Just a few weeks ago, I made a blog post titled “counting our blessings” (which you can find here: http://wp.me/p1LTsD-l). It was about my granddad and his struggle with Alzheimer’s disease, and after spending a weekend with my grandparents, I felt that I had gained a genuine understanding of the love that God wants us to have for each other. My grandparents are such wonderful people, and even though they cross my mind every day, they are once again on my heart.
The pace at which my granddad’s disease is progressing is unbelievable to everyone, including his doctors. Not only is he incredibly young to be affected by Alzheimer’s, but the disease is working very quickly to take over his body. Almost every day this week, my mom would tell me, “It’s been a rough day for your grandparents- granddaddy isn’t doing well today.” Every day. And even though it would seem like that statement would eventually become somewhat expected, it gets me every time. I can’t imagine how exhausted my grandma is, and it hurts me to think of how scared my poor granddad is right now. He can’t even verbalize how he feels, which probably scares him even more.
By the time Friday rolled around, my granddad hadn’t slept in two days (which we’re assuming is from high levels of anxiety), which meant that my grandma hadn’t slept in two days. My uncle, who is at their house almost all of the time to help control my granddad when he gets out of hand, was completely worn out. Everyone just seemed completely worn down. My other uncle finally decided to call my granddad’s doctor and ask if his actions were part of his disease, or if something else was wrong. The doctor immediately said that something else was wrong, and they needed to bring him in immediately. And when my mom called me that afternoon, she told me that the doctor said they would get my granddad back to where he was two weeks before; he was confident of that.
But when Saturday came around, my mom once again gave me a call, and said the same thing she always says: “It’s been a rough day for your grandparents- granddaddy isn’t doing well today.” It turns out that all of his scans came back normal, no matter what tests they decided to run. Nothing appeared to be out of the ordinary, unless you were standing there in the room, watching my granddad suffer the severe effects of such a strong anxiety- almost to the point of insanity. What a sad, sad thing to see.
And even though we anticipated that the day was coming, we hated to hear it- the hospital needed to keep him overnight, and they needed to put him in a facility for the time being. My grandma just fell apart- after holding it together for this long, taking her husband was beyond anything she could handle.
Saturday night, I skipped going to the State Fair with my friends and babysat my little cousin so that my aunt and uncle could bring my grandma to see my granddad at the hospital. She had spent the night before at home by herself, and she told my mom that she just felt lonely without him. Even though it’s hard to even find “him” anymore, she was lonely without him. She didn’t know what to do.
After visiting with my granddad for a little while, my grandma rode back with my aunt and uncle and we all went out to dinner. As soon as she saw me, she had this smile on her face like she was so happy to see me- and I know she was, but it couldn’t have been easy to put a smile on when she has so much going on right now. But my granddad always told us that she was born to be a grandmother, and he was right- she’s the most amazing role model, and loves her grandchildren with all of her heart. But as we sat at dinner, my heart broke every time I looked over her and saw her stare at her food, trying to eat but she just couldn’t do it. I’m sure that all she wanted was to go back to the hospital and be with my granddad. When I got out of the car and said goodbye, I told her that I was praying for her- it was all I knew to tell her, because it was the only thing that any of us could do.
This whole situation brings about so many questions. Why do I have to watch people I love so much go through this pain? What part of this could possibly be in God’s plan? How am I supposed to stay strong in my faith when it is constantly being tested? When does the pain and the hurt and the loneliness end? When does my granddad get to be at peace? And why can’t there just be an end result to this situation already? Why does it have to drag on and hurt us even more?
I don’t have an answer to any of these questions. In all honesty, I feel very discouraged about the situation. BUT, maybe that’s because of where I am placing my hope. After hearing Pastor J.D. Greear talk this morning about how we respond to pain and suffering, I think that it all comes down to putting hope in Christ. And that’s what is different about Christians. It’s not how we look or dress or act, the difference with Christians is that we can’t listen to what the world tells us, because our hope is not in this world.
So, I can’t put my hope in the idea that things will get better for my granddad, because circumstances will not always go the way I want them to. I have to put my hope in something outside of this world- something that makes all of the pain and suffering worth it- something that is different from anything in this world.
This is best reflected through Jesus Christ dying for us. When He died on the cross, of course there was pain and suffering. But because of the resurrection, because Jesus rose from the dead, we can have hope. J.D. explained that when we go through these trials and pains, we are essentially in the “Friday and Saturday” of our lives. There is pain. There is suffering. And we don’t know what to do and we don’t know where to go and we don’t know why such a terrible thing is happening. But the resurrection is where every sad thing becomes untrue– and resurrection Sunday is coming, just like it did after Jesus died for us. One day, God will wipe away every tear from our eyes and there will be no more pain and suffering.
So if we could hold on to the truth- if we could remember, even in our darkest hour, that Sunday was coming, what would that give us? Hope. And not just hope, but hope in Christ, a hope greater than any investment we put into our circumstances or any other wordly thing.
It was definitely a message that I needed to hear, especially after this weekend. But while I prayed about this message and I prayed about my granddad today, I remembered that my granddad is always telling us he wants to go home- even when he’s at his house. My mom told me that she knows what he’s telling us- he wants to go to heaven- he wants to go home. And you know what? I think it’s because he gets it. His hope is in Christ and he knows where he’s going and I think his mindset is that if he can just get there- if he can get past this pain and suffering– he will be with Christ. His hope is in something greater, and I am just absolutely amazed at how God works because the Bible talks about how God’s peace transcends through all understanding. Maybe my granddad can’t understand anything we tell him, but he knows that an almighty God is watching over him- even in his darkest hour.
And if he can have hope, then I can too.