Tony Reinke is an elderly writer for Desiring God and author the Competing Spectacles (2019), 12 means Your call Is changing You (2017), John Newton ~ above the Christian Life (2015), and Lit! A Christian guide to reading Books (2011). He hosts the Ask minister John podcast and lives in the Phoenix area through his wife and also three children.

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Tony Reinke is an elderly writer for Desiring God and also author that Competing Spectacles (2019), 12 ways Your call Is transforming You (2017), John Newton ~ above the Christian Life (2015), and Lit! A Christian overview to analysis Books (2011). He hosts the Ask minister John podcast and also lives in the Phoenix area through his wife and three children.

Early this year, World Magazine published a short update top top the life the Elisabeth Elliot, a Christian woman commonly respected for she sacrifices come advance an international missions. She turns 88 next Sunday.

Elisabeth is famous for gift married to Jim Elliot, a missionary martyred in east Ecuador in January that 1956. After his death, she stayed in Ecuador as a missionary, offer the same human being who eliminated her husband. Once she went back to the States, she released an exceptional writing and speaking ministry, and remarried in 1969. Her second husband died of cancer just 4 years later, and in 1977 she married her current husband, Lars Gren.

Reporter Tiffany Owens travelled to Massachusetts to satisfy Elisabeth and also Lars, and also shared the conference in World Magazine:

Lars Gren led me under a dim hallway to a basic room lit magnificently through floor-to-ceiling home windows that looked out over the Atlantic Ocean. A slim, elderly woman dressed in black pants and a floral shirt — she hair swirled in a bun — sat close to the fireplace. “We have firm today,” Gren said, bending down to touch she hand.

His wife, Elisabeth Elliot, nodded but did no reply.

Since the onset of dementia around a te ago, the best-selling and widely well-known Christian writer communicates greatly through slim hand gestures and facial expressions. For everything else, there’s Lars Gren, she husband of 36 years. He and also two caregivers address her everyday needs. . . .

Elliot stopped giving speeches in 2004 as her wellness worsened. . . .

Gren claims Elliot has handled dementia just as she go the deaths of she husbands. “She embraced those things, they to be no surprised to God,” Gren said. “It to be something she would fairly not have actually experienced, however she received it.”

Hearing these words, Elliot looked up and nodded, her eyes clear and strong. Then she spoke because that the first time throughout the two-hour interview, nodding vigorously: “Yes.”

Elisabeth Elliot’s life reminds us ministry is best done in the shadow of suffering, no in that is absence. The exact same is true of personal maturity. “Many deaths must go into reaching our maturity in Christ, numerous letting goes,” she created years ago, and dementia is currently for her a string of day-to-day letting goes.

“Ministry is finest done in the shadow of suffering, not in its absence.”

But what intrigues me here is the vigorous nod — that “Yes” — native the depth of her being. For every the destruction of her brain over the critical decade, it has actually not snuffed the end her faith.

Why not?

Why, in the moment in i m sorry she have the right to testify of god’s goodness, carry out her eyes clear and also her toughness renews and her heart speaks? In other words, just how does robust confidence survive despite the onslaught of degradation in the brain?

I inquiry Dr. Benjamin Mast, a licensed clinical psychologist, board-certified geropsychologist, and Associate Professor and Vice Chair in the room of psychological & brain Sciences at the college of Louisville. The serves together an elder in ~ Sojourn neighborhood Church, and he recently put his experience and expertise together in his new book, Second Forgetting: remembering the strength of the Gospel in alzheimer Disease, released by Zondervan.

What adheres to is a easy edited transcript of parts of ours conversation.

Dr. Mast, give thanks to you for your time. What perform we know around this mysterious condition that destroys the brain?

Alzheimer’s an illness is a progressive, neurological condition. That means it’s a mind disease the starts in a an especially small region of the mind and climate spreads throughout. The progressive nature way that it continues to acquire worse and, as the science stands, there is right now nothing that can modify this course or protect against the condition process.

Alzheimer’s condition is identified by an extremely tiny microscopic transforms in the brain, so small that they can’t be seen on a standard brain scan. That starts in a particular region of the brain, the temporal lobes, which space responsible for aspects of ours memory. From there it diffusion to the parietal and also frontal lobes. As it does, it continues to take more and much more of the person’s abilities, their memories, and also their capability to navigate your environment. In some sense, it also seems to rob facets of our personhood, of that we are.

It is a devastating disease for many people, and also there is an excellent fear neighboring it.

