It's challenging to know what to say when you visit someone who is gravely ill. On the one hand, you want to be uplifting and positive. You want to encourage your friend not to give up their battle. And you want to give them hope that they will recover and heal completely.
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But, you also want to recognize how horrible they may be feeling. Your friend or family member may be tired of pep talks. Perhaps your sick friend wants someone to acknowledge their journey. They might want to talk about how hard it is to keep going. And they might need to confide in someone that they don't know if they can fight anymore.
If you are having a hard time knowing what to say when someone is sick, here are some ideas.
If your friend or family member is a Christian, consider reading one of these passages from the Bible. In the first section of this article is a list of Psalms that you may want to share with your ailing friend. In the second section are scriptures from both the Old and the New Testaments that may provide comfort.
Psalms for Healing and Recovery
You may feel awkward reading from the Bible during a visit with your sick friend. Perhaps you don't know where the person is on their spiritual journey. And maybe you have never talked about your beliefs with others. Many people feel uncomfortable talking openly about their faith.
Don’t make a big deal out of sharing these Psalms. If you’re worried, keep the interaction simple. Just saying, "I thought about you the other day when I read from the book of Psalms. Can I share it with you?" is enough. The patient will either allow you to do so, or they will say "no." If they say” no “ don’t take it personally. Everyone has their own preferences.
If they say “yes” here are some passages from Psalms that might bring comfort to your friend.
1. Psalm 31:9, 14-15
"Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief." "But I trust in you, Lord; I say, 'You are my God.' My times are in your hands."
Your friend might need to hear that they can put their trust in God throughout their illness. Maybe hearing this verse will help remind your friend to have faith during this difficult time.
2. Psalm 147:3
"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."
Hearing that God has the power to clear up wounds and mend a broken heart could resonate with your loved one. Is your friend suffering emotionally as well as physically? Then maybe this is the verse they need to hear.
3. Psalm 6:2-4
"Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long? Turn, Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love."
Your friend or family member may be in such pain that they feel like crying out. Let your sick friend know that they aren't the only ones who have felt this way. This psalm is a reminder that it is ok to ask for help from God.
4. Psalm 107:19-20
"Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them."
Here is another verse about others crying out to God during a time of need. Maybe your friend needs to be told that seeking help from God doesn't make them weak.
5. Psalm 73:26
"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."
We are more than flesh and blood. We are also heart and soul. Perhaps your friend needs to hear that even though their body is suffering, their soul will live on with God.
6. Psalm 34: 19-20
"Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken."
Does your friend need to hear that God will heal any illness or broken bone? Here is the appropriate verse.
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7. Psalm 16: 1-2
"Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the LORD, 'You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.'"
This psalm is a reminder that God can be a refuge in times of trouble. Share this verse with your ailing friend to help them feel comfortable reaching out to God for support.
8. Psalm 41: 4
"As for me, I said, 'O LORD, be gracious to me; heal me, for I have sinned against you!'"
Others before you have asked God for healing, even when they might not “deserve” it. Perhaps your friend needs to hear this right now. It might help them feel comfortable asking God to heal them regardless of their past.
9. Psalm 109:30
"With my mouth I will give great thanks to the Lord."
A grateful heart is a happy heart. Even if your friend is suffering, they can still be thankful for their blessings. It can be hard to focus on the positive things in your lie especially when you’re sick. But doing so can serve as a reminder of all the wonderful things that surround you. Read this to encourage your friend to think about everything they do have.
10. Psalm 23: 1-4
"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me."
This is one of the most famous Psalms. Even though it mentions the illness that may come right before death, it may be appropriate to share with your friend or family member.
Most of the time, a person knows when they are not long for the world. Why not talk about the possibility and share a verse that may give them comfort in that knowledge?
Scriptures for Healing and Recovery
The Book of Psalms if often the go-to place in the Bible when looking for words of encouragement. Of course, there are other places in the Bible where healing is discussed. Here are some other texts you may want to share with your sick or recovering friend.
Many of these texts would be incorporated into a prayer for someone with cancer. Others are more appropriate for someone whose mental health is suffering.
11. Jeremiah 17:14
"Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise."
These words in Jeremiah are from someone with great faith. Perhaps your friend will find comfort in the knowledge that many people turn to God for help.
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12. James 5: 14-15
"Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven."
Some churches send clergy or elders to pray over the sick. They anoint them with oil, just as this verse suggests. Ask if your friend would like to have such a visit.
13. Exodus 23:25
"Worship the LORD your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you."
Do you question God's power? This verse will help you and your friend to realize the authority God has over disease and sickness.
14. Isaiah 41:10
"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
Battling illness can be scary. There is a lot of fear and questioning that comes with the healing process. Especially with a diagnosis of an illness like cancer. After all, it takes time to know whether or not the chemo and radiation are working. A cancer patient may feel afraid while waiting.
This verse tells the patient not to fear. Perhaps they need to hear this statement today. Share it with them.
15. Isaiah 38: 16-17
"You restored me to health and let me live. Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back."
Your friend who is suffering may not yet feel that there was "benefit that I suffered such anguish." Perhaps hearing this will give them hope that there is an end to the pain. And help them realize that God will grant them peace.
Finding the Right Scripture or Psalm
It is hard to know what to say in certain situations. What do you say to grieving parents who lost a child? Or to someone who lost a spouse of many years?
Hopefully, this list of verses can act as a resource. There are so many beautiful verses. Try to find the verse that is most appropriate to the situation and share it. If you don't want to read the verse out loud, consider printing off the verses and giving it to your friend.
Whether reading it or printing it, do your best to be respectful of your friend. What’s most important is making sure your friend knows they have your support during a difficult time.
- “Holy Bible.” www.bible.com/.