CARING FOR THE CAREGIVER

Trapped… Lonely… Frustrated… Exhausted… Disappointed… Afraid… Angry… Unsure Sound familiar? One area of encouragement that stands out is … Caregivers … those who give their time and energy to care for someone else. Sometimes it’s a role they’ve chosen, sometimes it has been thrust upon them. Always there is dedication, responsibility and devotion. But what they do is demanding work that in time can sap their strength, erode their hope, and steal their joy. They begin the day exhausted, frustrated, lonely, and often forgotten. And each day wears them down just a little more.

When we asked our readers of the Note of Encouragement about Caregivers, their response was immediate and direct. They told of situations involving cancer, Alzheimer’s, autoimmune diseases, chronic medical conditions, mental illness, depression, grief, stress, unemployment, divorce, single parenting, financial difficulties, and aging, to name just a few.

And we learned something important. This isn’t just about a doctor or nurse, a parent or spouse. Caregivers include many others. When all is said and done, a Caregiver is anyone who cares for and tends to the needs of another person struggling with life, for whatever reason or cause.

Here, we want to share thoughts, advice, concerns, and hope. And most importantly to honor and encourage those giving such care. Whether you’re a Caregiver or wanting to help one who is, we pray you’ll find our site useful.

HITTING THE BRICK WALL

“…It takes a toll on the Caregiver and makes them wonder, Am I doing the right things or am I making this worse? It plays with their minds. They can get into a state of depression, too. I know I did. You even wonder if you are doing something wrong…” – a Caregiver

Are you a Caregiver? You may be able to answer that very quickly, or perhaps you’re so new to this whole thing that you’re not sure. Here’s an easy definition to guide you.

A Caregiver is someone who on a consistent basis cares for and tends to the needs of someone else who at the moment is struggling with life. The struggles come in all shapes and sizes. Some are desperate and the care needed is quite extensive. Others are not life-threatening but more of a source of aggravation or frustration, and the need is for some consistent attention and help. And others, well, they can be everything in between.

Struggles and needs for care vary greatly. The causes vary as well. We tend to think only of illness and medical conditions, such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, autoimmune diseases, and other chronic medical conditions. But Caregivers can be found in areas far beyond these. Depression – grief – stress – unemployment – divorce – single parenting – grandparents raising their grandchildren – financial difficulties – addictions – eating disorders – aging. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

So, you think you might be a Caregiver?

The following material has been developed to help you as you battle the Brick Wall. The Brick Wall? Well, it’s that’s point where you suddenly feel overwhelmed with the task at hand. You’re frustrated, aggravated, angry, disappointed, lonely, exhausted, and you find yourself more and more just wanting to run away. Maybe it’s not quite that bad yet or maybe it’s all that and more. But the Brick Wall is very real, and if you’ve not hit it, you most likely will. We want to help.

DEALING WITH ALZHEIMER’S / DEMENTIA

by John McMath, Ciloa Director

Someone you love has Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). It is a life staggering event when the doctor finally tells you what you have probably known for a little while. Although you hoped it would never happen, it has. You may know several other people it has happened to as well. It is not uncommon… and you are not alone!

What worked for me

The first thing I would recommend is that you do not panic and upset your loved one over this. Those with AD may never know or understand. That is to say, they will do very little suffering through it. It doesn’t hurt and in many cases they are oblivious to it other than suffering through short durations of confusion and/or worry. You are the one who will know what is happening and the one who will know what to do. This is your time to be strong in the face of an unfortunate episode in the life God has granted the both of you.

Always, always remember…this is a disease, not a punishment and certainly not yours or your loved one’s fault. Neither of you have done anything wrong nor could you have prevented this from happening.

Realize that the person you’re caring for is not mad or angry at you. At some point he or she will get you confused with someone else or not know who you are at all. These times are tough, but they will come and go, so don’t be alarmed. Often those with AD think they are young again, therefore their spouses should be young, too, and not the older person who is caring for them. So they get confused. Often they will think deceased parents are alive and will become worried about them.

Confusion is something that will become more and more a part of their life. My father had Alzheimer’s and once while I was giving my mother a break, he and I were just sitting outside enjoying the day. He looked at me and asked, “You’re older than me right?” I explained that no, I was his son and that would be physically impossible. He was so excited to see me, he gave me a great big hug. Then he said, “You’re older than me right?” I said yes, but not by much!

