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A long-term substance abuser and brain trauma survivor. A stroke impaired father with symptoms similar to dementia. The youngest family member with symptoms of schizophrenia, struggling with racing thoughts and hallucinations. Way back, before their lives became impaired, the same trio of family members also shared traits of impatience, stubbornness, fits of anger, and bitter envy. Those traits added to the physical and social challenges of regaining a “normal” life. In cases like this should a care giver, in a spirit of mercy, ignore the traits? After all, there are bigger problems to consider, right?

I’m not sure.

If the damaging behaviors and sins against others prevent recovery, don’t they need to be discussed? Of course, most of us don’t appreciate that type of honesty. Even if we did, change comes about through a long process of learning new ways, repenting, and growing in grace. How can a care giver expect someone in a weakened state to work on that kind of growth, especially if some of the behaviors result from physical damage to the brain?

I’m not sure.

From a Christian perspective, can I expect someone with a damaged mind to acknowledge sin, confess disobedience to God, and receive the blessed grace of forgiveness? Conversely, should I neglect to help a person experience relief from the guilt of sin, which he or she might be experiencing even with a disordered mind?

I am sure . . .
. . . the list of questions could go on for pages and any answers would face a challenging response from a variety of readers. Answers would vary based on beliefs about causes of sickness and what to say to sin-sick souls. That’s my family in the first paragraph and I’ve considered the questions for a long time.

Sometimes I turn to the obvious answer: show compassion and grace. Treat others the way you want to be treated. At other times I turn to the religious: teach them about turning to Christ for strength, hope, and complete forgiveness for sin. Be frank about the gospel. At yet other times, frustration mounts and I’m the one dealing with bursts of impatience and anger, so what am I doing looking at the mote in someone else’s eye?

And yes, big problems press for remedies: housing, medications, insurance, social services, and long hospitalizations. Rotten teeth, too, diaper rash, and depression. Getting them where they don’twant to go. As a daughter, having to go into the men’s room with your proud and belligerent father and help him on the commode. At that point, the issues of stubbornness and humility seem vital to address, but he wouldn’t understand anyway. I think.

After years of wondering and watching and praying, I believe this: If you have a family member or friend with whom you cannot have logical discussions due to hallucinations, dementia, or fragmented speech, God can open a door of opportunity to impart truth. Speak the truth, when led by the Lord, even if you think your loved one’s mind has blocked the ability to hear sensibly. In the lives of my family members, when hope seemed lost and minds ruined, prayers and the truths of forgiveness and grace did reach the soul. It is as if the Lord parted the troubled seas of their minds so they could understand and act on what they heard. I’ve never seen anything so beautiful in all my life.

Perhaps the message you will deliver is that by the grace of God we can endure far more than we ever imagined and that God does not abandon his children, no, not ever.

You do not need to cram spiritual truth into every conversation, nor do you need to see a remarkable response to your words. In Corinthians, Paul tells us the Jews sought signs and the Greeks sought wisdom to believe in Christ. Instead, they received a message that sounded foolish and weak, something about the crucifixion of a carpenter’s son.

You might never see a mighty sign or miracle, might never find the perfect set of scriptures to stir a despondent soul or broken mind, but fear not. Your simple and sincere words spoken with grace and humility still find a way to the heart.