If you can’t yield to these, do not engage! Never, accuse! Never judge! Never assume! Never blame! Never discourage! Never say it is because they do not have enough faith! Never write them off! Remember who did Jesus have compassion on? To those who are sinners and hurting! Who did He judge harshly? The pious fraud, uncaring, and hypocritical leaders of His people (Matthew 23).
If you want to know how to do pastoral ministry, pay no attention to me, all you need to do is really and truly read the Gospels and see how our Lord did so.
Know you can do this! Have hope! There is a certainty that we have in Christ that we share with others in our preaching and our presence. We have His promise, as real, tangible hope for our daily Christian living. But, we must receive it, know it, and exercise it so faith is our practice and righteousness is our goal. In so doing, God is glorified in both the ordinary and the extraordinary. Even when we do not see it or it has not been given, He promises to take care of our needs; this is a guarantee we can bank on. This is about our dependence on Christ; as our High Priest, He gives us so much, and we should never take anything for granted or ignore what He has done.
When you are on your pastoral rounds know this. Jesus invites us to go to Him at any time, a privilege that previously only the high priest had-and then only once a year-to be in the presence of God. So, go to Him in prayer and in His Word; get busy! Do you know what He has done for you? You have access to God; a personal relationship is now extended to you that was only rarely dispensed in Old Testament times! If it were not, we all would be living the opposite of His call-that is, not having hope, faith, or confidence in Him so we could live for Him. “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Psalm 27:13
We all must remember this paramount point, a pastor is one who points to Christ, who leads others to Christ and who speak for Christ by His Word. In our encounters with life’s hurting people, we sit and listen. When it is appropriate, we counsel with those who need to know there is some who listens and cares that represents Christ our Lord.
We “pastor,” as lead them to deal with of suffering, helping them to take to heart that when life is at its darkest, God is there. We help those who are hurting to understand Christ’s still here loving and carrying them through it by our dependence on Christ.
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Some comforting verses to share: Psalm 27; 31:9; Psalm 119:50; Isaiah 41:10; Romans 8:18; 28-29; 35-37; James 1:2-3; 12; John 9; 14:1; Colossians 1:24; 1 Thessalonians 1:6-7; 1 Peter 4:12-19; Hebrews 10:34; Revelation 21:4.
Here is my page on Handling Suffering, filled with resources that are Biblical and insightful to assist you:
© 2003, Rev. Richard Krejcir, for use in Pastoral seminars for Into Thy Word and Fuller Seminary