Did I mention that you must keep your sense of humor and never be afraid to laugh? Your loved one will most likely laugh right along. A friend described his loved one as a person who never watches a re-run and is always meeting new and interesting people!

Go for a ride in the car. For some reason those with AD love this and it is very soothing to them, much like taking a young crying child for a ride and finding that soon they would be asleep. Your loved one will probably not go to sleep, but it is amazing how calming it can be. But don’t go too far, because soon they will want to head back home for one silly reason or another.

Keep things as simple as possible. Don’t ask complicated questions to see what they understand. It will most likely frustrate them. Ask leading or “yes” – “no” questions instead. Fix their plate for them when decisions become difficult instead of offering lots of choices.

Soothing music and a rocking chair can do wonders.

What did NOT work for me

Arguing. Try not to argue. You will not win and in just a short time, and I mean seconds, your loved one will forget about whatever it was you were arguing about. But…you have to stop, or they will just continue to argue. They can be very stubborn.

Also, some do not like small, enclosed areas or to wait very long. So what! Neither do I so that was not hard to avoid.

Talking about them in front of them. Unless your loved one has lost his or her hearing, you cannot always tell when he or she will understand what you are saying. Talking in this way will only make your loved one feel worse.

Things that are important to know, but were unexpected

Be mindful that those with AD will often wander, usually trying to go “home” even when that is where they are. Keep the car keys hidden. You may also want to lock the doors.

Hide your own phone number and address on them somewhere. It they habitually carry a wallet or purse, that is a good spot.

If you are staying in a hotel with your loved one, grab a card from the desk and stick it on them somewhere. That way if they wander away, locals will know where they came from.

Those with AD often seem to become stronger in their characters. Some may be more stubborn, others more restless. Still others can show mean tendencies. Remember, such feelings and attitudes are not directed toward you. But you must be careful and seek additional help if it becomes necessary.

Their short term memory is the most affected. They can remember things that happened to them as a child but not remember if they have eaten dinner.

Many hallucinate. Dad would imagine all sorts of things but when we pressed for more descriptions, they would often go away.

Don’t be surprised when they misplace things or even stranger, place things in inappropriate places. You may find shoes in the refrigerator or glasses in a tree outside. Don’t ever turn on the oven without checking inside first!

Always remember to take care of you if you are the caregiver. Take advantage of all help that is offered.

HELPFUL RESOURCES
When Someone You Love Has ALZHEIMER’S

by Cecil Murphey

Notes of Encouragement

A Love that Shines, Hal Harris, Director, Ciloa

Caregivers – You Are Amazing!

Caregivers – An Extraordinary Encouragement

Other Resources

There are endless resources on the web but the greatest asset can be you church and particularly others who share your experience.

Alzheimer’s Association – Visit them at www.alz.org.

for a world of help and resources or call them at

1-800-272-3900

if you are not good with a computer. There are people available 24 hours a day every day to help you and they can speak in many languages. They also have a “Safe Return” program through which you can register your loved one if he or she begins to wander.

Local Alzheimer’s support groups. Sharing and encouraging each other is invaluable.

The movie, The Notebook – a slightly over-dramatized but educational view of the love between the caregiver and the cared for.

The book, The 36 Hour Day by Nancy Mace and Peter Rabins – a very insightful book from John Hopkins Press. Every caregiver, family member and friend should read this.

HELPFUL SCRIPTURE

The following verses were helpful during the time I had with my Dad and I hope you find that these and others will also comfort and strengthen you. These assured me that God is not going to give anyone more than he or she can bear and that we can bear all things through Him who gives us strength.

Isaiah 40:31

(NIV) …but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 41:10

(NIV) So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Philippians 4:13

(NIV) I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Isaiah 43:2-4

(MSG) When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end – Because I am GOD, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior. I paid a huge price for you: all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in! That’s how much you mean to me! That’s how much I love you!

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

(TLB) What a wonderful God we have-he is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the source of every mercy, and the one who so wonderfully comforts and strengthens us in our hardships and trials. And why does he do this? So that when others are troubled, needing our sympathy and encouragement, we can pass on to them this same help and comfort God has given us.

Matthew 5:14 – 16

(NRSV) You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven

BE PREPARED

“…You think you are prepared, but all too often you find out you don’t know enough…” – a Caregiver

There is nothing that will sap your strength like fear, and nothing feeds that fear like not knowing what’s going on. Knowledge is critical. It can empower you and give you confidence, because you will better understand what is going on around you and how best to handle the situation. You will be able to expect and anticipate better. And you are less likely to be surprised.

