Sunday, May 3, 2015

God's Help for the Valley

Sometimes a journey through a loved one's Alzheimer's disease feels like an extended walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.  The disease process can take years of time, and yet Alzheimer's is labeled a terminal condition with the result that the family of the patient not only has the initial shock of a terminal diagnosis, but then  must walk forward, negotiating a grief path that cycles again and again as we lose our loved one by stages.  It isn't just a marathon. A marathon, though long and grueling, has a clear cut beginning and end; Alzheimer's has neither. By the time a diagnosis is given, most patients have suffered mild cognitive impairment for years prior. And it is impossible to estimate accurately how long any one individual's battle will continue; my mother was given an estimated three years to live when she received her diagnosis. That was eleven years ago and she still lingers at the late mid-stages of the disease. 

Sometimes, no, most times, caregivers are fighting battles of their own cognizant with the enforced schedule and responsibilities imposed by a loved one's dementia. I am emerging from one of those difficult times, having suffered 6 months of successive, minor health problems that have left me weak in body and tender in my spirit and emotions. Valleys are hard and unfair. And so this morning I've decided to seek Scriptural encouragement for how we can proceed through the Valley of the Shadow and yet remain steadfast in faith and hope.

Let's look to the hope we have in Christ Jesus so that we may gain strength for the hard times as we accompany a loved one on the long journey through this hateful disease.

Instructions for hard times:  

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 
--Romans 12:12, NIV

When we've failed to exhibit kindness to our care recipients, remember that our Lord Himself intercedes for us. Once we've been refreshed by His solace we are to extend this same love and acceptance to those He's chosen to receive our care: 

Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat.  But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.
--Luke 22:31-32 NIV

Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
--Hebrews 7:25 NIV

When we are judged by others for the decisions we make for ourselves as caregivers or our loved ones; struggles when the ways we choose to allot our time and ministrations are resented; heart hurt when we are judged as being inadequate or having fallen short to do what others feel we ought to have done: 

The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
    I will protect those who trust in my name.
When they call on me, I will answer;
    I will be with them in trouble.
    I will rescue and honor them.
---Psalm 91:14-15 NLT

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—
John 14:16 NIV

I cry out to God Most High, to God, who vindicates me.
--Psalm 57:2 NIV

And these Psalms in their entirety: Psalm 27 Psalm 91, Psalm 43

The importance of hope: 
I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord.
--Psalm 27:23-14 NIV 


  1. Wonderful, Linda. Just reading these verses caused my spirit to lift. I am so sorry that you have had six months of your own health issues. I pray that you can get some respite care in so that you and your husband might take a long weekend or a week away. A change is as good as a rest. Until then, may The Lord Himself pave the way.

    1. Thank you, Vee. Your comments and prayers bless my heart.

  2. I've often heard it referred to as the 'long goodbye'. It must be one of the hardest trials imaginable. Your trust and hope in our kind heavenly Father is so God glorifying. God bless you, sweet sister!

    1. Georgene, thank you. You know up to this time it hasn't seemed overly burdensome...the presence of the Lord--as you know so well--makes even difficult paths pleasant. You always show me this in your ministry through your blog!