Care-giving for a family member with a terminal illness is one of life’s most difficult experiences. It is stressful and very discouraging at times. This is especially true if a caregiver is forced to helplessly watch his or her love one continue to deteriorate in health step by step. I know this is true, because I was my husband’s caregiver for four and a half years.
Remember, however, dear Christian caregiver, that joy is possible in even these circumstances. This is because joy and difficulty-and even joy and sorrow-can coexist. Joy is also possible in the challenges and heartaches of care-giving, because joy in not dependent on circumstances. True joy is experienced as a result of living in the presence of the Lord and though deep communication with Him. True joy and peace are experienced when we know God is with us in those difficult situations. It is knowing that He is keeping us, protecting us, and strengthening us in those situations. Joy and peace is knowing the Lord God is in control.
Someone sent me this formula for joy and strength: Thankfulness = joy = strength. If we can somehow thank God in all things, knowing and trusting that He is indeed in control and loves us deeply, we can began to experience joy. Joy then turns into strength to face life's challenges. (Nehemiah 8:10b)
Spend time in God’s Word, dear caregiver. Revel in and latch on to His promises in His Word. Spend time in prayer. Ask for His strength and joy. Care-giving can be so overwhelmingly difficult and emotionally challenging. However, even in those very difficult days, dear caregiver, you can find joy in the Lord. He will get you through those days step by step. Though you do not know what lies ahead, He will lead you. He will give you His strength and joy.
The above paragraphs are words from my book, Dear Caregiver Relections for Family Caregivers. I will go on to tell you that the four and a half years of my husband's illness and the eight plus years since his death have included greater dependence on the Lord's strength and a closer and more personal relationship with the Lord. It has also included God revealing His grace in awesome ways and Him leading me step by step. This has been true even when I haven't known or don't know what I am doing (Psalm 32:80). It has further included God's faithfulness shown to me, returning joy, greater empathy for others, and new areas of service.
Finally, these years have included the Lord being my heavenly bridegroom (Isaiah 54:5). It has also brought new love into my life. I am engaged to be married to a wonderful man who himself cared for his spouse and lost her to death two years ago. We will be married in July. Ecclesiastes 3 tells us that there is a time for everything, and everything is beautiful in its time. It has not always felt that way, but through it all the Lord has been with me. He will be with you as well. Rest in the joy of the Lord. That is your strength.