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When You Don't Know What to Do

"Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep."1

"John Patton, in his book, From Ministry to Theology, relates the story of a rather green chaplaincy resident, naive to many of the pressures and pains of a teaching hospital. While on call one night, the intern was summoned to the room of a woman whose baby had been stillborn a few hours earlier. 'We want our baby baptized,' the young mother said, cradling her lifeless daughter, her husband at her side. 'Her name is Nicole.'

"The intern didn't know what to do, but asked them to come to the chapel a few minutes later. In the meantime he tried to find another, more experienced chaplain to take over, but to no avail. He was on his own and quite unsure as to how to proceed. He had not only professional uncertainties about what he had been asked to do, but theological qualms as well. Still, he knew he had to meet with grieving parents. He sketched in his mind something to say, hoping it would be appropriate to the moment.

"The young parents arrived at the appointed time, but the chaplain found he could not say what he had prepared. Instead, and almost without realizing what he was doing, he took a tissue, wiped at the tears in the eyes of the parents, then wiped his own tears and touched the tissue to the baby's head and said, 'Nicole, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.' He said nothing else—the tears were more eloquent than words could have been."2

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please give me an understanding and tender heart so that I will always rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."

1. Romans 12:15 (NKJV).
2. Thomas R.Steagald, "More Eloquent Than Words," Michael Duduit in The Abingdon Preaching Annual, 1995 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994), pp. 316-317. Cited on


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Richard (Dick) Innes unless otherwise stated.