Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans. In all your ways acknowledge HIM and He will make your paths straight.
— Proverbs 5:3
— Proverbs 5:3
You wake up from a restless sleep. Your mind goes to the loved one you are caring for. You don’t focus on any particular issue. You just think about their suffering and difficulties. Feelings of love surge for your loved one. Then your feelings zero in on the hurt you feel for them. You begin weeping quietly. You remember the better times the two of you experienced. And now you are sad for them and yourself for the times that are left behind. This is not the way you wanted their life to be. Your weeping lingers as you move on to others in your family and your hopes and dreams for them. Sadness is growing as the tears quietly stream down your face. It is going to be one of those nights to let our feelings come out in a slow cry.
Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet. God gave him a vision of Judah’s future. It wasn’t good. Within the huge collection of prophetic oracles that make up the fifty-two chapters of Jeremiah's witness, one finds more than tears, more than frank admissions of pain, and more than convictions about the evils of Judah. One also finds startling promises of hope, hope found not merely in the possibility of human repentance, but grounded squarely in the amazing grace of God. Such a passage is 31:31-34. In this world we have troubles. Even as Jeremiah was weeping for Israel and Judah, his tears turned to hope that God would make all things new.
Jesus is known as our Savior, but Jesus also shows his empathy and compassion through His tears. In John 11 Mary and Martha send for Jesus because Lazarus is very sick. Lazarus dies before Jesus arrives and Mary and Martha are in mourning, surrounded by their Jewish friends. It was when Jesus saw Mary weeping, and all the Jews who had come along side her also weeping, that Jesus shed his tears. He saw the pain being felt by the group. It affected Jesus deeply and he wept. (Jn 11:35)
It is okay to weep for someone you love. It is not the loss, but the losing that hurts. The losing of good times, dreams, conversations and autonomy. So we let the feelings flow through us as we slowly and quietly weep our tears so as not to disturb others. Finally, we fall back to sleep as the good thoughts and memories of past times start to enter our mind. Tomorrow will be another day. We need our rest. The bitter/sweet taste of tears has given us some release. The tears slowly dry. Somehow, we are tired again and ready for sleep. And the night passes.
Did God just give our feelings a cleansing? Did we experience hurt and love at the same time? Was God trying to share a word with us?
“Sing to the Lord, you saints of his; praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor last a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” Ps. 30:4-5
If we were to list all the verses that talk about the importance of a single day and our daily activities, that list alone would fill many more pages than I have room.
God’s mercies are new every single day (Lamentations 3:23) God’s strength is provided for us each day to meet the challenges of that particular day (Deut. 3:25) We are advised to put each of our days in proper order (Ps 90:12) Jesus calls us to follow Him daily (Luke 9:23).
If there ever is a time we need God with us, it is during the journey of caregiving. To neglect God is to cut ourselves off from our greatest help. That is why we give our members Jesus Calling to encourage you to start the day with God. As we trust God to give us wisdom for today’s decisions, He will lead us a step at a time into what He wants us to be doing in the future. We do not control the future. We barely control our own feelings and words for today. So we come to God. “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, My God , in whom I trust.’” (Ps 91:1-2)
“Living in the present means squarely accepting and responding to it as God’s moment for you now, while it is called today rather than wishing it were yesterday or tomorrow.” Evelyn Underhill.
Each day for a caregiver can bring its own surprises and new challenges. We may make our plans and then find ourselves making quick changes. We do not know what each day will bring. It is hard to live with daily obstacles. It is also hard to live with the status quo. The most important, helpful, and supporting thing to keep in mind is to not live it alone. May God be bigger for you than your challenges. May you look to God first and then your challenges.
Start the day with God. Remember this is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. Share the day with God by bringing all your needs, concerns and troubles to Him. He promises to receive our burdens. Jesus says, “ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and it shall be open to you.” Look for His blessings. God may not give all you want, but He will give you what you need. Giving thanks is a great boost to our spirit. As God responds to your prayers, remember to thank Him. It is the trial of our faith that is precious. If we go through the trial, there is so much wealth laid up in our heavenly bank account to draw upon when the next test comes. Oswald Chambers
Establish a call partner who can listen and understand your caregiving journey. Loneliness and isolation are the greatest threats to caregivers. Whether family, friend or another person in our group, contact them for an ear and prayer partner. Sometimes they give you a different vantage point to see God. If you want to hear God’s voice clearly and you are uncertain, then remain in His presence until He changes that uncertainty. Often, much can happen during this waiting for the Lord. Sometimes, He changes pride into humility, doubt into faith and peace. Corrie Ten Boom. Do you have a friend who will wait on the Lord with you?
Don’t neglect the Body of Christ. Attending worship is probably the largest gathering of the Body of Christ. There is healing just by being fully present to God with the Body of Christ. It is a gathering of wounded people, trusting in God and offering praise and thanks together. We are not made to go through life alone. But the Body of Christ is also where two or three are gathered together in “My Name”. God may come to you through someone else and may work through you to encourage another.