WARNING!!! Far too often we think we know what’s going on when we really don’t. We’ve heard a little here and there, maybe seen a special on TV, and worst of all, made assumptions based on our own experiences or common sense. But guess what? Many times we’re wrong and we discover only too late that “common sense” is no help at all. So decide right now to be as prepared as you can. Understand what is really going

Decide what care you must give, what care you can give, what care you want to give, and what care you can’t give. All of these are different.They go not only to knowledge, but also to your own available time, outside resources, mobility, health, finances, and even personality. Some things you may choose to overcome, others you can’t. While you may want to buy some material, you may not have the funds to do so. You may want to speak with a leading expert, but suffer yourself from shyness or anxiety. But when you make that list of the things you can’t do, make sure you don’t list those things that are based only on a lack of knowledge. If you have the desire, you can overcome that.

Go to the public library and book stores. See what relevant material they have available. For more in-depth study, go to a college, medical or hospital library if one’s close by. And if you don’t know where to look once you get there, ask. Most of the people there really do want to help. Often they are able to direct you to some research you would never have found on your own.

Seek the help of professionals. Call the office of those who regularly handle the problem you’re researching. Tell them you’re a Caregiver and want to be better prepared. Ask if they have some material they could give you. Find out if they have other sources to direct you to. Go ahead and ask if the professional would be willing to spend 10 minutes with you to help guide you. Be bold. All they can do is say, No.

Go to the Internet and search. Now this can drive you crazy, so be careful. For any given problem, there can easy be a million different sites offering help and insight. There just isn’t enough time to read them all, so pick those that seem to have the best credentials. For example, an article on alcoholism by the Mayo Clinic might be better than one published by Bob’s Package Store.

Attend a class on your area of need. Scan the local newspapers for courses. Many are offered free or at low cost. The availability of these vary from location to location, but they are often a great source of information.

Look for support groups. There are many different kinds out there, so you have a good chance of finding some that will add to your overall knowledge. But there’s another important reason for checking these out. The information you gather from other sources will go a long way in preparing you for the task at hand, but this is usually “general” information. It most often fits and is most often correct because every situation is different to some degree. But in support groups you get to hear from those who are actually living the experience. You may well discover that someone has already dealt with a problem not discussed in the books you’ve read…and they’ve also found a solution.

Lean on others! If you can’t get to a location to pick up some material, ask a friend to do it. If you can’t afford a book or a class, ask your church to fund it. And if you need to leave the one you’re caring for to do some of this work, ask someone to help for the day. For those who are Christians, it is expected and required of us to help each other. For those who are not, I pray you have the friends to fill this need. But regardless, it is very difficult to find help when we refuse to seek it.

Never stop studying! Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you know it all. It’s so easy to do because you are right there on the front lines. “I see this every day. What could they possibly tell me that I don’t already know?” But there will always be new ideas, new insights, and new avenues for hope. Don’t deny yourself such encouragement.

REST

“…I was so tired until I had reached the point of not caring whether he was “properly” cared for or not – I had to be absent from the grind of caregiving…” – a Caregiver

It is extremely important that you get your rest. At times that will seem impossible, but it is absolutely necessary if you are going to help someone over a long period. Without rest, you become so fatigued that you more easily become sick and depressed. You may even begin to lose confidence and doubt yourself. Over time, lack of rest will prevent you from being an effective Caregiver and you can end up sacrificing yourself, your family and your friends.

What is rest? We’re not talking here about a vacation or long weekend trip, although both could be important. We’re also not talking about whatever time you may have to sleep at night. Your daily rest as a Caregiver is different. It’s that time when you are not in active “Caregiver mode”, when you can think about or do something else that does not demand your attention. It may be reading a book, watching some TV, listening to music, but it will be something special to you. Not everyone is wired the same. So what may be restful to some, might be stressful to another.

It must, however, be relaxing. You’re not going to get much rest watching the news, even if you do enjoy that kind of thing. Some people need something completely mindless, like looking out over a forest or listening to the ocean surf. Others just need to do anything that’s different, like playing a guitar or taking a drive.

So how do you get that rest?

Figure out what gives you rest. There should be several things, but remember that everyone is different. So don’t let someone make you do what just happens to give them rest.

