By Russ Blowers
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In the mid-1990s, as I was winding down a 45-year pastorate, my wife, Marian, began to experience memory loss and other symptoms that alarmed us.
Two major medical centers tested her and gave identical evaluations: Alzheimer's disease.
We were deeply grieved, but the grace of God poured over us.
One day Marian asked me, "What if the time comes when I don't even know you?" I said, "Well, I'll know you and that's all that will matter."
That was five years ago, and now Marian is in a constant-care facility unable to speak and completely dependent on caregivers for her every need.
I visit her every day.
I talk to her, pray with her, sing to her.
She seldom responds in any overt way. When I tell her that I love her, there is no reciprocal response.
When the Apostle Paul wrote, "Give thanks in all circumstances," he was telling us to imitate his own response to suffering. When Paul pleaded with God to remove the thorn in his flesh, Paul was told, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Paul began to delight in his sufferings, for in his weakness God's strength came through. Paul grew in grace in the midst of trials and tribulations.
In Marian's Bible I found Philippians 4:6-7 underlined in red. As her illness progressed, this was her favorite verse: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
I read that passage to Marian at least every other day.
Only the Christian who loves and serves the Ultimate Sufferer, Jesus Christ, can give thanks in all circumstances.
The believer whose heart is saturated with the Holy Spirit can ask God for anything, always giving thanks and praise for God's perfect will.
I have peace in knowing that God loves my wife even more than I do, and that He is not blind or deaf to our pain.
I thank God not for the circumstance-He doesn't expect me to say, "Thank You that Marian has this disease that is scrambling her brain." There would be no love in that statement. But I give thanks in this situation, for God is in it with us.
As I love and serve Marian in her helplessness, I am also serving God.
My hear t overflows with praise and gratitude to God, not because I am a candidate for sainthood but because His grace is sufficient.
And for that I am eternally grateful.
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