When I was going to school, I had a most inordinate desire, almost an obsession, to make good grades. I worked hard for A's and B's. If I received a C for whatever reason, I would be devastated for days. I still remember the pride that swept over me when I received A's on test papers and quizzes or when I heard a friend yell to me as we passed each other going to our different classes: Lydia, Mr. Tennessen read your essay in class at first period. He gave you an A+! I had Mr. Tennessen for sixth period Civics Class, and he read my essay on the roles of the three branches of our U. S. Government to all his different classes. Oh, I was so thrilled with my school achievement, and it felt wonderful! Getting good grades was everything to me.
Then, all too soon, school was completed and over with and time to be gainfully employed. At the workplace, things were almost the same as in school except that, now, they paid you. They didn't give out grades, but they evaluated your performance mid-year and yearly and gave you monetary compensation for excellent performance or demoted or fired you for bad performance or non-performance. As with school, I tried to do my best to get promotions or compensation for a job well done. Good performance was everything to me.
You know, there's something far more important in life than good grades in school or high performance ratings at the workplace. It also concerns performance. How are we performing in the daily duties of life? Are we performing and doing our best as in the presence of an invisible God? OR, are we barely keeping our heads above the waters of disappointments, discouragement, frustrations, and hopelessness?
Let's face it, we are placed in this world not to be ministered unto but to minister, to serve, to be caregivers. Some of us take care of infants and young children. Others take care of teenagers (this can be a riot); others take care of aged parents. Some take care of the physically handicapped and mentally challenged. Some take care of sick relatives. Doctors and nurses take care of sick people in the hospital. Other health professionals take care of invalids in nursing homes. Some people take care of pets. I take care of my husband John who was diagnosed with borderline Alzheimers plus I take care of five cats and one dog, a German Shepherd (Help! Help!).
The question to ask ourselves is: What kind of a caregiver am I? Am I a good caregiver? OR, do I need to make some kind of improvements? If you are like me, you probably need some kind of improvements or perhaps, some major improvements need to happen. Just the other day, I thought I flunked Caregiving 101.
But you know something, we don't have to flunk Caregiving. Caregiving can be one of the most rewarding things in the world to be involved in. We get rewards not only in this life but in the life to come. The psychic satisfaction of a job well-done, what a wonderful feeling! Especially, when the services are rendered to those closest to us--the people we love the most! No, there are no teachers to hand out A's, no employers to give $500 monetary awards--but the invisible God Himself evaluates our day-to-day performance. The angels are recording with absolute and unerring accuracy everything we do and say; our countenances, our dispositions, our thoughts, our motives are meticulously noted. A record is kept in Heaven of our life-long performance appraisals. But the best thing of all is that God does not leave us alone to stumble and fall and mess things up. He has given us ample provisions to help us grow and develop into the kind of caregivers He wants us to be.
What does God use to develop us into the kind of caregivers He wants us to be? God uses obstacles, trials, afflictions, perplexities. Would you believe that? Yes, that's exactly what He does! He gives us obstacles! And you thought you'd always have blue skies with flowers on your pathway when you became a Christian, didn't you? No, God doesn't promise that we would slide into Heaven on flowery beds of ease, but He promises to give us strength for the day, rest for the labor, light for the way, grace for the trials, and unfailing sympathy and undying love. I wouldn't want anything else, would you?
Yes, trials, afflictions and adversities are God's methods, God's workmanship, to help us grow and develop the sweet graces of a Christian character. There are no shortcuts to this very important work that has eternal consequences. We develop Christlikeness by how we deal with the trials and perplexities that come our way as we engage in our daily rounds of normal, commonplace activities. Do we trust God enough to help us through the difficulties and challenges that we are going through? Do we trust Him enough to work things out for our good? Do we believe that He is in the fire with us--comforting us, encouraging us, and helping lift the burden as we journey on to our heavenly home? Oh, my prayers are that we, too, like the Patriarch Job could say: Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.
'Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's suffering; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.' 1 Peter 4:12, 13.
"...Many who sincerely consecrate their lives to God's service are surprised and disappointed to find themselves, as never before, confronted by obstacles and beset by trials and perplexities. They pray for Christlikeness of character, for a fitness for the Lord's work, and they are placed in circumstances that seem to call forth all the evil of their nature. Faults are revealed of which they did not even suspect they existence. Like Israel of old they question, 'If God is leading us, why do all these things come upon us?'
"It is because God is leading them that these things come upon them. Trials and obstacles are the Lord's chosen methods of discipline and His appointed conditions of success. He who reads the hearts of men knows their character better than they themselves know them. He sees that some have powers and susceptibilities which, rightly directed, might be used in the advancement of His work. In His providence He brings these persons into different positions and varied circumstances that they may discover in their character the defects which have been concealed from their own knowledge. He gives them opportunity to correct these defects and to fit themselves for His service. Often He permits the fires of affliction to assail them that they may be purified...
"The fact that we are called upon to endure trial shows that the Lord Jesus see in us something precious which He desires to develop. If He saw in us nothing whereby He might glorify His name, He would not spend time in refining us. He does not cast worthless stones into His furnace. It is valuable ore that He refines. The blacksmith puts the iron and steel into the fire that he may know what manner of metal they are. The Lord allows His chosen ones to be placed in the furnace of affliction to prove what temper they are of and whether they can be fashioned for His work.
