April 10; Aging Parents and Joy

Judges 16:23-31; I Samuel 2:22-5:12

Eli was an old man. His eyes were failing and he’d gained a ton of weight. I imagine he wasn’t able to get around as easily as he used to. We read in I Samuel that Eli slept in the temple, seemingly pretty much alone. Except for young Samuel. Samuel’s room was close enough to Eli’s that when he called, the boy could get to him.

It doesn’t mention where Eli’s sons were.

I love how Samuel, as soon as he heard his name in the middle of the night, jumped out of bed and ran to help Eli, assuming it was Eli who’d called him.

“Go back to bed,” Eli told him.

Three times Samuel heard his name. Three times Eli told him he hadn’t called him. Three times Samuel displayed concern, selflessness, maybe even love for the old priest. And three times Samuel got out of bed and ran to Eli without complaint.

When you get to be my age, you seem to have a lot of friends who have the responsibility of caring for elderly parents. A former student of mine is caring for her mom who is suffering from dementia, and rapidly declining. This daughter took her mom into her home a couple of years ago and has lovingly cared for her every day since.

One friend visits the nursing home, and has lunch and/or dinner nearly every day to be sure her wheelchair-bound mother is being cared for in that Alzheimer’s unit. She is a bulldog for her mom’s sake.

Several other friends have a parent in their homes, complete with walkers, medicines, and oxygen tanks. Some are enjoying an actual friendship with their elderly parent. I envy them. My parents live in heaven how. And I miss them.

What I notice about my friends who are caring for their failing parents is the wide differences in the attitudes. Some, like my former student, embraces her mom, finds joy in being able to hold her hand even if her mom doesn’t know who she is. She delights in helping her mom remember what she can. This daughter has a job, a husband, three sons of her own. Yet she serves her mom with joy – exhausted joy sometimes – but with genuine joy.

My friend who spends hours a day at her mom’s side in the nursing home, also has a full-time job. But she finds joy in her mom’s presence, her sense of humor, and makes sure her mom has her favorite hat on straight, even when her mom insists on wearing the hat to bed.

That’s not the case with everyone, sadly. Sometimes the hardships of caring for an elderly parent causes resentment, frustration, maybe even anger. I would think that temptation is fairly common among caretakers. I don’t know. I’ve never been there.

But I am praying for you who are. I pray that you can have the same attitude as Samuel seems to demonstrate here in these verses today. I pray that you can serve that elderly person without complaining, that you will be able to look for opportunities to express love to that old person who may not be easy to love, and who probably doesn’t like the fact they need your help any more than you do. And I pray that you can help them with genuine joy.

I know many of you are caring for your aging parents with that joy. I honor you today. You are examples of what I believe God wants for his aging saints. May God bless you as you bless your elderly parents.

But if that doesn’t describe you, I am not condemning you. We are not all gifted in the same way. So I pray that you will have the courage to find someone who can care for your elderly parent with genuine gladness. Eli’s sons weren’t their father’s caretakers. Maybe that was good thing. Scripture doesn’t say. But it does show us that Eli had a caretaker who didn’t roll over in bed when he thought Eli was calling to him. Eli had a caretaker who didn’t consider his own comfort over Eli’s need.

Scripture tells us to honor our parents. I pray you can obey that commandment with joy.

Father, my heart goes out to people who are watching their parents slowly decline. I pray they will allow You to be their strength, that they will honor their parents like You have commanded. Father, give wisdom, give courage, give them the ability to serve their parents with joy, or provide the joyful care their parents need. I pray that You will be glorified in the way adult children care for the parents who cared for them.

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