A Privilege, Not a Prison
by June Hunt
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”
(2 Corinthians 1:3–4)
A. What Are the Meanings of the Verb Care?
• to have a personal interest in
• to be watchful over
• to be affectionate toward
• to look out for
• to be concerned about
• to provide for
• to give serious attention to
• to keep safe
“You understand, O Lord; remember me and care for me.”
Old Testament Examples of God’s Care for You
• God knows your situation.
The Hebrew word yada means “to know by experience.”
“I cared for you in the desert, in the land of burning heat.”(Hosea 13:5)
• God understands how you feel.
The Hebrew word bin means “to perceive with the senses; to observe, mark, give heed to, or have discernment and insight.”
“In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye.” (Deuteronomy 32:10)
• God provides for your needs.
The Hebrew word yad means “hand” or “power, control and direction.”
“For he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.” (Psalm 95:7)
B. What Is Caregiving?
• Caregiving provides emotional and physical support to a person who is unable to live independently.
• Caregiving makes a choice with your heart and mind to give needed support to a dependent person.
• Caregiving gives care to the …
— infant or child
— temporarily injured
— handicapped (physically, mentally, emotionally)
— chronically or terminally ill
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
New Testament Examples of Caring for Others
• A Servant’s Heart …
— providing practical needs
The Greek word diakoneo means “to be an attendant, servant or to wait upon.”
“Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs.” (Matthew 27:55)
• A Sacrificial Heart …
— providing for physical needs
The Greek word epimeleomai means “to care for physically or otherwise.”
“He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him.” (Luke 10:34)
• A Shepherd’s Heart …
— providing protection
The Greek word poimaino means “to tend as a shepherd.”
“Again Jesus said, ‘Simon son of John, do you truly love me?’ He answered, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Take care of my sheep.’ ” (John 21:16)
C. What Are the Levels of Caregiving?
Most people in need of caregiving are part of an existing family that should be responsive. Different family members will meet needs in different ways. God’s plan for caregivers is summed up in the word repayment—God is giving you the opportunity to repay your family for the care you once received.
“If a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.”
(1 Timothy 5:4)
• Primary Caregiver
— The primary caregiver is often the eldest or most responsible family member who meets needs on a regular basis (fills the major role of caregiving).
• Periodic Caregiver
— The periodic caregiver is a reliable family member or friend who provides faithful support for the primary caregiver (initiates help and is usually available when needed).
• Peripheral Caregiver
— The peripheral caregiver provides marginal assistance according to personal convenience (occasional visits or outings).
• Passive Caregiver
— The passive caregiver denies or seems unaware of the needs and cannot be relied on to give assistance (often lacks follow-through even when called on).
II. Characteristics And Symptoms
A. The Prison of Resentment
Full-time caregiving can be very demanding. Don’t be surprised when negative feelings surface. These feelings are a natural result of emotional and physical fatigue. Many caregivers feel there is no escape from their prison of constant responsibility. Yet, this is often the environment God uses to turn our hearts toward Him.
“For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs.”
|• Physically exhausted fatigued
|• Resentful bitter and angry
|• Isolated lonely and misunderstood
|• Stressed guilty and torn
|• Overwhelmed helpless
|• Neglected unappreciated
B. The Caregiver’s Crisis Checklist
In asking yourself these questions, honestly assess your feelings to determine if it could be time to seek help.
• Am I easily agitated with those I love?
• Am I becoming more critical of others?
• Am I having difficulty laughing or having fun?
• Am I turning down most invitations to be with others?
• Am I feeling depressed about my situation?
• Am I feeling hurt when my efforts go unnoticed?
• Am I resentful when other family members are not helping?
• Am I feeling trapped by all the responsibilities?
• Am I being manipulated?
• Am I missing sleep and regular exercise?
• Am I becoming so overwhelmed that my caregiving is beginning to suffer?
• Am I losing myself in the constant demands of caregiving?
• Am I too busy for quiet time with God?
• Am I feeling guilty when I take time for myself?
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
(1 Peter 5:6–7)
Question: “I’m a major caregiver for my elderly father. How can I keep from burning out?”
Answer: You do no one any good if you burn out! To prevent emotional overload, you need to convene a “family council meeting” in order to design a plan to lighten the load.
— Call all family members together for a family meeting.
— Be honest about your need for help in handling the caregiving.
— Say: “I’m at a crisis point. Together, we need to come up with a solution to share all the responsibilities for the caregiving. I’m still willing to be the major caregiver, but I need some relief from you. For the sake of my own emotional health, I need to schedule some regular time away. If we all help with the caregiving, the load will be lighter.”
— Give specific suggestions about times that need to be covered by others as well how to meet any financial needs.
