Caring for the Caregiver – Part 1
Caregiver: the definition of a giver of care is a family member or paid helper who regularly looks after a child, or a sick, elderly, or disabled person. The description of a giver of care who works 24/7 can be joyful, weary, tired, delighted, exhausted, angry, frustrated, energetic, impatient, alienated, lonely, depressed, etc., etc., etc.! Does any of this fit you?
Let’s turn the tables and take a look at taking care of ourselves. This is a key component to caregiving. A KEY! The care of the caregiver is vital to the health and welfare of the one who receives the care. If the caregiver is so rundown that she/he has no energy for the day’s work, she/he cannot give the necessary care in the manner in which it ought to be given. As caregivers, we are usually trying to understand the needs of the person we care for with a desire to do some of this precious care right so as not to confuse, frustrate, or further anger our charge. We desire their days to be pleasant. We also want to love them as they are, not as we wish they could or would be.
As a caregiver of 15 years, I ran the gamut of being extremely weary, unable to get a good night’s rest for ailments of my own, worried, confused about what to do, depressed, frustrated that my sisters lived so far away, coming only once a year (and then for just a little while, not long enough to help me out much or give me a real break), even upset with one sister because she accused me of something that our mother believed about me–this sister chose to believe a dementia-laden lie versus the truth. I became impatient with Mama, too, for things she could not help. I felt alienated from “friends” or lonely because of this separateness. I wondered if I was being a good enough wife while trying to be a good enough caregiver and daughter too. AAAHHH! Do you know these feeling, these thoughts?
Pondering such thoughts and feelings made me realize that I was disconnected, exasperated, less than healthy, just plain worn out. One doctor of mine even asked me if I was “depressed.” He had been in my shoes by caring for his father and saw signs in me, a long time patient of his for fibromyalgia. Yet I needed to face myself, my selfish, self-protecting ways. I wanted to stay in God’s will and honor my mother through to the end of her life. I also, naturally, wanted to remain in God’s will for my marriage.
James 1:2-4 says, Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. Pure joy? Oh, I wondered sometimes how I could possibly feel joyful.
As God continually desires to grow us in His garden, the roots grow deeper into His soil, hitting rocks and tree roots, those trials and tests. It is our reaction to these tribulations that give us the telltale sign of our step-by-step relationship with God. Our faith in God to bring us through these trials and our willingness to allow Him to grow us to be more like Christ builds the perseverance…hanging in there: close to God, in an honoring manner, trusting Him at every turn, a close and growing relationship with Him. This relationship depends upon having open eyes, ears, and hearts. We need His wisdom and He tells us to ask. We certainly need it in this particular period of our lives, but truly in all periods, don’t we? James 1 continues, If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. Those who doubt should not think they will receive anything from the Lord; they are double-minded and unstable in all they do. Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. (verses 5-9)
He will develop us, mature us, complete us … in His time. We must stay close to our Teacher, spend time in His Word, and bend our knees before Him. As we face trials, we can be purified in these fires. We can become more valuable in God’s economy. He can use us as His giver of care to the precious one He appoints for us. He is able to guide us as we are willing to listen to Him, our Lord. He can reshape our lives from ungodly to godly, from not being Christlike to being a reflection of the beauty of Jesus, and to glorify Him in all we do and say.
James 1:12: Blessed are those who persevere under trial, because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
Some positive aspects that caregiving can offer:
• A closer relationship with God
• Trust in God
• A sense that others are watching your faith in action
• A more mature faith, purified by testing
• The ability to face and handle negative emotions
• Healing of previous hurts, especially involving family fallouts
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me–practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:4-9
Let us stop here and ponder: asking for God’s wisdom, about the trials and testing that you are going through in your daily caregiving and how they might lead you to have more perseverance. Think about God’s ways versus ours. Think about James 1 as well. What is God saying to you?
Father, we ask You to come to us in this garden and sit beside us on the bench where we are, weary and worn out. Father, you know the task of caregiving we hold in our hands. You know the one we care for. He or she is Your child as are we, Father. We feel so weary some days that we wonder if You are even in the vicinity. Yet, we know You are. You are everywhere, our Omnipresent God. We trust You deeply, Father. Walk down this path with us, giving us wisdom so that we can care for our precious loved ones, or for those we care for as a professional caregiver. Father, please teach us how to take care of ourselves, better care of our bodies, our minds, and our souls. Build us stronger spiritually that we would depend upon You for everything. Everything. You are our Refuge and our Stronghold. Guard our souls and deliver us; Do not let us be ashamed, for we take refuge in You. Let integrity and uprightness preserve us, For we wait for You. (Psalm 25:20-21) We ask all in the Name of Jesus. Amen.