Biblical verses of comfort for the dying
April 12, 2015 11:27 AM   Subscribe

As a hospice volunteer, I am often called to sit vigil with those that are dying, and many of them are life-long churchgoers. As I spend time with them, on occasion a friend or relative may stop in and read a verse or two (most often the 23rd Psalm) and it seems to immediately create a sense a peace for the person, especially if they have been agitated and in distress.

I would like to prepare a set of readings I can take with me that I could read aloud if and when it seems appropriate. I am looking for verses from the Bible, or any other readings sympathetic to a Christian viewpoint that might provide a gentle sense of comfort and reassurance to someone who is in their final days or hours.
posted by nanook to Religion & Philosophy (10 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
John Donne

Our Last Awakening

Bring us, O Lord God, at our last awakening into the house and gate of heaven, to enter into that gate and dwell in that house, where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light; no noise nor silence, but one equal music; no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession; no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity: in the habitations of thy majesty and glory, world without end.

posted by MonkeyToes at 11:39 AM on April 12, 2015 [7 favorites]

Chapter 3 Wisdom "the soul's of the just are in the hands of God and no torment shall touch them. This passage is often read at funerals concluding with "grace and mercy are with his elect. It's a mighty passage loaded with promises.
posted by BarcelonaRed at 12:19 PM on April 12, 2015

1 Corinthians 13 New International Version (NIV)

13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Also the Sermon on the Mount, which is found in Matthew 5-7, particularly the Beatitudes.
posted by fancyoats at 12:24 PM on April 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

Psalm 121, "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help..." It's a little SMITEY but comforting all the same, especially the last line, "The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore."

The Prayer of St. Francis is a favorite of mine.
posted by Aquifer at 12:24 PM on April 12, 2015

Isaiah 43:2-- “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
Psalm 18:2-- “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”
Romans 8:31-39 “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:“For your sake we face death all day long;we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

John 14:1-4 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God]; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
posted by Ideefixe at 12:56 PM on April 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

"For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." 2 Timothy 4:6-8
posted by billiebee at 1:02 PM on April 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

Chapters 14-17 of the Gospel of John are parts of Jesus' Farewell Discourse to his disciples and would be good to read. They are popular at funerals, especially John 14, wherein Jesus talks about the "many rooms" in "my Father's house." Also, Isaiah 40.

Thanks for working with Hospice. I'm a pastor, and we couldn't do it without you.
posted by 4ster at 1:12 PM on April 12, 2015 [9 favorites]

Isaiah 55: "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost."

Isaiah 43:5 (et seq), a little further on from Ideefixe's verse, talks about gathering the people of God together, and is often popular at wakes and funerals where a far-flung family is gathering:
"Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth—everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”

Lamentations 3:17-26 is a nice, well, lamentation, with a dose of hope on the end.

The latter parts of Isaiah actually have a lot of "God conquers death and redeems his people" stuff, and it's all very nice and cadency; if you think reading long, familiar passages of the Bible will help someone relax and be comforted, Isaiah is a good place to pitch your tent for a longer stay. Good rhythms for reading aloud. Psalms too, but I personally am fond of Isaiah for reading aloud.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:32 PM on April 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Here is a list of Psalms of comfort.
I would pick things that are most likely to be familar to the person - they not be listening much to the actual words so familiarity rather than content would be what I would look for.
posted by metahawk at 6:29 PM on April 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 is the famous one about death -- "a time to be born, a time to die..."

Revelation 21:3-5 is not often used, because, hey, Revelation isn't known as a good time. Maybe not mention the name here. But:

3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
5 Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:38 PM on April 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

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