"God's Will" - "God's Plan" and Alzheimer's
- Published on Saturday, 20 August 2011 23:31
- Written by Stanton O. Berg
"Will of God" - "God's Plan" - "God is in Control" - "Man's Free Will"
Many times people of faith will anounce that a loved one’s Alzheimer’s and death was the “Will of God.” Where such thinking comes from I do not know, but I assume that it comes from certain ideas and theories that everything that takes place in this universe is dictated, orchestrated and planned by God. If that were true, then we would have to blame God for Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, the Holocaust and all the great calamities of history.
The terms “God’s Will” and “God is in Control” are terms that are carelessly and loosely used and thrown about by the confused members of the faithful. Yet the same people would be quick to recognize that God gives man a free will to do what he wants. It cannot be both ways.
"Man's Free Will" is specifically discussed in Deuteronomy 30: 19 (KJV) where man is given a choice : "I call heaven and earth to record this day...I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:"
Even Martin Luther had a word to say about man’s “free will.” “People say: “Yes, certainly, God has given us a “free will.” To this I reply: To be sure, God has given us a “free will”; why then will you not let it remain free but make it your own will!...it only cares for the will of God, and so it remains free, cleaving and clinging to nothing.” (An exposition of the Lord’s Prayer for Simple Laymen. (1519)”)
There also appears to be ignorance by many as to the part that is played by Satan in man’s pain and sufferings. This all becomes further complicated with the term “God’s Plan.”
One should not confuse “God’s Plan” with the assumption that every event is a part of “God’s Plan.” God permits man to exercise his or her own free will. That means there will be man made frustrations along the way towards the final chapter in “God’s Plan”. In the end and in the final analysis, “God’s Plan” will be victorious. I think that if one substitute the terms “God’s Ultimate Plan” for the term “God’s Plan” and the “Ultimate Will of God” for the “Will of God”, a more rational and clear understanding of what is otherwise a confusing area for many, will be resolved.
“God’s Ultimate Plan” is clearly stated in the last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation: “ 21: 4 (KJV): “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there by any more pain for the former things are passed away.”
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
The Will of God
There is an excellent discussion of this matter in the book “The Will of God” by Leslie D. Weatherhead a Pastor of the City Temple in London – 1944. In the book he discuses the death of a man’s wife:
“Your wife’s death is not the will of God at all. It is the fruit of human ignorance, and if we could spend as much on medical research as we spend on a battleship, your wife’s life could have been saved.”…
Industrial oppression, selfish greed, the denial of God’s gifts to his own children because of the greed of the few, the horror of war – these things spell a greater atheism than any verbal arguments man has devised…if you say concerning those stunted lives, “this is the will of God,” I say to you that is a greater blasphemy than the denial of the Holy Trinity.”…
“I can not understand how anybody who has read the New Testament can ever stand at the bedside of a patient and…utter the pathetic complaint that disease is the “will of God”. I always imagine that Jesus would speak with anger about such a thoughtless dictum.”…
Satan - Illness and Disease
“When a woman was brought to him who had been ill for a long time, he spoke to her as “this woman…whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years.” Satan! As far as I can understand Jesus’ attitude, both in the words he spoke and the healing miracles he so gloriously wrought, he always regarded disease as part of the kingdom of evil, and with all his powers he fought it and instructed his followers to do the same.” (Luke: 13: 16 (KJV)
There are many references in the Bible that are very much in point:
“Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.” (Matthews 18: 14. (KJV)
“For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.” (Lamentations 3: 33 (KJV)
"He sent His Word and healed them and delivered them from their destructions". (Psalm 107: 20. (KJV )
"The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." (John 10: 10. (KJV)
“And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.” (Matthew 10:1 (KJV)
"...afflictions, which came unto me...I endured:but out of them all the Lord delivered me."...(2 Timothy 3: 11 (KJV)
Weatherhead continues: “…one of the first things we must do is to dissociate from the phrase “the will of God” all that is evil and unpleasant and unhappy.”
“I like to think of our Lord standing by the bedside of the patient and working with the doctors and nurses toward the regaining of health, working on the mind and spirit of the patient as the physicians work on the body. Then, if the latter fail, I like to think of him showing the sufferer that, in cooperation with him, victory may still be wrested from defeat and the purposes of God realized.”
