Caring for them and loving them well.
"So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 7:12) We know that God calls us to treat others in the same way that we would want to be treated ourselves. This includes our parents. If we think about what it would be like to be in their shoes, how it might feel to be at their stage of life, it can help prepare us to understand the possibilities of what they might need, want, think and desire. However, we should never assume, and that is why it is essential to keep the lines of communication open with our aging parents. We might think that we’ve known our parents long enough to know exactly what they need or want, but life circumstances, such as growing older, failing health, leaving your home, having caretakers, etc. can change the way people feel or the things they want or need. Talking with them and listening to them are important to help meet their needs and make them feel that what they say still matters to us.
"Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you." (Exodus 20:12) "You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord." (Leviticus 19:32)
As we try to honor the elderly, and especially our parents, we need to ask God for great discernment and wisdom. We need to keep our ears and hearts open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice." (Proverbs 12:15) We need to seek wise, godly counsel and to ask those who have had experience caring for aging parents to share those experiences with us. But we need to measure any advice and counsel against God’s word to make sure we are doing what would be pleasing to God. We must never forget that God loves our parents. He surely wants us to honor them and love them well, so we can surely trust that He will help us.
We need to cover our aging parents in prayer. "You do not have, because you do not ask." (James 4:2) "Pray without ceasing." (1 Thessalonians 5:17) We can pray for our aging parents. Pray for their needs, their desires, and their fears. Pray for their healing, their hurts, their guilt, their peace, their protection…whatever God brings to your mind. Perhaps even their salvation. We can pray with our aging parents. Ask them what they would like you to pray for them. Even if they are unbelievers, they will likely want you to do this for them. Pray before meals with them. Ask them to pray for you. Pray for them over the phone. Pray over them when they are asleep. Pray God’s promises over them. Ask your friends to pray for them and put them on a prayer list. Ask their church, pastor, or Sunday school class to pray for them. We can ask God to reveal to us ways to keep our parents covered in prayer. "Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer." (Romans 12:12)
As we attempt to look out for the interests of our aging parents, it should encourage us to remember that God’s word does not say that we should not look out for our own interests. It says to not ONLY look out for our own interests. "Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." (Philippians 2:4) Sometimes caring for aging parents can be very stressful; emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually, and even financially depending on your life situation at the time and theirs. You may be still working, still caring for your own kids or not have the help of a spouse or siblings. You might be financially burdened, dealing with your own health issues or those of other loved ones, live far away, etc. Sometimes as we deal with the interests of those we love, we forget to look out for our own interests or feel guilty when we do. But to care for them well, we need to care for ourselves. Our need for adequate rest, healthy food, exercise, and time spent with the Lord and in His word are important. Mental, physical, and emotional breaks can renew us. Sometimes the needs of aging parents can be demanding. We need to ask God for His help in making time to care for ourselves, setting boundaries if necessary, speaking truth in love to our parents, and giving us the discernment we need as we make those decisions. We need to spend time with God, seeking His guidance, rest and restoration so we can better care for our parents.
"May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word." (2Thessalonians 2:16-17) "The Lord turns his face to you and gives you peace." (Number 6:26) Encouragement, hope, and peace are needed by us all at every stage of life. Use God’s word to encourage your aging parents, bring them hope and help them have peace. "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time." (1 Peter 1:3-5) Remind them of the hope of eternal life that salvation brings or talk to them about that salvation if they are a non-believer. Take every opportunity to thank them for what they have done for you. Tell them of the character qualities they have that you admire. Share sweet memories with them. Forgive them for anything you haven’t forgiven. "But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." (Matthew 6:15) We need to ask ourselves what we would like to hear if we were them, what would encourage us and make us feel wanted and loved, peaceful, encouraged and hopeful in our last years on earth. Then do this to them.