If I’m really honest, I have to admit that there are times when visiting elderly church members in nursing homes doesn’t sound fun. It can be emotionally and physically exhausting. It’s hard to see people who are so close to death or those who desire death. I wish I could take away their pain or their loneliness, but I can’t.
But I’ve also experienced some powerful, unexpected joys when visiting these elderly saints. Here are a few of those joys:
Reminders of God’s faithfulness. Some of these elderly saints have been followers of Jesus since they were children. They’ve persevered through many trials. God has been faithful to them and has done amazing things in their lives. Hearing their stories encourages, educates, and sometimes entertains me.
Fixing our eyes on Jesus. As people near death, their eyes are fixed on heaven. They are ready to be with Jesus and think about him every day. One man in particular tells me often, “Oh boy! We just can’t imagine how good it will be to be with Jesus. We don’t deserve it, but God is so good.” Every time I talk to him, I’m reminded that life is short, and I get excited to see Jesus soon.
Sharing the gospel. Although I am the one appointed by the church to preach the gospel, I’m amazed at the way the people I visit preach the gospel back to me. They tell me about things they’ve done in their past and share their assurance of God’s forgiveness. They remind me that we don’t deserve God’s love and mercy. They relish what Jesus has done for us, and they make my pleasure in the gospel a little richer.
Thanksgiving and contentment. These people do not have easy lives. They are losing their independence as they have to rely more on others. Sometimes they are bored or lonely. And yet they never fail to say thanks—to me, to the church, but most of all to God. They have learned contentment and gratitude. I leave them feeling much more thankful for all God has done in my life.
Prayer ministry. God has given many elderly people a ministry of prayer. Even if their activities are extremely limited, they can pray. I was humbled and encouraged to find out that some of the people I visited were praying for me every day before I’d even met them.
God’s sovereign plan. Some of the people I visit ask God every day to take them home, but they wait patiently. They say, “I tell God I’m ready to go home now, but he must have a plan here for me yet. He will take me when he is ready.” Their trust reminds me to trust in God’s sovereign plan for each of our lives.
An awesome God. A woman I visit has been bedridden for years and recently became blind. She has trouble remembering the names of her children. But she still talks for 30 minutes without taking a breath. One minute she’ll be telling you a long story that doesn’t seem to make sense; the next she’ll offer an unscripted, deeply moving prayer. On my last visit, she said, “I just lie here and look up at Jesus in heaven and he looks at me.” Is it really so far-fetched to believe that Jesus would give her this spiritual sight now that she has gone blind? Perhaps letting her see Jesus like Stephen did is God’s special way of sustaining her. Our God is an awesome God!