The Bible and Satan's Worldly Powers
The Bible clearly describes Satan’s powers to spread illness and disease in the world that we all live in. The phrase “god of this world” is used in 2 Corinthians 4:4 (KJV) to describe Satan. It also describes Satan as the “prince of the power of the air” in Ephesians 2:2 (KJV) and as the “prince of this world” in John 12: 31 (KJV) and finally: “The whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” (1 John 5: 19 (KJV) The Bible seems clear that until Jesus returns, removes Satan and brings about a new heaven and a new earth as promised in Revelations 21: 1 and 21: 4 (KJV), the world will continue to be racked with Satan’s diseases and illness’s. (“a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away”…And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”)
Not everything that happens to us is necessarily the plan of either God or Satan and may simply be a random occurrence. The Bible speaks of some troubles as random acts of "time and chance". Ecclesiastes 9: 11 (KJV).
God's Ministering Angels
God is also with us by way of his “ministering angels.” Dr. Billy Graham has written a book on “Angels” (2d Edition 1994). This book, first published in 1975, is one of the books in June’s library of her Christian faith. Dr. Graham describes God’s Angels as: “They are “ministering servants” who can appear or remain invisible as they perform the tasks that God assigns them. Angels guide, comfort and provide for the people of God in the midst of suffering and persecution"…."Here is a ringing assurance to all Christians that through angels God is present for His people, and we can take comfort in the fact that, with the host of them at God's call, we are not alone…At death, the faithful will be ushered by angels into the presence of God." Dr. Graham references (Psalm 91:11 (KJV):
“For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.”
Dr. Graham also notes: "Occasionally I see reports of happenings that cannot be humanly explained - of visitors unexpectedly appearing to assist in times of crisis, or warning of impending danger.These can only be explained as the intervention of God's angels. Thank God for His angels and rejoice in their unseen watchfulness over you."
At the end of this essay, you will find examples of God’s love through his “ministering angels” at work in times of sickness and disease. These are the examples of the "reports of happenings that cannot be humanly explained..."
Weatherhead discusses man’s free will: “If man is to have a real freedom, and if the community is to be bound together in such a close unity that the one suffers for the many, even as the one gains through the many…if, in a word, life is to be on the family and not on the individual basis then obviously ten thousand things can happen that God did not intend, and millions of innocent people will suffer through the sins of others. Of this great truth we need no far-fetched illustration. The horror of war and the suffering of innocent people prove it with terrible convincingness.”
Many including myself, believe the God works with the evil occurrences of such diseases as Alzheimer’s to bring good out of such evil.
Weatherhead also discusses how God brings good from evil. He tells how the Cross was an example of bringing good from evil. “The most wonderful use of evil which God has ever effected.”
Weatherhead than discusses God and the death of a loved one as…:”For you know your loved one is not lost. He (she) is alive. He (she) is working out a plan. And God is still using him (her) in his plan. Maybe from the other side he’s (she’s) helping you. Can you take up life bravely in spiritual communion with the one you’ve lost? Can you be father and mother to your little one? Can you comfort weaker hearts than your own in this dark night of the world? Can you say to yourself with Tennyson:
“That nothing walks with aimless feet,
That not one life shall be destroy’d.
Or cast as rubbish to the void,
When God hath made the pile complete?”
Editorial Notes: The quote above from a poem by Alfred ,Lord Tennyson is a long poem “In Memoriam A.H.H.” (1849) dedicated to the poet’s friend who had died suddenly in Vienna in1833.
Our Redeemer Lutheran Senior Pastor Dave Glesne has also contributed his thoughts to this discussion of God’s Will and disease:
Pastor Dave Glesne:“God is not the only player on the stage of human history. There are other creatures that are significant players and whose choices and actions are working at cross-purposes with God's will. Therefore, everything that happens on this stage does not find its origin in God. A good angel once rebelled against this God and then tempted the first man and woman. They joined this good angel now turned bad in rebellion against God and brought a curse upon all of nature. In this fallen, sinful, broken world caused - not by God - but by creatures in rebellion against Him, disease and all manner of evil which now ravage the earth and human beings in this world. To attribute disease to this God instead of to the fallen condition and the human rebellion which caused it, is an offense to God. God and those redeemed by Him through His Son's death and resurrection are called to fight against the effects of the fall - disease and all manner of evil - to do the work of restoration that will be full and complete in the kingdom that is coming in all its fullness. (20 August 2011)...I think you use the names for Satan well and also that behind all the evil and suffering and diseases in this fallen world which is under the curse, stand Satan and his work of destruction of life and health and every good. (8 April 2013) - Pastor Dave Glesne”
This entire matter has been and continues to be a difficult one for me and particularly so when I watched in past years as my Wife June slowly sank into the deep dark abyss of Alzheimer’s…that continued over a period of twelve (12) years. Sandwiched into those twelve years were the six (6) years that my Mother Ellen also struggled with Alzheimer's only to have her life cut short in the year 2007, not by God's doing but by an ignorant medical establishments usage of drugs!
