Philippians 4:6-7 (NASB)- Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts, and your minds in Jesus Christ.
In November 1873, Anna Spafford and her four daughters sailed the Atlantic aboard the ocean liner Ville du Havre on their way to a European vacation. On the fourth day, their ship collided with an iron-hulled vessel and sank within minutes.
Most passengers died from drowning or exposure in the frigid water. Anna survived by clinging to a piece of the wreckage, but her girls perished. Upon arrival in Wales, she notified her husband by telegram with the haunting words, “Saved Alone.” At once, he booked passage to be at her side.
Four days into his journey, the captain called for him. With sagging shoulders, Spafford could barely lift his gaze from the deck boards. Then, upon seeing the emerald-colored gravesite, his moans joined the sounds of flapping sails and creaking masts. There Annie, Maggie, Bessie, and Tanetta would always be eleven, nine, five, and two years old. The crew, holding their hats, ceased their work at the funereal sight. Gray clouds slipped silently past and dropped occasional raindrops.
But, in his deepest soul, embers glowed that rain couldn’t douse. Though the flames couldn’t flicker, the source remained steadfast. Rising from his despair, he penned the words of the song It is Well with My Soul.
When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well; it is well with my soul.
Horatio G. Spafford was a wealthy businessman from Illinois. But he suffered setbacks and heartbreaks in his life. Before the ill-fated voyage, Spafford had lost most of his business to the Chicago fire, then his only son died with scarlet fever. Though his losses were unimaginable, his faith in God didn’t waver.
Just like Job in the Bible, he later had more children and regained success in business. But as his ship slipped across the icy grave of his lost family, his mind wasn’t on restoration. Though cloaked in sadness, his circumstances didn’t change his relationship with the Savior. Either, drifting on a placid river or navigating sea billows, it was well with his soul.
We, caregivers, are traversing new waters. We’ve many questions and seek answers. “Is there help for my loved one? What can I do for my parent? How can I deal with this?” Even if we get help, our voyage will be arduous, and it will end in loss. We’ll enjoy peaceful days on smooth seas, but storms will toss us, too.
The uncertainty of our journey makes it more challenging, as we don’t know the length nor the path we’ll take. Everyone with dementia is different — so are our expeditions. Being a caregiver reminds me of a ship’s pilot trying to steer against a storm. When the vicious tailwind changes direction and forces him off course, from the helm, he shouts, “I don’t know where we are going, but we’re making wonderful time.” It’s the same with caregivers. We’re in charge, but our patient’s disease determines our course, speed, and destination.
Now, the wind tosses our ships, but this ride will end. We’ll have helped our loved one to the end; then we’ll start a new adventure.
Until then, we can heed Paul’s advice to the Philippians to avoid anxiety by praying. We’re not to just pray but approach the throne of God with a thankful heart. He’ll motion us forward with a smile and receive us as a child of the King. He’ll embrace us, and we’ll call him Father. We enjoy the peace which we can’t explain to those who haven’t experienced it.
© 2018 Ronald Milburn