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God's Presence In Your Absence

by SHIRLEY RALSTON GENERAL Caring for aging parents long-distance
God's Presence In Your Absence
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"Even to your old age and gray hairs, I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you."
Isaiah 46:4

The familiar number displayed on my phone caused me to hesitate to answer. Maybe guilt, rather than honor or true concern, compelled me to pick up. I heard my father’s panicked voice, “I need help!” My mother had passed away three years earlier and now my father’s health was failing. He was alone, scared, and unsaved. Even under the best of circumstances, Dad was a challenge. Our relationship wasn’t great. Now he was reaching out, and I was nine thousand miles away. Talk about feeling helpless. The emotional turmoil of that time defies description.

Are you a global worker with aging parents, facing tough decisions surrounding their care and support? It is becoming one of the top reasons global workers leave the field. This may be especially true for women, who tend to fill the caregiver role. What do you do when there is no one else to stand in the gap? Whether you are called to return or remain on the field, the choice is heart wrenching.

Take comfort that God has foreseen your circumstances and He understands your struggle. Just as God speaks through the prophet Isaiah to assure his people of His sustaining power “until your old age,” you, too, can trust His provision for your family. Whether you stay or go, know He will “bear you up” and your aging parents.

My father passed away before I made it home. During preparations for his funeral, my sister told me of God’s unique provision for him in his last days. Two wonderful Christian ladies we had known since childhood, life-long friends of our mother, had stepped in to care for Dad in the midst of his physical suffering and intense fear of dying. And, where my own sharing had fallen on deaf ears, these special saints led my father to Christ the day before he passed peacefully into the arms of Jesus.

When your thoughts turn to concern for your aging parents, be encouraged as I was by the words from the beloved hymn, “How Firm a Foundation,” where John Rippon captures God’s promise of provision for his people until the very end:

“Even down to old age all My people shall prove, My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love,
And then, when grey hairs shall their temples adorn, Like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne.”

Closing Prayer
Lord, we praise your unchangeable character. You have told us that you are the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. We thank you for keeping your promise to carry us and bear us up. Help us to remember that you walk alongside us with wisdom and discernment in the decisions we make about care for our families–especially our aging parents. Amen.
Article: What M's Ought to Know about Aging Parents It's difficult to find resources specifically dedicated to care for aging parents, but I found this article to be very helpful. It's both practical and caring. I encourage you to take a look at the website and to read the article. Ron and Bonnie Kotesky are the Member Care Consultants for GO InterNational with many years of wisdom and experience.
Question for Reflection

If you have faced a tough decision involving the care of your aging parents, how did God lead you in resolving the issue and giving you a path forward? What counsel do you have for other global workers who may face this dilemma?

Shirley Ralston
October 02, 2020

My siblings and I really struggled with the issue of my father’s care. None of us lived in the same location with each other or with him and we also were not in a position to travel on the spur of the moment when he needed us. He was very independent-minded and despite our best efforts, He refused any outside help. Even so, God answered our prayers by providing for my father in a way we never would have predicted. It taught me to trust even more in His provision, love, and care for me and my family.