In my studies on this topic I have been blessed by many scriptures, too many to include in the text. Therefore, I have included them below the text in Scriptural References. + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +
In the last three blogs we have been looking at the idea that everything that happens in this world are a part of God’s plan, and therefore there is a reason and purpose for every event on planet earth. I spoke about how the crucifixion of Jesus demonstrates that God can indeed bring good out of evil. I went on to say that because of human freedom, and the damage nature can cause, that I was not comfortable with the idea that God is behind every blessing and curse, every life and death, every delight and disaster. I believe that many things happen for seemingly random reasons but, despite this, we are called to pray and trust the Lord. Since this entire discussion is way beyond my ability to figure out, I leaned back on ambiguity.
Last week I shared an article that was written in 2011 about how to overcome any trial by having an eternal perspective, an active prayer life, and no matter what happens, a persevering faith. I really believe this was the secret to the early church’s success during times of persecution. During times of persecution, multitudes of people became Christians, risking insult, arrest, and even death, to follow Jesus.
In the early centuries of Christianity there was an expectation of suffering, persecution, and even early death. They remembered the words of Jesus who taught, “In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” And St. Paul, who said, “that through many tribulations we must enter the Kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22. Saints James, Peter, and John wrote of this expectation as well. (SR1). The early church wanted to have a faith, and perseverance, like Job, who said,” “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.”
If you read the scripture references, you probably noticed that both St. James and St. Peter agree that trials and tribulation can have a positive effect in the lives of those who follow Christ. In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul writes, “we rejoice in our suffering, knowing that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3b-5 This may be the benefit St. Paul speaks of when he writes, “All things work together for the good for those who love God,” Romans 8:28. God knows everything we go through and uses everything for our spiritual growth.
Some of Jesus teachings are completely opposite of the way we think in 2019. Jesus calls us to live nonconformist, countercultural lives. For example, those who are truly blessed by God should expect to face persecution. Jesus teaches us, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5 10-12 (SR2) The Apostles faced persecution from the religious leaders, “calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. 41 So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.” Acts 5:40-41. Why would anyone rejoice that they were being persecuted? Are they masochists? No. Rather, it was that they were sharing in the suffering of Christ for the salvation of the world, and they were living with an eternal perspective. You can catch a glimpse of this eternal perspective when St. Paul writes, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us…” Romans 8:18. Once the early Christians caught the beatific vision and lived with the Love of Christ in their hearts, they were bold as lions.
I believe that God is never surprised about anything that happens in our lives. If I were killed in an accident tonight, God will not look up from His throne and ask, “David!! What are you doing here? Good Grief, I wasn’t expecting you.” Indeed, Jesus assures us of this when he says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s will. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:29-31 Scripture assures us that, God knows of our trouble, and allows it to enter our lives. He also promises to strengthen and comfort us. In the Beatitudes, Jesus teaches us, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.’ Matthew 5:4.
Wouldn’t you think that people who faced opposition from both religious and secular leaders, persecution that lead to exile, job loss, prison, and death, to be suspicious, grumpy, and judgmental? On the contrary, when you read the New Testament, you find happy, joyful, loving, generous people. In fact, I would say, that the Joy, love, and hope of the resurrection are constant throughout the New Testament. You can see the truth of this by reading St. Paul’s letters and seeing how often he encourages Christians to rejoice. SR4.
What does all of this have to do with being a caregiver to someone with dementia? If we can catch the same vision, be filled with the same Spirit, and live with the same Hope, we can go through anything this world can throw at us. Have you ever read the book, Tortured for Christ, by Richard Wurmbrand? Richard was imprisoned for 14 years, in Communist prisons, 3 of which were spent in solitary confinement. Because the Communist leaders wanted him to tell the names of those involved in the underground church, there would be terrible days of various types of torture. However, he wrote, that after hours of beatings, “We would be taken back to our cells, and begin to pray, suddenly, the walls would sparkle like gold, and we would be filled with the Holy Spirit and dance for joy.” In later years, after his release from prison, when speaking of persecution, Richard would say, “You may wonder why I smile, it is because I want to share the joy we felt as we suffered for Christ in communist prisons.” (SR5- see below for information on how to get a copy of the book or movie.)
This study has shown me that a lot of my anger is caused by bad theology. I don’t know where I got the idea that my life would be one in which I would be happy, healthy, wealthy, and everyone would love me. Somehow, I have baptized the American Dream and called it Christianity. I want to be like the prophet Habakkuk who wrote,
“Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no [o]fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
18 Yet I will exult in the Lord,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. Habakkuk 3:17-18 italics mine
One of my favorite hymns is, Faith of Our Fathers.
of our Fathers! living still
In spite of dungeon, fire, and sword:
Oh, how our hearts beat high with joy
Whene’er we hear that glorious word.
Faith of our Fathers! Holy Faith!
We will be true to thee till death.
Our Fathers, chained in prisons dark,
Were still in heart and conscience free:
How sweet would be their children’s fate,
If they, like them, could die for thee!
Faith of our Fathers! Holy Faith!
We will be true to thee till death.
I have decided to live like the Christian martyrs; they were willing to lay down their lives to complete the ministry that the Lord had called them to. I am sick of being angry, depressed, sad, frustrated, and lonely. If Richard Wurmbrand could, “Dance for joy,” after being tortured for eight hours, I guess the Holy Spirit will fill me with the same joy after being ignored, or put down, by my wife. There is a consolation that the martyrs knew that I have only heard of. Since God has called me to be a caregiver, I will, from now on, do my best to serve Jesus in this ministry.
Before I go on, I want to ask you to pray for me. I come up with a lot of ideas that I cannot seem to carry out. I understand why the Apostle Paul would say, “In my flesh dwells no good thing.” Yet, in another place he writes, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Please add me to your prayer list, and I will continue to pray for you.
