I was unprepared as a mother of little ones to handle all the colds and viruses that came our way. I remember being so excited to finally get out of the house during the long, cold days of winter for a play date or mom's group only to find one of the kids had woken with a runny nose or a little cough. I'd hate to cancel and try to play the guessing game, "Maybe it's just allergies...Maybe it's just teething...Maybe no one will notice!"
And oh, the stomach viruses with little ones who can't get to a bathroom in time! There was one bout of the stomach bug when both my husband and I were hit at the same time as our infant son was recovering (or so I thought). My husband lay moaning on the bathroom floor and I, in my delusional state, thought my son was well enough to go back to formula. The poor baby woke up an hour later screaming; I was so weak I could barely hold him and was scared when I couldn’t calm him. I called my angel of a neighbor to please help us. She came just in time to pick up my son as he threw up all over her. But, amazingly, she remained calm, changed him and rocked him to sleep. She, then, threw in a load of laundry for us and headed to the grocery store for Pedialyte, 7-up, crackers, chicken noodle soup and all the things I now know a house with a stomach virus needs.
Last year, after moving from WI to PA and having a whole new set of germs to encounter, someone always seemed sick. We were new to the area, had a new baby and didn't have the same network of neighbors and friends to help. It made me grateful for all those times in our past our kind neighbor helped, and for my girlfriend down the street who would pick up a bottle of apple juice, and the church care group member who went out at 11:00 pm for more infant tylenol, and another who brought over homemade soup from her freezer. These people saw us at our worst--unbathed and greasy, tired and frustrated, sapped of willpower and joy, messy house with dishes and laundry everywhere--and in tangible ways, ministered to us.
Now this year, we have been healthy, not a smidge of temperature, cold or flu, until this week. My husband has been in bed for 7 days now and said today he is actually feeling worse. This is my Western-Canadian-farm-boy-turned-philosopher, who will teach a Heidegger class in between vomiting. But this infection has just wiped him out and has left me to care for him, our home, and our children on my own. I’ve managed to cope with Coca-Cola, junk food, movies and late-night runs to the grocery store. And being trapped inside, Facebook and emails have certainly kept me going too. I hope I will never again scoff at the internet’s ability to connect people! But it was the visit last night from a friend that changed things. Yes, it helped that he came with a bag of new movies for the kids, a pile of magazines for hubby, and a plate of cookies, it was again that tangible love we had known in the past. But it was when he was willing to lay his hands on my sick husband in prayer that the tangible love was complete.
So often when we think of serving the church or our neighbor, we think big things: leading a ministry, sharing the gospel, or going on a mission trip. Although it is an unglamorous, behind-the-scenes way to serve, in caring for the sick we can truly be the hands and feet of Jesus to others. Jesus, who spent much of ministry on earth tending to the sick, still offers healing of body and soul.
Sadly, there are those who have never experienced this healing and there are churches that don’t encourage this type of care. Perhaps just as sad are those of us who out of an unhealthy pride reject help because we don’t want to show our weaknesses (be it illness or the mess that follows!) and fear becoming a burden to others. When we do this, we not only cut ourselves off from love but refuse others the ability to give that love.
Prayers For a Sick Person
O Father of mercies and God of all comfort, our only help in
time of need: We humbly beseech thee to behold, visit, and
relieve thy sick servant N. for whom our prayers are desired.
Look upon him with the eyes of thy mercy; comfort him with
a sense of thy goodness; preserve him from the temptations
of the enemy; and give him patience under his affliction. In
thy good time, restore him to health, and enable him to lead
the residue of his life in thy fear, and to thy glory; and grant
that finally he may dwell with thee in life everlasting; through
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
For the Sanctification of Illness
Sanctify, O Lord, the sickness of your servant N., that the
sense of his weakness may add strength to his faith and
seriousness to his repentance; and grant that he may live with
you in everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
For Health of Body and Soul
May God the Father bless you, God the Son heal you, God
the Holy Spirit give you strength. May God the holy and
undivided Trinity guard your body, save your soul, and bring
you safely to his heavenly country; where he lives and reigns
for ever and ever. Amen.
(Book of Common Prayer, p. 457-459)
Scripture for the sick from the Book of Common Prayer
2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (God comforts us in affliction)
Psalm 91 (He will give his angels charge over you)
Luke 17:11-19 (Your faith has made you well)