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Sunday, February 7, 2016

Your Dying Spouse 116 - Evangelizing The Dying

We're all supposed to marry fellow believers, and most of us do.

But faith is not constant, and severe circumstances, of which terminal illness is only one, can erode it badly.

Or it may never really have been there at all.

Or it may have been there in another form.

Whereby in the worst of times...when the person you love most in the world is dying...you may, as a caregiver, find yourself unequally yoked.

And what do you do?

If you think your husband or wife is unsaved, or has let salvation slip...you're supposed to win them back, right?


First, assess the situation.

When someone's under stress...like, in extreme pain, or very depressed...he or she can say things that they would not under even 'the new normal' say.

I've shaken my fist at the sky and told God to take his 'plans' for me and treat them unconventionally.

Do I hate God? No. Was I in a lot of pain, and completely at sea in how to deal with it? Yes.

The surrendered salvation you see may just be an emotional blip. I doubt that God takes these seriously; neither should you.

Second, listen over time.

Yes, time may be critical, and salvation may be a vital question in the short term.

You, however, are not the salvor. God is. God alone knows how much time there is, and you've got to give Him room to work.

It's hard and frustrating - and scary - to stand back. But we can't really know another's heart, not even the person we've lived with, and loved, for decades. The relationship with the Almighty is intensely personal.

Give it time, and give that time over to God.

Third, do no harm.

You may see your mate's faith morphed into something that looks New-Age-y, or Eastern, or 'spiritual'...and NOT see the 'confession with the mouth' renewed in daily life.

But there still may be faith there, like a small, glowing ember.

If you blow too hard, you can snuff it out. Comfort, even the comfort that seems false to you, is extremely important to a dying man or woman.

Yes, it may look like...and be...false doctrine. And you may be itching to jump in and save your loved one from damnation.

Don't. Let Jesus do that. C.S. Lewis, in the final book of the Narnia series, The Last battle, relates the story of a young soldier of Telmar, a state that swore enmity to Aslan, the Lion under whose rule Narnia would find eternal grace.

This soldier, a worshipper of the dreadful and evil false god Tash, nevertheless swore honour and fealty...and these good things, Aslan claimed as his own.

Give Jesus room to work.

Fourth, evangelize by example.

To rescue a drowning man, you have to make sure you are not dragged under.

This is the time to immerse yourself in Scripture, and live by it.

This means that, first and foremost, youhave to guard what you say. You can't afford a word of despair, even if you're feeling it, and even if you see things happening that make you question God's goodness.

You have to address doubt and despair in your own heart, yes, but not with a dying spouse. You've got to turn to a pastor, to a trusted brother or sister in Christ, and to The Word.

In other words, you've got to suck it up, and move forward.

You can't give someone faith, but you can water the ground in which it can grow again.

Here's the musical inspiration for this post -

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  1. Oh wow. Not sure what to say. Talk about "from the horse's mouth." Honest, the only thing I know to say, "Father, IF THERE IS ANY WAY, ANY POSSIBLE WAY FOR THIS CUP, THIS HEINOUS CRUEL DEATH, THIS BLEEDING OUT, can pass from ME...please." "But if not? Then go with me, live in me, be my breath, be my speech, be my hearing, be my thoughts because alone I can't do it - YOU JUST GOTTA GO WITH ME." Praying....you know that.

    1. Susan, thank you so much...you said what's on my heart better than I ever could!

      And we so appreciate your prayers!

  2. Good post, Andrew. Too many of us lapse into the role of Holy Spirit, wanting to convict others of sin when that's His job. Our job is to love well and be the 'aroma' of Christ. And to be ready with an answer for our own beliefs.

    Whether we're living ... or dying.

    1. Linda, you said this perfectly...that we want to take the Holy Spirit's job! I know I've done it...and I rather wonder how He felt about it.

      And you're right...while dying does focus things, it's also something we should consider in the long sunlight of seemingly unlimited days.

      Thank you so much for being here!

  3. I love what Linda said above, and would add that I appreciate your voice of reason coming out of days that must seem to be quite unreasonable to you much of the time. I am always challenged by your words.

    1. Thanks so much, Michele...very apt, as today (and now!) have been more unreasonable than most. I mean. how much MORE can it hurt!

      I'm afraid the answer is...a lot.

      I really appreciate your stopping by, and commenting. This means very, very much to me.

  4. If it's any comfort to you, you've touched far more lives during, and as a result of, your suffering than you ever would have otherwise. When we all get to Heaven what a day of rejoicing that will be. See you there!

    1. janet, it's what keeps me going. There are times when it feels like it hurts too much to post, and I've been tempted not to, or to repeat a previous essay...but that would hurt me worse than the pain, because being involved here...and having the chance to touch lives...is an enormous honour.

      I'll be here to the end...and after that, Yes.

      See you There!

    2. Jan, I'm sorry...didn't mean to lowercase your name!

  5. Wise words here, Andrew. We always need to take into account a person's situation and pain levels and medications they may be taking, etc. I certainly remember my dad saying things in his last days that were not typical of him, but I wasn't bothered by it because I knew that he was in an altered state by then. God knows our hearts; that's what matters most.

    1. Exactly right, Lisa; I know that when I take some meds (like THC in pill form) I become 'someone else'...and start speaking either Urdu, Arabic, or Spanish, or a mixture of the three, which confuses Barb no end.

