Caring for The Hurting

This week I have been reading a book about a couple who after having been married for 24 years discover that the wife has Multiple Sclerosis. The story goes through all the details of her illness and the different effects that has on the family. It also maps very graphically what it means to be a caregiver, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for many years.

This book is written very simply, primarily for lay people who are in the same situation as this family, but it is probably the most open, honest account of what life is really like, for the patient, for the caregiver and the other family members. For me there was nothing new to learn about Multiple Sclerosis in its pages, as that was not its purpose, but it affected me profoundly, to realize how often we care for the sick person and totally forget the one who is giving the care. In this world today, it is not to be taken for granted when someone decides to care for a loved one at home, yet seldom do we think of that person”s needs.

I was brought full circle round to thinking about how often we ask people how they are, not actually wanting to hear details, but hoping for a pat answer of , “Fine, thank you and yourself.” When people do have a major issue they wish to discuss, are they free to do it? Would we want to hear, “Not good, actually, I have had a terrible week‚Ķ..”, and if we got such an answer do we know what to do with it?

It is so easy to wear a mask when we are out meeting people and smile when asked how we are. It is often much easier and less problem to give the pat answer and keep the people happy. Yet, there are times when we desperately need someone to come alongside and listen to the hard things. Someone who will not judge us for the absence of the permanent smile pasted on our faces, or for experiencing a bad week. It is however, very hard to find that person, who will accept that kind of conversation, and treat you in the appropriate way.¬† Most get flustered, have no idea how to approach it and avoid asking you next time. Others can”t wait to find another listening ear to pass on the latest gossip to. Shame on us!

In our Christian lives, we are not promised it will always be easy, and there are certainly many Christians who are suffering for their faith, those who have problems finding work because they are believers, but there are also those whom God has allowed to carry very heavy burdens through this life. These people need us, not only to listen but to help carry the burden, without being intrusive into their lives. Cook a simple meal for a needy family, take the disabled child for a walk that the mother can shop in peace, offer to sit with a person who is housebound, to give the caregiver an opportunity to go the gym or take a swim, bring an elderly person out for an outing, or even to church. The opportunities are endless and need not cost us much more than a bit of time, but mean such a lot to those under stress.

But even without that much burden, everyone has “lousy” days: days when we would like to hide under the blankets and not come out till another time. These days do not mean we have “lost our joy” or “committed some crime.” Merely, that we are overtired, over stressed, over worked, needing a break or an uplift. What do you think Jesus felt like that night in the garden of Gethsemane when He asked God to remove the cup if possible? He had no real intention of giving up as He knew what he had to do, but the burden was proving hard to carry.

Let us think and look at the person we are asking after in church or even in the workplace. Look at them in the eyes, show concern and ask more probing questions than, How are you doing? Offer some kind of help without being asked. Don”t say, Can I make you a meal? But rather, Which day would be best for me to leave a meal around for the family? When is it appropriate for me to have a few hours alone sitting with your mother to let you get out? The caregiver will appreciate it and the housebound person will appreciate a different face and other conversation for a while, as they have very little to look forward to in a week.

Even if you are feeling a little down yourself, do it for someone else and you will be uplifted, as well as realizing afresh that there are always those much worse off than you. There is nothing like this realization to help shake us up to get on with life. If you would like to read the book called Silent Struggler by Glen Mollette, I highly recommend it.

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