Lifting the arms of a caregiver

Exodus 17:8-16

There is an Old Testament story that tells us about the battle between Joshua and Amalek. The Amalekites had come up against the Israelites at Rephidim (which translated means resting place). Exodus 17 tells us that Israel’s caregiver, Moses, said to Joshua “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.”

As Joshua fought the Amalekites in the valley of Rephidim, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill with Moses. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites would prevail, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites prevailed. When Moses’ hands grew tired, Aaron and Hur took a stone and put it under Moses and he sat on it and then Aaron and Hur held up Moses’ hands so Israel would prevail.

It is interesting to me how this story paints the picture of the struggles and needs of a caregiver. Although the story is given to us to show how God intercedes on our behalf even when we do not see His presence, it can have other interpretations that provide us comfort in the midst of our battles ever though the players might take on different incarnations, the strength of the images can provide comfort to a troubled soul.

Joshua represents a child with special needs. He is the real warrior, the one fighting the battles and facing the ever-present danger of succumbing to the wounds inflicted by the enemy.

Moses represents the caregiver. The one charged with the responsibility to maintain a posture that produces victory and weariness in the same moment. The one who must watch the battle rage and yet rise above it to do what needs to be done.

The staff of God represents the weight of the world pressing down on the arms of the caregiver as gravity pulls harder every passing minute and forces the strength of the caregiver to weaken as the battle rages on.

Aaron and Hur represent those who walk in relationship with the caregiver, who rejoice when the caregiver rejoices and weeps when the caregiver weeps.  Who recognize the needs of the caregiver and provide the support without being asked.

Although Joshua fought the physical battle, Moses had to fight the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual one. Moses stood on the top of the hill while Joshua fought against Amalek. And although Moses was not in the battle, without him holding up the staff of God, Joshua didn’t stand a chance against Amalek.

As it was with Moses and Joshua, so it is with the child with special needs. Without the caregiver, the child with special needs doesn’t stand a chance. The caregiver is standing on the hill watching the battle rage on and from an intellectual, emotional, and spiritual point of view, struggles to bear the weight of the world.

Just as Moses probably wanted Joshua to quickly prevail because it would mean relief from the stress of lifting up the staff of God, the caregiver searches for a solution to the suffering of the child because it will ultimately mean relief for the caregiver.

But standing on top of the hill does not make the caregiver immune from the effects of the battle. Although Joshua was fighting with the sword, Moses was holding up the staff of God and Joshua’s success hinged on Moses’ strength to keep his hands lifted up. In addition to fighting the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual battles that rage on within, the caregiver is also performing the physical tasks that cause one to become weary.

The story tells us that Moses’ hands grew tired. As long as Moses was able to hold his hands up, Joshua prevailed, but as soon as his hands grew weary and dropped, Amalek prevailed. You see, the child with special needs can overcome the physical battles so long as the caregiver has the strength to lift up the staff of God. To bear up under the weight of the world. But when the caregiver can no longer bear the stress of the situation, he or she weakens and the arms begin to fall and the child with special needs begins to lose the battle.

When Moses’ strength began to fail, Aaron and Hur provided the necessary support, but so often the caregiver is charged to lift his or her arms without support. And when the caregiver loses strength, the enemy prevails.

While Joshua fought, Moses, Aaron, and Hur went to the top of the hill. Aaron and Hur were with Moses from the beginning and when Moses struggled to keep his hands lifted up, Aaron and Hur provided the support he needed. Aaron and Hur did not receive word that Moses was struggling and then left of the camp of Israel to go help. They were with him from the beginning and when they saw him begin to struggle, they went into action.

They provided Moses with a place to sit and they held up his arms. The story tells us that they found a rock and placed it under him so he could sit. This required physical effort on the part of Aaron and Hur. They did not take Moses to the rock, they brought the rock to Moses. And then they stood beside him, supporting his arms, keeping the staff of God lifted up.