"The potter takes the clay and molds it according to his will. He kneads it and works it. He tears it apart and presses it together. He wets it and then dries it. He lets it lie for a while without touching it. When it is perfectly pliable, he continues the work of making of it a vessel. He forms it into shape and on the wheel trims and polishes it. He dries it in the sun and bakes it in the oven. Thus it becomes a vessel fit for use. So the great Master Worker desires to mold and fashion us. And as the clay is in the hands of the potter, so are we to be in His hands. We are not to try to do the work of the potter. Our part is to yield ourselves to be molded by the Master Worker.
Don't judge her yet, there's an unfinished part.
But I'll be perfect just according to His plan
Fashioned by the Master's loving hands.
He's still working on me to make me what I ought to be.
It took Him just a week to make the moon and stars,
The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars.
How loving and patient He must be, He's still working on me.
In the mirror of His Word reflections that I see
Make me wonder why He never gave up on me.
He loves me as I am and helps me when I pray
Remember He's the Potter, I'm the clay.
"Many are dissatisfied with their lifework. It may be that their surroundings are uncongenial; their time is occupied with commonplace work, when they think themselves capable of higher responsibilities; often their efforts seem to them to be unappreciated or fruitless; their future is uncertain.
"Let us remember that while the work we have to do may not be our choice, it is to be accepted as God's choice for us. Whether pleasing or unpleasing, we are to do the duty that lies nearest. 'Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.' Eccl 9:10.
"In His loving care and interest for us, often He who understands us better than we understand ourselves refuses to permit us selfishly to seek the gratification of our own ambition. He does not permit us to pass by the homely but sacred duties that lie next to us. Often these duties afford the very training essential to prepare us for a higher work. Often our plans fail that God's plans for us may succeed.
"We are never called upon to make a real sacrifice for God. Many things He asks us to yield to Him, but in doing this we are but giving up that which hinders us in the heavenward way. Even when called upon to surrender those things which in themselves are good, we may be sure that God is thus working out for us some higher good.
"In the future life the mysteries that here have annoyed and disappointed us will be made plain. We shall see that our seemingly unanswered prayers and disappointed hopes have been among our greatest blessings.
And works His wondrous will.
I leave it in His all-wise hands,
And trust His perfect skill;
Should mystery enshroud His plan,
And my short sight be dim,
I will not try the whole to scan,
But leave each thread with Him.
Nor till the loom is silent,
And the shuttles cease to fly,
Shall God unfold the pattern,
And explain the reason why
The dark threads were as needful
In the Master's skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern which He planned.
"We are to look upon every duty, however humble, as sacred because it is a part of God's service. Our daily prayer should be, 'Lord, help me to do my best. Teach me how to do better work. Give me energy and cheerfulness. Help me to bring into my service the loving ministry of the Saviour.'" --Ministry of Healing, page 470-474.
Did you know that true sanctification is the cheerful performance of the daily duties we do? True Sanctification = Performance + Cheerfulness. That's the equation in Caregiving. But, alas, how many times have we just performed! May the Lord help us to put 'Cheerfulness' back into the equation and back into our Caregiving vocabulary.
"Let a living faith run like threads of gold through the performance of even the smallest duties. Then all the daily work will promote Christian growth. There will be a continual looking unto Jesus. Love for Him will give vital force to everything that is undertaken. Thus through the right use of our talents, we may link ourselves by a golden chain to the higher world. This is true sanctification; for sanctification consists in the cheerful performance of daily duties in perfect obedience to the will of God." --Christ's Object Lessons, Page 360.
And the Lord said, "NO," this is not for Him to
take away, but for me to give up.
I asked the Lord to give me the gift of patience,
And the Lord said, "NO, patience" He said,
"is an offspring of tribulation; It is not granted, but earned."
I asked the Lord to make a handicapped child whole
And the Lord said, "NO, his body is only loaned to him,
but his spirit is full."
I asked the Lord to always grant me happiness
And the Lord said, "NO, I will constantly
give you blessings, but happiness is up to you."
I asked the Lord to let me grow in spirit
And the Lord said, "NO, you must grow on your own,"
but He will always prune me so I can bear abundant fruits.
I asked the Lord to take away my fears, my pains and my sufferings
And the Lord said, "Yes, I gave you My only begotten Son
to lift you up from your sins.
(Now, if that isn't love, I don't know what is?)
I asked the Lord, to teach me to love others the way He loves me.
The Lord said finally, "Now, you understand my message!"
Let us learn to love and minister to others, the way the Lord loves and ministers to us!
So, how are we doing in Caregiving? For many of us, the answer, like the song says, is He's still working on me! We're claiming God's promise in Philippians 1:6--'Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.' Another precious promise is found in Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. I find it comforting to know that all that our Heavenly Father claims from us we through divine grace can render unto Him. He requires no more nor less than He has given us the ability to perform. He lays upon us no burdens that we are not able to bear for 'He knoweth our frame, and He remembereth that we are dust.' Psalm 103:14. With Him by our side, we can never fail; we can pass Caregiving 101 with flying colors!