A lot of family caregivers are starting this near year depleted. As a special needs mother myself, I understand how wearying it is to provide 24/7 care for a medically complex and intellectually-developmentally delayed adult daughter. I’m also a pastoral counsellor and caregiver consultant who spent many hours last year hearing stories of moms, dads, and caregiving siblings wrestling with unfulfilled longing as well as things like “Covid-fatigue,” guilt, worry, restlessness and feeling stuck in the “woe-is-me” rut.
None of us wants to continue suffering from the same mental or emotional plagues of 2020 for another year. On the road to recovering from the bumps, bruises and ruts of the past, it is helpful — even essential — to understand that certain behaviors and response patterns have become ingrained in us. Some of those patterns are simply ineffective. Others are outright ungodly and unhealthy.
Once we recognize there is an unhelpful pattern, God can begin to show us there is hope for a way out of it. We can ask Him to teach us new habits and pathways toward thriving.
From my observations and some personal experience as well, there is one particular pattern that can be a common among caregivers in families impacted by disability:
- Your self-esteem or sense of security feels attacked.
Do you feel invisible or under-appreciated, even taken for granted? Has something triggered insecurity or a lack of purpose? Has someone withheld affection? Do you feel rejected?
- Your defenses get triggered.
Do you feel hurt, angry, or weak? Has someone in your life or something about your circumstances made you stiffen your back or harden your heart?
- Emotional intensity grows.
Do you start to get passionate as you battle to feel understood, accepted, appreciated or loved?
- You rely on others to pump you back up.
Do you have an intense need to feel known and accepted? Who do you depend on to bolster your self-esteem when your spirits are low?
- You become disappointed in how people respond.
Have people fallen short of your expectations? Do your needs feel neglected or unseen? Have you experienced heart-wounds that began to fester and then grew into a root of bitterness and resentment? Have you been able to make your needs clear?
- Shame develops.
Do you recognize some self-centeredness? Although some sense of conviction and a need for repentance may be appropriate, have you felt yourself spiral into self-loathing?
- Your esteem suffers another setback.
Friend, let me join you in asking God to give you a new “song” to sing!
There is a new, healthy and effective pattern you can cultivate in 2021 to break the ugly cycles of discouragement. There is a place to take your vulnerability and a way to find a deep sense of security. There is freedom from the grip of painful patterns.
To prevent and escape your ruts, try working this recovery pattern toward peace, rest and hope:
Soak in your identity as God’s son/daughter. Learn to appreciate yourself and God’s unique imprint on you. Learn godly ways to meet your most intimate longings.
CHECK YOUR HEART
Make an honest assessment of yourself and repent of your sins.
- Lord, if I have unconfessed sin, help me to bring it humbly to You. Thank you for giving me freedom and another chance to lean on You to do better.
- Lord, remind me how YOU feel about me. Help me to believe the truth about who I am in Christ.
Make amends with others as God leads you.
- Lord, give me compassion to understand how others are experiencing the situation too.
- Lord, show me if I have hurt someone. Help me confess any of my own sin to You. Help me go to others and seek their forgiveness. Help me to forgive them, even if they do not humbly ask for my forgiveness. (Show me how to keep safe and practical boundaries without harboring ill will to towards others.) Help me to release all of my expectations about how others will respond. Teach me to put all of my hope in You.
REPLACE LIES WITH TRUTH
Keep leaning back into God’s true design for life and love. You are a beloved child of the King! Saturate your mind with specific truths about those lies:
- There is no condemnation in Christ; He pursues you with compassion. (See Romans 8:1 and Isaiah 30:18.)
- You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. (See Philippians 4:13.)
- At just the right time, God is going to make your efforts fruitful. (See Galatians 6:9.)
- Jesus has called you to live in peace, truth and purpose. This is a gift of God, not something you earn. (See Romans 12:18, Psalm 86:11, Psalm 57:2 and Ephesians 2:8-9.)
- God will be faithful to complete you. You are already a masterpiece but also a work-in-progress. (See Jeremiah 29:11-14, Ephesians 2:10 and Philippians 1:6.)
This is a trustworthy pattern backed by the countless promises of Almighty God! You can rest assured that God will faithfully honor a lifestyle that practices a pattern like this. Practice is the operative word. Practice won’t make perfect — only Jesus was perfect — but your practice will bring progress. Pray and keep working the process.
Friends, let’s cast off the weights of sin and depleting patterns, asking God to walk us out of darkness and into the light of a new year — one day and one step of faith at a time.
Lord, teach me to rely on You for my sense of security, affirmation and hope. Help me to practice healthy new patterns this year. I can’t do anything good without Your help, Jesus! Strengthen me to develop a habit of seeking You first when my soul is aching. Interrupt my thoughts and emotions when they are stuck in loneliness, emptiness, self-loathing or self-pity. Remind me that I am your precious and treasured child. Help me to see myself and my potential in the way that You see it. Help me to rest in the promises You’ve made to me. And fill my soul with Your loving kindness so that I overflow with Your good gifts to others. As I receive compassion from You, Jesus, I want to have that same compassion for myself and others. Make me an instrument of love.
LISA JAMIESON is a special needs family advocate and co-founder of Walk Right In Ministries where she serves as a caregiver coach and pastoral counsellor. Lisa and her husband, Larry, live in Minnesota with the youngest of their three grown daughters, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome. Lisa’s books and Bible studies include Finding Glory in the Thorns and the picture book Jesus, Let’s Talk.