May 26, 1999
In the senior’s lodge where my mother lives, some of the residents become sweeter with age while others turn more sour. At one time, their temperaments may have been polite and uncomplaining but as they grow older, they become rude, grouchy and even mean. Most of the time, dementia is blamed but is that a valid diagnosis?
Edward T. Welch in his book, “Blame It on the Brain?” says it is possible to distinguish between the symptoms of brain disorders (such as dementia) and simple disobedience to the commands of God and conscience.
He makes a strong case. He says it is fact that a person’s spirit cannot be diseased by mental illnesses or problems like aging or brain injuries. While temptations and the ability to function normally are challenged, the inner person can not only still resist these challenges but can also continue to grow spiritually.
Welch explains that the “heart” talked about in the Bible is not a mental or physical organ. It is that inner life spark that can hear and respond to God. He gives Scripture references and many examples to show that disorders of the brain, including Alzheimer’s Disease, Attention Deficit Disorder and mental retardation do not change that ability.
According to this well thought-out and researched book, the morals and attitudes of people do not change as their brain deteriorates or is under stresses of any kind. Rather, the challenges these people face (just like those anyone encounters) bring out what is already in the heart. That is, if a person secretly curses God, a mental problem will expose their secret.
I see the positive side of this in my mother. She became a Christian as a young woman. As her mental deterioration began, she was no longer able to pretend any attitudes she did not have. However, she also learned to bring the sinful emotions and responses to God. This life-time habit continued, even as Alzheimer’s began to steal her memory so she is becoming sweeter as she ages. The Spirit of God is evidently a part of her heart.
The Bible talks about these things in 2 Corinthians 4. The Apostle Paul explains that a Christian has a treasure in a jar of clay. The treasure is Christ; the clay our frail bodies.
God demonstrates His power in us, even in our weaknesses and difficulties. No matter how he was crushed, perplexed, persecuted, or struck down, he did not despair, feel abandoned, nor become destroyed. His spirit remained strong.
Paul also said he carried around in his body both the death of Christ (for his sins) and the life of Christ so the world can see that Jesus is still alive. Then he said, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away (referring to our bodies), yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”
The inner person or the spirit was not affected by the trials of his life. In fact, that inner life was growing because it was united to the eternal life of Christ. Nothing could change that for Paul, nor can anything change it for those who believe in Christ as he did.
Sometimes Christians suffer disorders related to their brain: head injury, dementia, depression and so on, but God’s promises and power are able to give us all we need to live godly lives. Instead of blaming a bad attitude on a mental condition or chemical imbalance, we can take responsibility for it and then by the power of God be freed from it.