Plan your day. Don’t detail every little thing, but make it a point first thing in the morning to sit down with pen and paper, and sketch out (i) what needs to be done, (ii) the time in the day you hope to get them accomplished, and (iii) the best chances you have to schedule some time for rest. Will you get this every day? No. But one thing is certain. If you don’t plan for rest, you won’t get any.

Ask for help. It’s hard for most of us to ask for help, but this is one time when we have to humble ourselves a bit and just do it. Call on family or ask a friend. If you belong to a church or have a special group, contact them. Let them know you need their help just for a little while. Remember that this is as much for the person you’re helping as for you. But what if the one you’re helping doesn’t want to be left with someone else? More on that later, but getting rest doesn’t mean you have to leave. Get someone to stop by for an hour or two. Simply having someone else around can lift much of the strain and stress. You can relax a little, and with that, comes some rest.

Contact special assistance groups. Sometimes you need to be away for a longer period, maybe even an entire day or more. Do some research. Call the health care professionals and organizations that specialize in the area you’re dealing with, for example Muscular Dystrophy, American Cancer Society, MS Society, Celebrate Recovery, Crohns and Colitis Foundation, and Alzheimer’s Support, to name just a few. They can often recommend a variety of assistance groups, organizations, businesses, and individuals, such as social workers, visiting nurses, home health aides, adult day care centers, respite centers, senior centers, hospital overnight services and community mental health centers.

Contact home care agencies. Sometimes you don’t need to get away. You just need some help with the care you’re giving. Check out your resources and you’ll find that a variety of help will come to your home for a certain number of hours a day and perform different tasks. These can include escort and transportation, meal delivery, bathing, toileting, moving the person from a bed to a chair if needed, dressing, feeding, taking vital signs, exercising, as well as household work such as general housecleaning, shopping, cooking, and even secretarial duties.

Don’t think you’re the only one who can help. It is common for Caregivers to fall into the trap of thinking they are the only ones who can provide the care that’s needed. Sometimes that’s because of the demands from the one they are helping. Sometimes it’s because they feel guilty if they are not constantly at the person’s side. But the truth is that if the Caregiver doesn’t get enough rest, the quality of care being provided will suffer. And eventually, so will the person to be helped! Do your research. Check skills, backgrounds and knowledge. If special instructions or information is a part of your situation, then pass that along. But get rest, so you can come back and provide the care the person needs.

A FEW OTHER THINGS TO REMEMBER

“…The other thing I learned is to always be careful when using the word “can’t” because with God, all things are possible. HE changed my perspective…” – a Caregiver

Being a Caregiver can be a blessing and a burden, a time of joy and sorrow. But it is always hard work. Being prepared and getting your rest are critical. Will you ever be prepared enough or find all the rest you need? Probably not. So just do the best you can. And since there may be times when even that will still not satisfy you, there are a few things you can remember to keep your mind and heart on track.

Accept help when it’s offered. You can’t do it all, and guess what? God doesn’t want you to. Give others the opportunity to grow in their walk with Him by allowing them to help you.

Tell people what you need. Be honest and even a little bold. People can’t help when they don’t know what you need.

Find a confidant. This is someone you can open up to, who will listen and not judge, and who will keep your confidences. Often Caregivers need to say exactly what they feel, not what they pretend to show on the outside. We are best able to deal with our loneliness, frustration, sorrow, resentment, and anger (even towards God) when we can talk it out.

Understand your emotions. At some time, every Caregiver experiences some depression, resentment, anger, self pity, loneliness, an attitude of “it’s not fair”, the desire to run away from it all, and especially guilt for feeling any or all of the above. That’s normal. You have to admit your feelings before you can deal with them. Denying them is what’s harmful.

Talk to other Caregivers. That may not be possible, but whenever you have the opportunity, do this. Ask questions. Tell them what you’re going through. Not only will you have another chance to get things off your chest, but you’ll be talking to someone who’s “been there, done that”. They can give you new ideas, a different way of getting things done, but most of all, they can help you discover what’s normal.

Remind yourself you’re not an idiot. Have some confidence. Sure you may not understand everything, but you can learn. And you will. In fact, you’ll learn that you are capable of doing far more than you ever realized.

Know what you can’t do and be satisfied with that. This may be difficult because Caregivers often try to do everything. Even when they can’t do something, they feel guilty about it. Don’t fall into that trap. We all have limitations. Figure out what those are. It may be that someone else can step in and provide the needs or skills you may not have. But don’t feel guilty. Learn. Do what you can. And be satisfied. You’re not God.