June who was a kind, considerate, loving and humble lady and who was always a good servant of the Lord, was subject to the cruelest of diseases. How many times have I asked myself why?...and why my mother Ellen who served as a hard working, cheerful and inspiring Christian lady during the hard years of the "Great Depression".
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church senior pastor Dave Glesne advised me early on, that “God was not the author of June’s Alzheimer’s disease”, and that God was “working to bring goodness out of this evil.” It is this simple statement of doctrinal clarity that has carried me through many past days when I was engulfed in the darkest hours of despair! (I later received the same assurances from our other church pastor Harley as well as our previous Pastors.) See: Pastor Dave Glesne's related comments above.
In November 2007, on the occasion of June’s 80th birthday and as she was struggling in the last stages of Alzheimer’s, I prepared the following tribute for June that was subsequently published in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. The central theme of that tribute very much falls into this discussion of God working to bring good out of evil. Below is a reproduction of the tribute as it appeared in the Minneapolis Star - Tribune:
“Our Redeemer Lutheran Pastors Dave, and Harley as well as our previous Pastors, Gene and Cliff, all assure me that God is not the author of your Alzheimer’s suffering and is working hard to bring good out of our present heartache.
One of our friends’s who is professor of law and forensic science at one of the nation’s great universities says:
“your June ….has been an inspiration to me to devote myself more unselfishly and lovingly to my….Out of the tragedy you are suffering under, this good, I thought you should know, has blossomed.”
A lady in the process of her second divorce after reading about you wrote:
“True love really does exist…Thank you for putting a light back on in my heart.”
People who have never met you are praying for you every day.
A lady you have never met has developed a powerful Alzheimer’s educational Power Point (PPS) presentation and it is dedicated to you. You have touched many lives.
June, your inspiring life and your battle with Alzheimer’s has also caused great spiritual changes in my own life. I have lost my initial anger and bitterness with God. I have also become an active advocate for Alzheimer’s education and funding. At the same time my love for you has only grown stronger.
One of your cousin's described you:
“She was the one with the friendly smile and the kind eyes.”
I would think that is the way the world also saw you. You are a kind, humble, sweet, beautiful lady who is totally without guile or pretense. You have always placed all who were close to you, before you. You have lived an exemplary life with a strong faith in God.
You were my constant companion in my forensic science travels here and abroad. You are the reason that my life has been an adventure. In your life you have done the things that many people only dream of, yet your character and personality have remained that of the original warm, friendly farm girl from Colfax, Wisconsin that I first met in 1951.
Our oldest son Dave tells me that because of you he found God. Because of your prayers and example, I also found God. Dave now feels that God has not taken you home as He feels we can all still learn from you. Perhaps Dave is right....
Your 80 years have made and is making this a better world for all of us. June, your suffering will not have been in vain. However with my narrow view of the world and the suffering you have gone through, I find it difficult to equate the scales of justice.
Again I ask sweetheart, if you travel into life’s sunset before me, "walk slowly – wait up – and watch for me." Stan”
True Stories of God’s love through his “ministering angels” at times of sickness and disease
(1.) The Sept/Oct 2011 issue of “Angels on Earth” has a story of Marlene J. Chase of Rockford, Illinois, who with her husband spent a night in a hospital waiting room after taking their son to emergency following an attack of Pneumonia and severe asthma. The usual Epinephrine injections did not appear to help. The hospital placed their son on a ventilator. Other then a hospital nurse checking on them from time to time, they were alone in the waiting room with their worries. A chaplain entered the waiting room. They expected him to say a prayer for their son and move on. Instead he said nothing but sat down across from them and bowed his head in apparent meditation and silent prayer. She tried to sleep. Each time that she opened her eyes briefly, she would observe the chaplain still “there in deep meditation.” She felt grateful for his presence. After a restless night and as the day was dawning, the nurse entered the room and announced “Your son is out of danger…He’s going to be fine”. She and her husband quickly went to his bedside. Later they asked about the chaplain because they wanted to thank him for being with them through the night. The nurse, puzzled by their request, told them that the chaplain was on vacation and added “I checked on you all night…you were alone!”
