Caregivers: Peace in the Midst of the Fiery Furnace

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Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Three names that many people know well, even some who haven’t read a Bible in years. If you don’t recognize their names, you might recognize this phrase – the three men in the fiery furnace! Their story is told in the book of Daniel, which I am currently studying over a several month period. These three Hebrews, who had been living in captivity in Babylon, refused to worship King Nebuchadnezzar. They chose instead to stay strong and faithful to the one true God. As a result, Nebuchadnezzar not only threw them into the fiery furnace, he ordered his workers to add fuel to the flame to make it hotter. It was so hot that the people who threw these three young men into the furnace died from the outer heat. But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego went into the furnace, keeping their eyes fixed firmly on their God, with these words on their lips: “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up." Now that’s courage and faith. But it didn’t happen right then. It came after years of praying, spending time in God’s Word, and walking with God.

Caregiving is not a fiery furnace, literally. But figuratively, it can sometimes seem like it. When you are already under the pile taking care of a sick family member, the bills are piling up, you’ve hit the maximum for insurance coverage, and then your elderly parent develops a terminal disease, you may well feel like the flames are being stoked. When your elderly mother recovered from cancer, only to have it recur two months after your father collapsed and died from a stroke, you feel those flames beating down on you. When your elderly parent, who was somewhat forgetful, moves in with you, and they develop Alzheimer’s Disease, including Sundowning, which causes them to become more confused, irritable, and upset later in the afternoon or evening, just as your husband and children are arriving home for the day, you can feel those flames jumping all around.

Hopefully, for most of us, caregiving is not usually that difficult or intense. But each of those stories I’ve written has happened to people I love, and I know how hard it can be. Even when life is not that difficult, the daily frustrations, irritations, extra work, higher bills, personality conflicts, etc. can often add up to create a sense of being in that furnace. What is the solution?

I can’t tell you how to leave the furnace. That may not be an option for a long time, if ever. I can, however, encourage you with the same words I constantly use to encourage myself, that with God by our side, with Jesus as our Savior, we are never alone in that furnace.

“Nebuchadnezzar the king was astounded…”Was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire?…Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!"  (Daniel 3:24-25) Whether that fourth man was an angel or a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ, it was proof positive that they were not alone in that furnace and the same is true for us. I take great comfort in Isaiah 43:1b-3a. “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you. For I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

My goal is to join with the writer of Hebrews, and “fix my thoughts on Jesus,” day after day, minute by minute. Knowing He is right there with me is what keeps me going forward even when those flames do inch closer. I seek to “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks,” along with Paul who wrote those words in 1 Thessalonians 5:6-8. And as I am praying for my friends, my family, myself, please know that I am also praying regularly for each of you reading these words, just as friends and family are praying regularly for me. Yet another way we know we are not alone in this furnace. I pray for God’s peace to surround you today and every day, and for you to truly be aware of His presence and power in your life in the midst of any fiery trial you may be experiencing, now or in the future.

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