Here’s advice from one who has learned the hard way: While your wife is giving birth, do not stand beside her bed and complain about your hangnail. Compassion and empathy are great gifts in a hurting world.
Earlier this week a couple stopped by. They’ve endured more setbacks than the designers of the Ford Pinto. They encapsulate joy in the midst of hardship. Faith. And a hope that’s out of this world. My sister has a tear in her retina, blood has filled her eye, so she’s been sentenced to lie on her back with little movement. She called and said, “I need a pastoral visit.”
I’m no pastor but off I went. What do you say at such times? “Hang in there.” “God is good, all the time.” I sincerely hope not. Here are five things I’ve learned as a caregiver.
1. Be there. When a friend lost his son, a friend of his was so fearful of saying the wrong words, he stayed away for more than a year. Your presence says more than words.
2. Listen, listen, then listen.
3. If you finally speak, avoid saying, “I know how you feel.” Say things like, “This is so hard. I’m sorry.”
4. If they’re in a mess because of bad choices, avoid the urge to condemn. Convey hope and remind them of God’s grace and forgiveness in your own life.
5. Never betray a confidence.
Lying there with her eyes closed, my sister asked me to read a story I’d been working on. She smiled and snickered as I did. Then she asked me to read a Psalm. I chose Psalm 31 (NIV) and watched a smile spread across her face.
“In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me…as for me, I trust in the Lord. I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul… Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief….my strength fails because of my affliction…But I trust in you, Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands.”
God be with you today as you bring comfort to others.
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