This week I’ve been thinking about my father-in-law. Most of you wouldn’t know him from Adam, so I think I’m safe discussing things here. Actually, he is on our minds a lot. Why? Because he’s dying. There’s no easy way to come around to it, it’s just a matter of time.
A few summers ago he had a series of strokes and possibly heart attacks that so ravaged his body that the doctor’s never expected him to live. But he came out, for the most part, with little consequence. About a year ago he had surgery for colon cancer, and they removed as much as they could; some was still near the spine, and that has since made it into his bone. And now a genetic disease, Huntington’s Disease, that most of us knew would be kicking in, has come on full force and is taking his mind.
Over the past 6 to 8 weeks, his condition has drastically deteriorated. In a matter of 10-14 days, he went from being able to go the store and shopping for the better of a day, to not being able to get to the toilet without assistance. He is in despair, and he has lost hope.
The other night I was asked to go over (they live about 100 feet right behind us) and talk with him. Through the course of discussion, I learned some things. He hasn’t been able to pray because his mind goes blank. He can’t read his Bible because it’s suddenly too heavy for him. He’s sick of watching Christian TV because he can see the lies some of them are spewing (which is actually, I think a postive development).
As a result of the not being able to pray or read, I told him that I think he feels disconnected from God. This is a man who, from his conversion, has ardently studied and prayed. Now he can’t maintain the relationship the way he used to, and it’s breaking his heart. So I gave him a few ideas and provided a few tools to help him in that regard. Simple things, really, like having a hospital-style side table that he can put his Bible and other things on, a couple of CDs of mixed quiet worship songs, and keeping the Scripture open (like to Psalms) to help him when he prays and his mind draws blank.
But the main thing I’ve been thinking about is how he is convinced that what is happening to him is an attack of Satan. So I asked him why he thought that. Several times I asked with no response, like he couldn’t possibly understand why I would ask him such a question. He just looked at me, with his head cocked to one side, shocked.
Finally he did answer me. “What else could it be?” I explained that it could just be a result of the living in the fallen, cursed world that Adam left for us. We are all going to die, after all. Sickness is a result of the fall; not really from anything we have done. (Of course, he used to say how some of the men he knew in the church died or were sick because they played Jesus in an Easter production, because they were “playing God”.)
So he asked me to ask some of the pray-ers in our church to pray and find out if this battle was an attack of the devil, or just the results of being mortal in a fallen world. I don’t know what the results will be from everyone else. But now prayer is for peace for him.
Maybe it’s just me, I don’t know. How do you tell a man that’s dying that the prayer for deliverance he desperately wants answered might not be because it isn’t an evil, demonic attack; it’s just life?