Caregiving isn’t just for older people. In 2000, I began needing care at age 35 after falling down the stairs in our home. My husband Mark was launched into caregiving not only for me but full-time as well for our young daughters. After my fall, I developed a nerve-pain disorder called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. It is very complex and excruciatingly painful. Any slight touch to the skin sent me over the moon in pain. Mark cared for me for five years until my symptoms diminished, and I could again care for myself.
Then the unthinkable happened. After fully recovering from being bedridden and disabled, nine years later, in 2018, I was thrust back into disability during clean-up at my daughter’s wedding. The CRPS was reinitiated, and I was in for another fight for my life. Mark has been there again to care for his injured wife. I am still disabled, though improving. Because I sit a lot, I had time to write my book Beauty Beyond the Thorns: Discovering Gifts in Suffering about “our journey,” as Mark calls it. He wrote a chapter on caregiving. Here is a small sample of what caregiving has felt like to him:
I can identify with every character in the tale [of The Good Samaritan], including the donkey. At times I’ve been compassionate like the Good Samaritan. But like the priest, sometimes I make “spiritual” excuses not to care for her. Like the Temple assistant, I think the priest up ahead (spiritual leader) neglects her, and I get critical. Like the innkeeper, I’ve sometimes treated her like a tenant, providing food and shelter without really being connected. And like the donkey, I don’t think anyone cares or appreciates how heavy my burden is.
Very few people know what it is like or how to offer encouragement and support. Sometimes, I reach the end of my rope and can’t do it anymore. I tell people it can be like holding your hand in a flame. I suspect each caregiver has their own version of burnout. Some caregivers leave. Others turn to other sources of fulfillment, like affairs, alcohol, or work. My version is to “go zombie.” I grow cold toward her, go through the motions, and grumble. It’s odd how quickly I can go from caring about how my suffering wife feels to focusing instead on how her suffering makes me feel.
Frankly, caring for someone undergoing extended suffering exposes you. It brings out the truth about who you are—not the person everyone around you thinks you are, but the real you.
No one should have to feel alone. Mark is an exemplary caregiver and the reason I am still alive. He hardly ever “goes zombie” on me, but it is hard. It takes digging deep inside to understand that God is forming him through our trial, just as he is forming me. This is “our journey.”
Darci J. Steiner is an author, inspirational speaker, and nutritionist. She has served in full-time ministry and assisted with church plants in Denver and Los Angeles. In 2001, Darci nearly lost her life after a debilitating fall down the stairs in her home. During her recovery, she earned her Master of Science degree in Holistic Nutrition and implemented natural remedies into her diet that helped save her life. When Darci became disabled a second time after a foot injury in 2018, she wrote her award-winning debut book, Beauty Beyond the Thorns: Discovering Gifts in Suffering. Darci speaks about how God uses suffering in our lives to bring about spiritual healing. She and her husband enjoy two adult daughters, a son-in-law, and a baby granddaughter. They live in the Denver area. To invite Darci to speak at your event, please see details on her website at www.darcijsteiner.com
Pain and suffering in our lives do not equal a lack of love from God. Instead, they reveal, at the right time, a divine and perfect purpose packed with love.
If you are searching for hope amidst a trial, Beauty Beyond the Thorns offers a transformative perspective of where to find it. Darci weaves biblical and modern-day stories, including her arduous journey through chronic pain, to demonstrate how God can turn life’s unexpected curveballs into victorious home runs. This is a story about the upside of suffering.
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Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/darcijsteiner.com
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Tracy Crump knows from experience the burdens caregivers shoulder after caring for both her parents and her 100-year-old mother-in-law. A former ICU nurse, Tracy dispenses hope in her award-winning book, Health, Healing, and Wholeness: Devotions of Hope in the Midst of Illness Twenty-two of her stories have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul books, and she has published hundreds of devotions, articles, and short stories in diverse publications such as Guideposts books, Focus on the Family, Woman’s World, and Ideals.