When the caregiver constantly pours themselves out they find themselves empty. Caregivers carry heavy loads that they feel at times only they can carry. This may or may not be a rational belief, but a belief none the less.
Thankfully Jesus is not silent on the topic of being tired and burdened. Matthew Chapter 11 brings good news to every caregiver that feels empty.
Come to me, all you who are tired and are carrying heavy loads. I will give you rest. Become my servants and learn from me. I am gentle and free of pride. You will find rest for your souls. Serving me is easy, and my load is light. Matthew 11:28-30 NIRV
This passage of scripture should be posted in the home of every caregiver as a reminder of God and his infinite love and grace. There is no need that goes unnoticed by God. He desires to give rest to all caregivers. He desires to lighten their loads.
Jesus does however ask of those coming to him to do two things. He says, “Become my servants and learn from me.” Interesting. It is not just a free gift with nothing expected in return. The caregiver, and anyone else seeking rest, has a responsibility in the task of finding rest in Jesus.
Take note that while there are times that we need to be able to encourage ourselves in the Lord (self-care) we weren’t meant to go at it alone forever. The lone ranger approach to caregiving will always leave you feeling empty. God did not design us to be able to handle everything by ourselves.
We see this truth from the very beginning in Scripture.
The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him. Genesis 2:18 NIRV
Nothing happens outside the knowledge and care of God. Yes, God has designed you as the caregiver to be the right helper for your loved one. Rest in that truth. No, it is not good for you to go at it alone. God wants to help you too. He is waiting for you to come to him and find rest.
I believe one of the ways that God desires to help caregivers lighten their loads is through the local church. The Church can be place of refuge, hope, and refreshment. This needs to go well beyond just a respite event and it does not have to be heavily programmatic.
Sometimes the responsibility of the caregiver may come in the form of simply asking for help. This is never easy as it requires the caregiver at times to set aside personal pride. It is okay to ask for help. It is also okay to accept help from others. Only you know what kind of help you need. Some practical ways that the church can help:
None of the things listed above are necessarily a programmatic thing that the church staff must own. Sometimes it will be through a benevolent ministry of a church, but it does not have to be. It is all about being connected relationally. Maybe it comes through being connected in a small group or an adult bible fellowship class.
You need to surround yourself relationally with others you trust and enjoy being around. This takes intentionality just like self-care. It won’t happen on accident. If your current church doesn’t offer you opportunities to get connected in groups, it is okay to find one that will. Relationships are vital to you being cared for.
Caregiver support groups are another avenue for the caregiver to find support. If a church already offers small groups or other support groups, this is something that would be an easy addition to could meet a real need in the community. Nothing seems to help more than being surrounded by people who are on a similar journey. To be able to learn from someone who may be a few steps ahead on the journey can be liberating.
The local church can be a great place for the caregiver to find rest and hope. It is time for the Church to be the Church. Caring for the caregiver is a unique way to meet a need in both the disability community and beyond.