Many thanks to Wanda Riggs Mack, vice president of NorthMarq Capital, Atlanta, GA, for sharing her story with us!
We’ve experienced enormous demographic changes in the past century. In 2013, about 15% of the population was over age 65 (about 44.5 million). By 2030, there will be 70 million senior adults! In 1900, the life expectancy at birth was forty-nine years; in 2015 it is seventy-nine (76.4 for men, 81.4 for women). “Eldercare” has become a buzz word and “Sandwich Generation,” became a part of the dictionary less than a decade ago . . . those in their 50s or 60s sandwiched between aging parents, adult children and grandchildren, or those in their 30s and 40s, with young children, aging parents and grandparents.
Just before the millenium, Mary Pipher wrote about this in Another Country: Navigating the Emotional Terrain of Elders (Riverhead Books). “We are in a new world with no real prototypes for dealing with all these aging people” she prophesied. “Soon our country will be avalanched by old people, and those people will be us. In a few decades, our solutions to the dilemmas of caring for our elders will be applied to our own lives. The kindness, the indifference, the ignorance, and the wisdom will be passed on. The more we love and respect our elders, the more we teach our children to love and respect us.”
Regardless of what industry you work in, you are surrounded by colleagues and clients who are carrying the emotional or physical burdens of elder caregiving on top of their busy, demanding careers—and 7 to 10 million of us are caring for parents or grandparents from a distance. David and I have been members of the “Sandwich Club” for four years now. Recently, our colleague and friend, Wanda Riggs Mack, shared some invaluable insights from her spiritual journey in this area:
“From a Fellow Patient in the Same Hospital”
” I John 4:19, “We love because He first loved us.”
I don’t have a debilitating, life-threatening illness, and neither do my family members – at least not the kind diagnosed in a traditional healthcare institution. However, life hasn’t been particularly easy these last few years, and especially the last few months, specifically with caregiving for an elderly invalid parent at the same time the Enemy was at work trying to destroy at least one of the relationships I hold sacred.
To say that this spiritual battle made this last Christmas season “a fog” would be an understatement. But to be a disciple of Christ doesn’t automatically make your life easy and carefree. In reality, fully following Christ sometimes means the exact opposite – resulting in wounds, pain, and exhaustion. By God’s grace, these injuries may not require a literal hospital stay; but soul distress and its wear and tear requires a divine hospital where the Holy Spirit guides us to the rest and restoration we need to continue moving forward.
Hospital: (n.) an institution providing medical and surgical treatment and nursing care for sick or injured people. US usage: “in the hospital”; UK usage: “in hospital’
Divine Hospital: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5
And so, I have found that walking through life with Christ, who supplies us with the power of the Holy Spirit, and keeps us in the fellowship of his love through every circumstance, also prepares us to be a witness to others about God’s faithfulness. Perhaps this is why my godly mother once scribed this quote about witnessing to others about entrusting their lives to Christ: “Think of me as a fellow patient in the same hospital, who having been admitted a little earlier could give some advice.”
This was C.S. Lewis’ humble response to his friend, Sheldon Vanauken, after the death of his wife. God uses life’s inevitable trials to show us our need for Him and to demonstrate his compassion and mercy for us. Thankfully, God has not left us alone to trudge through those trials. He often sends “fellow patients” to empathize with us (and maybe just sit for a while). Paul had experienced his share of suffering, so he was the perfect person to strengthen and encourage some friends, reminding them that “It is necessary to pass through many troubles on our way into the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22)
While my trials are certainly nothing akin to those of the disciples or of Christ, the experience of walking them out with the grace and peace He has given me, can allow me to share with others some of the “divine medicine” I’ve received. Being a patient under the tender care of the “Great Physician” can strengthen, guard and guide us in all of our various “hospital stays”. And God, in His grace and mercy, may allow us to participate in His redemptive work by coming alongside others to be witnesses to His exceeding grace, glory, and faithfulness. Praise be to God.
FATHER, thank you for your redeeming grace, peace, and love that is available to all of us, allowing us to receive your divine medicine and to redeem each moment for your glory! Thank you for being the Great Physician, whose sacrifice has healed our greatest disease—sin—which threatens to separate us from You. Thank you, that through your work in our times of trial you continue your holy sanctification of our lives. Heal us and send us out into your world as your witnesses. Amen.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Paul to friends in Rome (15:13)