Care of the Aged in a Culture Devoted to Self

Introduction

Parents are a great gift from our heavenly Father. God has given parents an amazing amount of love for their children. Who else would be willing to wake up two or three times a night for the sake of another person over the course of several months? As parents we need an incredible amount of patience and willingness to make numerous sacrifices to provide for our children as they grow up. But the time comes, when the tables are turned. As our parents reach old age, they face many limitations. They can’t see and hear as well. They get various diseases. They experience pain and are limited in what they can handle mentally, physically and emotionally. It is the task of the children then to assist their parents in their old age and ensure that their needs are met. So what does that mean real life?  Let’s first consider the Biblical mandate, and then work that out in our context.

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Mind the Gap

Several months ago, I was reading a book on biblical counselling in the local church and read this sentence: “The church, operating as Christ has intended it, is the best possible place for healing”[1]. In one of the many books that I have been reading, I stumbled across this sentence and it has stuck with me ever since. The church is the best possible place for someone to heal. I read that sentence in June. Since then, I have read a lot more, listened to a whole lot more lectures, podcasts and presentations yet that sentence is still bookmarked in my mind. It is still hanging there.

This sentence stands out in my mind, not just because those words are now scrawled on one of the many sticky notes that can be found on my desk, but because of the questions I have had since reading it. I know the sentence is theologically sound. The questions I have relate specifically to practice: why is this not evident for the FRC? Why is it that so many hurting people look for healing elsewhere? Why do they leave and go to other churches? Why do they seek counsel from professionals without members of their church knowing? If we believe that the church is the best place to find refuge, why are there so many hurting people in our community unable to find shelter and escape from the brokenness of their lives?

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Suffering

I imagine most of us, if not all of us, would do our best to avoid suffering. It is an experience we do not find pleasant. It is an experience we probably would not choose to hear on the day we profess our faith. After all, this is a day of joy and celebration. Many of us would still be in our teens at that stage of life and, if you are like me, quickly push aside those first words of 1 Peter 5:10, 11:

After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

They hardly seem relevant, especially to us who have grown up with so many privileges.  This tends to make us believe that we are entitled to a life free of suffering, and we are going to do everything we can to make this happen.

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Psalms of Lament

We are familiar with the Psalms. We sing them every Sunday and many of us have grown up learning them by heart. Within them we find written expression for the range of emotions relating to the human experience. There are a number of different types of psalms, the most common type being the Psalms of lament. These Psalms are cries of anger, protest, deep distress and doubt, all brought before the Lord. The psalmist is in a desperate place and is crying out to the Lord for help, for deliverance.

Let’s learn to use the Psalms of lament as a means of expressing our own emotions and needs to God.

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