In suffering it is so easy to forget to trust God. Focusing on our pain, loss, or troubles, the difficulties loom large. God recedes into the blurred background not because He is any less important but because we turn the dial on our mental lens to focus on the trouble.
One vital reason to visit the sick is to encourage the their trust in God by gently dialing the mental lens to bring the love and goodness of God into crisp focus so that, as much as possible, the circumstances fade into background blur. We want to shift his focus from his pain to Christ. As Paul said,
For we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Cor. 4:16-18).
Since Scripture is self-revelation from God, it is the resource for renewing the mind by looking at what is not seen with the physical eyes.
Using Scripture during a hospital or shut-in visit
So, when you visit the sick, should you read Scripture? Certainly that would be ideal. By the Word of God the person in need will hear the words of his loving Maker and Preserver, trustworthy words of hope and comfort. However, there is no requirement to read Scripture at every visit. You can weave a pertinent memorized verse into your conversation or just speak a Scripture-based truth in your own words.
Two topics important for a sufferer are the character of God and His love for the person. For example, knowledge of His omnipresence reminds the patient that he is not alone in his trial, or the compassion of God that God cares about his suffering, or the sovereignty of God that God is both in control and that even sufferers need to submit to His will.
Direct attention to the love of God for the person. God has given this person life, gifts, talents, family, friends, good times in living and so much more. Most of all, God has given His Son who, even when we hated Him, loved us so much that He gave His life to pay the penalty we deserve and freely gives eternal life with Him. Trials are more bearable when we know we are loved. Love comforts. Love inspires trust. Love leads us to reciprocate love to the Lord even when we hurt.
When you state a verse, use one that is relevant to the situation. For example, is the person discouraged? Psalm 42:11 speaks about discouragement and despair and tells us what to do:
Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance, and my God.
When despairing, we need to talk to ourselves and tell ourselves to trust the Lord. Believing in the hope of heavenly joy with Him we can also praise Him now. (If the patient with the help of the Holy Spirit applies this verse even when his feelings tell him otherwise, that grateful attitude will show on his face.)
Another great verse for almost any trouble is Psalm 46:1.
God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Our only sure hope is in God. Yes, the Lord has granted to men the power to cut and sew flesh, replace joints and organs, alleviate pain, kill germs, and kill or hinder rogue cells in our bodies. These are all mechanical actions or destructive operations, not the power to heal. It is God who causes cells and tissues to actually re-knit in healing. Even if man could make cells, God is the one who gives us each breath that keeps us living, the only one present with us for every one of those breaths, present with us in every trouble. He is the only one on whom to place our whole trust. We can ask Him for strength to endure in a way that pleases Him. We can make Him our refuge.
If you don’t have a grasp of key verses, think about carrying a 3×5 card with a short list. Need some ideas?
- Gospel Passages: John 11:25-26; Rom 5:6-11; Eph 2:1-10; 2 Cor 5:17-21
- Anxiety, Fear, Nervousness: Phil. 4:6-8; Ps. 46:1
- Comfort: Ps 23; Ps. 34; Ps. 46; Heb 4:14-16; Ps. 130; John 14:1-6
- Weary: Ps. 139; Lam. 3:22-23
- Disheartened: Ps 42
- Hope of Eternity with Christ: John 10:27-30; John 14:1-3; 1 Pet 1:3-5
- Pre-surgery: Ps. 56:4; 138:8; Phil. 4:6-8
- Surgery recovery: 1 Pet. 5:5-7; Ps. 34:1-3, 8
How much should be read? It depends on the situation. Often, a hospital or rehab setting can hinder a patient’s ability to focus. A long-term care facility or a home environment may be conducive to more reading unless illness or pain is distracting. Generally, keep it short, a verse or few. Better a single sip to savor than a deluge that swamps.