Five Lies Caregivers Believe and How to Fight Them (Part 4 of 5)

Ah, Lie number 4. It is a doozy: Things will never get better. This is when you take the idea of “things could always be worse” a step beyond being grateful that they aren’t worse and start actively expecting them to get that way.  This is a poisonous path. It can break your heart.

Life is hard sometimes. When you are watching someone you love slowly or quickly deteriorating, it can be difficult to believe things can get better. When there is an obvious pattern of worsening, when you are tired and your loved one is tired and the pain keeps getting worse and there is nothing you can do….it is tempting to think things are never going to get better. It is almost a relief to let go of your hope. Because…why? It’s so exhausting to keep looking for help/cure/treatments, chronic illness is so relentless in its progress, and it takes so much energy to fight it and seems to do no good. And, after a while, it feels like you’ve tried everything already anyway. Why keep praying when the heavens are always silent? Why pay for another MRI when the last four have shown nothing abnormal?  Perhaps accepting the situation is for the best.

This kind of thinking is what I call the Voice of Job’s wife, or the “curse God and die” mentality. And it does us about as much good as she did for Job in his trials. If you know the story of Job and you live with/care give for someone with a chronic illness you are bound to draw a few parallels between Job’s suffering and your loved one’s.

Good old Job.  He was just going along living a righteous life, abounding in God’s favor and blessings and BOOM out of nowhere he loses everything: His livelihood, his children, his health, his peace of mind. He keeps his wife, but that’s not much of a comfort. He keeps his life, the purpose of which now seems only to suffer. He suffers in every way possible short of death. Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, he is destroyed. His “friends” show up to preach to him and spout highfalutin sermons. And, repeatedly, his lovely wife looks at his sorry state encourages him to curse God and die already. It’s bad.

But throughout it all Job never completely  gives up. He acknowledges God’s sovereignty. He boldly questions his situation. He even feels sorry for himself. But he never does curse God. And, honestly, that may not sound like much but I have to give Job some kudos for that. That took some real faith.  It is certainty better than I can say for myself and I haven’t endured near what Job did. There is a reason why people say someone has “the patience of Job”.

Of course, eventually Job’s suffering ended.  His faithfulness pays off. Satan loses the cosmic bet and God even comes down and sets Job’s long-winded friends straight, and Job too while He’s there. Then God blesses Job even more richly than he was blessed before. It’s a happy ending for good old Job.  It’s a happy ending for us, believers, too. But right now we are still in the midst of the story.  We are in the mean time. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble…”.  So, in a “pie in the sky by and by” kind of sense, things will get better. Believing that is part of being a Christian.

But what about in a more immediate sense? People get sick. People get sicker. They suffer. They die. Even though we do and say and and believe all the “right” things. Even though we stay faithful sometimes, more often than not, there is no miracle.  The answer to our prayers is, “No.”  How do you nurture hope and expect the best when you are going through the worst?

The short answer is you CHOOSE.  When Job’s wife’s voice starts to ring in your head and the belief that things will never get better beckons, you CHOOSE to believe God instead.  It is tempting to give up. You are tired, you are hurting, you are filled with grief for your loved one and yourself.  Every day, every moment, every breath you are choosing to believe what you see with your eyes or what God has said in His word.

Things may look bad. Really bad. To others you will look like a fool. But your soul will live. Your loved one’s soul will live, even as their body may fail. And things will get better. Your heart will heal and you will feel joy.  As Rich Mullins wrote in his song, “My Deliverer,”  “…I will never doubt His promise, Though I doubt my heart, Though I doubt my eyes.” The promise is real. The promise is eternal.

Here are few promises to hold on to, every one of them is a lie breaker:

  1.  “I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD.  They are plans for peace and not disaster, plans to give you a future filled with hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11 God’s Word Translation).
  2. “But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:25-28 NIV)
  3. “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me.  Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.  But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 New Living Translation).
  4. “But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.  It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.  It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:17-18 NIV)
  5. “…teaching them [new disciples] to obey everything I have commanded you.  And remember, I am with you each and every day until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20 ISV)

(The western sky from my kitchen window.)

