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Question: Words of encouragement for someone taking care of a sick relative.

Answer: There are many Scriptures that talk of caring for your family. Until recent history, families cared for their family members when they were 'too young,' 'too old,' or 'too sick' to care for themselves. [In many countries around the world this is what still happens today.]

It use to be that several generations lived in the same house. This worked out for economic reasons as well. Grandparents could help care for young children, and as they grew older, the young people could help care for the elderly.

St. Paul talks about the Church caring for the widows indeed. "Honor widows who are really widow. But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God." (1 Timothy 5:3-4) In other words, the family was to care for the widows, but if they had no family, then the Church, Christ's Body, was to take on the responsibility St. James says. "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." (James 1:27)

These days, it just seems easier to put the elderly or sick members into an institution of some sort, so we can get on with our lives,- often neglecting them completely. I believe that this attitude and lack of respect to our elderly grieves the Lord. The Lord ministered to the sick wherever He went. He also states that we are to honor our parents, elders, and those with wisdom.

Starting with an infant who is born with special needs, to the child who has an accident and needs special care, to the elderly who can no longer care for their own personal needs-God loves them. We may not know the answers as to why they are or have become as they are, but we know beyond a doubt that God loves them and that God promises that "all things work together for good!! [We have this verse explained and illustrated in one of the answers on this discussion page.]

Having said that, I know that caring for a family member is not easy! All of a sudden you are taking care of personal matters that you never dreamed you would ever do. The family member may now be helpless and you need to now care for their most basic needs. This can be embarrassing for all involved. There is a loss of dignity that can cause the person who is ill to strike out at the one caring for them.

Also, some illnesses or the medications people are given for an illness may cause a personality change, the lack of ability to even recognize loved ones, hallucinations of events - which may cause false accusations, or loss of control of body functions, thoughts, or words.

These are not easy situations!! It is necessary for a person who is caring for a relative who is ill to seek and nurture a strong support system. [As from the church.] You need people around you who can encourage you and pray for you whenever you get discouraged, tired, or lonely. You need people who understand you and can help you, if by nothing else, to just listen without judging you or telling you to "just put them in a nursing home."

If you are married, your spouse needs to understand that the care of the relative must come first, and that you cannot go away for a weekend or go out whenever they want. The same goes for any children who may be in the home. Their lives will change-and it may be long term.

You also need to have some kind of respite care-a time when someone else can come care for the person so you can get out and away from the situation for a while. This is a time of rejuvenation for you. This can come through another family member, a church member, or an organization such as Home Health Care. This is a necessity to prevent you from becoming depressed, discouraged, or sick yourself.

We cared for my mother for a year and a half while she suffered from uterine cancer. Our daughter cared for her while we worked during the day. We cared for her nights and weekends. I can remember being so tired from working during the day and then coming home to care for my mom, getting up several times during the night to administer medicine, clean up a mess, or convince her she needed to get back into bed and go to sleep.

It was at times like this that I appreciated our daughter, Deborah so much! I didn't have to say a word. She would just show up some Saturday and say, "Mom you go out somewhere and do something for yourself. I'll take care of Grandma." It was those times away that gave me the ability to be able to go back and care for my mother.

Even though I believe that God's plan is to take care of our family members, I recognize that there are times when that can't happen. Sometimes the medical needs are so great, that only professionals can care for the needs. When taking care of a family member can cause more harm or pain to the person, then we must be willing to do what is best for that family member; and possibly place them in a nursing home.

This is a decision that only God and you can make. God knows your limits and has promised to not give you more than you can bear. Remember. God loves you and has a purpose in everything!

I believe that God wants us to care for our family members out of love and respect. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for denying their parents what should rightfully be theirs by declaring it was dedicated to God. "Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may be well with you." (Deuteronomy 5:16) "For Moses said, Honor your father and your mother'; and, He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.' But you say, 'If a man says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban"-' (that is a gift to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do." (Mark 7:10-13)

God wants us to care for our own house first. How can we show love and compassion to others if we can't first give love and compassion to those who are closest to us? "Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." [This is where the Golden Rule comes from which says, "Do unto others as you would have them do to you." (Matthew 7:12) "And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward." (Matthew 10:42)

"When the son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. And all the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.

"Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 'for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.'

"Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 'Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'" (Matthew 25:31-40)

Marlene Panell

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