(2.) Caroline C of Spokane Valley, WA tells of the time that she and her son were in San Francisco at a medical facility during the late 1990’s. They were at the facility to have a bone marrow transplant done on their 11 year old son Joey. While she and her son were waiting for the transplant, a Priest appeared who prayed for and with them. When the Priest was later asked about his church identity, he advised it was the church “down on the corner.” The transplant was successfully completed. The following Sunday Caroline went to the services at the designated church. While at the church she asked for the Priest who had prayed for them. Since she did not know his name, she pointed to his picture on the Church wall. Caroline was then asked if she was sure that the Priest in the picture was the one that had prayed for them, she replied…“Yes I am. She was then informed that the Priest in the picture had died 25 years earlier. The son Joey is now 25 years of age (2011) and has been without medicines since he was 18 years old.
(3.) The below story was taken from the essay on “June’s Faith – Crossing Over – The unseen World” on this website and found on the drop down menu under “June’s Life”. This story was related to me by Rev. Erma J. Yates during an interview in January 2010 about her career as a Christian minister. Rev. Yates is a retired Baptist Minister from Tennessee. Rev. Yates originally came to my attention following her visitation to June’s web site and a subsequent vision of June presenting her with a rose - but that is another story in the above essay that can be found on this website if the reader is interested!
"Years ago, I was very ill and admitted to the hospital where I worked. I had a cardiac emergency. I remember my sisters and mother standing around as they raised the foot of my bed very high because my blood pressure was dropping. I remember the emergency cart being pulled over to my bed and doctors and nurses running around the bed. I awoke in the middle of the night. My family was gone and standing near the side of my bed was a black lady dressed in green scrubs similar to a nurse's aid. She wore one of those old fashioned white ruffled caps... she had her hand on my forehead and said "Erma Jean do you want to live?" I said yes. She then said "you are going to have to drink all this water if you want to live." I said I would. Through out the night, she gave me sips of water which was cool and sweet tasting. Whenever I opened my eyes she would be there, holding my head up saying "drink this water." Sometimes she put cold towels on my head. I was burning up with fever. Once I asked her where did my mother and sister go and she told me they were down the hall. When I woke again, it was morning. I could not sit up but could see an RN sitting at the foot of my bed which was no longer raised. I looked around the room for the nurse's aid that had taken care of me. The RN said that no one had taken care of me except her. She said that nurse's aides did not work with intensive care patients, only RN's and she had been mine for the night. I told her what the lady had said, how she was dressed. She replied: "No, Erma, first of all, you're NPO, "nothing per oral", especially water.. That’s why we have these IV fluids going. - I am the only one who has been in here last night. You were probably dreaming" As soon as my mother and sisters came in, I told them about the woman and how she was dressed. Immediately my mother asked - "What did she look like"? I said "In a way, she looked like you Momma, but darker skin, somewhat short, a little plump, thin lips and pretty eyes. My mother replied "That was my mother taking care of you." I believe it "- my deceased Grandmother appeared as an angel to take care of me during the night." (Rev. Yates had never known her maternal grandmother and no family photographs were available.)
(4.) The Nov- Dec – 2011 Issue of Angels on Earth has the story of Betty Laine of Lexington, North Carolina and a mystery Angel in the Intensive Care Unit of their local hospital. A few days before Christmas time Ms. Laine awoke one morning “barely able to breath”. Her husband took her to the local hospital where she was placed in the Intensive Care Unit with a diagnosis of double pneumonia casing a heart attack. She was placed on a ventilator. A week later while she was still in the hospital ICU her “heart rate became rapid” .Frightened, she drifted off to sleep. She tells how something woke her in the middle of the night. “The room was lit up brighter than daylight”. She described a “woman with long black hair” standing beside her bed with a stethoscope and wearing a white coat. She did not recognize the lady as anyone who had treated her before. The lady “held her hand over” Betty’s heart and then “without saying a word she left the room, taking the bright light with her.” Later she described the lady to her regular nurse who replied: “I can’t image who you might be talking about…No one fits that description.” When her regular doctor came in later that morning he referred to Betty’s night time visitor as “the first mystery” and that “the second is your heart rate”…”it’s slowed down considerably, You’ll be home in no time.” Betty concluded that she had received the best Christmas gift of all…”a reminder that God is everywhere, even the ICU”.
For a related essay that discusses the Alzheimer’s victim’s memory loss and the lack of ability to remember God, click on the below link:
For another related essay that discusses the frequently voiced Caregiver complaint: "Where is God in this Alzheimer's World? ", click on the below link:
June's funeral notice as published in the Minneapolis Star in October 2008 can be seen on this website on the drop down menu under the "In Memoriam" label - or Click on: