Joni Eareckson Tada recently passed the 50 year mark in her wheelchair as a result of a diving accident in her teens. I so appreciate her sharing God’s grace in her life. I read a number of articles about this milestone, especially her testimony here, but this one had me thinking for a long while afterward, not just about Joni, but about her helpers.
The article mentions a wake-up crew who helps Joni get out of bed and ready for the day every morning. I can empathize with how hard that would be, even with joyful and willing helpers. We so easily take for granted the ability to use the bathroom on our own or brush our own teeth and hair.
But I thought of these helpers from this angle: many of us aren’t comfortable or don’t feel qualified to be the out-front people. We prefer to be behind the scenes, enabling someone else in their ministry. We can’t have the unique ministry Joni does, but we’d be overjoyed to have a minuscule part in helping her.
But what about those who need that kind of care and don’t have any kind of public ministry? Who don’t speak and seem less and less present every day? Like the thousands of contracted, shriveled, seemingly vacant forms in nursing homes. Like my own mother-in-law.
I’ve written before that I am not a “natural” caregiver like many people I know. I don’t think I could ever have been a nurse. But every angle we have looked at it over the years comes back to the conviction that this is the best place for her at this time. And, like Moses, Gideon, Jeremiah, and others who didn’t feel qualified to do what God was calling them to do, we trust Him for His grace to do it. And He provides, not in one fell swoop of “feeling” qualified, but in the day-by-day ministrations from Him through us.
Sometimes it seems like it’s all for nothing, this trying to encourage food into someone, cleaning up the results of eating, changing position, showering, keeping comfortable, watching out for skin breakage, etc., when there is less and less response or even recognition from the person who sleeps maybe 20-22 hours day for years now, only to do it all again the next day and the next. My aunt called it “the long good-bye.” My husband describes it as watching someone die one brain cell at a time. Sometimes we can’t help but wonder why God still has her here and when He’ll release her from this crumpled, silent body to her new glorious one in heaven.
I’ve shared before what one friend who cared for a mother-in-law with Alzheimer’s said, that sometimes God leaves them here not so much for what He is doing in their lives, but what He is doing through them in ours, showing us our innate selfishness, teaching us to love unconditionally. And I have found that to be true in my own life as well.
As I remind myself of the truths I know, I thought I’d share them with others who are caregivers now or will be someday, who labor behind the scenes, doing the same thing day after day during a long decline. The care you provide is not for nothing, because:
God has made everyone in His image and that imbues them with value.
Jesus said when we minister to others, we minister to Him.
We should treat others as we want to be treated.
God wants us to honor our parents and care for them. They cared for us and deserve our care in return.
“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” James 1:27
“God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. Hebrews 6:10
Godly love is about giving and isn’t dependent on what the other can do for us.
“To do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” Hebrews. 13:16
“With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men.” Ephesians 6:7
When our children were little, my husband and I often lamented that they wouldn’t remember the youngest stage of their lives and the fun things we did with them, but those years were the foundation of and a major part of the overall relationship. A baby can’t articulate what he needs or thank you for responding to him (at least until he can smile). But how you care for him matters. He can tell a difference between loving touch and care or harsh treatment. I believe the same is true of the elderly. They may not be able to understand, acknowledge, or define it, but loving care contributes to their overall well-being.
There may be little to no response from the person in our care: some of my friends have even experienced a negative response. There may not be any obvious results from your ministry. But it’s not for nothing. Your loved one or patient would probably tell you how much he or she appreciates your care if they could think right about it and express it. And God knows right where He has you for now and sees your loving care.
(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Glimpses, Mondays @ Soul Survival, Wise Woman, Tell His Story, Faith on Fire)
I love this post. So true. When we are loving and giving service to others, we are loving and giving service to God. Hope your week goes well.
Amen! Well said Barbara ~ keeping our Focus on Him and our Attitude one of the SACRIFICE of praise and thanksgiving…..hard, but possible. Thank you for a well thought out article.
“And God knows right where He has you for now and sees your loving care” So true and encouraging! Visiting from #lmmlinkup
Thank you, Barbara, for these timely and insightful thoughts.
Barbara! Again, God knows that I am needing encouragement and he is providing that through you! Some days I feel so selfish because I am the one caring for grandma. Why not her sons? But then, she didn’t want them. She wanted to be with me because she knew I would take good care of her. She is getting more difficult and time consuming (just when I am about to be free of children). But, God knows. Thank you! I will keep running the race God has set before me!
“It’s not for nothing” is such a helpful sentiment! Thank you for your very comforting thoughts on this issue. I need to remind myself of this much more often —
we live for an audience of One. but it can difficult over the long all. but it is not for nothing.
Caregiving can be so difficult. However, I wouldn’t trade a minute of it. Through caregiving, I have become a better person. I like me a heck of a lot better. I am more patient, less judgmental, more accepting and so on. Of course, I wish the lessons could have been learned without my loved one having to endure such great pain.
REALLY like this. I don’t have a nurses bone in my body so I relate to what you said.
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A truly inspirational post! Your words have given me so much to think about and pray about as I seek God’s will for my life. Thank you for sharing the importance of service to those around us!
Thank you for this post. My mother was diagnosed with dementia and early on set Alzheimers this year. I am not sure what lies ahead, but I pray God will give us the strength and wisdom to know how to care for her when the time comes.
My sister bore the brunt of caring for our mom for 2 years as she struggled with both physical limitations and Alzheimer’s. There is much wisdom here.
Thank you for this beautiful reminder of why caregivers care. It’s a ministry and it’s a way to grow.
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Your “It’s Not for Nothing” is powerful! It reflects the literal words of Scripture and the spirit of Christ. It is instructive to those of us who do not care for a loved one and helps us understand to a greater degree those who do. Thank you for sharing what the Lord has used in your life! Ed
Thanks so much, Ed. I have to remind myself of these truths often, and this time occurred to me that they might encourage someone else, too.
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