Monday, July 29, 2013

Do Not Live in Fear

Tomorrow, July 30, 2013 would have been my husband’s and my 42nd wedding anniversary. Care-giving and watching my husband decline in his health and then his death in January of 2011 has been one of my life’s most difficult tests. Knowing I could trust that God loved me and was in control in the midst of the confusion and grief of it all made and continues to make all the difference in the world.

God is sovereign and in control. Nothing happens to a Christian caregiver or his or her loved one that is not filtered through His love. This is true even in the heartbreaking events which often accompany care-giving and sometimes their death. This is a difficult truth to accept. When this truth is accepted, however, it a soft place to land when one is overwhelmed with life’s difficulties.

God is good. Circumstances may be bad, but God is good. God is the very definition and essence of goodness. He proved that by sending His son on the cross. He can help caregivers who are struggling to keep emotional and spiritual equilibrium in the midst of the heartaches of seeing their loved ones decline in their health. He can also slowly emotionally heal caregivers, when and if their loved ones are not healed on this earth.

Joy can coexist in the midst of the heartaches and grief that often accompany care-giving and possibly losing our loved ones. This is because joy is not based on circumstances which are favorable or perfect. Rather it is based on a relationship with the Lord. If the Lord takes your loved one to Himself sooner than you would like, dear caregiver, He will be with you each step of the way then also. There is deep hurt and grief in the loss of a love one.  It involves a process that takes much time and deep crying out to the Lord and depending on Him.  There is a scar that never goes completely away. Yet, the Lord's faithfulness will be with you all the way, and the joy of the Lord will return. Do not live in fear of the future, dear Christian caregiver. Never forget that the Lord loves you, and He is good. He is in control.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Lessons Learned Everywhere

Recently I watched an old DVD that I had on my shelf. It was a family or children's movie. I watched the DVD to decide if it was something I wanted to keep as a possible movie to watch when my grandchildren come over to my house, to possibly just give to my grandchildren, or to toss out.

I was not prepared for the spiritual lessons that this movie unknowingly reinforced in me. In the plot line a young boy is trying to train a young colt which is the offspring of a very wild mare. When they first capture the colt she is very afraid and willful. She fights their efforts to calm and tame her. The father tells his son that as soon as the colt is stripped of her freedom and all the things she is accustomed to having, she will begin to depend on and love her owner which in this case was the young boy. 

Is that not like us? When we are stripped of the things we are depending on outside of the Lord and when we are stripped of thinking we are strong in ourselves, we begin to trust and lean on the Lord instead. We begin to see how weak we really are without the Lord. In this place of desperate clinging to the Lord our acknowledgment of our weakness makes room for the power of God in our lives. It also makes our love for God become more intense. Care-giving with all of it's overwhelming challenges and the years since my husband's death has taught me the lesson of how weak I am in myself and how desperately I need the Lord. It may have done the same for you, dear caregiver. That is actually a good place to be, for then you reach out for God's all powerful strength.

Later in the plot of the story the young boy's mom tells her son that the colt's fears and fighting will cease when the colt knows she is loved by the boy and can trust him. Does not the Lord teach us the same thing in our lives? Fear and love for the Lord do not belong together, because love that flows from God and is perfected by God drives out and removes fears. (I John 4:18) So often during my care-giving days for my husband I succumbed to fear about the future and sometimes even fear of what that day would bring. Yet the Lord commands us to not be afraid over and over in Scripture.

Still later in the script of the movie the colt becomes very ill. One night the young boy sneaks out of the house and lies with the colt holding and comforting him. The boy sacrificed His own comfort and even health for the colt. In fact, the boy becomes very sick for awhile as a result of what he did. The boy did this because of his love for his colt. It also most likely caused the horse to keep struggling to live and survive. The Lord holds us too when we are overwhelmed by life's trials. He holds us and comforts us and loves us during those times. The Lord knows your care-giving sorrows, dear caregiver, and He loves and comforts you through the process. You know He loved you so much, because He sacrificed His life for you on the cross. He has proven His love for you.

Towards the end of the movie a wild cat tries to attack the colt, because he knows the colt is a weak and easy prey. The dad kills the wild cat, and the threat is removed. So also in Scripture the devil is portrayed as a roaring lion who wants to devour us. The devil knows when we are at our lowest and weakest and loves to try to prey on us in those moments. God's advice is to humble ourselves before Him and not be anxious, because He cares for us and will protect us. His advice is to also stand firm in our faith. (I Peter 5:6-9a) It is so easy in the care-giving scenario to become discouraged. Yet the Lord has promised to be with us, if we turn to Him

So, dear caregiver, trust in the Lord's strength not your own. When your recognize your own weakness and lean on the Lord's strength, you are strong. Do not fear, for the Lord is with you. Rest in His love. Also avail yourself of His comforting arms around you. Finally, be alert for the devil's attempts to discourage you. Turn to the Lord instead.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Wait On the Lord

As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, about a year after my husband was diagnosed with his disease I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Here are some of the thoughts and prayers that were running through my mind after my diagnosis of breast cancer on July 18, 2007: 

"I don't understand, Lord. You have been faithful to me in numerous times of difficulty in the past. This latest trial in my life seems a bit overwhelming, however, Lord. Was not dealing with the emotional stress of my husband's disabling neurological disease enough, Lord? Did I have to receive a diagnosis of breast cancer also?"