Five Lies Caregivers Believe and How to Fight Them (Part 1 of 5)

The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion for him who corresponds to him.” (Genesis 2:8) (NET Bible)

1. I AM ALONE

Ah. Lie number ONE. I like to think of this lie as my imaginary isolation chamber. I have spent a lot of time bound up by this lie. Believing that I am alone has brought me nothing but overwhelm and depressed misery.  God never designed us to go through life alone.  We were created to live in communion with others and with Him.

( One lonely flower…)

This lie is a tricky one because it has a grain of truth to it. When you are taking care of someone (or a group of someones), sometimes you are working so hard trying to accomplish everything that needs to be done every day on your own, it is hard to reach out to others to maintain relationships.  It often feels like you are barely getting by and there is just no time left to connect with others. You most definitely FEEL alone.

For example, when you have no energy to entertain company or to make your home look presentable, is very tempting to never invite people over. With this kind of thinking you really can build yourself a kind of isolation chamber life as you slowly cut yourself off from your friends. Believing you are alone causes you to actively make choices that result in making yourself more isolated. If you don’t break the cycle of this lie you can cut yourself off from your whole social support system, which can be disastrous.

The good news is that you can break free of this lie. Here are a few ways to jerk your brain and heart back to the truth:

1. Reach out

Take a moment to reach out to someone (a friend, a neighbor, a family member, whoever). There are so many easy ways to connect: Send a text, make a phone call, write a quick Facebook message, or take a silly SnapChat and share it etc. Even a superficial interaction can break your illusion of isolation and sometimes a quick message turns into a conversation where you can make a real connection with someone, which is often very helpful.

(If you don’t get an instant response try reaching out someone else. You are not really as alone as you feel.)

2. Change Your Script

Realize that the more you tell yourself that you are alone the more alone you will become.  So choose to start telling yourself something different.

For example, instead of telling yourself that the house is too messy to invite a friend over, tell yourself that a real friend won’t care. Then invite a friend over – even if things are a mess. (Maybe they will pitch in and help you. Most likely they will at least talk to you while you go about what needs to be done, which is also very pleasant.)

3. Seek God’s Presence

Make peace with the fact that there will always be moments when the human presence you crave will be impossible to get. God designed human beings to need each other.  But even when you can’t lean on another human, you’re still not alone.  Here is a helpful exercise:

Speak each of the scriptures below out loud:

“And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) (New Living Translation)

“…God Himself has said, “I will never, never let go your hand: I will never never forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) (Weymouth New Testament)

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39) (NIV)

Then say them again only this time add, “Thank you, Father/Yeshua/Jesus/Holy Spirit (pick your favorite) that…(insert above scripture)”.  Speaking them out loud is important–not to God, He knows your every thought. Speaking them out loud is important to your brain and your emotions. You need to hear them with your ears. Faith comes by…wait for it…HEARING. By doing this, saying them out loud, you are boosting your faith.

Now that your faith is ramped up, start praising God. You can say things like, “Father I praise You for faithfully keeping all Your promises.” (Or whatever you can think of to praise Him for…running water, your loved ones, your favorite flower. Just pick something.) Alternatively, you can turn on some praise and worship music and sing along, that also works.

After a few minutes of praising God, you will find you are not alone. Jehovah inhabits the praises of His people. When you start praising God, His presence shows up. He is always with you, He is always everywhere…but loneliness calls for presence.

(The same flower, no so alone. Just a small shift in perspective can change everything. )
There are more ways to fight the “I AM ALONE” lie, I am sure. For me, most of my successful outcomes have been variations of the three ways above. Please leave a comment if you have something that has worked well for you when you are fighting feeling isolated, I would love to hear it.
Coming up next in this series:

Lie number two: NO ONE UNDERSTANDS MY REALITY