My mother is 82 and in good health, but getting a little more confused all the time. I talk to her or see her every day, make sure all her bills are paid, and generally take care of everything she needs done. I have lunch or dinner with her several times a week and take her to see our grandkids almost every time I go. My problem is I really don’t like her. She’s not a nice person, although she professes to be a Christian, and every time I’m with her I realize how much I don’t like her. I am almost always kind to her, but sometimes I just avoid her. Every time I think I have forgiven her for things in the past, she does something else that infuriates me. I don’t argue with her any more, I just bite my tongue. But I can’t seem to ever get to the point where I can honestly say I like being with her or even talking to her. HELP! I am probably going to have to move in with her if things keep going the way they are and I don’t know if I can stay kind and gentle in that case. Any advice?
Your situation is not at all uncommon in this age where people are living longer and longer. It has become (even if most people are oblivious) one of the primary concerns of today: how will we care for our aging parents?
Alzheimers, dementia and a host of illnesses, as well as just plain old not-too-sweet-dispositions often conspire to leave the elderly bitter, paranoid, angry or hateful. There’s nothing easy about it.
I have personally helped care for an Alzheimer’s patient who thought I was there to steal everything from him and to hurt him. He was combative, insulting and mean. He had also been a church leader for decades, and was known as one of the gentlest, kindest and most loving people the local church had ever known.
Why do these old-age illnesses transform people like this? I have no idea, and won’t cloud the issue by speculating. Suffice to say, we can’t change the reality of it, so we’re left with contemplating how we should respond as Christians.
Here are a few of my own thoughts, hardly authoritative or definitive, but the best I can do from my own experience:
- You honor the elderly, and especially your parents (Eph 6:2), when you care for them, no matter whether it’s easy, or horrible (Gal 6:2). God sees your sacrifice and knows YOUR heart regardless of the response or behavior of those you care for (1Pet 3:8).
- Try to focus on, and remember, the kind of person they WERE before they transformed into the person you now struggle with. If they have always been unkind or difficult, then your task is doubly hard, but will be even more rewarded by your Heavenly Father who sees all (1John 3:17; Matt 10:42; 1Pet 1:4).
- Rehearse your reactions ahead of time so that you are not caught up in the emotion of the moment. Know how you will respond to the typical and predictable unkind comment or combative behavior.
- Say to yourself over and over, “I will not take it personally”. Unless the person has always been “not nice”, it would probably break their hearts to realize how they are acting.
- Remind yourself frequently that it is old age and illness talking. Remind yourself that soon, when you are both in heaven, that a perfect relationship will be restored, and the difficulties you are experiencing now will be instantly forgotten (Rev 21:4).
Now, in the particular situation described in our question today, it would appear that there have been relationship troubles all along given that “the past” is mentioned. This makes the circumstances even tougher.
You feel like there are past wrongs that have not been made right. On top of that, you now feel like you are being treated poorly when all you are doing is sacrficially giving and caring for the other person.
All I can say is: YOU ARE ONE BLESSED PERSON!
Oh, that’s not sarcastic or facetious. I really mean it. God only gives us what he knows we can handle (1Cor 10:13). He refines us, purifies us, blesses us, and rewards us according to where we are at spiritually. He has laid on you a situation where you can exhibit self-sacrifice, pure love and Godly compassion (Phil 3:10).
- Think of the example you are living out for your children! (Rom 12:1)
- Think of the glory you are bringing to God by your sacrifice!
- Think of the joy you are providing your Savior through your love for others even when you aren’t being loved back! (He knows a little something about that too).
- Think of the reward you are storing up in heaven! (Matt 6:20)
- Think of the reception and thanks you will get from your mother when you finally see her in heaven! She will have a clear, perfect mind again, and will fully realize the sacrifice you made for her!
My dear sister, God has allowed you the honor and treasure of purification that is uniquely found in sacrificial service to others… made even more priceless through its current “thanklessness”, “difficulty” and “hardship”. You are storing up so much treasure in heaven it will take ETERNITY just to fathom it all!
This is what is known as an “eternal perspective”. The difficulties of this life are often transformed into opportunities and blessings when we view them from the other side of eternity.
Does that make it easy? No! Does that change the other person? Not usually. Does it instantly heal all your hurt and change your frustrations? Nope and nope.
Should it cause you embrace the trial and find purpose in it? Yes. Should it eventually be a source of joy as you meditate on GOD’S PERSPECTIVE of the situation? Absolutely.
I hope this will help you some. I’ll ask my readers to post some encouragement and advice of their own on the message forums here….