Americans are living longer and our medical system is the most advanced in history! Both of these seem like wonderful blessings, but in reality they come with new challenges for our present generation. One of those is the need to provide care to aging family members.
God has always commanded His people to honor and provide for their parents. The fifth commandment was to “honor father and mother” (Exodus 20:12). Paul taught Christians to be responsibility for taking care of parents and family members in need (1 Timothy 5:3-4; 8). Jesus strongly rebuked the Pharisees for “voiding the word of God” by their traditions because they concocted a tradition allowing them to give money to the temple practically alleviating their duty to care for their parents (Mark 7:6-13). Jesus declared their worship was in vain because they so twisted the Word of God by rejected this fundamental duty.
Since it is clear God expects us to do it, the question becomes how do we effectively carry out this challenging responsibility in today’s culture. Here are some suggestions.
- Be grateful! While being the caregiver can be a burden, remember to have a grateful heart as you go through the process. Many children would love to be able to spend more time with their parents. Be thankful for the time you are able to have with your parents (1 These. 5:16-18)
- Practice the golden rule (Mat. 7:12). As you try to make difficult decisions rely on the principle of treating your parents the way you would want to be treated and the way they would want you to treat them.
- Keep perspective. Your parents are more than who they are at the present! Sometimes let your mind’s eye dream of the past when they were a child, a young person, a newlywed, or parent. Even consider what they were 10 years before and remember to treat them with the dignity and respect that their whole life demands. It will encourage you and help you keep perspective.
- See it as a ministry. Often when people are caring for a family member they feel guilt because they can’t do their normal service to the Lord. Let me remind you that your caregiving is a high and noble ministry to the Lord. You are right where you should be! You are a powerful witness to the world of the love of Jesus.
- Remember that God knows your labor of love. The Bible assures us that God will not overlook our secret services that often go unnoticed by the world. You do what God calls you to do and he will bless you (Heb. 6:10; Mark 9:41; Gal. 6:9).
- Learn to accept the fact that life inevitably changes. Most of us don’t like changes, thus we tend to resist them. We must realize our roles in life will change over time. Even David the giant slayer was told by his army that he could no longer fight in battle because he was almost killed (2 Sam. 21:15-17). God desires for us to embrace our position in life and use it for his glory as best we can.
- Be attentive to your own emotions and health. The caregiver must also see to their own needs. They will battle various emotions and will need space, friends, and spiritual encouragement to carry out their duties. The caregiver should allow others to help and seek to lean on God.
May God bless and give strength to all those who are caregivers.
Many of these ideas came from Steve Higgenbotham in “Caring for Aging Parents” Spiritual Sword (April 2016).
You can also listen to a sermon on this topic in the Audio Resources.