Here is my plan:
First, I am going to stop being angry at God for not keeping promises He never made. My American, Walt Disney, theology is not the historical faith that was, “once for all delivered to the saints.” Jude 3b. So often we think that God wants us happy all the time. I no longer believe that. I don’t think God cares if I am happy as much as he wants me to be faithful. I intend to read the Bible and the Church Fathers to help me remember what the faith is really about. This will help me change my perspective about what the Lord expects from me and I from Him.
Second, I will strive to become a prayer warrior. That is, I will enter into spiritual warfare (SR6) and pray the prayer that Jesus taught us in the Garden, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” Matthew 26:39. (This is a continuation of his teaching on the Lord’s prayer, “Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be done.”) Someone has said that this is the perfect prayer. Every morning I will, “Take up my cross, deny myself, and follow him.” Matt. 16:24. My desire is to, “Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks” 1 Thess. 5:16-18. I cannot do this on my own, but the Holy Spirit will help me, because “this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18b Prayer is a great resource that I often neglect. I can no longer afford to neglect prayer but rather must become a man who is always praying about everything. As someone has said, “We must pray like everything depends on God, and work like everything depends on us.”
Third, I am going to pray that the Lord will use anything and everything I go through, as a caregiver, to make me more like Jesus. (SR7) To become like Jesus I must obey him to the best of my Holy Spirit empowered ability. For example, I often have thoughts that are full of, resentments, anger, and unforgiveness. Jesus, on the cross, prayed for those who were treating him so badly; “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.” Jesus prayed for the soldiers, religious leaders, and his fellow Jews, who were treating him with contempt: how much more can I pray this same prayer since dementia really does make people behave badly yet, they don’t know what they are doing? Part of being a prayer warrior, is to, “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who despitefully use you, love your enemies, and to forgive again and again.” SR8 You cannot really hold onto bitterness and unforgiveness when you’re praying for blessings upon those who are mistreating you.
Fourth, following Jesus, I will lay down my life for Harriet. Everything we do as caregivers; we are called to do with love. Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this; that he lay down his life for his friends.” Of course, I hope to be alive long after this disease has done its worse. However, I will lay down my life by serving her, meeting her needs, and tenderly caring for her. Things I desire will be put on the back burner, or completely dismissed.
If you have been following this blog, then you know that I have failed at this type of thing again and again. For the past two years, I have tried to do Exodus 90. This was a call to live a life of discipline; which was done by being on a perpetual fast, taking cold showers, and daily prayer, bible study, and exercise. I was hoping to lose 20 pounds but instead gained 14. I am desperate to succeed so that I can leave anger, depression, frustration, bitterness, and unforgiveness behind. I so desire to live a life filled with love, joy, peace, gentleness, and kindness. Please pray for me. I will keep you informed about how things are going. Wouldn’t it be amazing if I could succeed in this and become more and more like Christ?
Finally, I want to invite you to join me in this path of spiritual growth. I really believe that the result of this walk is one of love, joy, and peace. Following the American dream has only brought me frustration, anger, depression and despair. St. Peter reminds us, “knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers,” 1 peter 1:18 italics mine. We were redeemed from futility and for eternal life. I keep wanting to return to the futile way of life that our culture hands down to us. I repent of this foolishness, and desire to become like Jesus the Christ. Will you join me?
In future blogs, I will let you know of my success, failures, missteps, and victories. Please pray for me. I will be lifting you and your loved one up in daily prayer.
SR1. “Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you meet various trials, for you know the testing of your faith produces steadfastness, And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-3.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, … 6 In this you rejoice,[a] though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, 7 so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ… 9 As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:3,6-7,9 italics mine.
“Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days[a] you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who conquers shall not be hurt by the second death.’” Rev. 2:10-11.
SR2. 20 And turning His gaze toward His disciples, He began to say, “Blessed are [j]you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 Blessed are [k]you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. 22 Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. 23 Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to [l]treat the prophets. 24 But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full. 25 Woe to you who [m]are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. 26 Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to [n]treat the false prophets in the same way. Luke 6:20-26
SR3. Therefore [a]be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise,16 [b]making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17 So then do not be foolish but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, [c]for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to [d]one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to [e]God, even the Father; Ephesians 5:15-20
SR4 – Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice! Philippians 4:4
16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
“,,,be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to [b]one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to [c]God, even the Father;” Ephesians 5:18b-20
SR5– Tortured for Christ, is available from the Voice of the Martyrs. Go to, TorturedforChrist, com, Or persecution.com/August2019, or call, 800-747-0085. Their address is, The Voice of the Martyrs, 1815 SE Bison Rd. Bartlesville, OK 74006. (I am not affiliated with this ministry, nor will I get anything if you order something. I have been blessed by the Voice of the Martyrs, and I hope you will be as well.)
SR6–Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against [e]flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 [f]in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
SR7-Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, [a]acceptable to God, which is your [b]spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this [c]world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may [d]prove what the will of God is, that which is good and [e]acceptable and perfect.
9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; [j]give preference to one another in honor; 11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, 13 contributing to the needs of the [k]saints, [l]practicing hospitality. Romans 12:1-2, 9-13
SR8- I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may [ap]be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Matthew 5:44-47
14 Bless those who persecute [m]you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but [n]associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. [o]Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but [p]leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:14-21
Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus *said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
23 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven [v]may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him [w]ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 But since he [x]did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. 26 So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’ 27 And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the [y]debt. 28 But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred [z]denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ 30 But he was unwilling [aa]and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. 31 So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. 32 Then summoning him, his lord *said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.33 Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ 34 And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. 35 My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from [ab]your heart.” Matthew 18:21-35