39 ‘ When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’
40 “And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ Matthew 25:39-40 (NKJV)
By Bro. John L. Cash, “Country Preacher Dad
I’m putting my photograph on the devotion this morning. I realize now that I need to do that more often. One time I wrote a story about another preacher who was 90 years old, and I put his picture next to my story. I got feedback from people who said, “You’re a lot older than I thought.” So, now you have a better idea of my age.
Another reason I’m putting my photo on the website is this: I want you to see the bruise on my arm. I got that compliments of the blood pressure cuff in the hospital. I just got two shiny new stents inserted in a major coronary artery. Those stents have not bothered me one bit. I don’t even know I have them for the most part. But the bruise on my arm, now that’s another matter entirely. It has been my constant miserable companion. The bruise and I sit up at night to keep each other company.
I’ve been sick more than a few times in my lives. And I have ministered to a lot of people who are sick. Here is a profound truth that I have learned about sickness: “It’s the little stuff that is worrisome.”
It’s something that I’ve seen over and over. People have the most serious ailments that you can imagine, and they are in misery. But the thing that is making them miserable is not the terminal illness that they have. The thing that they are suffering is some little thing that is driving them crazy.
I have seen people with cancer say, “I feel fine. The cancer does not hurt. But, I can’t sleep because I have this canker sore.” I have seen a man with a triple cardiac bypass say, “I’d feel fine, if they would just bring me something for this headache.” It’s the little stuff that’s worrisome.
I have one friend who has taught me this truth so perfectly. His name is Kent Darsey, and he is doing very well after a heart transplant. Before his heart transplant, the doctors fitted him with an experimental artificial heart pump for several months. During that time, he did not have a pulse, because the artificial heart circulated his blood steadily. He had to carry around a little suitcase with a battery pack in it to keep his heart going so he could stay alive. At night he plugged himself into the wall socket so he could live until morning. Serious stuff.
Once I was visiting him in the hospital in the cardiac intensive care unit. Kent was recovering from the aftermath of a major heart procedure, but that wasn’t bothering him a bit. What was bothering Kent was heartburn. He had such burning from stomach acid that his eyes were filled with tears. From the CCU this is what he said, “Brother John, I am fine…if they would just bring me a dose of Maalox.”
Kent’s devoted wife, Barbrea, had buzzed the nurses’ desk to have a dose of Maalox delivered. An hour passed, and then a little more. No Maalox. Barbrea buzzed the nurses’ station again. The nurses said that the Maalox was on its way. Then in exasperation, Kent exclaimed, “Is it that hard to get a dose of Maalox? Where did they go to get it? Georgia?” His eyes filled with tears again from his gastric reflux.
Just then, an orderly (who had heard the entire conversation) came jogging in with a small cup of creamy white liquid. And in her most pleasant and chirpy voice she announced, “Hello, Mr. Darsey! We’re back from Atlanta with your Mylanta!”
Kent, Barbrea and I have all laughed at that story more than once since he has gotten better. But let me tell you, at the time it wasn’t funny. It wasn’t a big problem that was bothering Kent, but his suffering was intense and very real.
So, here’s the lesson for the day. In today’s Gospel lesson (at the top) Jesus tells us some of the questions He is going to ask us on the last day. One of the questions is, “Did you visit Me when I was sick?” And, of course, He is going to tell us that every time we visited one of “the least of these” who was sick, we visited Him. You can read the whole story (which is a good one) in Matthew 25:31-46.
But there’s something I want to add today. Don’t ever minimize the importance of what you can do for a sick person or that person’s family. Always remember that it is the small stuff that is worrisome and that the small setbacks often cause great suffering. And since that’s the case, the opposite is also true. If you bless the sick in a way that seems small to you, in reality you may provide great blessing.
Always take time to listen. Some people say, “I don’t like to visit that person because he is always complaining about little ailments.” But what the sick person is trying to say is, “This small thing is bothering me a lot. I need someone to show they care by listening to me.”
So, dear Mama, remember to care for the sick today. Your small deeds will do great good. And by the way, my bruise is better now. Thanks for listening.
Dr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad” (Sing that to the title to the tune of “Secret Agent Man) He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and is beginning his third decade of being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. He and his lovely wife, Susan, and his sons, Spencer (age 17) and Seth (age 14) live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church, where lots of prayers are offered up for the sick. You can write him at email@example.com.