The other difficulty is the growing prevalence the this condition in our society. It is approximated that around 5 million civilization in the joined States have Alzheimer’s now. By 2030, the number is supposed to at least triple. So it is a growing problem, and also a difficulty we really should tackle.

Those are staggering statistics. For those 5 million v the an illness now, is there any kind of sense that what it’s choose to live with Alzheimer’s? Is there a common feeling amongst those affected?

One that the things that us say around Alzheimer’s an illness and the people who live through it is, if you have met one person with alzheimer disease, you have actually really simply met one person. And also what we median is that people have varied experiences. Friend will meet one person and also they seem really content. Another person feels exceptionally tortured.

Some that the common things that i hear people talk about are a feeling of loneliness, a most fear, and then confusion and also disorientation.

The method that memory is initially influenced in Alzheimer’s disease is in recent and new information. Because that anybody come remember what we are talking around right currently they have to transform our conversation right into a long-term memory. It needs to be stored. And people v Alzheimer’s disease have great challenge with that. So, in a sense, as soon as they are walking around and also navigating their daily routine, much of what they experience in the minute is conveniently forgotten. Therefore imagine that you can’t remember what happened earlier in the day, or what occurred yesterday, or what civilization keep do the efforts to speak to girlfriend about. And the feeling of confusion must be very great.

When girlfriend minister come someone through Alzheimer’s disease, assist draw them ago to remembering the Lord.

In Alzheimer’s condition there is a level of unknowability. That is, we have the right to know details things about what they experience and also we can talk through people, however we can’t fully understand what the is favor to live through Alzheimer’s disease. We don’t completely know till we suffer it ourselves. And, unfortunately, as soon as we endure it, our capacity to communicate that suffer is significantly diminished. For this reason it pipeline us v the daunting situation of trying come love people well by understanding them. However there are limits on what we will be maybe to access in terms of their inner experience.

You space both a geropsychologist and also an elder in your regional church, and in your book you lug an invaluable pastoral dimension to this topic. My large question for you is this: exactly how does Alzheimer’s affect the spiritual life that faithful Christians? exactly how does it an obstacle or change, or even erode, personal faith in Christ?

This concern gets asked rather a bit. That is, if a person has actually been a faithful Christian all his life and also now has actually Alzheimer’s disease, what will certainly it typical for him in terms of his faith walk and also remembering the Lord? Again, the experiences of world are quite different.

Some human being continue to cling to faith and also engage in the methods of their faith. One male I met, a retirement pastor v Alzheimer’s disease, continued to carry out hospital visits with his son. His kid would take him come the hospital and also this guy with Alzheimer’s an illness would pray end other civilization who were sick and also offer words of encouragement. That was clearly still go the life of belief he had walked because that a lengthy time.

One woman i was testing, to recognize whether she had Alzheimer’s disease, inquiry to stop the testing. Ns was giving her assorted memory tests, and also she quit. She said to me, “My storage is just fine because that what I should do.” and also I asked her a little bit an ext about she routine. She lived in a parenting home, and she would get up each day and walk come the chapel, sit down and also pray, and also read with Scripture, climate she would walk ago to her room. In a sense what she was telling me was: “I remember enough to know what I want to perform each day.” She mental the Lord, also if periodically walking back to she room she obtained confused.

“What spiritual disciplines are regular enough for me that they will ‘stick’ also when i am deep right into forgetting?”

But other world have different experiences. It seems that the walk of belief becomes lot more challenging for them, and also they seem less inclined in the direction of it. And also it raises an problem of remembering and faith, and also how those two points go together.

When we talk about faith in the Lord, are we talking about remembering him? room we talking about remembering what he has done in our resides personally, and what he has actually done generally through his son Jesus? Is it partly remembering the is existing with us, and also remembering what he has promised for us in the future? and so, also for world with Alzheimers’s, whose faith appears weaker or much less salient, are there ways that we have the right to minister come them and also draw them ago to psychic the Lord, despite their severe difficulties with forgetting?

Given that every endure is different, are there any type of common investments Christians have the right to make now, in the spiritual disciplines, bible memorization, church attendance, hymn singing, etc, that will prepare us to confront Alzheimer’s with tools and habits the will help us spiritually thrive?

This came to be very an individual for me as I was composing my book. I invested time talking with families and people who were affected. And I came to be so impressed through the means that civilization would cling to your faith in spite of this very difficult situation. And you would see these world engaging in acts of faith and religious practices, even if all the other things approximately them appeared to be slipping away.

