When You Want Out, Lean In

propel sophia   

When You Want Out, Lean In

by Faith Whatley


Sophia is the Greek word for Wisdom, and Propel Sophia seeks out the voices of truly wise women and asks them to share worked examples of how they express faith in daily life. Pull up a chair at Sophia’s table, won’t you? There’s plenty of space. Learn more here. 

A tough decision has been made. My mother-in-law has been a widow for almost 5 years. She has been living alone with her trusty sidekick, her little dog. Her health, mobility, and memory has declined quickly. My sister-in-law has been the primary caregiver but is exhausted. After many years of caring for her parents she needs a very long break. My mother-in-law will be moving from Florida to an assisted living community in Nashville within 5 miles from our home. This is a big transition for an 83-year old woman and one she is not sure is best for her. As you can imagine she has so many fears and the unknown is paralyzing for her. So we are taking one day at a time and packing one box at a time.

I have heard many of my older friends talk about their aging parents and the emotional stress it causes when you are the primary caregiver. I’ve known how difficult it has been for my sister-in-law—or at least I thought I did. What I’ve realized is, you never really know how painful it is until you are faced with difficult decisions about your parents or loved one and you’re the one making those decisions. It puts stress on everything: your finances, your time, your marriage, your relationships with your family, and especially your heart. I am walking beside my husband watching him lead when it’s so hard.

So how do we walk out a difficult calling in a way that would be pleasing to the Lord? We are called to care for others. No matter who they are or how they are tied to us. You may not be faced with an aging parent but we all know someone who needs care and compassion. It may be someone you are leading at church, at work, in your neighborhood or a person who is alone. Leadership is when we can rise above our own needs, calendars, expectations, timetables and actually show compassion for someone while expecting nothing in return. Leadership is when we aren’t just talking about it – we are doing it. Philippians 2:3-4 says ‘Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility, consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.’ 1 Timothy is filled with guidance about caring for our elders and how we minister to them in their most vulnerable season of life. 1 Timothy 5:8 says ‘But if anyone does not provide for his own, this is his own household, he has denied the faith and worse than an unbeliever.’ I think the Apostle Paul is pretty clear.

Leaning into a difficult situation is hard. It can be all consuming and none of it is easy. It can be messy. Our flesh wants to lean away from it, deal with it later, or not deal with it at all. Isn’t that the temptation in any tough decision or situation? But what happens when the desires of our heart is to become more like Jesus in the middle of a tough situation? When we want Him more than we want out, beautiful things happen. When we fall short, His banner over us is compassion. We want the courage to lead with wise compassion. His Word gives us the guidance, now we pray He gives us the courage.

Whatever difficult situation or calling you are facing…

1) Pray to become more like Jesus

2) Seek God’s Word for guidance and instruction

3) Love well with courageous compassion

4) Seek someone who has already experienced a similar situation

5) Be intentional with your lifestyle - exercise, take long walks, eat well, rest

6) Seek counsel if needed

My husband and sister in law have done a great many difficult things in life, but caring well for their mother is among the toughest thing they have faced. Watching them lean in to trust the Father—and seeing God match their faithful obedience with His own neverending faithfulness—is a powerful reminder to me that God never, ever asks us to do something without providing grace for the journey.

Faith Whatley

Faith Whatley is the Director of Adult Ministry at Lifeway Christian Resources.