I read an article the other day about a young female student who had become a Chaplain for a local hospice in her first year of study in a theological seminary. Her professor asked the class how they were applying their biblical education to the people they had been helping. When it was her turn the new chaplain reported, “I just sit with them, and listen to them share about their families.”
The professor laughed condescendingly and retorted, “Do you really think that people on their deathbeds want to chit chat with a first year seminary student about their personal lives?” He went on to list to the rest of the class the spiritually significant elements of life and death that should be pondered and discussed when ministering to individuals facing the end of their lives.
The article reports that this young woman went on to serve as a Chaplain for hospice care for thirteen more years after graduating from seminary. She explained that what she learned over a decade of ministry to people on their deathbeds has affirmed and validated her initial experience back when she had first started. “People who are dying don’t care to debate theology or receive sermons about the significance of religion in their last days on earth,” she said. “For the most part, they talk about their loved ones-who they will miss and with whom they wish that they had spent more time. They share about the love they didn’t receive that they wish they had, and even those they hoped to see in the afterlife. They tell me about who in their lives became like family to them, and who they wished they had loved on more without reservation. Overall, what I have observed is that my knowledge of God is not as important to people, it seems, as my ability to love on them as God would if He were sitting by their side.”
This article should challenge us to consider—what will our last conversations on earth be like? What will be our main concerns? About whom will we think, and what stories will we tell? Will we have any regrets? What will we feel good about that we have done? Will anyone even be there when the time comes?
If these are questions that pull on your heart-strings, chances are there are areas of your life that could use some restoration, revision, and re-direction. The Bible records Paul of Ephesus encouraging the Romans by his conviction that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love; neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow-not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:38 NLT). Who in your life is worth the effort it would take to show unconditional love with this kind of passion and zeal? In what ways do you wish you could feel this kind of love, and what will it take to become someone who is able to receive it? What can you do today that will bring you closer to answering those questions with the comfort of certainty and joy?
When asked which was the greatest commandment in the Law, Jesus replied, “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:36-40, NIV). You might have faith that the answers to those questions will come in the future, or even hope one day you will answer them how you imagine yourself doing so…but what are you doing to show and receive love today?
“Three things will last forever-faith, hope, and love-and the greatest of these is love.”
1 Corinthians 13:13 (NLT)