Monday, February 25, 2013

Ruth, the Caregiver

I was pondering recently as to whether there are any examples of family caregivers in the Bible.  The name of Ruth in the Old Testament immediately came to mind.  We often associate Ruth along with her mother-in-law, Naomi, as widows.  We remember God's provision for them through His servant, Boaz.  There is much comfort in the book of Ruth in the Old Testament for widows.  There is much in the book of Ruth to which Christian caregivers can relate as well, however.

Ruth's husband died while she was probably a relatively young woman.  We do not know if this death of her husband happened suddenly, or if Ruth's husband was sick for a long time before he died.  We do not know, if Ruth needed to fulfill the role of caregiver for her husband.  We do know for certain, however, that Ruth showed a sweet care-giving spirit with her mother-in-law. 

A number of years before her mother-in-law, Naomi, and her husband, Elimelech, had moved to Moab because of a famine in their land of Israel.  After some time in Moab Elimelech died.  Later both her sons died (one of these sons had been married to Ruth). When Naomi decided to return to Israel Ruth insisted on going with Naomi in spite of Naomi's urgings to not go with her but to return to the comfort of her familiar homeland. 

In a beautiful passage in Ruth 1:16-17 Ruth begged Naomi not to ask her to leave her.  She promised Naomi that Naomi's people and God would be her people and God.  This I believe was a beautiful commitment to God, but it was also a beautiful commitment to Naomi on the part of Ruth.  Ruth was willing to sacrifice everything secure in her life to be Naomi's caregiver and provider.  Even though Naomi was not ill at the time she needed the loving care and support that Ruth would give her.  Later in the book of Ruth we read of how Ruth did all she could to provide for Naomi in spite of Naomi's initial lack of gratitude and warmth.  God provided for them both in wonderful ways through a kinsman-redeemer called Boaz.

You too, dear caregiver, have sacrificed much to be a loving caregiver to your loved one.  You have done this even at times when little appreciation was shown in return for your actions.  You have most likely not been a perfect caregiver.  You may have even been impatient at times.  Yet you have persevered in what you felt God was calling you to do.  You have been willing to forgo your own comfort and security for the love and commitment you have for your loved one.

Dear Christian caregiver, God, our Redeemer, (of whom Boaz was a picture) will bless you and protect you; as He did Ruth.  Your work is so very important, even though it appears overwhelming and hopeless at times.  Trust that God will bless you for your efforts through His presence and care on this earth.  Most importantly, He is laying up treasures for you in heaven!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Caregivers of Strength

As a caregiver it is very important that you eat right, exercise when you can, and in general do all you can to maintain your good health.  Dear caregiver, you can not be of comfort and help to your loved one for whom you are caring; if you do not do all your can to stay healthy yourself.

Even more important than your physical health is your emotional and spiritual health.  Family care-giving can be emotionally and spiritually draining.  That is why it is so important that you maintain your spiritual health through daily prayer and reading the Word of God.  If this means you have to get up in the morning before your loved one, that is what you need to do.  It is essential to your well-being and strength.  Also throughout the day constantly be aware of and tune into the presence of God right beside you.

The Bible tells us not to be afraid.  Yet is so easy for caregivers to let worries attack them.  As a caregiver for my husband I remember being so afraid of what the future held for my husband and me.  The prognosis for his neurological disease was eventual total disability.  That was exactly what happened.  Satan wants us to despair during these times, and yet the Lord understands our weaknesses in this area.  In the midst of the fearsome circumstances caregivers of strength can show courage because of the Lord's strength in them.

Caregivers of strength know that they are fallible human beings.  They know they become impatient at times.  They often feel like they are walking in the dark.  They often feel as if their whole world could fall apart at any moment.  They also know, however, that the Lord will catch them and their loved ones when they fall.  Caregivers have no confidence in their own strength, but they avail themselves of the Lord's grace and strength.

Caregivers of strength do not continually look for their own advantage.  They often sacrifice their own best interests for the best interests of the loved one for whom they are caring.  They also know that they do not have enough strength in themselves for the care-giving journey they are on.  They further know with certainty, however, that through the care-giving journey they will become strong by God's grace.

Dear Christian caregiver, this is most likely the most difficult journey you have ever been on.  Trust in the Lord's strength.  Rest in Him, and you will be a caregiver of strength!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Your Divine Valentine

Dear Caregiver, do you ever feel the sorrow of things lost? Do you ever miss the way things were in the past with your loved for whom you are caring? Does the approach of holidays such as Valentine’s Day make you feel melancholy and sad?

During those moments of sadness remember that the Lord loves you with an infinite love. He in effect is your Divine Valentine. He is sufficient. He alone can give you all that you need. Below is a poem that I found and published last year at this time.  I hope you will find it a blessing again this year. It is called Your Divine Valentine:

Your Divine Valentine

A Valentine may play a love song for you, but God sings you the sweetest love song in the universe.
The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)

A Valentine may give you flowers, but God sent you the most beautiful rose of all. Jesus.
I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.  (Song of Songs 2:1)

A Valentine may bring you chocolate, but God provides you with something even sweeter, His Word.
How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”
(Psalm 119:103)

A Valentine may love you for a lifetime, but God loved you before you were born and will love you for all eternity.
I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.
(Jeremiah 31:3)

Praying you're blessed by the wonderful love of God this Valentine's Day, dear caregiver, and always!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Gladness Even in the Difficult Days

The Bible tells us that we should find joy and be glad for every day given to us by the Lord God. (Psalm 118:24) If you are a family caregiver and know the challenges and heartaches that accompany that calling, you may ask yourself how that is possible. How is it possible to find joy in each new day when one sees one’s loved ones deteriorating in his or her health month by month and sometimes day by day?

I think one way caregivers can do this is by remembering that the Lord God created each day. He is with you and present in your day whether you sense His presence or not. Rejoice in the fact that He understands your needs as a family caregiver, and He know exactly the emotional and physical toll it is taking on you. He also understands the needs of your loved one for whom you are caring. 

Commune with the Lord throughout the day. Tell Him your needs and concerns. He will soothe your pain. Know that you are not in control. Depend on Him. This will lighten your emotional load and your spirit considerably. Doing this does not mean that all the heartaches of care-giving will suddenly disappear, but awareness of the Lord’s presence in your life can infuse joy into your most difficult of care-giving days.

Also the best response to the challenges of a difficult care-giving day is praise and thanks. I remember as a caregiver being challenged to write down each day at least three things for which I was thankful. That little exercise in itself did a lot to change my perspective during those overwhelming days of care-giving for my husband with a serious neurological disease.   

Finally, trust that the Lord has the future of you as a caregiver and the future of your loved one in His hands. God may choose to heal your loved one on this earth. God may on the other hand choose to heal your loved one completely by taking him or her to eternity like He did my husband. Don’t spend your energy wondering and worrying about the road ahead. God is in control. Instead stay in close communion with the Lord. He will guide and pave the way.