I don’t know many pastors who took up preaching because they loved preaching funerals. That certainly wasn’t on my radar as a seminary student. I also don’t know many pastors who genuinely enjoy making hospital visits. People tell me all the time they hate hospitals. Honestly, don’t we all?
Nevertheless, after a decade of being a pastor, I can honestly say I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve had to visit people in the hospital and preside over funeral services. Here are seven reasons I look back and thank God for opportunities to minister to the sick, the dying, and the grieving.
- I need to be reminded that life is short. It’s so easy to roll through life without ever thinking about the reality that one day I will die. It may be soon or decades away, but I will die. Life is short, and I need to be reminded of this reality.
- I need to reflect on my own life and priorities. Think back to the last funeral you attended. I’d be willing to bet that you found yourself thinking about your own life and your priorities. This is a healthy practice for all of us.
- I need to understand the effects of the fall. Sometimes it can be hard to read Genesis 3 and grasp the gravity of what happened in the garden. But seeing people suffer, and seeing death up close reminds me that sin leads to death.
- I need to be reminded that “stuff” isn’t important. Like most people, I find myself spending too much time worrying about “stuff.” Of course, stuff matters while we’re here. But sooner or later my stuff is headed to an estate sale.
- I need to be around people who are headed to heaven. Those who love Jesus and are close to death have a palpable longing to go “home.” Often, I find myself too comfortable in this world instead of longing for my true home.
- I need to share the gospel with those who need it most. I’ve shared the gospel with unbelievers who were on the verge of death, and I’ve shared the gospel with families who grieve without hope. To these people, the gospel offers hope.
- I need to be amazed at the suffering of Christ. Watching people suffer from sickness is heartbreaking, and watching people grieve is hard. In these tragic circumstances, I find myself increasingly amazed that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Our Creator willing chose to identify with sinful people and walk in the world ruined by our sin. He took our illness. He grieved over death. He tasted death for us. This is grace, and I’m grateful for the reminder that my Savior understands suffering.