I’ve written rather extensively in both of my blogs about the challenges I face with prostate cancer, But my life is a bit more complicated than that. My wife and I care for my mother who is 87, almost totally debilitated and suffers from dementia. My wife has to deal with physical and emotional challenges of her own in addition to caring for my mother. And we have to support each other as we deal with our daily life. It’s exhausting.
There are days that are chaotic and crazy; it’s a way of life with a dementia patient. You begin to wonder if you’re the one whose reality is skewed. At the end of the day you’re spent. We both want to honor God and my mother because of our commitment to Christ. But Rita and I deal with the craziness in very different ways. She reacts the way she does because of her background and the way she was raised and having never dealt with significant dementia. I’m a nurse who spent years dealing with it, but this is also my mother, a woman with whom I have a very long history. There are scars which remain from that history, and it’s an issue I have to deal with as I try to care for my mother in a loving and compassionate way.
Occasionally the frustration and fatigue becomes overwhelming and we have to vent. I tend to do it in a more public manner than my wife. The other day I posted this on Facebook:
“As I told a friend this morning, I never used drugs when I was young, but our current situation makes me think that this is what it would have been like. Feels like our theme song should be Crazy Train.”
Friends saw that as something related to my fight with cancer; a few more familiar with our situation understand it as other things. But none really understand the full meaning because they don’t live it. My wife and I don’t always understand each other’s struggles, because they are uniquely ours within the larger context of caregiving and daily life. And that sometimes complicates our relationship. But our task is to support each other even though we may not completely understand the other’s experience.
Christians are told to pray for each other, and to suffer with those who suffer. Personally, it gives me a great deal of strength and comfort knowing there are a host who do that for me. We can sympathize, and even empathize, when we hear of people in difficult situations. But in the end, although I can try to explain my struggle to those around me, it is still my struggle and I’m the one who must deal with it. Others experience struggles of their own, and as sympathetic as I may feel toward them I can’t fully understand their situation because it isn’t mine.
Our struggles shape and define us or destroy us. They are the crucible in which God purifies and refines us; they help to make us what God desires us to be. If you aren’t committed to faith in Christ they are the furnace in which you will be destroyed. By allowing us to suffer trials and tribulations God destroys our self-sufficiency and false pride. He’s kicks the props out from under us so he can begin rebuilding us on a more solid foundation. He makes us fit for our place in the body of Christ. He teaches us how to trust him completely, and he shows us how much he loves and cares for us even in the midst of hardship. He fires us into vessels that are fit to hold his glory and dwell in his presence.
So even though my struggle is mine and yours is yours, and we may not understand or appreciate the full depth of each other’s trials, we can encourage each other as we undergo God’s refining process in those trials, knowing the end result will be that we become true sons and daughters of God, shining brightly with his glory.