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 of 1873, Anna Spafford and her four daughters were crossing the Atlantic aboard the ocean liner Ville du Havre on their way to Europe. About four days into the cruise, their ship collided with an iron-hulled vessel and sank within minutes.
Most of the passengers died quickly from drowning or exposure in the frigid water. Anna survived by clinging to a piece of the wreckage, but all her daughters were lost. Upon arriving in Wales, she sent a telegram to her husband who booked passage on a ship to rush to her side.
Four days into his journey upon the approximate spot where his daughters were lost, he penned the words which became the hymn 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 successful businessman in Chicago who accumulated some wealth. He also suffered significant setbacks and losses in his life. By the time of the ill-fated voyage which took his daughters, Spafford had lost most of his business to the Chicago fire and lost a son to a disease. Though his losses were extensive, like Job, he kept his love for God.
Also, like Job, he was restored with new children and future success in business. However, the day his ship was sliding across the icy grave of his daughters, his mind wasn’t on restoration. Though burdened with sadness he knew his circumstances didn’t determine his relationship with God. Whether he was drifting peacefully down a river or navigating sea billow, it was well with his soul.
We, caregivers, are navigating waters probably new to us. We have many questions and seek answers. “Is there help for my loved one? What can I do to help? How can I deal with this?” Even though we may get assistance, our voyage will be arduous, and it will not end well. Some days will be calm and peaceful but others stormy.
The uncertainty of our journey makes it even more challenging. We don’t know how long it will take nor even the path. Everyone with dementia is different, so the expeditions are not the same. Being a caregiver reminds me of a captain at the wheel trying to keep the ship steady during a storm. When the mighty tailwind occasionally changes and blows him off course, he tells the first mate, “I don’t know where we are going, but we are making great time.” So, it is with caregiving. We are in charge, but our course, speed, and destination are determined by our dementia patient.
For a while, our ship will be blown around, but this ride will eventually end. We will have assisted our loved one to the final destination. Then, we will start a new adventure. Through the good times and through the bad times, we can have the peace that surpasses all understanding.
Paul told the Philippians to not be anxious but to pray; not just pray but beg earnestly with thanksgiving for the ability to approach the throne of God. Then, we need not be worried but have peace. It is a peace that can’t be explained. It is beyond understanding even to those who experience it.
© 2018 Ronald Milburn