Things I repeatedly hear: "It doesn't seem fair what you and Gary are going through." "Gary doesn't deserve this." "Why did this happen to you?" Let me tell you, if Gary could speak, and you ask him "How are you doing?"...this is what he'd say. "I'm doing better than I deserve." In fact, he'd tell you that it's better to be living with "difficulty" than living "the easy life." Wise Solomon said "It's better to go to a house of mourning, than a house of feasting, because that is the end of every man, and the living takes it to heart...The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, while the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure." (Ecclesiastes 7) Thinking deeply about mortality, is a good thing to do.
As Gary's wife and "caregiver" I am regularly reminded to "take care of myself, because I deserve it." It's a common belief. "Everyone deserves to be happy." "We deserve to be safe." "I don't deserve to be treated like ..." But do I, or you, or anyone REALLY deserve to have a good, easy, or prosperous life with no worries or troubles? Even though we are in the midst of this horrendous illness, Alzheimer's Disease, Gary and I are at peace. We are content. I want to explain why.
Did you know that I'm a sinner? Did you know that you are too? Did you know that sin and evil are real and not just a mistake, mishap or oversight? "Sin", though not a term that is used much any more, is anything that men and women do (or don't do) that causes them to fall short of the standard of perfection set by the One who created them, regardless of how our culture tries to explain it away. In fact, every person born on this planet is capable of doing evil things. When people continually reject God and pursue living for themselves, they can eventually be completely given over to horrible behaviors which are motivated by Satan, who, by the way, is real, and he's not a character in a red suit with horns, and a pitch fork. The Bible says he "prowls around the earth like a roaring lion seeking who he can devour." We see evidence of his activities in the news, but we also see in every human being, myself included, a selfish, sinful heart.
Why? It goes way back to the beginning of things when God made the world and everything in it. He put man and woman in The Garden and gave them everything they could ever need including a relationship with Him. I don't know how long their life of bliss lasted but one day, The Enemy, Satan, started putting seeds of doubt in their minds. Just like me and just like you, they were tempted to think that maybe God was limiting them in some way, that they "deserved" more. Maybe they knew better than their Creator. You know the story. Adam and Eve took things into their own hands, ate the forbidden fruit, and rejected God's way. They didn't think God was going to satisfy them any more. That is known as 'The Fall' and what a fall it was. If we're honest with ourselves, we'd admit that every single one of us, would have done the same thing. Even as a young person, I can remember choosing to do what I wanted, even though I knew it was not right. I often had prideful thoughts thinking I was better than others, and many times I didn't trust God and what He said. Most people say pride is a good thing. God says it is a sin.
So even though God placed Adam and Eve into the perfect world, they messed up. Now, the earth, and people, had a curse to live with. God's curse. Things would not be easy. Now there would be sickness, weeds, difficulty, and death. "Not fair" you say? That's because we don't really grasp the perfect holiness of God. He is not like us. He is not lacking anything. He has complete knowledge and wisdom. Everything He does is completely just AND he is completely merciful at the same time. Like it or not, there's a price to be paid for human willfulness, that boldly shakes it's fist at God and says, "I don't need you!" OR the more subtle "God fits into MY own idea of who He is, and I'll run my own life." But, even though this is a hard truth, God's perfect justice demands punishment for anyone who would be so bold as to think they know better than Him. Eternal punishment for sinners.
"The wages of sin is death..." Romans 6:23
As soon as they ate the fruit, knowing they had chosen to disobey God, they felt guilty, ashamed and hid themselves with fig leaves. We are just like them. For thousands of years people have been trying to come up with a solution for their guilty feelings. You know...that "yucky" feeling you have when you know you did something "wrong." We try to ignore it, or justify it, or keep busy so there's no time to think about it, but every person on the planet knows they are fallible, and something's just not right. There is a never ending search for peace, satisfaction, fulfillment, balance or even "religious" activities. But sadly, most of the world's religions only lead to a deceptive sense of security, based on doing enough good things to please God and win His favor. But no one can be good enough.
"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23
We are sinful people living in a broken world, with no way to make things right or avoid eternal punishment. But, God had a plan based on his great love for mankind. He would provide the perfect substitute, His son, to be punished in place of sinful people, IF they would admit their sin and throw themselves on His mercy and ask for forgiveness. A couple of weeks ago, we celebrated Christmas, The Advent (the awaited arrival). Baby Jesus was born 2000 years ago in Bethlehem, but that was only the beginning. He lived 33 years without any sin, ever. Only God could do this. Jesus was fully God and fully man. He was born so he could die on the cross and bear the punishment FOR US. That's what we really deserve! Eternal punishment. That would be justice. But instead God offers us a gracious gift. He offers salvation.
"For by grace you have been saved, through faith:and that, not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." Ephesians 2:8-9
Basically, God does it all the saving work. He offers salvation to the spiritually blind, bankrupt, imprisoned, and oppressed. (Luke 4:18) People bring nothing to the table. That's Love. That's Grace. Jesus bore His Father's punishment for the sins of all those who would believe/trust Him, when he was crucified. Admitting our need for this great substitution is the key to Salvation and being "right with God". When a person turns from sinning (repents), and believes God (faith), takes Him at His word, he is a new person. His soul is washed clean. God no longer sees his sin. The Bible says God removes that sin as far away as the East is from the West. The debt is forgiven.
"He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin, to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." 2 Corinthians 5:21
Gary and I just celebrated our 38th Anniversary on December 28th. We are experiencing the love and care of God in very personal ways and even though Gary and I are suffering the loss of memories, communication, and companionship, God is helping us to loosen our hold on this earthly life, which is just a blink, in light of eternity. It will be over before we know it, and, just like all of you, we will stand before the Creator in all His majesty. For the first time ever we will be in the presence of the absolute perfection and blazing glory of God. Jesus Christ will be there, seated next to His Father. He will either say, "Depart from Me, I never knew you." OR "This one is mine. Their life is hidden in Me. Enter in to the joy of my rest." All people will either spend eternity in Heaven or Hell.
Gary began to follow Jesus Christ when he was 21. I was a little younger, but it is never too late for anyone. The license plate was on Gary's work truck for many years. He loved to tell others about Jesus, and how to know Him. I am positive that my husband would be pleased that God is causing others to consider the condition of their souls because of our trial of Alzheimer's Disease. Soon after getting the diagnosis, he prayed, "Lord, please use my life and illness to further Your Kingdom and bring glory to Yourself." So, please, please consider your soul. Do you trust Jesus? Do you live for Him? Are you saved?
This is why Gary and I are at peace, and content
in the midst of advanced stage Alzheimer's.
"Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand and we exult in hope of the glory of God." Romans 5:1-2