Is there anyone in your life who is dependent on you? Sooner or later most of us want to sit down and plan our future, or at least make a “five-year plan”. Yet if you are a caregiver, this can be difficult.
The Bible tells us to “bear each other’s burdens.” (Galatians 6:2) – But, when those burdens interfere with your personal goals, are you allowed to set them aside? Is it possible to love your sick family member, and at the same time plan a future for yourself?
Why is it more difficult to plan for the future as a caregiver?
Planning for the future is hard for everyone. Whether you have too many possibilities or not enough, it’s difficult to figure out what something we have never experienced will look like.
Most of us have dreams we’d like to see become reality, or at the very least we dream that one day we will have dreams.
Considering our future in the presence of chronic illness is even harder. Illness is unpredictable. We can’t say how long our family member will need us, or how soon they will take a turn for the better or the worse.
We need to be realistic, but also hopeful.
Loving someone who is ill or aging means that whatever decisions you make, you are making them for two. That is a lot of responsibility, and there is a huge pressure to ‘choose right‘.
If you want to love, you can’t avoid the future
It is wise to make plans, but it is also loving. Part of caring deeply about someone is caring for them not only in the present, but also in the future.
It is not fatalistic but holistic to make contingency plans and prepare for the worst as well as the best.
Perhaps this means we need to choose to stay close by to our aging parents rather than accept a dream job overseas. Perhaps it looks like choosing a career path that will allow us to have the time to love our brother, should his health decline further.
Do these sound like huge, impossible sacrifices?
Perhaps they do, but in the right time and place they may be the right decisions – and we do not follow a God who was afraid to sacrifice.
If you want to love, you can’t do this alone
It is never wise to make decisions in isolation. Being alone distorts perspectives. It makes tiny grains of sand into rocks, and possibilities into absolutes. If you can, talk to your ill family member. Gently, realistically, include them in your plans.
Talk with other people too. Be open and willing to share your doubts and your fears. There’s nothing shameful about admitting you are reducing or changing your dreams for the sake of someone you have been called to love.
If you want to love, you need to pray
Perhaps Western Culture pats us on the back and tells us we can love others while pursuing success, that we can sacrifice and achieve our dreams – but this is not always the case.
I do not mean that we should give up all chance of hope and joy, but I want to suggest that perhaps sometimes God calls us to discover our delight in other places, and pursue different dreams. Why not be open to the reality that fulfillment can be found in a multitude of places, if we seek it first in Jesus?
There is nothing in us which means we deserve a life exactly as we want it. In an ideal situation we may choose X and Y, that is true – but life is not ideal, and so we may have to choose Z instead.
Life is messy and complex, so let us pray for contentment.
This is how you plan your future as a caregiver:
Remember that just because you slam a door shut doesn’t mean it’s locked. We can rest assured that God has a plan for each of us. It’s a plan that is never cobbled together, or a second-rate plan, even if it feels like it at times.