With God’s help you can make it through today. Remember, it is only for a season.
In our encouraging one another, we do not want to imply that the goal or norm of human life is to get past all suffering. Jesus tells his disciples before his death, “In the world you have trouble. But be encouraged! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33)
Julian of Norwich, fourteenth-century mystic, reflects on this truth: “He did not say; You will not be troubled, you will not be belabored, you will not be disquieted; but he said: You will not be overcome.” Life on earth involves us in suffering -- our own and that of others. This is only natural in a finite world where life and death weave a constant dance. The simple truth is that we do not grow -- physically, emotionally, or spiritually -- without encountering, coping with, and learning from suffering. Certainly we learn far more from experiences that push us out of our comfort zones than from a life of smooth sailing. And as most of us discover, we cannot become truly empathetic or compassionate toward others if we have not known loss and hardship ourselves. St John of Kronstadt (nineteenth century) wisely counseled; “Do not fear the conflict, and do not flee from it; where there is no struggle, there is no virtue. Our faith, trust, and love are proved and revealed in adversities, that is, in difficult and grievous outward and inward circumstances, during sickness, sorrow and privations.”
In the spiritual life, without suffering there can be no maturing into the fullness of our humanity. The way of the cross entails dying to our small, ego-centered life so that we may rise into our true selfhood -- the identity that finds its center and ground in God. This true human identity is represented and fully embodied in Christ, “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). We too, are created in the divine image, and as believers we are promised the destiny of being conformed to Christ (Rom 8:29) in whom we recover the beauty and clarity of that image.
I do not believe God actively creates suffering for us, surely God allows us to undergo adversities with a continual hope that we will open up to the very real transformations they can work in us if we are willing. The questions we ask of one another and of ourselves in times of trial are important. What are you learning from this experience? How does it enlarge your view of life, of others, of yourself? Is there an invitation from God within this experience that is new of surprising to you? These are questions aimed at evoking our deeper wisdom and guidance from the Spirit dwelling within.
Nothing of our life’s experience is lost or wasted when we are open to grace -- even if we have made terrible choices, affecting our lives and the lives of others for years; even if we bear and inflict permanent scars; even if we have lost years of productive work to chronic illness or depression; even if our life seems that most boring, meaningless existence possible. God has promised to use our life experiences in ways that build toward a new configuration of goodness: “We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God.” (Rom. 8:28) God continues the long, patient process of reweaving our broken threads into a new tapestry. Our faith proclaims that ultimately God will prevail, unconditional love will reveal its fullness, the New Creation will manifest in glory, and --as Julian of Norwich saw in one of her revelations and put so memorable to words -- “Sin is necessary, but all will be well, and all will be well, and every kind of thing will be well.” This is our deep faith, our realistic hope, and the source, sustenance, and destiny of our love. What greater encouragement could we hope for?
‘God had one son on earth without sin, but never one without suffering.”
It is hard to witness the decline of our aging spouse or parent. Loss of hearing makes communication difficult. Loss of sight limits enjoyable stimulation. Loss of memory swells safety concerns for the caregiver and agitation for our loved one. Chronic pain brings dependence on pills. Dr. Nancy Copeland-Payton in her book, The Losses of Our Lives says, “Maturing is losing things we have outgrown. We now lose things we haven’t outgrown -- things we need to sustain our lives”.
Our culture values independence and fights against aging. We spend billions of dollars to fight aging. For many, old age brings frailty and dependency. We don’t want to be a burden on our children or our spouse.
Losses in Aging means a changing agenda in our lives. Instead of feeling worthless because we cannot do what we used to do, there is a new agenda to be discovered. We may not be able to cook a meal or care for the yard like we used to. Those who age gracefully come to terms with self and accept loss as part of aging. We name, morn and let go of the things and abilities we lose.
The new agenda brings wisdom that should come with age. Our old wounds and painful memories can finally heal as we see the past anew. As our fears, displeasures and disgust for those aspects or our selves heal, we loose the poison we spew out at others. When we stop trying to control the uncontrollable, when we release our endless complaining, and we accept what life brings to us, we learn to see life by a different light that isn’t earthbound. In our pain and suffering we are still called as Christians to live more from our “created in the image of God” center. As we approach our true home we also allow our selves to focus on our soul as much as our body.
Phil. 3:12-14, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Paul wrote this while in prison)
Phil 1:21, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
I Cor. 13:12-13, “Now we see but a poor reflection; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
We must never lose sight of the eternal goal. Our bodies waste away, it is our spirit and soul that remain forever. Caring for the soul is more important than caring for the body. Caring for the soul calls us to focus on our hope.
Sue Brettmann RN has been devoted to Caregiving both in her career as an RN, Parish Nurse and caring for her aging parents through the last 40 plus years. She has experience in trauma, home care and hospice. Her strong faith walk and relationship with Christ has always been a part of her care and she is committed to helping others see the gift of Christ in their personal journey's.