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The Editorial

Strange encouragement

Our God is really there.

John Benton, Editor

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Sometimes in unexpected ways he reminds us of this. My mother died a few years ago and the circumstances surrounding her departure still amaze us.

Baptized in her eighties, Mum later began to suffer with dementia which grew steadily worse. She lived in a nearby flat and spent most of her time in bed asleep. We arranged for carers and Ann, my wife, put in many hours a day there. I would often go in, get her up, make her evening meal and help her with daily exercises.

But gradually things reached a crisis point. Her paid carer had become difficult. The usual respite care home refused to have my mum back, because she had become confused and aggressive during a previous stay. There was no possibility of getting a break. Ann was weighed down with it all. We were returning one evening in the car after I had been speaking at a young people’s camp and Ann said that she did not think she could carry on much longer looking after Mum.

Unable to sleep

When we got home and went to bed Ann could not sleep, being so anxious. So she got up, made a cup of tea and then began to pray. Philippians 4.6 tells us: ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’ She poured out the whole situation to God with sorrow and repentance for feeling angry. How long she prayed she was not sure, but as she groaned in prayer she suddenly felt the Holy Spirit intimate to her that she should leave it now. The Lord would take care of it. She came back to bed and slipped into a very peaceful sleep.

Later we were both awakened by the telephone. It was 5.45 am. We sat up with a start. I answered. It was the local hospital. ‘Mr Benton?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘We have your mother here.’ Really? I shouldn’t think so. She stays in bed. Are you sure?’ ‘She was picked up on the pavement. She is very confused.’ We were bewildered. She never went out. She used a frame if she ever moved around the flat and getting out onto the pavement would mean negotiating three doors, including a heavy fire door, and several steps. ‘It can’t be!’ I thought. I dashed to the flat. It was empty. It had been a wet and chilly night and Mum had contracted pneumonia from which she later recovered. However, it was a few weeks later at the hospital that a doctor who specialized in dementia explained that she was in the final stages of the disease and it would not be long before she died of it. The brain was shutting the body down. She would not be coming home.

Twenty-four hours

But the Lord did something else. We went to the hospital, found Mum and began to talk. To our astonishment she was as sharp as a knife. My mum was back. For about 24 hours the dementia seemed to clear. Not only did she know us, she asked about friends at church. She knew our children’s names and their situations. She smiled and laughed and thanked us for all we had done. And most of all I was able to say ‘Goodbye’. So, even while Ann was praying that desperate prayer, God was taking care of it all.

I know that not all our prayers work out so neatly. But remembering this does encourage us (and I hope you) to know that God is there and he listens. In coming months, as troubles come, make prayer your first port of call.