Faithfully Living With Early Onset Alzheimer's Disease
This blog was started so that Alzheimer’s patients or people suffering from other types of dementia have a place to go and read about living faithfully in spite of their disease. The devotional blogs contain scripture from the NIV Bible with a few words about how it applies to living with dementia from the author’s perspective as he battles Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.
My father was a very wise man. He had both street smarts and book learning. The street smarts came from living during extremely difficult times. He never went to college or formally finish high school. The book learning came from his never ending thirst for reading and his continual education during a 22 year career in the Army. I can remember seeing him with a book in his hands almost every night.
When I was a teenager, my dad and I would talk for hours about politics, the Vietnam War, famous people, history, religion, and life in general. Because he was knowledgeable about so many things, I sought his counsel when I had to make difficult decisions impacting my future. Unfortunately, I did not always take his advice because of my overarching pride. Pride had a way of coming between us as I grew older and more independent. In almost every case, my father’s advice was spot on. If I had heeded it, I would have avoided much sorrow and heartache in my life.
Today’s passage reinforces what I learned the hard way. Wisdom is found in those who take advice! Of course, it is vitally important to take God’s advice first and foremost. The Scriptures are pretty clear on that point! Proverbs cautions us about listening to wicked and foolish people which can get us into trouble. Therefore, it is important to seek out wise Christian counsel when faced with major decisions. This can be your spouse, a trusted friend, a pastor, or a lawyer. Heed their advice but pray about it as well. God will affirm the advice if it aligns with His will and His perfect plan for your life.
Therefore, do not let pride get in your way. Instead, find wisdom in the advice of the godly.
Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not ignore it. Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord. Proverbs 9:33–35
Have you ever wished you had King Solomon as a personal advisor when a major decision loomed? Wouldn’t it be great to have someone wise to help you make the right choice whenever uncertain circumstances arise? Well, why settle for the apprentice when you can have the Master?
Today’s passage reminds us to listen wisely to the Lord’s instruction. But how do we listen so as to not miss anything the Lord sends our way? Proverbs instructs us to watch and wait. This means we need to pray daily and during our prayers, wait silently for His response. This seems pretty simple doesn’t it?
Why then is it so hard to pray and wait for God’s response? Perhaps because we want things in our time. In other words, we want it now and we want it easily! God doesn’t necessarily work according to our schedule but He certainly provides the instruction and guidance we need. He may respond through Scripture, a trusted friend, an event, or a change in our hearts. God works in mysterious ways but He always provides what we need if we simply call on Him. The key is searching for His wisdom and waiting for His instruction before making a decision.
Alzheimer’s can certainly be a scary situation but you can trust the Lord to help you navigate the treacherous waters ahead. Seek His wonderful wisdom and comforting counsel and you will find favor with the Lord. Remember, having Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t change God’s promises one bit!
For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. Proverbs 2:6
Solomon was the wisest man to ever walk the face of the earth. He asked for only one monumental thing from the Lord. Solomon asked for wisdom sufficient to lead God’s people properly. It stands to reason God gave him wisdom far beyond what anyone has yet to attain.
Much of the Book of Proverbs is attributed to Solomon and wisdom is a major theme throughout the text. Today’s passage reminds us that it is the Lord who gives wisdom. From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. I can certainly use all the wisdom, knowledge and understanding God is willing to dish out!
Since being diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, I have found my storehouse of wisdom is lacking in many areas. As a result, I must rely on prayer, the Scriptures, meditation, and wise Christian counsel to fill my wisdom voids. Prior to my illness, I took pride in my acute analytical and decision-making abilities. However, since Alzheimer’s disease has taken a foothold in my brain, both of these attributes have been seriously affected. Thankfully, I am not ashamed to ask for help in making major decisions now. I simply pray and ask God for wisdom and assistance in knowing the right path to take.
Today’s passage from Proverbs provides the foundation for facing a lack of wisdom, knowledge, or understanding in anything. All one needs do is seek the Lord’s advice. But to do this one must set aside selfish pride and simply ask for help. God has yet to turn anyone away empty-handed. Solomon asked and God replied. So can you!
