There are many wise thoughts on the issue of time. How long should we stay when we visit? When is it urgent enough that we go? Is it different depending on whom and where we visit? A helpful starting place is to consider the wise words of Alistair Begg:
“It is always better that people should feel our visit is too short than too long.”
With this in mind, most recommend no longer than five to ten minutes in a hospital or nursing home. If the sick are in the hospital, it is a safe assumption that they are in some level of pain. Because of this, we care for them more faithfully by not ‘pushing the line’ by staying too long. A home situation can be a little more flexible. Depending on the level of sickness and pain of the individuals you are visiting, twenty to thirty minutes is plenty of time to spend with them.
How soon should we visit once we have received word of their illness? This is dependent upon the condition and affliction of the person. In the nineteenth century people died of ordinary illnesses. This explains why David Dickson writes,
“When the elder does hear of such illness, he should visit at once. A day’s, or even an hour’s, unnecessary delay may cause him a long regret.”
In the age of modern medicine, there is not the sense of urgency there was one hundred to two hundred years ago. However, there are emergencies that, once we receive word, should become our top priority. Like Dickson, if we tarry and miss the passing of a dear brother or sister in Christ because of our procrastination, we too will experience unnecessary regret.
In summary, always error on the shorter time…both in how long you stay and how long you wait to go.