My sister-in-law has Alzheimer’s. It is awful. I hate it. She does not deserve it. She was diagnosed in her early 60’s – too young, way too young; but then, who is ever ready for this dreadful disease? Jean is one of the sweetest people I have ever known. She welcomed me into JB’s family with open arms and, even now, her favorite thing to do is to hug everyone.
When our kids were little Jean and Ronnie took them home to north Louisiana for a week most summers. JB and I would drive from Orlando and meet them in Pensacola where we made the exchange. The two of us drove home in a quiet van to a week of re-discovering what we enjoyed and had in common when the kids were not the center of attention. Our children made great memories with Aunt Jean and Uncle Ronnie and those two drove them all the way back to Orlando to bring them home. (Don’t get Ronnie worked up telling how many times he had to listen to Adventures in Odyssey cassette tapes with our kids in his Suburban!) We all were blessed by this sweet annual tradition. Jean and Ronnie have always showed up for us. With three kids that’s lots of graduations – high school and college, scattered all over the map. But Jean and Ronnie have always come.
So, why, why, why? Why does someone like Jean get “the big A”? The answer is “I do not know.” This I do know: Life is Tough; if it is not Alzheimer’s it will be something else. Everybody has hardship at one time or another; sometimes it seems like an avalanche. But this too I know: God is Good. God is not the cause of our hardships; rather, he is the one who helps us survive them. In John 16:33 Jesus says, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” I know this to be true and you can too.
In the world you will have tribulation.
I probably don’t have to convince you that Jesus was right when He said, “in the world you will have tribulation.” You can fill in the blank with the tragedy or hardship or hurtful situation you are facing. But perhaps you struggle with Jesus’ promise, “in me you may have peace.” Here are a few tips I have learned about finding his peace in the midst of something that stinks:
in me you may have peace.
- Count your blessings; even when things are awful you can find much for which to be grateful. I am so thankful Jean has Ronnie; he cares for her with strength and grace and patience that he does not have on his own! It is amazing to see how God equips us with what we need when we need it, never early. I am grateful for her sitters who care for her so lovingly and make daily life easier for her and for Ronnie.
- Don’t gripe; that is wasting good time. Your mama was right when she said, “if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all.” You may be amazed that the less you gripe, the more joy you are able to recognize all around you.
- God is in control; not me or you. When you finally give up trying to fix everything yourself and realize you are not in control, down deep inside, great freedom and peace await you. God has been in control since he created the world, but sin brought heartache and trouble. Tribulations are real, but God is always for us and working for our good and his glory. He wants to redeem all people to himself. Everyone else may fail and disappoint but God is forever faithful.
- Hope comes from God and his peace is available to each of us. One of my very favorite scripture passages is Lamentations 3:21-23 “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
Knowing these things about God and experiencing his peace in the midst of storms does not change the fact that life is tough. But it makes all the difference in how we cope.
Jean and Ronnie and two sweet sitters came to visit us last week. While Jean knows us and hugs us (a lot!) and occasionally cries on our shoulders, she does not talk much. Her sparky personality is not so sparky anymore. But she is still our Jean and we love her dearly. We tell old stories and remind her how much she has meant to our family. She may pace the house and change chairs in the living room repeatedly but she is still our Jean. We are grateful she is not in pain and she is still very kind toward everyone. Even in our sadness we feel blessed.
We feel blessed.
Walking this hard road has brought out good in all of us. We pause and smell the roses; we tell each other what we love about each other; we thank each other for things said, things done, memories secured.
Back to the last line of that passage in John 16, Jesus said, “I have overcome the world.” Yes He has, and I am so glad to know that this world is not my permanent home.The troubles of our world may be hard, but Jesus has indeed overcome the world and those who know Him personally have the promise of eternal life in heaven F.O.R.E.V.E.R. No more war, no more disease, no more elections, no more chains that tie us down. Eternity is real – either with Jesus in heaven, or in hell, forever separated from God, a place of fire and destruction. Praise God for Jesus and for the eternal home he has prepared for all who believe and receive him.
If your focus has been on the reality that Life is Tough, try looking up and around and recognize that, even so, God is Good.