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise. Psalm 111:10
Any study of wisdom should start with today’s passage from Psalms. The Psalmist asserts “the fear of the Lord” is the beginning of wisdom. The use of the word fear has a different connotation than that of being terrified of something. I look at “fear of the Lord” like I do fear of my earthly father. I was fearful I would disappoint him with my decisions in life; I would not live up to the moral standards by which he lived his life; I would not grow to be the honorable and generous man he was; and I would not honor his legacy of learning. He was a remarkable man and I wanted to walk in his footsteps.
Perhaps this is what the Psalmist had in mind when he wrote today’s Scripture. The beginning of wisdom rests at the feet of our heavenly Father. If we follow His precepts we will have good understanding and His words will guide our lives.
Because of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, my decision-making abilities have been impacted. It is difficult for me to make a big decision. Then I struggle with whether or not each decision is a wise one. Thankfully, all I need do is read my Bible and talk with my heavenly Father when I lack wisdom. He guides me and brings godly people into my life to help. Thus, listening to the wise counsel of others, praying about it, and seeking His guidance are the steps to ensure my decisions are wise. Alzheimer’s may change our decision-making ability but it doesn’t change our heavenly Father’s ability at all!
Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Psalms 46: 10–11
A willing spirit and a humble heart are all I need to be still before the Lord. A willing spirit helps me set aside this time as a priority in my schedule. A humble heart allows God to have my full attention as I approach Him without a hidden agenda. Being still before the Lord refreshes my spirit and anchors my willingness to serve Him in whatever capacity He directs.
This time of stillness is absolutely necessary for a real relationship with the Lord. It is during these quiet moments my “true north” is reaffirmed. Perhaps that is why Sunday was created to be a day of rest so our spirits would be refreshed through worship, prayer, and stillness. God’s plan was for us to set aside one day a week so we would rest and truly focus on Him. The only way to truly know God in a personal way is to be still before Him.
These times of being still before the Lord have become even more precious since I was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. I desperately need the time to allow the Holy Spirit to speak to me, remind me how much God loves me, and strengthen my spirit. Without these quiet moments, the future fears of this disease steal my trust and peace in the Him.
Please take time today to sit beside the still waters, lie in green pastures, and be still before the Lord. God will renew your spirit if you are willing to be still before Him. His grace, love and mercy will certainly surround you as you practice this time of stillness. Then you will know with certainty that He is your God!
Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 1 Peter 5:2–3
In 2010, 33 Chilean miners who were trapped in a collapsed mine for 69 days before being safely rescued. The last man out was the shift foreman who oversaw the miners while trapped 2300 feet below the surface of the earth. He rationed food and water for 17 days until a small hole was drilled to their location and initial contact made.
While heroic efforts occurred above the surface by a coalition of organizations, similar efforts were conducted below the surface. The trapped miners encouraged one another, discussed their fears, and maintained a hopeful attitude. This hopeful and encouraging spirit was initiated by the compassionate foreman whose leadership helped the men endure the horrid conditions while trapped 2300 feet below ground.
Perhaps Peter had something similar in mind when he penned today’s passage providing instructions for the church elders. These men were to be overseers because they were willing and eager to serve in a humble manner. By virtue of Peter’s words, we must understand that we are all elders in one way or another since we are charged with exemplifying the traits of Christ in our lives.
Now here is the catch for those of us suffering from difficult situations like Alzheimer’s disease or some other serious illness or circumstance. Enduring difficult situations doesn’t change who we are in Christ nor does it change the fact we are to be willing servants in spite of a difficult circumstance. Certainly things may be more challenging but by maintaining a willing spirit we assist our caregivers and set a humble example for those we love.
Just like the Chilean miners who were trapped below the surface, we are trapped in our collapsing bodies. But don’t lose hope for God is still at work to free our spirits from these weak bodies. Therefore, always be thankful and eager to serve so you might be an example to others!
Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 1 Timothy 6:18
I love the encouraging words of the Apostle Paul as he writes to his beloved friend Timothy in today’s passage. When Paul left on his fourth missionary journey, he instructed Timothy, his spiritual son in the faith, to care for the church at Ephesus. This particular passage penned by Paul was aimed at the rich folks in the Ephesus church. Timothy was to command them not to put faith in their wealth but to do good deeds, be generous, and be willing to share the blessings God had bestowed upon them. By doing these things, the rich would be able to “take hold of the life that is truly life.”
These words of wisdom hold true for us today since in the eyes of most of the world’s population, we are rich beyond all measures. Of course, the key once again is to have a willing spirit. Our willingness to share our money, possessions, and faith define who we are in Christ. It enables us to grab hold of a life that is truly a life worthy of the gospel.
