The word “care” derives from an old
Germanic word meaning “to grieve, experience sorrow, and to cry out
with.” Because people anticipate the grief-stricken being absorbed
with their grief, they fear that this will leave them indifferent to
anyone else’s needs. Most of us are instinctively disinclined to
embark on a “one-way” relationship, which is a major reason why so
few are willing to spend time with people while they are in the
intense throes of grief.
loss in question has had an impact on us, we will have our own grief
to deal with too, in which case it may be doubly sacrificial to
allow the primary mourner the space they need to pour out all their
negative emotions. But is life not full of such sacrifices?
In the world of nature, the mother
humpback whale goes eight long months without food in the warm
tropical waters until it is ready to make the eight-week journey
north to the feeding grounds while her calf draws a staggering one
hundred pounds of milk a day from her.
Because the Lord set us apart for
many years in the Body of Christ, Ros and I are used to receiving a
high volume of requests for prayer from people who are going through
extreme grief situations. We have been more than willing to do this
– but we cannot deny that dealing with so many mega-intense issues
takes its toll.
Since our emotional reservoir is far
from bottomless, we, as friends and carers, must take care of our
own mental and spiritual well-being. If we find ourselves becoming
continually exhausted and irritable that someone is not recovering
more quickly, it may be best to refer the grief-stricken person to
Caring deeply is one thing – but
feeling indispensable is quite another. One particular snare to
avoid is trying too hard to fulfil a primary role in someone’s life,
not least because we are likely to lose objectivity in the process.
More often than not, the real reason for this lies in our need to
earn approval and admiration. Since not even the best of us can be
perfect friends or counsellors, John and Paula Sandford challenge us
to give up trying to be, and to “resign from the post of General
Manager of the Universe!”
If possible, take deliberate breaks
from all forms of burden-bearing. We want to be around not just to
help this person survive their emotional roller coaster ride, but to
be there for many others in the future.
If we have been caring for someone
long-term, we should not be in the least surprised if we feel guilty
and insecure when our services are no longer required in that
capacity. Only too clearly do we remember wishing to be free of the
burden – but now that we are, it is completely understandable if we
feel decidedly ambivalent about it.
Only the Lord can show us whether
uttering strong sentiments against awkward colleagues or family
members and lamenting our “lot” so loudly has played any real part
in what has happened. Words certainly do have power, and we may
quite possibly have some serious “house-keeping” to do at this
point, both in terms of wiping the slate clean, and in resolving to
be more careful in the future. Soul-searching that leads to genuine
repentance is good, but it may only be a small step from there to
berating ourselves with endless reproaches. May the Lord, who longs
to be close to us, help us to fix our thoughts more on Him than on
our many sins and shortcomings!8