Editor's Note
: The following is a report on the practical applications of Shelly Beach's new book,
 Ambushed by Grace: Help & Hope on the Caregiving Journey, (Discovery House Publishers, 2008).  

Caring for a loved one like an elderly parent or chronically ill spouse demands constant sacrifice. It’s costly, yet it’s also valuable, because as you give to the person you’re caring for, God will give to you. The gift you’ll get from God is something of eternal value: grace.

Here’s how you can find grace as you care for your loved one:

See caregiving as journey into the character of Christ. Your experiences as a caregiver can change you in profound ways, helping you grow to become more like Christ by developing a strong character. Caregiving will reveal your motives, passions, agendas, and priorities while challenging you to live more like Jesus. As a caregiver, you’ll learn how to depend on Jesus for strength and discover how He will meet each of your needs. Recognize that, while caregiving is difficult, it’s also an incredible opportunity to be transformed into a better person.

Place your confidence in God. While your work as a caregiver is vitally important, don’t define yourself by the tasks you do or the services you perform. Instead, ask God to help you see yourself as He sees you and understand how your caregiving fits into His overall purpose for your life. Rely on God’s unlimited strength rather than trying to work out of your own limited power. Place your confidence in the fact that God’s grace and character never change, and He will always be there to give you the help you need while caring for your loved one. Let your love for God flow into all areas of your life and motivate you to trust Him.

Connect your story to God’s greater story. Your life tells the story of your own experiences. As you interact with the loved one you’re caring for, find points of connection between your story and his or hers. Then pray about how the two of you each play a part in the greater story God is writing for the world. Let your lives converge in moments of shared compassion, intimacy, and revelation. As you care for your loved one, realize that your work has the power to redeem your loved one’s story – changing it for the better in ways that will matter for eternity. Recognize the significance of the times you share with your loved one. When you both enter each other’s stories, you can make connections that will matter forever in the universal story. Even your most mundane work (like changing your loved one’s bed or driving him or her to the doctor) isn’t just physical; it’s spiritual.

Forgive. You must be willing to obey God’s call to forgive so you don’t block His blessings in your life. Let your gratitude for how much God has forgiven you for motivate you to forgive as He asks you to do. Forgive the loved one you care for when he or she hurts or offends you. Forgive other family members, like siblings, who don’t pitch in to do their fair share of the caregiving work. Forgive doctors who don’t take enough time to answer your questions. Forgive yourself for not being able to do everything you’d like to do as a caregiver. Regularly ask God to show you both your own sin and who you need to forgive. Then confess your sins, repent, accept God’s forgiveness for yourself, and rely on God’s help to forgive others. In the process, you’ll find that God gives you the grace to develop greater compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and love. As you forgive the loved one you’re caring for, commit to act with his or her best interests in mind going forward. Let your thoughts, actions, and words about your loved one reflect that commitment.