Of one thing I was certain, however. Even though I did not always understand His ways, my Lord did not make mistakes. I could count on His promises in His Holy Word, His eternal love for me, and His infinite wisdom. I could count on these things even when feeling emotionally downcast.  I could count on the fact that God's compassion for me would never fail. He in His faithfulness would have new blessings for me every day. One other thing of which I was certain was that I had nothing or no one else I can cling to but the Lord. He alone could be and was able to be my hope. I needed to wait on the Lord to work out His plan in my life. (Lamentations 3:20b-26) I also believed that somehow God would make a place of refreshment and joy out of the deep valleys of my life. He indeed also was the only One but the capable One to help me proceed in His strength in facing life's huge hurdles. (Psalm 84:6-7)

What possible place of refreshment and blessing did I receive from the cancer on top of dealing with my husband's devastating diagnosis? I saw the overwhelming support, love, and prayers of God's people. It was also a time for family members to more freely express their love verbally and tangibly. Further, it was a time to simplify and prioritize my life. Finally, it was a time to begin to reflect once again on my relationship with my Lord. Did I see all these things in my mind as a fair exchange for my cancer and my husband's illness? To be honest the answer to that question would have to be "No." My God, however, was and is infinitely wiser than I am.

We have the certainty of the Lord's faithfulness and love even in the harshest of circumstances. In the Old Testament book of Lamentations the author is lamenting or mourning the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. Hence, he was feeling very discouraged and depressed. Have you ever felt like the author of Lamentations? Have you ever felt completely discouraged and without hope, dear caregiver? Have you ever felt like everything was crashing down around you?

When we begin to feel like the author of Lamentations felt we are beginning to focus on ourselves instead of on the Lord. The truth of the matter is that there is always the certainty of the Lord's presence even in the worst of circumstances. It is not necessary for our circumstances to change to experience the Lord's joy and peace in our hearts and lives. We just need to take our focus off ourselves and our problems, and focus on the Lord. When we are feeling discouraged by a difficult set of circumstances in our lives, we must remember the Lord's love for us and the Lord's awesome promises in His Holy Word. The Lord's river of mercy and love never runs dry. People, material possessions and our own resources will often fail us. The Lord, however, will never fail us! His love and faithfulness is with us moment by moment and day by day. How precious it is to awaken each morning knowing that the Lord will be walking beside us each day, as we face the daily stresses and challenges.

Wait on the Lord, dear caregiver. Waiting on the Lord means we are resting our entire trust in the Lord for time and eternity. We can trust completely in the Lord's unfailing love! Praise His name!




Monday, July 8, 2013

Him in You and Interceding for You

Family care-giving is one of life's most difficult and challenging  experiences.  I know this to be a fact, because I was a family caregiver.  Yet the Bible tells us to actually delight in difficulties. (II Corinthians 12:10)  When I was a caregiver I was thankful if I could just survive and have strength for the day.  Why would anyone welcome trials and difficulties in their lives?  Well, for one thing it gives up an opportunity to trust the Lord.  It also gives us an opportunity to experience His sufficient grace and strength in us.  (II Corinthians 12:9)

Family care-giving is often discouraging and physically and emotionally draining.  It can often bring on feelings of hopelessness and despair.  In spite of this, dear Christian caregiver, you have the same power in you, as it took to raise Jesus Christ from the dead.  You have resurrection power in you, dear caregiver!  (Ephesians 1:18-20)  Don't concentrate on your own puny insufficient strength.  Concentrate on the Lord's mighty strength in you, dear caregiver!

After Jesus arose from the dead He was seated in the heavenly realms at the Father's right hand.  He has all authority and power at His disposal.  (Ephesians 1:20b-23)  He delights in placing that same power that belongs to Him in you, dear caregiver!  Also His love for you is deeper and wider and higher than you can begin to imagine!  (Ephesians 3:16-19)

Finally, as Jesus, the Son of God, is sitting next to the Father; He is interceding for you, dear Christian caregiver.  The Son of God actually lives to intercede for you and for all His people! (Hebrews 7:25b)  He knows how weak and tired you often feel in the whole care-giving scenario.  So He gives you His power and love and intercedes for you to the Father.  Picture the Son sitting next to the Father talking with the Father about your needs and the needs of your loved one!  Isn't that an awesome thought, dear caregiver?  Revel in that thought and rest in Him! 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Through it All

Two and a half years ago tomorrow my husband passed away. Four and a half years before that he was diagnosed with a devastating neurological disease. These combined seven years have included fears, grief, and overwhelming feelings and circumstances. 

These years have also included greater dependence on the Lord's strength, God revealing His grace in awesome ways, and God leading me step by step when I didn't know what I was doing. (Psalm 32:8) These years have further included a closer and more precious relationship with the Lord than ever before, God's faithfulness shown to me, returning and new joy in the Lord in spite of waves of grief which though smaller still hit, greater empathy for others, and new areas of service. Finally these years have included the Lord being my heavenly bridegroom (Isaiah 54:5).

It reminds me of a chorus from a hymn which says:

Through it all, through it all,
I've learned to trust in Jesus,
I've learned to trust in God;
Through it all, through it all,
I've learned to depend upon His Word.

Ecclesiastes 3 tells us that there is a time for everything and everything is beautiful in it's time. It has not always felt that way but through it all the Lord has been with me. He will be with you also, dear Christian caregiver.