Moses did not have to say “Aaron and Hur, come up here, I am struggling.” They went with him and when they saw him struggle, they provided the help necessary without being asked. They did not ask Moses “Is there anything we can do?” They knew what he needed because they were present with Moses from the beginning.

Unfortunately, that is not the reality for most caregivers of a child with special needs. As the battle increases with intensity, the caregiver’s world grows smaller and life moves at a slower pace because of the constant physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual friction created by wanting to experience life, but instead having to manage life and provide care.

A caregiver who lacks the structural support of family and friends experiences a world that has become a sort of prison from where there is no escape. Yet, while the world of a caregiver is smaller and less active, the world around the caregiver gets larger and spins at an ever increasing rate and often in a different direction.

As the battle rages on, the caregiver grows weary and without the support necessary to bear the weight of the world in which he or she exists, the caregiver tires and the enemy begins to prevail. For as the caregiver wearies, the child with special needs is left to fight the battle on his or her own.

So often those with good intentions are focused on the one fighting the battle (Joshua) and fail to look to the top of the hill. They fail to see the caregiver lifting up his or her arms with the weight of the world pressing down. No one was there when the caregiver climbed the hill. No one was there when the battle began. No one was there when the caregiver first raised his or her hands to ensure that the child with special needs would prevail. And often times no one is there to recognize the needs of the caregiver and to provide the rock upon which to sit and the strength by which to support his or her arms.

Aaron and Hur were not there for a few minutes, but for the duration of the battle. As long as the battle raged on, Aaron and Hur remained by Moses’ side and provided what was necessary so that Joshua would prevail. And here is an interesting little tid-bit. If Joshua won, Israel won and if Israel won, those who were with Moses, though they did not fight, still received the spoils of victory. So what does that say for those who stand with and support those who are caregivers for a child with special needs?

The final picture painted by this story is a profound truth of God. And it introduces the intercession of Jesus Christ for those engaged in the battle. The child with special needs is in a battle. One that not even the caregiver can understand. And as the caregiver stands on the hill lifting his or her hands up to bear the weight of the world of caring for the child with special needs, God is giving the warrior the strength to stand strong and fight with a courage beyond comprehension.

In the end, the message of this story is clear. Every Joshua needs a Moses and every Moses needs an Aaron and Hur. If you know a Moses, then you need to choose. Are you going to be an Aaron and a Hur or are you going to be an Amalek. Because when you fail to help lift up the arms of a caregiver, you are in a figurative way, contributing to the battle.

Written by Ken_Rupert

Related Articles



It was two months after Mum died. I would not meet anyone. I would not answer messages. I would not talk about my feelings. I didn’t want to chat. I...

Popular categories

After Caregiving
Finding Meaning
Finding Support

Don't see what you're looking for? Search the library

Share your thoughts

1 Comment

  1. EXACTLY!!!!! As the wife of a soldier and mom of an adult daughter on the severe end of the autism spectrum – this brought me to tears.
    When you move every couple of years and your child is no longer “school age” you go to the bottom of the list for all that they need in every new state you move to – and never reach the top of any list before moving again. You have no support system other than prayers from those who know/love you and you must do it all on your own. If not for prayer and Jesus – neither my Princess, nor I, could have made it this far – and we still have a long ways to go.
    This sight is such a blessing to me! Thank you so much for putting something I have thought frequently into words.


Share your thoughts and experiences

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Join our communities

Whenever you want to talk, there’s always someone up in one of our Facebook communities.

These private Facebook groups are a space for support and encouragement — or getting it off your chest.

Join our newsletter

Thoughts on care work from Cori, our director, that hit your inbox each Monday morning (more-or-less).

There are no grand solutions, but there are countless little ways to make our lives better.

Share your insights

Caregivers have wisdom and experience to share. Researchers, product developers, and members of the media are eager to understand the nature of care work and make a difference.

We have a group specifically to connect you so we can bring about change.