Remain Spiritually Strong While Caring for a Sick Relative
AFTER a tumor was found near her spine, Kim, a Witness, was diagnosed with cancer.a “Once the tumor was surgically removed,” says her husband, Steve, “Kim underwent radiotherapy and chemotherapy. As a side effect of the treatment, she became quite weak. Her ability to move about was severely limited.”
Can you imagine the anguish Steve felt as he watched his cherished companion struggle with this debilitating illness? Perhaps you have a close family member who suffers from a degenerative illness or from the effects of old age. (Eccl. 12:1-7) If so, you know that in order to care for your loved one effectively, you must take care of yourself. If you become spiritually weak, your emotional and physical health can also begin to suffer and you may be unable to provide the support your family member needs. How can you maintain your spiritual balance while caring for a relative who is sick or elderly? What, if anything, can other members of the Christian congregation do to show consideration for such sick ones?
To maintain your spiritual balance and physical health while caring for a sick relative, you need to be adaptable and to budget your time and energy. “Wisdom is with the modest ones,” states Proverbs 11:2. In this context, the word “modest” means being aware of one’s own limitations. To make sure that you do not expend yourself beyond your limits, you may need to examine your schedule and your responsibilities.
Steve displayed wisdom and modesty by reevaluating his workload. In addition to his secular employment, he served as the coordinator of the body of elders and the service overseer in the local congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Ireland. He was also a member of the Hospital Liaison Committee for his area. “Kim never complained that I was neglecting her by giving these responsibilities too much attention,” notes Steve. “But I knew that I was overextending myself.” How did Steve address the situation? “After prayerful consideration,” he says, “I decided to step aside from serving as the coordinator. I continued serving as an elder, but by handing over to others some of my congregation responsibilities, I was able to give Kim the time and attention she needed.”
In time, Kim’s health stabilized. Steve and Kim reassessed their situation, and with his wife’s support, Steve was able to resume his former responsibilities in the congregation. “We have both learned to work within the limitations the illness created,” Steve explains. “I am so grateful to Jehovah for his help and to my wife for her uncomplaining support despite her poor health.”
Consider, too, the experience of Jerry, a traveling overseer, and his wife, Maria. They had to adjust their goals to care for their aged parents. “Both my husband and I had the goal of serving as missionaries in a foreign field,” says Maria. “Jerry, though, is an only child, and his parents were in need of care. Hence, we decided to stay in Ireland to care for them. By doing so, we were able to be in constant attendance when Jerry’s father was hospitalized before he died. Now we keep in contact with Jerry’s mother each day, and we are within easy reach if she needs help. The congregation with which Jerry’s mother is associated has been very helpful and supportive, allowing us to remain in the traveling work.”
How Others Can Help
When discussing what material provisions should be made for elderly widows in the congregation, the apostle Paul wrote: “If anyone does not provide for those who are his own, and especially for those who are members of his household, he has disowned the faith and is worse than a person without faith.” Paul reminded fellow Christians that if their course of action was to be “acceptable in God’s sight,” they must care financially for their own aged parents and grandparents. (1 Tim. 5:4, 8) However, others in the congregation can and should provide practical assistance.
Note the case of Hakan and Inger, an elderly couple who live in Sweden. “When my wife was diagnosed with cancer,” says Hakan, “it was a shock to both of us. Inger had always been healthy and strong. Now we had to visit the hospital daily for treatment, and the side effects of her medication were debilitating. Inger stayed at home during this period, and I needed to stay with her to care for her.” How did the local congregation help Hakan and Inger?
The elders in the congregation arranged for the couple to tie in to Christian meetings via the telephone. In addition, the brothers and sisters kept in touch by means of personal visits and telephone calls. They also sent letters and cards. “We felt the support of all the brothers as well as Jehovah’s help,” says Hakan. “This attention was essential to our remaining spiritually strong. Thankfully, Inger has recovered, and once again we are able to attend Christian meetings at the Kingdom Hall.” When congregation members do what they can to help the sick and elderly among them, they prove themselves to be ‘true companions who are loving all the time, and brothers who are born for when there is distress.’—Prov. 17:17.
Jehovah Appreciates Your Efforts
Caring for a sick relative can certainly be taxing. Yet, King David wrote: “Happy is anyone acting with consideration toward the lowly one,” such as a person who is in need of help because of illness.—Ps. 41:1.
Why can those who care for ailing or suffering ones be happy? “He that is showing favor to the lowly one is lending to Jehovah,” states Proverbs 19:17, “and his treatment He will repay to him.” The true God takes a particular interest in his loyal servants who are suffering illness, and he blesses the one who shows them favor. The psalmist David sang: “Jehovah himself will sustain [such a person] upon a divan of illness; all his bed you will certainly change during his sickness.” (Ps. 41:3) We can be sure that if the one providing loving care were to experience hardship or calamity himself, Jehovah would help him.
How good it is to know that Jehovah God notices and approves of what we do in caring for a sick relative! Although rendering such assistance may require effort on our part, the Scriptures assure us that “with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”—Heb. 13:16.
a Names have been changed.
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Maintain spiritual balance and accept help from others