— Ask, “What are you willing to do?”
— Do not dwell on the past and make no accusations. Instead, take the position that you assume that everyone wants to do what is best for all involved.
“The wise in heart are called discerning, and pleasant words promote instruction.” (Proverbs 16:21)
Has your compassion turned to contempt? Why is caregiving considered one of the most difficult callings in life?
A. Questions and Answers
Question: “Why do I have strong feelings of guilt in regard to caregiving?”
Answer: You can feel legitimate guilt if you have not given family members adequate care. Scripture tells us to provide for our family’s needs.
“If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8)
Question: “Why do I feel guilty that I had to use an outside facility to care for a family member?”
Answer: You could be experiencing false guilt if you assume responsibilities that God does not initiate. You are told to honor your mother and father, but Scripture is not specific on how you should do this.
“ ‘Honor your father and mother’—which is the first commandment with a promise—‘that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.’ ” (Ephesians 6:2–3)
Question: “Why do previously good relationships become painful and unhealthy in the context of constant caregiving?”
Answer: Unresolved conflicts from the past are revealed when put under the pressure of daily caregiving.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2–4)
Question: “Why do anger, resentment and bitterness have such strongholds in my life?”
Answer: These emotions may be the direct result of unforgiveness toward those who cause hurt and injustice in your life.
“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)
Question: “I am doing everything that is expected of me—why am I still feeling inadequate?”
Answer: Rather than resting in the Spirit of Christ, you have given control of your life over to the paralyzing P’s of:
— Perfectionism … The “Perfect Christian”
Trying to do all the right things in your own strength
“Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.” (2 Corinthians 3:5)
— Performance … The “People-Pleaser”
Seeking the approval and acceptance of others
“So we make it our goal to please him [the Lord].… For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:9–10)
— Pride … The “Fix It” Mentality
Assuming responsibility for that which God Himself intends to accomplish
“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” (Proverbs 11:2)
B. Root Cause
A distorted belief system is the reason many caregivers feel there is no escape from the confines of external control. It is important to line up your thinking with God’s Word—letting His truth set you free.
Wrong Belief: “It’s my duty to provide care because others expect it of me. I’m determined to endure this responsibility so I won’t feel guilty.”
Right Belief: It is my desire to provide care because Christ has called me to serve. I have the strength to endure through Christ and the privilege of fellowship with Him.
“He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” (1 Corinthians 1:8–9)
IV. Steps To Solution
A. Key Verse to Memorize
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
B. Key Passage to Read and Reread
“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
Called to Caring
Galatians chapter 6
|• God’s ways are just. You will receive the same treatment that you give to others.
|• Living for personal pleasure reaps death. Choosing to live for others reaps life!
|• Refuse to give up when your circumstances become difficult. God promises to reward those who persevere.
|• Don’t miss the opportunity to serve another when God brings it to you, especially those in your family and those who love the Lord.
C. Overcome Overdo
The Don’ts of Caregiving
God is just as concerned about you, the caregiver, as He is about the one placed in your care. If you have a sincere desire to help others, the tendency is to assume too much responsibility and to overdo! Thus, you, as God’s chief instrument of care, can become disappointed, depressed and defeated. Overcome your desire to overdo by developing a respect for these practical don’ts and do’s of caregiving.
Don’t do everything for the person you are taking care of.
Do … Encourage personal accountability.
Do … Share responsibility whenever possible.
“For each one should carry his own load.” (Galatians 6:5)
Don’t think you have to have all the answers.
Do … Listen carefully for hurts and feelings that are being expressed.
Do … Learn to reflect the hurt so they know you really “hear.”
“He who answers before listening—that is his folly and his shame.” (Proverbs 18:13)
Don’t think you must control people and circumstances.
Do … Submit to the leading and control of the Holy Spirit.
Do … Recognize that God has His purposes to accomplish.
“You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” (Romans 8:9)
Don’t take things too seriously.
Do … Focus on the positives.
Do … Learn to laugh at little things.
“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)
Don’t think your identity is found in meeting another’s needs—to do so can quickly develop into codependency.
Do … Realize that your identity is in Christ.
Do … Know that God will meet your needs for meaning and purpose in your life.
“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3)
Don’t repress your feelings of hurt and frustration.
Do … Share your pain with a trusted friend.
Do … Pour out your heart to the Lord.
“Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” (Psalm 62:8)
Don’t let yourself become physically exhausted. Lack of rest is a setup for emotional vulnerability.
Do … Set aside time to be alone.
Do … Set your own personal boundaries.
“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.” (Mark 6:31–32)
Don’t become isolated from family and friends for long periods of time.
Do … Keep contact with others to help you keep a positive perspective.
Do … Maintain a regular schedule of getting away.
“Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel.” (Proverbs 27:9)
Don’t become spiritually depleted.
Do … Thank God for the pressure you are under.
Do … Allow the pressure to increase your time in God’s Word.
“It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.” (Psalm 119:71)
Don’t try to do it all alone.
Do … Learn to delegate needs to others.
Do … Ask for help from family, relatives, friends or engage an outside support person.
“The Lord said to Moses: ‘Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the Tent of Meeting, that they may stand there with you. I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit that is on you and put the Spirit on them. They will help you carry the burden of the people so that you will not have to carry it alone.’ ” (Numbers 11:16–17)
Don’t expect to please everyone.
Do … Accept the fact that others will misunderstand and even get angry with you.
Do … Be led by God’s Spirit and seek to do that which pleases the Lord.
“Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17)
Don’t assume a load of false guilt if you have to choose another source of care.
Do … Seek what is best for the person in need.
Do … Be content that God knows the intent of your heart.
“The Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’ ” (1 Samuel 16:7)
D. Not a Prison, but a Privilege
Pray to have a servant’s heart.
“Dear Father, please give me the desire to meet the needs of others unselfishly without counting the cost of personal sacrifice.”
“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men.” (Ephesians 6:7)
Realize that God has chosen you for a special assignment.
God wants to use you to show His love to another. God wants you to cooperate with Him as He brings growth and maturity into your own life.
“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Identify attitudes that may be blocking your ability to respond to God.
“Dear Father, help me to recognize any anger, bitterness, resentment, hopelessness, pride and self-pity that reside in my own heart. Make me willing to release these inappropriate attitudes to You and replace them with Your spirit of love, sincerity, forgiveness, patience, gratefulness, thanksgiving and joy.”
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)
Value this opportunity, for it is only temporary.
“Dear Father, thank You for this opportunity to be Your servant in the life of another person. I realize that nothing is forever and You will not allow anything to become more than I can bear. Please give me the grace to trust in Your perfect timing.”
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” (1 Peter 1:6)
Invest your life in the life of another.
• Build an intimate relationship of love.
• Identify with the feelings of the person you are caring for.
• Be vulnerable with your own feelings.
• Pray daily for the needs of the one you are caring for.
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
“No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:12)
Learn to live one day at a time.
• Communicate with God at the beginning of each day.
• Focus on God’s continual presence throughout the day.
• Recognize God’s orchestration of the events of the day.
“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)
Exchange your weakness for Christ’s strength.
• Know His grace is sufficient.
• Act on His presence within you. Submit to His gentle promptings.
• Obey His Spirit even when you don’t feel like it.
“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)
Give up expectations.
• Don’t expect others to understand your difficulties.
• Don’t expect appreciation to be voiced for all you do.
• Don’t expect others to help without your asking.
• Don’t have unrealistic expectations of the person you are caring for.
• Don’t have unrealistic expectations of yourself.
“An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” (Proverbs 12:25)
Experience a deeper intimacy with God.
“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” (Psalm 139:7–10)
E. The Heart of Christian Caregiving
To demonstrate His command that you must “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27), Jesus tells His story of the good Samaritan. With an illustration intended to break through the legalistic thinking of the Pharisees, Jesus painted a visual picture of Love vs. Law.
|• A heart that has compassion for another
|• A heart that is willing to give up personal time for another
|• A heart that ministers to another’s physical needs
|• A heart that provides financial support to another
|• A heart that requires accountability from others
|• A heart that is committed to another
|Biblical Illustration of Christian Caregiving
|“On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ ‘What is written in the Law?’ he replied. ‘How do you read it?’ He answered: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ‘You have answered correctly,’ Jesus replied. ‘Do this and you will live.’ But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ In reply Jesus said: ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. “Look after him,” he said, “and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.” Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’ The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’ Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.’ ”
F. A Little Does a Lot
“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
You may never be called to provide full-time care for a friend, relative or close family member, but you are always on call to show the love of God in small meaningful ways to others. It’s often the “little things” that bring the most appreciation and joy. Reveal your heart for God by recognizing practical ways to be the good Samaritan in the life of another. Remember—A little will be much when it’s placed in the Master’s hand!
Ways Friends Can Show Care
• Send cards and handwritten notes.
• Make visits to the hospital or nursing home.
• Send flowers or small gifts.
• Provide food and occasionally an entire meal.
• Volunteer to be a driver (transportation).
• Entertain children or other family members.
• Shop for needed items.
• Set aside time for regular reading aloud.
• Take walks and do other outdoor activities.
• Offer to do laundry and housecleaning.
• Be a willing and attentive listener.
• Extend emotional and physical affection.
• Provide financial assistance.
• Become a prayer warrior.
“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”
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