This is probably seems like an old-fashioned word. It means, “someone confined to the indoors” and can be from any number of things: accident, illness, being a new mother, surgical recovery, etc. Any church, at any given time, will have various types of “shut-ins.” Some will be for a shorter period of time, others may take a long time to heal or recover, but never-the-less, all would likely welcome some human intervention!
As our church ages, we are all going to have more opportunities to be a blessing to a “shut-in.” It wasn’t that long ago, that I experienced being a “shut-in.” In October of last year, I had a total hip replacement. What was I thinking? I thought I’d be up and running (literally) in a couple of weeks. After all, I exercise regularly, I eat good, healthy foods and I am still under 70! BUT….a different thing happened. I experienced one of the “risks” of any surgery- nerve damage. Although the prosthesis seated like it was supposed to, the subsequent nerve pain was almost unbearable: numbness, tingling, pain upon touch. I couldn’t understand “why” even something as simple as a sheet on top of my hip and thigh was excruciating. It wasn’t until my 6-week follow-up with my surgeon that he put a name to the pain! He told me that there wasn’t really anything that he could do for it and it would probably decrease over time—12-18 months. As I write this, it has been nearly a year, and it is about 50% better, so he was right!
I tell you those details, because during this time (October, November, December, January and February) I wasn’t able to get out much and I was really “lonesome” for friends. When you literally spend most of your waking hours on the couch- and your biggest adventure is a shower- you’re looking for a little excitement! For the first few weeks, I had one particular friend who visited at least weekly. She’d come over and sit on my walker and we’d “catch up!” (That’s a good visual, two old gals eating dark chocolate and visiting!) I had friends that were here as soon as I got home from the hospital, with favorite treats! Other friends checked in by text, phone and also visited. I cannot tell you what a sweet blessing that connection was.
In our church family, there have been many opportunities to be a blessing. Several other ladies have had hip replacements during this same time, and we cleverly called ourselves the “hipsta sistas!” It was good to connect with them frequently—some daily. Since I “knew” what was going on, I could ask pertinent questions and I knew how to pray for each lady. Others had surgeries that laid them up for weeks. And then, there were very sad situations that happened. One church member lost her house and all her worldly belongings to a fire on an extremely cold, North Dakota night. One dear friend lost her husband after a couple years of watching him decline. Another lady lost her husband suddenly, and she has no family, locally. Another good friend is dealing with a life-changing situation with her husband that required days/nights in the hospital and now 24/7 care at home. Another lady’s husband had a second round of cancer. Another family suddenly lost a grandchild very unexpectantly, and, of course, were filled with grief and sadness. We have had miscarriages. We also have happy situations- like a new baby or babies. I could go on and on, and you might be able to fill in other things that I might not be aware of that happened in our church. We all have our “sphere of influence.” There are many, many trials and troubles and other issues that our church family members experience. What do all these people need? What can you do for them that is encouraging and up-lifting?
REMEMBER THEM. Don’t let days/weeks/months go by without connecting in some way. With the ability to text, there is really no excuse not to send a note. For me, when someone told me they were praying for me to heal, it was a huge encouragement. I loved when someone told me they were thinking of me and loved me. These are precious, uplifting words.
CONSIDER WHAT THEY MIGHT ENJOY. They say, “It’s the small things in life that bring joy.” For me, dark chocolate and a good cup of coffee are always welcome! What it says to me, is that they “thought ahead,” and actually did a special thing. It’s a small thing, but it warms the heart. Maybe it’s a treat from a bakery, flowers, a balloon; anything that says, “I Care!”
HOME VISIT. Obviously each person going thru a trial is different in what they need or want…but ask. You’ve heard it before that, sometimes, you just need “skin.” You just need a person to see, laugh with, pray with, hug, etc. Ask when a good time would be to visit. It was nice to have a “change” in the daily routine, when someone came over.
SEND ENCOURAGING VERSES. Don’t ever hesitate to jot down a few verses in a text or card and send to your friend. What’s better to encourage someone’s heart than God’s Word? Pray with your friend over the phone or in person. Why do we forget that? I often longed for that.
COMFORT OTHERS AS YOU HAVE BEEN COMFORTED. Why does it seem that sometimes those who are most concerned about comforting others have themselves gone through a trial? Because….that’s how God plans it. God always “sends” someone, if we are open to the Holy Spirit’s leadership to go. II Cor 7:6 says, “ Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus.” And God will definitely use YOU to comfort others. II Cor 1:4 states, “Who, comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”
Please understand my heart in this article. Sometimes, we learn BEST when we have gone through a “shut-in” experience. Some of you are so very good at being an encourager. You drop off a meal. You send a card. You pick up kids to allow rest to a new Mom. You offer to clean. You do the laundry. You go grocery shopping. But maybe some of us need to ask the Lord, “How can I help? What would be a blessing to them? How can I encourage that friend?” It often doesn’t take any money, but it takes a concerted effort and a desire to be a blessing. I know we are all busy, but will you consider encouraging one person today, and maybe another person tomorrow, etc. Let’s be an encourager to someone today!