“So then it depends not on human will or exertion,
but on God, who has mercy.”
Romans 9:16 ESV
As deists, Voltaire and Diderot attacked Christianity—“their primary weapon aimed at the church was ‘truth’.” (Dr. Bruce Shelley, Church History in Plain Language*) “We think that the greatest service to be done to men,” said Diderot, “is to teach them to use their reason, only to hold for truth what they have verified and proved.” What did these men know of “truth” in their young years of their own “enlightenment?” What had they proven by their own “reasoning” in their latter years? What did they have in the end?
Man may create happiness for himself while he is able to think clearly, when everything seems to be in his control, but this does not last. God has proven His work of grace, not only through His written word (which “reasoning” discards), but in the reality of life to its very end.
God proved the truth of His grace to me in 1994 as I, for three weeks, watched my dad gradually consumed by esophageal cancer.** How could he “reason” for himself what was happening to him? What was truth to him, at that point of his life? He had only the mercy (which he had asked for) and the grace of God, which we all experienced together. He could no longer eat or drink. He could do nothing but wait for his final breath. He was never on morphine, and so was aware of everything going on around him. He could hear, (until now I had not realized that as a work of God’s grace) and we had those last days to sit by his side, to sing to him, to read the Father’s precious words of truth. God’s grace was strikingly evident in Daddy’s humility, and his peaceful spirit of acceptance in his last week, and at the end. He died on Labor Day—his epitaph, “Rest in the Lord.”
For five years we experienced the devastating effects of dementia in Mother’s life. She had no means of “reasoning.” Nor could we, even though we could still think clearly—clearly in that we could accept that God was sovereign, in control of all things. Though we could not understand through our own reasoning, we were learning more and more to trust in God’s mercy and grace for what each day would bring. (And we failed many times—for who is prepared ahead of time for such things.) Her last month was spent in a nursing home, much to our grief; but we were not able to care for her any longer. I could not “reason” with that.
But, even there, in her last few days, God’s hand of mercy and grace reached down and held us together. She had been unresponsive for almost four days. Jerry and I sat with her those last few hours. Monday was my birthday, and I prayed, “Father, please don’t let her die on my birthday.” At twelve midnight the nurses were in and out, checking her vital signs. The younger nurse asked the older (who was wearing the white cap, and the white uniform), “Shouldn’t we give her something?” The older nurse answered, “No, she is at peace.” A few minutes later, as I detected her breathing to be very shallow, and holding her hand, I stood and recited Psalm 23 for her. When I finished, she took her last breath. I looked at the clock. It was 12:38. I could not have willed that; it was God’s grace.
A most recent example is of Ed, 86, still a member of our church, but no longer attending. He has dementia (Alzheimer’s Disease) and now lives with his daughter, Cyndi, and her husband in another state. In her last email she wrote of how she reads the Bible to him, and he will quote with her much of God’s Word, as she reads. It is not by his “reasoning” but by God’s grace, that he recalls the Word of truth that he has hidden in his heart.
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace,who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ will himself restore,
confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
This is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.
1 Peter 5:10-12 ESV
*Our pastor is sharing this study with our membership. **”Daddy” was my first book, in which I recorded the working of God’s grace in those three weeks.