Remember the mindset of the person you’re helping. Often Caregivers take the brunt of the anger, resentment, and frustration that comes from the person they’re helping. That’s normal. You may be having problems, but don’t forget theirs are worse. You may be very close, but you are still on the outside looking in. They don’t mean to hurt you. They are simply acting out their suffering.

Don’t try to be their counselor. Counseling takes a lot of experience and knowledge. Unless you have the right training and education, it is very easy is give bad advice. Often what they need is for you to just listen to them. Without judgment. Without comment. Just listen.

Don’t always expect the worst. Some people subscribe to what Ben Franklin once said. “I always expect the worse. Then when it doesn’t happen, I’m pleasantly surprised.” That philosophy, however, will beat you down over time, just as will always expecting the best. Don’t be overly optimistic or pessimistic, but do be prepared so you’re not surprised or caught off-guard.

Seek professional advice only from professionals. Whatever the need may be – medical, legal, tax, accounting, finances, investments, insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, car repair, home repair, etc. – try to get advice from someone experienced in that field rather than handling the situation on your own or taking the word of a friend. Good intentions and common sense don’t always equal accurate information. You’ve got enough to do and don’t need that burden as well.

Join a support group. Because of the time required in caregiving, that may be very difficult… but try. If you need someone to take your place for a few hours or help in taking you to a meeting, ask for the help. This will give you some very needed comfort because you will be with others who have gone through and are going through the same struggles. They will understand and you will find that you’re not alone.

Take the opportunity to be with other people. Sometimes you just need a break, a time to be with other people. This may have nothing to do with you being a Caregiver, just an opportunity to relax and talk about anything else. Or it could be a time when you can just vent, unloading on someone who will understand some of the things you are going through.

Learn about stress management. All Caregivers go through stress. Go to the library, a book store or the Internet and learn how you can handle the stress that will definitely come. What you can do will depend on the demands of your caregiving, but there will always be something that can provide at least some relief.

Keep a journal. It doesn’t have to be detailed, but as questions or problems come up, make a note about them. This will help you remember to find answers, rather than letting them build up and overwhelm you. And when you find that answer, make a note of that, too. It may come in handy again.

Forgive others. Almost always… they mean well and have good intentions. They just don’t understand what you’re going through or how hard this can be. So often, caregiving tends to be a “been there, done that” kind of thing. And when they haven’t, they can say and do the wrong thing without ever realizing the hurt they’ve caused.

Always take one day at a time. Caregiving must focus on the here and now. Plans can be made, but the need is in the present and there are enough things to be concerned about now. Often as we look to the coming days, we can easily become depressed and discouraged, especially when we know there will be tough days ahead. Don’t fall into that trap. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34

GOD AND PRAYER

 

“…God had plans different from ours…” – a Caregiver

 

This is a truth that can be so hard to accept. Being a Caregiver is difficult. You want to help. You want to be there. You want to make a difference. And you want that happy ending at the end of the story. You pray for healing or guidance or God’s divine intervention. You want a miracle. But often, the happy ending doesn’t come.

We are taught to rely on God and trust in Him, but no one tells us about the times we get frustrated and even angry with Him. Does that mean we have no faith and we’re terrible people? No. It means we’re human.

We care so much, we want everything to be perfectly wonderful, even in this imperfect world. And God knows that. He understands how we feel. He’s been here and walked among us. He feels the same way.

But there’s a difference. God knows it can never be perfectly wonderful in this world. So He’s prepared another world for us where it can be perfectly wonderful. And of all the paths we may have before us, only God knows the best way to get to where we’re going.

Yet we still care deeply, and we still ache when others are hurting. So how can we keep the right attitude in all this?

Admit you don’t know everything. That seems such a simple thing, but we often find ourselves struggling because we think we do. At the very least, we believe we know what’s best.

Ask God for everything your heart desires. Pray and pray hard. Be serious and keep at it. God will listen and He will answer. The answer may be different than what you want, but if your heart seeks the very best for the one you’re helping, God will find a way.

Understand that Jesus is the ultimate Caregiver. He has felt every emotion, every frustration, and every bit of sorrow not only for the one receiving your care, but for every person who has ever walked on this planet. His emotion, frustration and sorrow are multiplied by billions. He understands where you are.

Remember that this world is not our home. When we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we instantly became aliens in a strange land. Jesus made it clear. In this world we will always have trouble, sickness, evil and death. So He has prepared another place for us, our real home, where we will find that none of that exists.

