Over the past two years I’ve been writing and thinking about dementia. This issue is one that is deeply close to my heart since my dad has frontal temporal dementia. As I’ve written on this topic, I’ve been looking at the Christian book market and wondering why more hasn’t been written to address this topic. While there are some books out there on this topic, most of those books aren’t for the average person. Knowing this is why Dr. Benjamin Mast wrote Second Forgetting: Remembering The Power of the Gospel During Alzheimer’s Disease.
Dr. Mast writes not only as professor and psychologist, but as an elder at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Given that the issue of mental illness and dealing with a family member with a mental illness is hard what does the Bible have to say about these issues? Furthermore, “How do Christians care for those with mental illness?” As those who’ve wrestled in real life with these questions know the answers to these questions aren’t easy. In fact there are only hard questions with very few answers on this issue. As I’ve found in helping my mom deal with issues related to my dad every situation and circumstance can be fraught with much difficulty and requires much wisdom from God with a view to care for the person who has dementia.
Dr. Mast’s book has eleven chapters. In each chapter he guides the reader with a view to help them understand the problem and the hope the gospel provides. The author defines the second forgetting as, “We are all imperfect and broken. We forget the Lord, even in the best of health” (18). He continues explaining, “The first forgetting is experienced by the person with Alzheimer’s but the second forgetting reflects a spiritual forgetting experienced not only by the person with Alzheimer’s, but more broadly by their family, friends, and even the church who seeks to care for them” (18). The rest of the book provides real hope to those who have parents with dementia or Alzheimer’s.
While I can’t speak to the issue of Alzheimer’s I can speak from my experience with my dad having dementia. At times it’s hard to deal with. The day before I wrote this review (January 19) I got some tough news about my dad that caused me to break down and cry. That hadn’t happened in awhile as it relates to my dad. Dementia is a debilitating disease that will degrade my father to the point where he can no longer function as he should. As with all debilitating disease, the person affected while appearing to be wholly engulfed in the disease is still not defined by the disease, but by God as His image-bearer. In the case of my father he is a child of God, a lover of Jesus, and the church who takes great delight in studying the Bible. While my father and I regularly have meaning chats about my life, and he provides guidance to me, I know that one day he won’t be able to. I know that one day we won’t be able to have meaningful doctrinal and theological conversation as we do now. That makes me sad but what fills me with hope at the same time is that this disease is not the end of my dad. My dad’s hope and identity are in Christ. Even though tears stream down my face even as I write this, I rejoice and lift up my voice to the sovereign Lord who will destroy death and disease at His second coming. At the Second Coming of Christ, the Lion will roar, death will be defeated and the saints will be clothed perfectly in the Righteousness of Christ. I cannot wait for the Day of the Lord!
Whether or not you’re family members or friends are dealing with a debilitating disease like dementia or Alzheimer’s, Dr. Mast’s book will help you. This book will help readers understand these mental illnesses. Furthermore, it will help the reader to focus on the hope that the gospel provides. As one dealing with a father who has frontal temporal dementia, I won’t sugar coat it and tell you that this was an easy book for me to read because it wasn’t. It wasn’t that the author wasn’t sensitive to speaking the truth in love but rather that these two mental illnesses are issues that affect not only the patient but the whole family. I highly recommend Second Forgetting: The Power of the Gospel During Alzheimer’s. If you’re like me and have a family member who has this awful disease, I pray you’ll pick up this book and get help with fixing your gaze on Jesus as your family member struggles. I also think that pastors and ministry leaders should read this book as many congregations are filled with people who have dementia or Alzheimer’s. Whether this book is used in the ways, I’ve described, or in a number of other ways, I believe earnestly that this book will help readers to understand not only the disease but how to minister to those affected by dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Buy the book from Second Forgetting: Remembering the Power of the Gospel during Alzheimer’s Disease
or from Zondervan.
Authors: Dr. Benjamin Mast
Publisher: Zondervan (2014)
I received this book for free from Zondervan for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”