William Lane Craig in his book On Guard tells the story of his friend Tom and his chance encounter with an 89-year-old woman, named Mabel, in a Nursing Home. “As I neared the end of the Hallway, I saw an old woman strapped up in a wheelchair. Her face was an absolute horror. The empty stare and white pupils of her eyes told me that she was blind. The large hearing aid over one ear told me that she was almost deaf. One side of her face was being eaten by cancer. There was a discoloured and running sore covering part of one cheek, and it had pushed her nose to one side, dropped one eye, and distorted her jaw so that what should have been the corner of her mouth was the bottom of her mouth. As a consequence, she drooled constantly……I also learned later that this woman was eight-nine years old and that she had been bedridden, blind, nearly deaf and alone for twenty-five years. This was Mabel.
I don’t know why I spoke to her—she looked less likely to respond than most of the people I saw in that hallway. But I put a flower in her hand and said, ‘here is a flower for you. Happy Mother’s Day.’ She held the flower up to her face and tried to smell it, and then she spoke. And much to my surprise, her words, although somewhat garbled because of her deformity, were obviously produced by a clear mind. She said, ‘Thank you. It’s lovely. But can I give it to someone else? I can’t see, you know, I’m blind.’
I said, ‘Of course,’ and I pushed her in her chair back down the hallway to a place where I thought I could fine some alert patients. I found one, and I stopped the chair. Mabel held out the flower and said, ‘Here, this is from Jesus.’
Tom and Mabel became friends over the next few years, and Tom began to realize that he was no longer helping Mabel, but she was helping him. He began to take notes on what she said. After a stressful week, Tom went to Mabel and asked her, ‘Mabel, what do you think about as you lie here all day?’ She replied, ‘I think about Jesus.’
I sat there and thought for a moment about the difficulty, for me, to think about Jesus for even five minutes, and I asked, ‘What do you think about Jesus?’ She replied slowly and deliberately as I wrote. And this is what she said: ‘I think how good He’s been to me. He’s been awfully good to me in my life, you know…..I’m one of those kind who’s mostly satisfied….. Lots of folks would think I’m kind of old fashioned. But I don’t care. I’d rather have Jesus. He’s all the world to me.'” (On Guard p. 172)
My own mother laid for three years in a nursing home bed unable to do very little for herself because of a stroke. But in all those years I never saw her sad or depressed. She had an amazing trust in God and constantly reminded us how blessed she was in life. At present, Ruth’s mother is in a nursing home and she suffers from Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and cancer in her mouth. All her life she has been a spiritual woman, and though she can barely talk now her smile still warms the hearts of everyone who comes into contact with her. Her faith has never wavered.
These women all have one thing in common, incredible strength to trust in God when the rest of us would be blaming God. There’s special power in keeping the faith when life comes down hard. William Lane Craig makes this observation: “If God does not exist, then we are locked without hope in a world filled with pointless and unredeemed suffering. God is the final answer to the problem of suffering, for He redeems us from evil and takes us into the everlasting joy of an incommensurable good fellowship with Himself.” (On Guard p. 173) I think Mabel, Ruth’s mother and my mother figured this out long ago and were more than satisfied to cast their lot with the God of love.