PJ’s Daily Devotional for Sunday, February 5, 2017
Are you a caregiver?
Caring for other people is hard work because love demands that we give more than we have. Whether you are caring for an elderly parent or a child, you are doing the hardest work possible—you are loving someone who cannot give back to you. Caregiver fatigue is real!
How do you continue to love and care for a person when there is little to no reciprocity (feedback, return for your effort, reward) of the love and attention you are pouring onto the person?
How do you continue to love and care for a person who attacks you with his/her behavior and/or words, and doesn’t appear to be aware of or care about your sacrifices for his or her well-being?
Let me give you an example for how the Bible helps you, a caregiver, in your very important role: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
Obviously, this is a verse about parent-child relationships, but the principle of “not provoking your children to anger” applies to the larger conversation about caregiving. The word for “father” in this verse applies to the person in authority and with responsibility over the child; it could equally be translated in our culture: “mothers & fathers” or even guardians and caregivers. As those in authority over another, with the responsibility to provide care for them, we need to check ourselves to make sure we are not becoming part of the problem because we are not attending to our own needs.
Let me draw a couple principles to help you be a godly caregiver no matter who you are caring for, whether an elderly parent or a young child or someone in between:
1. Watch your own fatigue! It is rare for someone to intentionally set out to harm the person they love or to neglect the person to whom they are charged to provide care. But elder abuse & neglect, just like child abuse & neglect, are growing more common, and bad situations are happening in every community. One of the reasons is exhaustion! Parents of all shapes and sizes, just like many other caregivers, are not taking care of themselves and can only hold up in a healthy way for so long before they physically, emotionally, or psychologically crash. When you crash, your caregiving crashes, and bad things happen! As the flight attendant says, “put your own oxygen mask on first!”
2. Remember why you are doing what you are doing! Caregiving, including training up & disciplining children, in every way can be thankless work. It is repetitious as if you are living in a perpetual ground hog day. You may never hear the words “thank you” and in fact, you may live in a world of constant demand and critique for what you don’t do or can’t do. Keep your eyes on the Lord through this time. Remember, this season is only temporary no matter how long it seems to be: will you look back on your time of caregiving and be proud of the way you loved the person?
3. You can’t do this alone! Is there anything more lonely than long-term caregiving? It is isolating and life transforming; not just while you are going through it, but afterwards you realize how much the experience has changed your perspective on life and people and God. Here are 3 ways to ensure you don’t go at it alone: (1) Invite family & friends to do it with you. You may be the primary care-giver, but be careful against trying to do it all yourself—the martyr complex is a real concern you need to guard against and a warning sign you need to pay attention to. (2) Ensure that you have a church community praying for you, as well as knowing you and your needs. It helps so much just to know that other people know what you are going through. (3) Pray! God is with you so ask Him daily to refresh you with the Holy Spirit. Ask God to work in and through you every day to love and care for the person.
Remember at the end of the day, you are answerable to God for your attitudes and conduct of the day: run with perseverance the race that has been set out for you. Your race course may look a lot different or harder than someone else’s, but stay focused on what is before you. You be faithful!