Our willingness to follow Christ’s commands shouldn’t be impacted by our circumstances. The underlying issue is whether or not we are willing to do as Christ commands. I don’t know about you but I want to be a man after God’s own heart. I deeply desire to have a willing spirit the Lord can use no matter the circumstances. Alzheimer’s disease may limit certain things we are able to accomplish but it doesn’t eliminate everything we are capable of doing. By being willing to share in whatever manner we are able, we can live a life embraced by Christ. That is what I truly desire! How about you?
Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak. Matthew 26:41
Have you ever felt like the disciples at Gethsemane: tired, exhausted, and completely run down with no energy left to stay awake, let alone pray? I’ve been there numerous times in my life. In today’s passage, Jesus tells his disciples to watch and pray so they don’t fall prey to temptation.
Didn’t Jesus know they would fall asleep when He left them? Yes, Jesus knew exactly what would happen because the disciples were relying on their own strength. They could not comprehend the magnitude of what Jesus was about to face. Perhaps Jesus wanted them to remember these specific words which He spoke to them so they could write about it later.
It is a brutal reminder of how important a willing spirit is to the Lord. Jesus fully understands our bodies are frail and weak but if our spirits are strong, we won’t fall spiritually asleep. Alzheimer’s disease is just another indication of how weak our bodies are in life. We must rely on God’s strength to continue the path He has prepared for us when serious illness strikes.
In today’s passage, the disciples were trying to do everything in their own strength. They had not yet received the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives. But the Holy Spirit is the key to maintaining a willing spirit in the midst of a weak body. So even though early-onset Alzheimer’s disease has a grip on my weak body, God holds my spirit tightly and it is stronger than it has ever been! Don’t let Alzheimer’s dampen your spirit or willingness to serve God. He is in complete control and His strength is more than sufficient for the task at hand.
For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have. 2 Corinthians 8:12
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he pens a profound passage beginning with the words “…if the willingness is there.” The words surprised me because I have always focused on the part that says, “…the gift being acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.” I imagine this is a common problem with others who rush over the first part of the verse. The first part of the passage is the heart of the matter. Our willingness to give is critical if our gift is to be acceptable. A humble willingness, a right spirit, and a genuine desire to give results in a pleasing offering to the Lord.
After struggling with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease for quite a while, I finally had no choice but to retire earlier than I wanted. After retiring, our income changed dramatically. We struggled with what we could afford to give to the Lord through our local church. Our willingness to give was still strong but our resources had diminished. This passage provided comfort because I knew I had a willing spirit and a genuine desire to continue giving but my offering would be less. It helped me understand my gift would still be acceptable in the eyes of the Lord because of my heartfelt desire to continue giving.
Alzheimer’s has a way of changing your financial situation but it should not change your heartfelt desire to give to the Lord’s work. You still belong to Christ and He loves you dearly. Don’t let Alzheimer’s change your heart or stifle your spirit!
Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. 2 Corinthians 8:11
Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease has a funny way of changing the way you tackle tasks. I generally start out pretty gung-ho as I begin a simple project. However, my mind doesn’t always follow the same path as my spirit. To compensate, I break a project down into little steps which I write down. It is sort of a mini-checklist for me to follow as I get involved in the task at hand. As I finish each step, I check it off. This assures me of completing all the critical steps. Plus it allows me to walk away, or wander off as I sometimes do, then jump right back into it. I didn’t used to have to do this but things have certainly changed since my diagnosis!
This isn’t precisely what the Apostle Paul was preaching to his flock at Corinth but it is close. Paul wanted the believers in Corinth to continue in their giving with eagerness as they had done the previous year. Paul understood their desires and good intentions started out strong but had a tendency to wane as time passed. He wanted to make sure the Corinthians would stay focused and continue their generosity. It is not likely they suffered from Alzheimer’s disease but they had other issues which distracted them. Paul’s letter provided them encouragement to continue on with their previous work.
Like the Corinthians, we need encouragement as well. My loving wife often provides me prompts when I become distracted because of my disease. I thank God for her help and for giving me a willing spirit that takes prompting so well.
Take the Apostle Paul’s advice to heart today and develop some eager willingness in your life as well. Why? So you can deal with the daily demands of dementia with a willing heart!