Bo Wagner is pastor of the Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, NC, a widely traveled evangelist, and the author of several books. His books are available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com

“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” Paul the Apostle, circa AD. 64, 2 Timothy 4:7

Nearly two thousand years separated the Apostle Paul and our friend, Pastor Wayne Reese. Those two may well have actually met and spoken now; Brother Wayne has now gone to glory, and likely at about the same age as Paul was when he passed away.

It was the sword of Nero that took Paul; it was Alzheimer’s that took Wayne.

I must admit to having some questions for the Lord when I learned that such a faithful servant of God had Alzheimer’s. I continued having that conversation with the Lord as his condition so quickly deteriorated. In case you don’t know, God is actually okay with his children having very honest, emotional conversations with him; the Psalms especially are loaded with that very thing.

How could a man who spent decades standing and with clear thought and strong voice delivering God’s Word to man find himself struggling to remember the names of people he had known and loved for years? How could one of the sweetest and happiest men on earth have his personality so drastically changed in the final days?

I am quite certain that these questions are not at all unfamiliar to anyone who has seen a friend or loved one fight this monster.

I am by no means an expert on Alzheimer’s; I will leave those answers to medical personnel. But for any and all struggling with these issues either personally or in the lives of loved ones, I do want to say a few words regarding the spiritual implications of all of this.

First of all, not one thing that is beyond your control is ever held against a person by God. This principle is found in Deuteronomy 22:25-26 and many other Scriptures. This, to me, is a huge peace of mind. I often think of how awful it would be after I have preached and lived right all of these years to suddenly have people hear me say horrible or mean or filthy things as a result of some form of dementia. But God will call us into question at the Judgment Seat of Christ for all of the deeds over which we had control and absolutely nothing over which we did not. Cursing at a waitress because she spilled tea on you? You are in some trouble. Cursing in your dream because someone gave you a really painful wedgie? Nope, you are fine. Might want to lay off on the pepperoni before bed, but you are not guilty of a transgression.

Another thing to know is that any hurtful thing that someone says or does as a result of some form of dementia is absolutely no reflection of how they actually feel about you. I know a dear gentleman struggling with this right now. His bride of many years is now prone to say the most cutting and devastating things to him, things that often leave him in tears. I am always quick to remind him that the many decades of love and tenderness are the reality, and the current harshness is as far from the truth as it could possibly be, and that if “in her right mind wife” could hear “not in her right mind wife” saying those things, the former would body slam the latter. The tenderness God gave you with them for years is the reality; the current harshness is the uncontrollable aberration.

Rest assured as well that if you are the one now beginning to grapple with a new diagnosis of some form of dementia, no one who respects you as you are is going to lose any of that respect for you as you change. I saw this first hand a few years ago as we held a night to honor our friend, and the biggest crowd in the history of our church showed up on a Sunday night to do so. People came from miles around to tell him how much they admired him, not because of what he was becoming but because of what he always had been and always would be to them. The reputation you have built in a long lifetime absolutely cannot be undone by a few years of deterioration.

Lastly, please know that if you and your loved ones know Christ, this temporary trial is going to give way to eternal restoration. Moses may have spent a minute or two in heaven musing on how he lost his temper and missed out on the promised land, and Elijah may have spent a few minutes there sheepishly lamenting how he ran from Jezebel, but by the time they got to the Mount of Transfiguration with Christ, all of that was long passed and everything was glory. One day, there will be hugs and tears as you are all reunited around the throne, never to age, never to sicken, never to get jumbled in your mind, and never again to die. And an entire eternity will wash away the pain of our earthly moments like the waves of the mighty sea wash away the tiny indentation of our footprints on the shore.

Like Paul, our friend fought a good fight, finished his course, and kept the faith. And Alzheimer’s could not do anything to diminish that.

Pastor Wagner can be contacted by email at 2knowhim@cbc-web.org, and his books are available by clicking the “Store” link above.

Feature photo by Pastor Bo Wagner