February 22, 2015


To the young Pastor; hope this helps.

You are counseling someone that is a very ill person.  His life is threatened; in fact, he may not have long to live.  Cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney failure or some other critical illness is destroying his body.  He feels alone.  Who else has known pain like this?



Successively, though not necessarily chronologically, he feels denial (“This cannot be happening to me”), anger (“Why me, Lord?”), depression (“There’s and acceptance (“May God’s will be done”). These feelings are not experienced once and then forgotten, but return again and again. They are not abnormal feelings, but are somehow characteristic of those facing the “valley of the shadow.”

What do you say to such a person? How do you respond? A critical illness seems so unique to the sufferer as to resist understanding by another who can’t really know what it’s like. The feeling of being alone in the midst of a trial is very common, here are some hopefully practical ideas to help you with someone in this situation.

  1. Listen! Listen with empathy to the feelings that are shared. Encourage the person to talk.  You may want to probe gently for feelings, some of which lie close to the surface while others may be more deeply submerged.

  1. Pass no judgment on the feelings that are shared, even though they be expressed in anger, self-pity, or bitterness. Just let the caller know that you are hearing him. Don’t appear to be arrogant by saying that you understand the depth of his feelings.  You can’t possibly understand! But, you may tell him that you care.  This can be put into words and also conveyed by the tone of your voice, your gentleness, and your capacity for feeling and identifying. “Think too of all who suffer as if you shared their pain” (Hebrews 13:3, Phillips).

This is no time for you to introduce your own experience of pain and suffering; keep the focus on the inquirer. Good listeners don’t try to match someone’s stories, it’s not time to see who can up with the most points.

  1. Do not try to be a Pollyanna, even a spiritual one. Avoid clichés and platitudes.  Don’t tell the caller to “keep a stiff upper lip,” or to be an example in suffering.

Do not offer false hopes about healing, or tell the individual that all illness is of the devil and if he had sufficient faith he could be healed. God may or may not heal him. These are matters for the Sovereign will.  What we can be sure of is that God will spiritually heal those who put their faith in Jesus Christ.

  1. Don’t discourage any reference he may make about death. This may be a healthy conditioning of the mind for that which is inevitable.  Any references about death can prepare the way for you, as a counselor, to ask if there might be any unfinished business to attend to.  This is why we witness: to help prepare persons for eternity.

You may ask the inquirer, “If you were to die tonight and find yourself at the gates of heaven confronted with the question, ‘On what grounds do you seek admission to God’s heaven?’ what would you say?”

  1. The commitment to Christ should prepare the way to question if he has any other unfinished business, such as relationships (family, friends), financial matters (a will, perhaps), handling of details in regard to the process of dying, death itself, funeral arrangements, disposal of the body, etc. Encourage the inquirer to take care of all these matters, seeking either pastoral or professional advice in the process.

  1. Suggest to the inquirer that he find out if his community has a hospice agency. These agencies specialize in providing reinforcement to the patient whose disease is considered terminal by health care professionals, and to their families.  He may want to contact the local Hospice, Inc., and ask them to describe their services.

  1. Pray for the inquirer that he might have courage and strength to be victorious in pain, committing himself to Him who bore our griefs and our sorrows.

I remember very early in my ministry going to visit an older pastor who was dying a most horrible death, I was outside his room praying that I would bless him, instead I left there blessed by him. I realized (luckily and early) in ministry to not count myself as important in the equation of the eternal questions and fears of those who stand on the portals of eternity.

God bless and I hope this helps.  From scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

3 Responses to “terminal”

  1. a hard ministery, offering comfort and support to the ill… God bless you for your insights.

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