Counselling the terminally ill

A friend of yours have been diagnosed as having a terminal illness. No hope is offered him. How would you counsel him in his despair? How would you show him that his attitude is wrong and even sinful? What Scriptures would you employ to cultivate hope in him?

In such cases pat answers are more harmful than helpful. We should remember Job's friends who with their unguarded comments spoke and caused much harm, even though they meant it for Job's good.

But true biblical sympathy attempts to feel what the burdened soul is experiencing, for the purpose of helping and sharing that same burden.

In this case, medical and physical help is out of the question. But God still remains the Healer, and I would still offer up prayer believing that if it is God's will to heal him, then nothing is impossible for God to do.

Meanwhile I will try to undergird my friend by ministering to him the Word that brings life, restoration, and hope. To the godly hope is as an ever-shining light. Though he may walk in darkness yet God's presence is promised, and by faith the sick person needs to grasp this great truth for his own comfort (Psalm 23).

I will employ 1 Corinthians 10:13 to help him: "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." A way to escape, that is, a way out, not necessarily relief, but power to be able to bear the testing (Philippians 4:13).

I will point out that others, both believers and unbelievers, have undergone such an experience, so it's not unique to him. As others have not despaired, he also needs to look up to God for comfort and sustenance.

I will attempt to convince him that God is in all his troubles, as also Paul was persuaded that his imprisonment was not hindering but rather for the progress of the gospel (Philippians 1). God is sovereign and he knows our name personally; he deals with us not blindly but with a wise purpose. He has a future and a hope for his people, including my friend.

I will ensure that he is really converted, and if so, then to help him set his eyes on the heavenlies, and even now yearn for "My Father's house" (John 14:1ff.). Here we have no abiding city, we are seeking one which is to come.