Bang! It dawned on me that my life was turning upside down, and I didn’t like the smell of it. I was totally unprepared, untrained and completely over my head.
“It didn’t make sense,” I thought. “There are so many people better equipped than me for this sort of thing. Oh Lord, why me!”
I didn’t sign up for this. Yet there it was, unbidden and staring me in the face.
That was five years ago. Today, as of this writing, I celebrate the adventure of being the primary caregiver for my gravely ill wife.
A friend asked me a heavily loaded question a few days ago, “After all this time, what keeps you going, Don?”
I thought for a moment and answered, “the call and crucible.” She picked up on it right away.
When I first shared the news with a pastor friend of mine that I’d be taking on a new role, he looked at me rather pitifully and said, “Well, I guess God is calling you in a new direction — perhaps for the rest of your life.”
As he spoke, the only word I heard was “calling,” and it immediately put everything into focus.
This wasn’t about me at all, it was about God and His sovereign claim over my life. I had met Christ decades before and pledged to follow Him wherever He leads. Now it was time to “put my money where my mouth was.”
I had no idea what I was getting into, but with my fresh perspective, came a sense of peace along with a strange feeling of anticipation.
Countless times, caregiving has brought me to my “elastic limit,” a term engineers use to describe the moment just before snapping and becoming irretrievably broken.
But God seems to know my elasticity better than I do. Just before breaking, He brings relief — it’s uncanny. It reminds me of that comforting scripture, 1 Corinthians 10:12-14, “No temptation has overtaken you except something common to mankind; and God is faithful, so He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”
I have already mentioned my “calling,” but I have discovered that accompanying every authentic call from God there is the inevitable crucible of trials. Like two sides of a single coin, they are inseparable.
It figures. Thinking back over the times in the Bible that men and women were called by God there were the inevitable trials that followed: Noah with his scary, smelly boat ride; Abraham having to move into a bad neighborhood; Moses dealing with Egypt and the pharoah; the Old Testament prophets who were hunted, tortured, murdered for bearing bad tidings; Mary called to suffer heartbreak; Christ’s apostles being rejected and eventually martyred, etc.
In that narrow, high-stress zone of elasticity, God can “work” us out of our willful resistance to change and shape us into the image of His Son. Some of the changes in me that I have noticed include:
» A heartfelt, sacrificial love for my wife — deeper than the day we got married
» A gut-level compassion for others — beginning with my wife
» An abandonment of my own selfish expectations, replaced with a reliance on God’s sovereign will, accomplished in His time
» A strong sense of God’s presence, His enabling power, and an inner peace about His plan
Is the crucible fun? No! But it’s actually worth it. God uses difficulties to shape our sin-stained character with the heat and discomfort of the crucible.
When I first protested, “I can’t do this, I’m not equipped,” it was as though God replied, “Perfect. Now we can do business — you’re totally over your head. I’ll do it through you.”
God begins where we end.
Now, I’m familiar with the call and crucible of caring for my wife. Before, I had only a glimpse and could barely see past the new limits on my life. Before I felt trapped with no honorable way out. Now, I wouldn’t swap it for the whole world.
As 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 reminds us, “So, we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times; the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.”
And that’s what keeps me going.
— D.C. Collier is a Bible teacher, discipleship mentor and writer focused on Christian apologetics. A mechanical engineer and internet entrepreneur, he is the author of My Origin, My Destiny, a book focused on Christianity’s basic “value proposition.” Click here for more information, or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.