This article is about showing the love of Christ for someone that is ill or in hospital. It talks about the effects of hospitalization, and good etiquette when visiting the sick.

Source: Clarion, 2006. 2 pages.

The Hospital Visit


It seems that hospital stays have been dramatically shortened in recent years. A mother giving birth to her child might be in the hospital for less than twenty-four hours. People having what I would consider major surgery have only a one night stay. In such cases, a patient will probably only have visits from immediate family and very close friends. Quite frankly, I don’t think a young mother appreciates having a visit from me as minister when she is resting, busy with the baby, and getting ready to go home. However, there are patients who remain in hospital for many days or weeks.

A long stay in the hospital can be an emotionally difficult time. Both patient and family have some anxiety about recovery and health. There can be boredom. Another factor is the feeling of being disconnected from family and community. Everyone else is busy with family, work, hobbies, vacations, and plans. But meanwhile, the patient’s life is on hold and cut off from the rest of the community. Life in the hospital is a different world altogether. Someone who has been in the hospital for a while longs for normalcy and just to be part of daily life.

What a blessing it is to receive visitors for encouragement and companionship. What a blessing to feel connected with the community outside the hospital.

Our Calling🔗

As Christians, we have a calling to show compassion to the sick and troubled and therefore to visit them in hospitals. Of course this would include those in other kinds of institutions or those confined to their own home. The Old Testament has some remarkable guidelines about taking care of the sick and the troubled. Our Lord Jesus Christ set for us a powerful example in caring for the sick, the disabled, and anyone suffering from physical and emotional ailments. We remember what He said in Matthew 25: “I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Then He explained what He meant by this: “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Also in the Form for the Ordination of Deacons we read:

Also today the Lord calls on us to show hospitality, generosity, and mercy, so that the weak and needy may share abundantly in the joy of God’s people. No one in the congregation of Christ may live uncomforted under the pressure of sickness, loneliness, and poverty … They (the deacons) shall promote with word and deed the unity and fellowship in the Holy Spirit which the congregation enjoys at the table of the Lord. In this way God’s children will increase in love to one another and to all men.

Having enjoyed the grace of God and the depth of his love in the gift of his Son Jesus Christ, we are now to love one another, not just in word but also in deed. How obvious it is that this would definitely include visiting someone in the hospital.


Hospitals acknowledge the value of visitors. Visits enhance the recovery rates of patients. I have first-hand experience of doctors who were amazed at the recovery of a patient who was supported by the communion of saints. One person suffering from suicidal depression recovered so fast and so well that the doctor told the patient, “your church community’s support has done this.” Even if visiting did not speed up recovery rates, having the loving support of family, friends, and church community will make the time of recovery more rewarding.

Do It🔗

What some people discover when they are in the hospital is that people whom they considered friends or people who promised to visit them do not do so. For some who fail to visit it is an unconscionable lack of love. They are too caught up with their own interests to bother making the hospital visit. Shame on them! But there are also those who are afraid to go. Apparently, some people are about as afraid of making hospital visits as public speaking. They are afraid of what they are to say and do. They are thinking, “What can I say to make a real difference in this person’s life and to help them get through their illness or recovery?”

Of course there may be legitimate reasons for not making a visit: you should not go if you are feeling ill; sometimes only immediate family is allowed. But being afraid and not knowing what to say is no excuse. In fact, experts tell us and personal experience backs this up, the main thing about a visit is simply being there. We mentioned earlier that patients who are in the hospital feel disconnected from their regular world. When you come as a friend or member of the congregation, you are connecting them with that world. You normalize what is not a normal situation. You show friendship, love, compassion, and support to someone in need. A visitor does not have to say a lot or answer deep theological questions such as, “Why does God do such things?” Often it is just listening and empathizing that is such a huge support for a patient.


As important as it is to make visits to those in hospital, it is also important to exercise proper hospital etiquette. One expert on hospital visitation states that without proper etiquette, one had better stay away. It is important that we take the personal needs of a patient into consideration. For instance, if a lot of pain and disability is involved, we might want to consider contacting the family and asking whether a visit is appropriate. Keep in mind a hospital’s visitation times and never get in the way of the hospital staff. Proper rest and proper medical attention are very important. When coming into a room where the curtains are drawn, announce your presence in a calm voice and ask whether you can come farther. Be very respectful of a patient’s personal space and dignity. For instance, don’t plop down on the bed or pick at their food tray; don’t poke around in cards and personal items; don’t grab their arm or give a big hug unless you have the kind of relationship that would allow that.

Perhaps the biggest thing to keep in mind is that this visit is not about you or about your desire to be needed. Be careful not to offer all kinds of opinions about medical conditions and don’t offer stories about other people who have had similar experiences. This is not helpful. Show that you care and focus on the person who is lying or sitting there with suffering or problems. Let them talk and set the course of the discussion. Periods of silence can be just fine. When a patient opens up and tells of their suffering or anxiety, sometimes the best thing you can do is show that you care, to express sympathy, and to promise that you will think of them and keep them in prayer. A suffering person wants support and to connect with you and to feel that you care.

Keep the visit short if the patient is tired or in pain. Ask whether it is a good time to go. And only promise that you will come back if you fully intend to do so. You can ask whether the patient would appreciate Bible reading and prayer.

The Love of Christ🔗

We read in 1 John 4, “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” God’s love is perfected or made complete in us when his love leads us to love our brother or sister who is in need. Visiting those who are in hospital, visiting the lonely, the shut-in, and any one in need demonstrates the love of God. And it is a powerful and wonderful way for our brother or sister to come to this conclusion: how beautiful it is when brothers and sisters dwell in sweet communion.

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