How will you enter this new year, dear caregiver? Will you be able to face the new year with an attitude of gratitude and joy in spite of the challenges in your life and in the life of your loved one?
Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of my husband's death. For four and a half years before that I was my husband's caregiver. Seeing my husband's body deteriorate during those four and a half years was the most difficult experience I had ever endured. It was a challenging and overwhelmingly difficult time. Losing him eventually was also the heartbreak of my life. I still miss him, and it still causes flashes of sadness in my heart when I think about those days of caring for him and when I think about his disease. The anniversary of his death brings on a greater stirring up of those feelings
Yet these past years has also been a time when I have grown in my joy in the Lord. Joy and difficult times can exist together. This is because joy is not the same as happiness which is dependent on perfect circumstances. In fact, I believe joy is often increased during difficult times in our lives.
A few weeks ago one of our pastors in our church preached a sermon on joy based on I Peter 1:3-9 in the Bible. Read the passage for yourself, dear caregiver, and be blessed by the words there. This passage points out that those who love the Lord have been given a great hope, a guaranteed future, an eternal inheritance. Even now we are guarded and guided by our Lord and our faith until we will be with the Lord forever. You do not need to walk the care-giving walk alone, dear caregiver. The Lord wants to walk with you each step of the way. You can have communion with Him now, This is what can fill you with an "inexpressible and glorious joy," as you walk the difficult path of family care-giving, dear caregiver.
This is a kind of joy that can't be psyched up in ourselves. It is also not a joy which can be faked by putting on an appearance. It is not a joy which can be found in superficial things or in everything going our way. It can only be found in the Lord and in fixing our eyes on Him.
Sometimes the path to joy in us is surprising. The path to that kind of joy often comes through suffering and difficult times. I would not want to relive those difficult times of seeing my husband's body deteriorate before my eyes. I also find widowhood to be very challenging at times. But all these things have developed in me a deeper and sweeter faith. It has grown my love for the Lord and increased my joy in Him. These kinds of things also proves our faith to be genuine and makes us cling more to the Lord who is the object of our faith, hope, and joy. He is the only lasting source of joy. Everything else is temporary and of no ultimate value.
Dear caregiver, I am not trying to downplay your heartaches and challenges today. I understand the discouragement of the overwhelming challenges and heartaches that often accompany family care-giving. I lived them. There are often times when you will not "feel" joyful. We need to be honest with the Lord about our negative feelings in those moments. In those moments, however, also look to the true source of joy, the Lord.