My Aunty Beryl is eighty-five years old. She has Alzheimer’s Disease and has to be cared for in a home. She can no longer walk without assistance, and she cannot feed herself. Mostly she just sits in a chair all day.
I find visiting Aunty Beryl quite distressing. I try to see her when we are in Devon staying with my parents. They have done so much to care for Beryl, and helped her to stay in her own accommodation as long as possible, which was challenging given their age. They visit regularly, but Beryl doesn’t remember she has had visitors within five minutes of them leaving.
Beryl never married. She trained to be a missionary but was never called to the mission field. Instead she served her local church as a Sunday school teacher, deacon, and church secretary. Beryl could be a difficult person at times, but when I was a teenager she was the one person I could turn to if I needed to talk. Aunty Beryl prayed for me, and made sure that her friends were praying too. I believe that the prayers of Beryl and her friends sustained me through challenging times, and were vital to my own spiritual development.
While there is much I understand about God and life, etc., there is even more that I do not. I struggle with seeing my Aunty as she is now, especially when I remember how she was not so many years ago, and particularly when I consider how she served God in her life. Then I remember Job who lost everything other than his mind:
“How I long for the months gone by, for the days when God watched over me, when his lamp shone on my head and by his light I walked through darkness! Oh, for the days when I was in my prime, when God’s intimate friendship blessed my house, when the Almighty was still with me and my children were around me, when my path was drenched with cream and the rock poured out for me streams of olive oil. (Job 29:1-6 NIV)
And Job wasn’t alone. There are many examples in Scripture of people who served God faithfully but faced troubles on an almost daily basis. We don’t have to look too far afield to find Christians in similar situations today. But it is still difficult to understand, especially when I sit with my Aunty chatting about past events in the hope that some memories will be stirred. She won’t look me in the eye, and she constantly tries to bite her hands. It is hard. All I can do is trust and remember that God is in control. One day Aunty Beryl will have a new body, and her mind will be restored. One day when God makes His home with us. I look forward to that day.
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars —they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death.” Revelation 21:1-6 (NIV)