Maybe you remember the moment of your epiphany. That instant when you realized the severe mental illness your loved one suffers with can’t be “fixed”—not by you, not by medication, not by therapy. It’s that time you understood mental illness isn’t like other illnesses that can be cured, but more like diabetes that can be managed and mitigated, but not usually healed. And, if not carefully addressed, it can also be fatal.
It is also the moment you may have had to accept an additional relationship with your loved one. Before, you were a parent, or spouse, or partner, or child, or friend. Now you may also be a caregiver.
There is both a dread and a helplessness that comes with those insights. And if we’re not careful, we can become overwhelmed with the burden and fear. However, over time, we can begin to settle into being a caregiver, learning what we can, understanding the limits of what we are able (and not able) to do and making peace with what all this means for our loved one and for us.
We can begin to know that though we have the role of caregiver, it is not our identity any more than mental illness is who our loved ones are. With that insight we are able to develop healthy boundaries. We can find a new “normal” even amid the chaos and uncertainty of their behaviors.
Perhaps, though, the most important thing we can garner through our epiphany is the need to know, trust and depend on God in ways that we’ve never experienced before. We can learn to dive deeply into His arms. He can show us how to embrace His bigness, His power, His immeasurable love. He can teach us to watch diligently for Him to act. Our needs for direction, for hope and for endurance become His gentle call to trust Him—the one with the power to sustain the weary and direct the lost.
The Scriptures need to become our lifeline that reminds and reassures us of God’s character and promises. There we find instruction, hope and peace. Consider these few passages:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.”
“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.”
When my epiphany came, I rediscovered the prayer most often used by Alcoholics Anonymous; but it applies to all of us. We may be familiar with the first part, but let me highlight some lines in the second part that have also been meaningful to me:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
“Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will; so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.” (by Reinhold Niebuhr)
May your initial epiphany—and others along the way—drive you into the strong, protective and gracious arms of God, who “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).
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