Our Ultimate Caregiver – Brad Jersak
For a decade of what feels like another lifetime (1998-2008), I led a faith community of which one-third of our attendees were people with mental or physical disabilities in full-time care. Their struggles included Down Syndrome, autism, brain injuries, and a host of neurological conditions and disorders that confined these dear friends to wheelchairs. Their appearance, their sounds, their smells were so attention-grabbing that one might overlook the constant, active presence of their ‘caregivers.’
These caregivers were responsible for 24-7 assistance in every area of their ‘client’s’ lives, including clothing them, feeding them, administering their medications, bathing them and changing their adult diapers. They worked courageously to alleviate their suffering, protect them from self-harm and accidents and to provide them with life-affirming experiences. These caregivers—the ones who truly saw it as their vocation—knew that care is more than a warm feeling or sense of concern in their hearts. Care giving was a full-time job that included hands-on involvement.
During that same season of life, I also witnessed and experienced an excess of human tragedy. Yes, I could trust that God loves us in some overarching way. But the pain I saw and felt blinded me to God’s active care giving. While others tried to assure me that God cares, what came to mind was the adage, “Your heavenly Father sees every sparrow that falls—but they still fall.” Similarly, “God sends the sunshine and the showers on the crops of both the just and the unjust—and also the tornadoes?” God’s so-called care seemed abstract to the point of offensive. God didn’t seem to care like the caregivers I knew.
GOD, DO YOU CARE?
With that backstory, I have been contemplating the story of Lazarus’ death and resurrection (in John 11) from the point of view of his grieving sisters, Mary and Martha. It’s too easy for us to hover above the story, racing too quickly to its powerful, happy ending. Mary and Martha had no such viewpoint. They couldn’t skip through to the end. They had to live the story one grueling movement at a time—waiting in vain for Jesus to arrive in time.
They certainly had great faith in the midst of grief and tragedy. They fully believed Jesus would show up and heal their brother. He could have done something to prevent Lazarus’ death—even at a distance. No doubt about it—they knew he cared. But then he didn’t arrive on time. Not even close. Didn’t he care?
Sure, they knew that Jesus could raise Lazarus to life on the Last Day at the resurrection. And he will. But in this in-between time (“between the graveyard and the garden,” as my friend Jason Upton sings), there is grief. Especially grief about what God has allowed. Our bewildered grief gives rise to the question, “Don’t you care? You could have. . . but you didn’t.”
GOD, DON’T YOU CARE?
Has your life experience ever left you with questions? Sometimes the questions scare us. We worry that raising our doubts might offend God or be heard as a blasphemous accusation. And other times, we do use it as a rhetorical accusation as we slam the door in God’s face. “Don’t you care” becomes “How dare you!”
My suggestion: don’t be afraid to be gut level honest with God—our Father can handle it. But then, when you’re able, have the courage to keep the conversation alive. Go ahead and ask, “God, don’t you care?” then stick around for God’s response.
Can you think of the particular times when God seemed to abandon you to the cruelties of life? I can. Then I close my eyes, I imagine I’m Mary or Martha, I look Jesus in the face and ask him outright. “God, do you care?” Then I remember how he responded in the story. Do you remember? Jesus wept. No clever answer, no justification, no explanation. His tears said, “Yes, I care. More than you know.”
GOD, HOW HAVE YOU CARED FOR ME?