We might excuse people who are suffering or dying from participating in worship, but is that proper or even helpful?
When my mother was on her deathbed, she was weak and not talking much. But she could rejoice. It’s precious to recall how she would respond to God’s word, or to news that someone had come to Christ. She’d pound her hands on the covers and kick her feet. Often, all she could say was, "Yes, yes!" with her eyes closed. But you could tell she was happy! If she could have lifted her voice in song, she would have.
Worship was the best thing for her. Her thoughts were eased by hearing again of God’s goodness. It gave her hope. She was like the people spoken of in Psalm 149:4-5 (NASB) –
For the Lord takes pleasure in His people;
He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation.
Let the godly ones exult in glory;
Let them sing for joy on their beds.
It’s amazing to think of God taking pleasure in a dying woman. Others need to know that this is what He is like! When afflicted – feeling ugly or lacking in dignity – it’s God Who declares us beautiful, Who makes us presentable to stand before His throne! (Jude 24)
High expectations give hope, not despair. We can gently encourage sick and dying people to worship our sovereign, loving, holy, and redeeming God. And we can join them in that celebration. Worship doesn’t stop at the sickbed.
Discussion Questions for Psalm 149:4-5:
- Which people can expect God to take pleasure in them? Who can expect to be beautified by Him?
- What are some things that might make an afflicted person feel ugly?
- From this passage, what gives a person dignity?
- What types of things would cause an afflicted person to “sing for joy on their beds”?
From Once Blind: The Life of John Newton, by Kay Marshall Strom –
Mary's illness was advancing. Soon she was no longer able to move from her bed. To John in his sadness she simply said, "I still have the use of my hands. I'm very thankful for that." The time came, however, when she could not even bear the sound of the softest footsteps on the carpet, nor the gentlest voices whispering around her.
On Sunday, December 15, 1790, while John was preparing to give the morning's sermon, Mary sent for him to say a final goodbye. Gently John took the hands of his wife—his Polly—his dearest—the woman he had loved for most of his life—and he wept. "Are you in a state of peace, my dearest?" he whispered, knowing full well she could no longer speak. "If so, hold up your hand." Not only did Mary hold up her hand, but she waved it back and forth, and back and forth, and back and forth.