      God knows our hearts; that is indeed the only thing that ultimately matters.

      Thank you so much for being here!

  6. This thoughtful post brings to mind the time a long-term Christian friend showed up at my door falling apart at the seams because her world had just collapsed. At one point when I mentioned God she morosely and bitterly murmured that she didn't even know if there was a God. I was shocked--at first--but then I understood because I had once walked in her shoes so to speak, and I knew it was her trauma and fear and deep pain that were speaking. I think only someone who's gone through the same trial can really understand. And people who don't understand can often say ignorant things out of love and deep concern. Their comments can be the biggest trial of all, I sometimes think, like what Job went through--who incidentally said, "To him who is afflicted kindness should be shown by his friend, even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty" (6:14). However, maybe it can help to realize their stupid words and needless worry may nevertheless be motivated by love. Prayers for you.

    1. Sylvia, you said this so well, and I particularly liked the coda...that their stupid words and needless worry may nevertheless be motivated by love.

      That is so hard to see! But terminal illness does not excuse one from the responsibilities of relationships, and those indeed include looking beyond words to grasp and hold close the intent.

      Thank you so much for being here, and commenting!

  7. Wise words, Andrew. You continue to bless and inspire. Praying that you will sense the light in the darkness, and continue every on toward the Truth. Bless you.

    1. June, thank you so much! I do sense the light...sometimes it comes from knowing chiaroscuro, that when the darkness seems the deepest, there is a light on the other side that will be stunning.

      I so appreciate your walking alongside me.

  8. Andrew,
    This is deeply touching, because it is so real, so defining, so truth-telling in the time of angst and suffering. None of us can put ourselves in yours or your wife's shoes, we simply can not. But we can empathize, we can support, and we can care...because, we do care.
    I believe truth and the spiritual are not found in trite statements or others' opinions about that which is utterly personal, between God and us. Rather, it is found in the deep longings of the heart, for God and His essence, which we find in His truths and quiet whisper. We are given no choice but to let go of that which inflicts pain, or judgment, because it will only breed more pain, resentment, and bitterness.
    You are in the middle of a never-ending crisis. That does something to a person, and to relationships, even long-standing relationships. Two things come to mind. 1. Speak words of grace (always), extending grace to others helps us with our attitude and helps us look beyond their failures and where they have failed us. 2. Speak life-giving words, they are what the Spirit-life is all about, they speak "life" to others, even when it is not reciprocated (is that a word?!). We can never control another's reaction or belief, but we can control our's. Even in the church, or with Christians, we can never know the full picture of what God sees and knows. And, that's a good thing.
    I write a lot in this comment because you are my friend. I see a cycle of pain that is adding to your physical pain expoentially.
    Look to the better good, and you will find it. God is found at the place of "best interest," the place that you must find and implement with your beloved.
    Please forgive me if this seems unkind. I mean it to be life-giving and full of grace.
    God bless you. Norma

    1. Norma, not unkind at all! What you say is absolutely true, and infused with the grace, flowing from the Holy Ghost, that informs all of your writing.

      And yes, absolutely...life giving words, and expressions of grace, must always be spoken, even when it's hard. As a corollary to that, the crisis demands even greater vigilance, so that one is aware of what one is saying...and of what NOT to say.

      There is a process of letting go, as well, which sets contentious issues aside (and my next post, already written, is about letting go!).

      Thank you so much for this, Norma. I treasure this comment, and your friendship.

  9. Thank you, Andrew, for this sage advice. This is sort of what I've arrived at after several years of dealing with my non-terminal, but still troubled, sons. Thanks for adding your personal feelings to my stumbled-upon conclusion. I pray that you and your wife stay strong in your faith and find comfort when needed.

    1. Donne, I truly appreciate your comment, and I'm honoured and humbled that you found it helpful in your situation.

      And we so appreciate your prayers. Tennyson wrote that by prayer is the whole world bound 'round the feet of God with golden chains (in the last poem in "The Idylls of the King" cycle, "The Passing of Arthur"), and the prayers I receive from this community are what pull my in, so to speak, to God, when I'm too far gone to feel His presence.

  10. Andrew, beautiful. You're so right. We can't be salvation for our loved ones. But we can be the quiet comfort—Jesus with skin on, so to speak. We can be a safe place for them. Speaking as a healthy person with a healthy spouse, I'm certain this is more easily said than done.

    And this: "You can't give someone faith, but you can water the ground in which it can grow again." I love this. We can water the ground in which faith can grow again.

    Wisdom and truth abound in your post, my friend. I'm praying for you and Barb.

    1. Thank you so much, Jeanne...I love how you put it..."We can be a safe place..."

      For so many couples, though, that must seem like a dream of Heaven.But I think it's the ost important thing we can offer one another.

      Thank you so much for being here; we so appreciate the prayers!

  11. You are spot-on, Andrew! All too often we want to jump in and 'help' someone else, when in reality, we need to support them with our presence and prayers and let the Holy Spirit do his work. You are right. We are NOT the Savior!

    1. Anita, thank you...and yes, that support is vital. The trials of a fatal illness fill one's plate and sear one's soul, and the Holy Spirit is the one who's got to do the heavy lifting, when it's needed.

      Thank you so much for being here!