Believe that God loves you both. God is love. He has chosen not to end sickness and sorrow in this world because this world rejects Him. But so that both of you might have happiness forever, He came and walked among those on this earth, then gave up His life so that we might have a new life with Him. That is the ultimate act of love. Everything else is but a shadow.

Rest in Him. Don’t try to be the solution yourself. Give it all to Him. The hurt, exhaustion, sorrow, anger. Whatever the situation, let God be God. Trust in Him. Rely on Him to decide what is best. And then rest in that decision.

Watch His power grow in you and then discover what you can do. A lady once wrote us about a sister who had brain damage as the result of a car accident. Some years after the accident, that lady gave birth to a son who was severely brain damaged because of oxygen deprivation. “It was a trying time for me but you know what I learned about myself? First and foremost, I can care for a head-injured person; in fact, I can care for two head-injured people and retain my sanity.” In times of need, God gives us the strength to do what we could never have imagined doing before. As another wrote to us, “Trouble is an inevitable part of life. When tragedy strikes we all need lots of friends around us. The Lord does not want us to go through these paths alone. That is why it is important to cry out to the Lord and allow Him to wrap us in His loving care.

No difficulty is too big for God to handle.

GOOD HOPE

The days are dark with fear and dread.

My life is cursed, so it’s been said

By those who stroll the farther side,

Who called, “My friend,” through lips that lied.

 

My strength is weak, I hardly see

The love from Him who died for me.

For me? Such things do not ring true

In desperate hearts all torn in two,

 

Where dreams of happiness seem lost,

Where each step seems not worth the cost.

My strength has failed, I cannot see

The love from Him who died for me.

 

Yet deep within my soul there lives

The presence of a hope that gives

Some bit of faith I can’t deny,

No matter if or how I try.

My strength is gone, how do I see

The love from Him who died for me?

And then a thought, not from but of

Is how we come to find His love.

 

This from leads to what “I” demand.

I could not know or understand

His strength is near, nor could I see

The love from Him who died for me.

 

It’s in the of where I will find

He lives within my heart and mind,

To lead me through this darkest night

And to good hope beyond my sight.

 

His strength’s enough, and now I see

The love… of… Him who died for me.

 

Chuck Graham

~ 2008 ~

MAY GOD BLESS YOU THIS DAY
WITH GOOD HOPE!

The word “hope” has different meanings. Often, especially in this day and age, it refers to a wish. We would like a long life, nice home, and good health. We don’t know if any of that will happen, but that’s what we want… what we hope for. But there’s another definition, one that Christians don’t use often enough. It refers not to a dream, but a reality. It is not a wish, but a certainty. It’s not what we demand, but what we expect. Ah, but what do we do with this beautiful hope?

We use it as a measure of judging faith. We find doubt and assume unbelief. We hear questions and claim weakness. We see humanity and deny the presence of the Holy Spirit. When given the opportunity to show the world we really do love and encourage one another, we pass judgment as we pass by. And we do so even to ourselves. When days are darkest, no one escapes the desperation of this world.

“God, don’t let him die!” “Why is this happening?” “Where will we live?” “How could you do this?” “Why don’t you hear me?” “Please spare her life!” “What have we done to deserve this?” “Heal my child!” “Don’t let us lose what we’ve worked so hard for!” “Take this cup from me!”

Does the last one sound familiar? When Jesus spoke these words, did He lack faith? On that dark day, did He have no hope? Jesus experienced what we all experience in such times… the overwhelming flood of personal desire. He cried out just as we do. He felt the pain and knew the emotion. He knows what it’s like.

And He knows such cries from His friends have nothing to do with faith and hope. They have to do with humanity, a humanity He shares. And this is not a weakness as some would have us believe, but the beginning of strength. For when combined with the determination to follow the will of God, this frail humanity grows into a witness of ultimate and absolute love.

We can hope more because we have felt hopeless. We can encourage more because we have felt discouraged. We can love more because we have felt unloved. And we can follow Him with greater faith because we are sure of the emptiness of life in this world without Him and certain of the fullness of life in the next where we will be with Him forever.

For we know it is not the love from God, but the love of God that brings us joy. It is not what He gives but what He is that will carry us through the storms of life… with our hope and faith intact. And we will stand, for He will make us stand. (Romans 14:4) We simply need to rely on His strength, and not our own.

In your darkest days, May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. 2 Thessalonians 2:16-16

Take care and be God’s,

Chuck