Wellness is a relative term
My health has not been so good since my last writing. Today is the first day I can see straight and not cough continuously as I try to type. I have had a sinus infection and it has been awful. But I have trouble feeling sorry for myself as I received word today that my friend is back in the hospital with a cancer relapse. So even though I thought I was dying…….things could be worse.
I don’t have all the facts. Just an email from her sister that she is in the hospital and tests are being run. The prognosis is not good, lymphoma, spinal fluid infection, and blood clots in her legs and lungs. Abnormal lymph nodes in her stomach to boot. I don’t want to write a downer blog today so I will stop. I pray for my friend and her recovery from all of this.
I found some tips on dealing with the sick. They are very religious notions but there is something to the spirit of it all that is comforting.
- Be patient. Ask lots of questions. Don’t assume you know what they are thinking or feeling. Ask them.
- Ask direct questions.
- If you can sing, open up a hymnal and sing some songs. If you can’t sing, try anyway. (I am not going to sing!!)
- Avoid questions that can be answered with a yes or no questions. If you ask, “Is it hard being sick” you may not get very far.
- Learn to live with your own feelings of inadequacy. No one knows exactly what to say in these situations. It usually feels a little awkward at first. But don’t let that keep you away. Be bold, and be yourself.
- At some point I think it is appropriate to ask very specific questions, especially if the person is avoiding the harsh realities of the situation. You may have to say something like “There’s a chance you may not get better. Are you scared of dying?” Obviously, you don’t lead with this question as you visit the little girl having her appendix taken out, but in other situations you can’t avoid talking about death. Well, actually, you can avoid it (and you may want to), but you shouldn’t.
- Don’t fall into the trap of talking only about all the medical jibber-jabber. Most people will start out by giving you the medical play-by-play. That’s fine and probably therapeutic. But don’t try to be their doctor. Move past talking about prescriptions, treatments, and the new medical vocabulary everyone is learning. Get to the soul.
- Don’t interrupt. Ask follow up questions. Be slow to correct their thinking. If they need to be challenged, do it after they know you care and take their feelings seriously. Nothing is more discouraging than a friend or pastor who quickly corrects all fears and immediately shines up all your struggles.
- Remind people of things you know they already know. We forget. We doubt. It helps to hear others tell us the same truth one more time.
- Open the Bible. Read the Bible. Teach the Bible. If our theology doesn’t help when people are sick and dying, what good is it? (Okay I am skipping this step because I am not that type of person, but if it works for you and your situation go for it.)
These ideas came from Kevin DeYoung a senior pastor of University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University.
* I know you are thinking this is a very conservative body that doesn’t approve of my life style. Why are you quoting him? Because we don’t have to agree or disagree about everything. The church is not entirely wrong or right and I no I certain am not. I particularly like his last line “If our theology doesn’t help when people are sick and dying, what good is it?“