Fear is a Normal Feeling
Part of learning to care for a person with a chronic illness is understanding that fear of the disease and the unknown are normal feelings. The illness’s unknown and uncertainty are scary. The very nature of chronic disease often has death or at least its possibility confronting us. If it is rheumatoid arthritis, you pictured pain and decreased mobility or use of joints. If its dementia you can see your loved one no longer knowing who you are or where they are. You envision nothing but bleak tomorrows.
Today’s Scripture reminds us that God is with us. We do not face today or tomorrow alone. God is here to strengthen and help us.
Ten years before my wife’s diagnosis with cancer, her then recently widowed mother moved into our home. I had suggested the move as I liked my mother-in-law. I loved her, my late father-in-law, and all my wife’s siblings. I had won the in-law lottery. Wonderful in-laws were a blessing.
I can still remember that particular night. I woke to an endless pounding on my front door. It took me several minutes to figure out what was going on. In the meantime, the pounding on the door continued.
As my wife and I got out of bed, we looked at the clock. 3:15 AM. I hurried to the door. As I opened the door, there stood a policeman and my mother-in-law. My wife’s mom was clad in house shoes, her nightgown, and a thin cotton, short sleeved bathrobe.
“Are you Jimmie Kepler?” asked the police officer.
“Yes sir, I am Jimmie Kepler. She is my wife, Miss Benita,” I said pointing to the woman standing beside me.
“We found her about five blocks from here,” he said motioning to my mother-in-law. He then added, “She said she needed to get to the senior adult center in DeSoto, Texas. I ran a check on her name, and it says she lives in DeSoto. She said Jimmie Kepler was her son-in-law. I ran a check on your name. It came up with this address. That is why we’re here.”
“I need to get to the senior adult center,” said my mother-in-law shivering.
It was a cold 45-degree night. The senior adult center in DeSoto was nearly fifty miles south of my house, with the city of Dallas in between.
“Mama, what were you doing?” asked Miss Benita as she looked at her mother.
“I was trying to get home to get your daddy’s and my coffee cup before going to the senior adult center. They’ll have a fresh pot of hot coffee. Your daddy and I can play 42. We can also visit with our friends.” She was referencing to the domino game 42.
“Mama, daddy died over a decade ago. You married Fred Robinson three years after he died. Fred died last year. You live with us now. You’ve lived with us for over six months,” said a teary-eyed Miss Benita.
Confusion graced my mother-in-law’s countenance.
“But Clarence is at the senior center,” she pleaded.
“Does your mother has memory issues? You can’t let her roam the streets in the middle of the night,” he said.
“We didn’t know she had left the house.” Concern was all over my face. I was horrified as I realized something was wrong with her. Did she have dementia? Alzheimer’s Disease? I wasn’t sure what was going on. I was horrified.
I took custody of my mother-in-law from the policeman. That very day I had alarms installed on the doors of my house. A terrifying series of recurring events began that night. Like the movie Groundhog Day, ever night the alarm would go off between midnight to 4 AM as my mother-in-law tried her escape from my home to go back to her old house. I would catch her before she made it to the street. Each day repeated the previous day. It seemed the nightmare would never end.
Her trying to get out of the house at night went on for months. The doctor would never use the words dementia or Alzheimer’s. The physician preferred the word “confused.” It finally stopped when she had a stroke.
While I thought the nightly attempted jailbreaks were terrible, the stroke took things to a new level.
During this time God was with me. I cried out to him. I grabbed hold of him and wouldn’t let go. I knew not what else to do.
This new normal wasn’t easy. My wife and I adjusted our new routine. We added more alarms and locks. We didn’t go crazy. We cared for my mother-in-law. And we prayed and prayed
Isaiah 41:10 (KJV), “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”
What the Verse Means
The verse’s meaning is best seen when examined in context with two preceding verses. Isaiah 41:8-10 (KJV), “But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend. Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away. Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”
The whole passage is one of great tenderness. I am with thee (that is, God is with you). I (God) will strengthen thee (now and in the future). I have strengthened thee (in times past). There is a reminder that God has chosen you. We see a declaration of past favors as well as prophetic words for future favors since God is unchanging.
Pray Using Scripture
- Heavenly Father I fear not because you are here with me as I care for my loved one.
- I am not heartbroken or dismayed because I know you are my God and are with me.
- I rejoice and claim your promises that you will strengthen me.
- I rejoice and claim your promises that you will help me.
- I rejoice and claim your promises that you will uphold me with the right hand of your righteousness.
- I continue to pray for a hedge of protection for my loved one or even myself, both in the workplace as coworkers don’t always understand what I’m experiencing in caring for my loved one.
Responding to God’s Hope
- What is your biggest fear in caring for your loved one? Turn it over to God in prayer.
- What areas do you need strengthening and encouragement? Tell God and trust him to meet your needs.
- Have you let your family know of areas where you might be struggling while being a caregiver? If no, tell at least one person.
Photo Source: Pixabay
This blog post is adapted from the forthcoming book, “Caregiving: A Biblical Alternative” by Jimmie Aaron Kepler, Ed.D.