A pastoral visit to the hospital
Ezekiel 13: They’ve said, “No problem, everything’s just fine,” when things are not at all fine.
Several years ago I was at the hospital visiting a friend who was having surgery the next morning. When someone came into the room to go through a pre-surgery checklist, I excused myself and was about to leave. However, my friend asked me to stay. I reluctantly did so (by the way, I still don’t recommend that the pastor be present for such an interview). As they went through the checklist I was amazed at how blunt it was. Every possible problem was explained. There was a 3% chance of this and a 5% chance of that. Really, it was enough to scare a person! As I reflected on that experience I made a decision to deal with spiritual realities with people in the hospital with the same frankness. Rather than only focusing on praying for them that everything will be okay, I decided that, when the situation was right, I’d find a way to ask them how it is between them and God and offer to help them pray. I’m not pretending that I always get that done. For one thing, so many surgeries are now outpatient surgeries and the opportunity for such a conversation isn’t there. Still, I’m reminded that we Christians aren’t to always tell people “everything’s going to be just fine” when there’s a real chance that it isn’t going to be fine. I don’t have to scare people to death to offer to pray with them about spiritual needs in their life. In fact, it may be the most comforting encounter of all.
Take Away: When the time is right Christians should be ready to have spiritual conversations with people they care about.
I have a few questions
2Kings 20: I’ve just added fifteen yours to your life.
This incident gives us a lot to think about. Hezekiah’s sick and Isaiah comes to him with the news that God says he won’t recover. When Hezekiah pleads with the Lord, Isaiah returns with the news that God has heard his prayer and is going to add 15 years to his life. Also, Isaiah orders medicinal help in the form of a fig plaster. Hezekiah (foolishly brave if you ask me) asks for some kind of sign and Isaiah offers him a choice of the shadow on the sundial moving forward or backward. The king says, “Back” and that’s just what happens. As I said, there’s a lot to think about here. For instance, there’s the fig plaster. Did God give Isaiah a remedy for the illness or is Isaiah just having those caring for Hezekiah do something to bring relief until the healing takes place? These days the church often prays that God will “direct the surgeon’s hands” as an operation is performed. Is that similar to Isaiah saying God will heal but then ordering medicine as well? Then there’s the shadow of the sundial. When this happens it’s seen as a miracle, but now, with our knowledge of the nature of the world, it stands as one of the greatest miracles of the Bible. Talking about “moving heaven and earth” to accomplish something takes on a whole new meaning when I read this account! Then there’s the 15 years. Hezekiah, by my math, is probably 39 years young when this happens. The 15 years will take him all the way to the ripe old age of 54. His broken heart at the prospect of dying in the prime of his life is a very human response. The additional 15 years basically gives him a “normal” life span for that day and age. Is it reasonable for a person to plead with God for more time, a longer life? At what point does a person say, “God’s will be done – I’m ready to go if he chooses to take me”? We see in the story that later on, when emissaries from distant Babylon visit that Hezekiah foolishly shows them all the wealth of his kingdom. Isaiah tells him that he’s made a major mistake that will result in his own descendants being carried off as captives. Hezekiah more or less brushes it off. Had he died would this chain of events still happen? Does God answer one prayer that opens the way for disaster later on? Sorry, but I don’t have the answers. However, as you can see, I have plenty of questions!
Take Away: Some issues in the Bible that don’t make or break our faith are fun to think about.