And i thought, girlfriend know, if i were to construct Alzheimer’s disease, i would want to look favor that, and I would want to have these practices in my life to host on to. Yet then ns thought: I will not have those techniques in Alzheimer’s an illness if ns don’t have actually them now. And also so it encouraged me to it is in thinking around what rhythms of faith I desire to have actually in mine life right now. What spiritual techniques are continuous enough for me that they will “stick” even when ns am deep right into forgetting?

The points that seem come “stick” tend to draw both top top what ns would call spiritual disciplines, but also what we would certainly call, in the research civilization of alzheimer’s disease, procedural and emotional memories.

I said previously that people have a far-reaching problem v forgetting; that is, forgetting new information. However there are elements of our storage that are so well worn, for this reason habitual, the they room what we speak to a procedural memory. So it is not unusual to view somebody, even in a locked memory care unit that a parenting home, seem as if castle are fully unaware of what is going on. Yet when lock hear one old hymn that they know and love, they irradiate up and sing every indigenous of it. That is a beautiful photo of how they have this hymn, this truth, installed deep within them, and also they can access it when they are prompted.

To prepare for memory loss, check out the Bible, pray, and also sing every day — and tell love ones about your disciplines.

So what i think around in terms of these disciplines, one allude has to execute with what rhythms we have in our life in regards to spiritual disciplines — reading Scripture, prayer, songs, hymns. But also, who execute we have in our lives? It’s crucial to let the far-ranging people in our lives recognize these practices are day-to-day patterns in ours lives, so if i were to slip into Alzheimer’s disease, not just would those habits be formed, yet I would certainly have people in mine life so mindful of what my habits are the they can redirect me back to castle if necessary.

That’s very wise counsel. Friend mentioned are afraid earlier. Because that Christians who space frightened in ~ the possibility of Alzheimer’s, who have a family background of it, what gospel comfort would you sell to them that’s bigger than this disease?

This no necessarily brand-new Testament gospel, yet one of my favourite passages once I think around fear and also hope originates from the story the the Israelites together they space preparing to go into the Promised floor (Deuteronomy 7). God has actually obviously carried them through fairly a bit to acquire there. If I might paraphrase, that says, “You could look at these nations and also say, ‘They room much bigger than us. We can never maybe defeat them.’” The Israelites are absolutely overwhelmed.

I think countless people, together they face the prospect of alzheimer disease, can feel choose those Israelites felt: this is absolutely overwhelming.

God’s call to the Israelites is because that them to remember all that he has actually done because that them in the past. He calls them come remember how he defeated Pharaoh. He tells them come remember how good and awesome that is, and also how that has ceded them from therefore much. That calls united state to mental what he has actually done because that us, and that he will proceed to be v us in the present. That will administer for our needs. He will be with us. And also he can definitely address new challenges the come follow me in life.

We draw comfort understanding that Christ is interceding on our behalf, and also we can never it is in separated indigenous his love (Romans 8:31–39).

But us must likewise remember his guarantees for our future. God will not forget. No issue what life might look choose with alzheimer disease, we recognize that this is no the finish for us. God was v us in the past, that is through us in the present, and he will certainly be v us in the future. And also our future through him will be much better than any kind of suffering we might experience in alzheimer’s disease.

“No matter what life can look prefer with alzheimer disease, we understand that this is not the finish for us.”

The vital in all this, i think, is that, once you room somebody who may be in ~ somewhat higher risk since you have actually a family member with Alzheimer’s disease, you may have actually a slightly higher risk, but you still have actually a much much better chance that not gaining Alzheimer’s disease in ~ all. And also even if you do, there is no insurance you will suffer it the same means your loved one did.

There room many civilization who proceed to be content and live happy, meaningful lives regardless of the cognitive problems. The condition looks quite various for various people. In any kind of case, there is grace because that a life through Alzheimer’s disease. The doesn’t have to be all suffering. Many world with Alzheimer’s an illness don’t want to be explained as suffering, because they feeling fine. And although lock have far-ranging problems, lock have found a method to it is in content.


Those were a few transcribed excerpts from mine 36-minute conversation through Dr. Mast about his book, Second Forgetting: remembering the power of the Gospel in alzheimer’s Disease.

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In the interview I likewise asked him about how far-reaching personality changes should be considered in regards to the perseverance of confidence and an individual assurance. Ns asked whether Alzheimer’s generally makes people much more kind who were formerly easily angered, or people more easily angered that were formerly kind. And I ask one inquiry caregivers frequently ask him.

To hear our whole conversation, i ordered it to the Authors top top the Line podcast in iTunes, download the recording (MP3), or stream the audio here:

Alzheimer’s Disease, the Brain, and the Soul: one Interview v Dr. Benjamin Mast (36 Minutes)