eCare - Why do you hide your face from me?

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eCare - Why do you hide your face from me?

Dear Friends in Christ,

Many of you know that Mary’s mother, Betty Gates, was called home to be with the Lord one week ago Friday; she was 88 years old.  Betty has suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease for the past number of years and spent the last 5 months in a nursing home.  Her family visited her daily and cared for her as much as was possible, feeding her 3 meals a day until right at the end when she forgot how to swallow.  During Mary’s last visit Betty sometimes knew who she was, sometimes thought she was her mother, sometimes asking where Mary was.  At the end she did not speak.  This is a pattern of debilitation with which many of you are familiar as you care for spouses, parents and friends with this awful disease for which we pray the Lord will graciously reveal a cure, and soon.

Betty’s home-going was the grace of the Lord.  She knew and confessed Christ as Savior for her entire adult life so she is absent from us but present with the Lord.  Her body is whole, her mind is clear and her voice has returned to sing in heaven’s choir of praise to the eternal Lord Who made her, saved her and with Whom Betty will come to earth at the end of time.  Betty is enjoying the peace and presence of her Lord of Whom she enjoyed hearing each Lord’s Day, for almost 8 years as a member of my congregation in Seminole, Oklahoma.  Betty thought I was the best preacher she had ever heard…I loved her for saying so.

After the trip to Oklahoma Mary and I drove to Kansas City, (Lawrence, Kansas, actually – the home of Kansas University) to visit my mother who lives in an assisted living facility less than 2 miles from my sister.  Mom suffers from dementia prompted by a failing heart and two, almost completely occluded carotid arteries.  She has almost no memory at her disposal; she recognized Mary and me but had no memory of any of our visits over three days, no memory of if she ate a meal or what it might have been and no ability to process any thoughts about the immediate future.  I suspect that by the time we reached our car in the nursing home parking lot she was fast asleep with no memory of us having been there.  He vital frame of reference was the immediate moment so we took comfort in what joy and happiness she seemed to have in our conversations, reminiscing and story-telling while sharing pictures of the kids on our phones.

Mom is a believer, though, like Betty, unable to express her faith.  She will, someday, be absent from the body and present with the Lord and will join Betty in heaven’s choir…she has always been a strong soprano with good pitch!

As I contemplated my Oklahoma and Kansas visits and an upcoming trip to Florida for the memorial service of a beloved aunt, my mother’s 94 year old sister who died last week, I couldn’t help but wonder what the Lord’s purposes are in Betty’s and my mother’s illnesses.  What does God want to do in all of this?  What are His purposes?  How is He glorified in what they suffer and what our families endure?  Try as I might I’ve not been able to figure it out.  My mind goes to the words of Job:  why do you hide your face from me?  Why, I ask, won’t you explain this to me?  Perhaps some of you have asked the same questions.

As I have often mentioned in sermons over the years some of our most oft asked questions are What is God’s will?  Can I know it? How can I know it?  What is the meaning of suffering?  How does suffering serve God’s glory?  How shall I respond?  How may I endure?

Now that I am in the position of asking the questions, as opposed to answering them for some of you, I found myself falling back on what I have often shared by way of counseling to those asking these very questions.  I trust these truths have been helpful to those with whom I have shared them and to those who may still, in the future, ask me, if in a somewhat rhetorical manner. As I rehearse these things I know that they are a comfort to me.  What are they?

  • God is the sovereign Lord of the universe.  Nothing has gone awry or spun out of His control
  • God loves His creatures and does all things according to His love and best for them
  • God has a will for His creation and for each of His creatures and nothing transpires outside the boundaries of His will for us
  • Knowledge of God’s will, in some measure, is too wonderful for us.  It is, after all, the will of the eternal God.  What hubris prompts us to think that if God told us everything we would understand it!
  • And, who are we, the creature, to say to the Creator, What in the world are You doing?
  • God’s purposes for Betty and for Mom have far-reaching impact on those of us who love them and care for them.  I’m prompted, not to ask What is God doing in Betty’s life or Mom’s life? but,  given the facts of their lives and death What is He doing with me and the rest of the family?

Having begun my contemplations with the words of Job I end them there as well:  Though He slay me yet will I trust Him (Job 13. 15 KJV).  I don’t know what God was doing with Betty’s protracted illness.  I don’t know what He wants to accomplish with my 91 year old mother who sleeps most of the day and remembers almost nothing. I don’t know that big plan but I know the Planner and in the midst of all that I do not know, I trust Him.  Soli Deo Gloria

Faithfully in Him,

Rick