Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

April 2, 2006


Do yourself a favor and visit a sick friend in the hospital


      “Do you enjoy visiting the sick?” The question surprised me since it was posed by a friend who, like me, is a retired pastor. I needed little time to ponder my answer.

          “Of course,” I replied. “Visiting the sick gives me the opportunity to practice Christianity at its best – one on one.”

          My friend shook his head. He said, “During all my years in the ministry the thing I disliked the most was visiting the sick. And that is what I like about being retired – I don’t have to make hospital and nursing home calls anymore.”

           Our conversation reminded me that we all have different gifts and strengths. We are all wired differently. What turns one person on may not turn his best friend on. I respect my friend; he respects me. I do not think I am right and he is wrong. We are simply different.

          My present ministry involves visiting the sick. Some are sick at home. Some are in nursing homes. Others are physically impaired and for the most part homebound. Sometime most of us become hospital patients for a few days because of illness or the need for surgery.

          I truly enjoy visiting sick persons for several reasons. The most important is that it gives me an opportunity to offer compassion to people at a time when it is most needed. We all have a basic need to be loved – and what better time to receive love from a caring friend than when you are anxious about your health.

          Christianity is more than doctrine, more than ritual, more than worship and singing, more than programs and buildings; it is a relationship with Christ that motivates you to care about others. Without compassion, there is no genuine Christianity.

          Compassion can be shared in other ways, of course, than visiting sick people. Such visitation is simply one concrete way of caring for others, and some of us find it an enjoyable ministry.

          I like visiting the sick because it gives me a chance to cheer people up.

A cheerful spirit is almost always welcome in a hospital room. A sour spirit is never welcome nor does it help anyone. What most people need is someone who will encourage them, offer them hope for the future, and help them to feel better about themselves.

          A cheerful word wrapped in a smile is good medicine for the soul. At my age I usually put my hand gently on the forehead of a sick person as I offer a prayer. Touching people with compassion will never go out of style. Jesus taught us that. We may not be able to heal people as he did but we can touch them with love knowing that love often becomes a channel of God’s healing power.

          I love visiting sick people in the hospital because of what it meant to me when I was desperately ill in the hospital myself. I don’t remember what my friends said when they visited me; I just remember that they were there. Their presence made a difference that I cannot explain. My heart continues to be full of gratitude for the people who took he time to come by my hospital bed to let me know they cared about me.

          Prolonged visits with the sick are not desirable. I understand that. A good visit need not be more than a few minutes. Loving concern can be conveyed in a few words with a warm smile and a brief prayer.

          Jesus felt visiting the sick was very important. His words can be motivating when I am weary and my body is directing me toward my easy chair. He made it clear that how we respond to the needs of others will determine our final destiny.

          He even put himself into the picture. If I fail to visit the least of my brothers when he is sick, I have failed to visit him. That is what he said. I don’t think he wanted us to visit the sick for the wrong motive – out of fear that we would not go to heaven.

          He wanted our chief motive to be love. He wanted us to care for others because we have compassion for them. He knew that if we would drop what we are doing and take the time to visit a friend in the hospital, we would be doing ourselves a favor. That is because ultimately we are the ones who are blessed the most by an act of kindness extended to another. + + + +