On the telephone 10,000 miles away, my sister described my brother’s physical appearance: “Do you remember those horrible pictures of prisoners from the concentration camps? Remember how thin they looked? Well, in a way, Robert reminds me of them.” This was the result of a degenerative brain disease, a type of dementia.
I wanted to see my younger brother at least one more time. He was so young-early forties. How could this be happening to him? I boarded a plane for 20 hours of flying-lots of time to reflect on the past and contemplate the future. A few hours after arriving in Australia, my heart began to race as I walked into the nursing home with my mother. I knew that no matter how hard I tried, I would not be prepared for what I was about to experience.
It was a pathetic sight. Robert was lying there, hardly moving. He showed very little (if any) signs of any recognition of his mother and eldest brother. Mum tenderly stroked his forehead and then began the arduous task of trying to get him to swallow a special drink she had prepared for him.
He would swallow and then choke. Mum would wipe his face and wait for the next opportunity to get him to take another sip. Tears would run down my mother’s face.
Why would a loving and all-powerful God allow a dedicated man of God to be struck down in the prime of life, with a dreadful, dehumanizing disease that caused him to lose his mental faculties and muscular function, and die slowly as his family watched, helpless to do anything?
Dust and Ashes—the Key to True Hope
I often quote the Book of Job in my talks on Genesis. But you know one of the most important things we learn from the Book of Job? We find God asks Job a series of questions: Do you know this, Job? What about this? God uses example after example to finally bring Job to the point in Job 42 where we read:
Then Job replied to the Lord: “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. . . . Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. . . . Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:1–6).
Basically, this is the answer to the issue of death and suffering. Job acknowledged that compared to what God knows, he knew nothing. He repented of his human arrogance and totally submitted his life to the all-knowing sovereign God.
The bottom line is that we are not going to have all the answers as to why things like Rob’s sickness have been allowed to happen. Only God knows everything-we are just fallible human beings who, like Job, need to recognize that we know nothing compared to what God knows.
The tribute to Ken’s brother, Robert, was quite moving. What a testimony about Robert’s faith in Christ and His love of God’s Word! I can think of no better way to be remembered.
I am really thankful for all the resources available from AiG. There is no question in my mind that the most common reason for unbelief revolves around Biblical authority with respect to the first 11 chapters of Genesis.
– A. G., Minnesota
The Bible’s account of origins in Genesis, however, does make sense of the world around us. This has greatly helped me in dealing with the issue of death and suffering. God’s Word tells us clearly where death and sickness originated. We understand we live in a fallen world. Every person needs to be spiritually healed, and total healing doesn’t come until we leave this sin-cursed universe.
God has a sovereign plan far greater than we could imagine. Thus, we need to put our trust in God’s Word and the fact that He is in total control. “He is the Lord; let him do what is good in his eyes” (1 Sam. 3:18).
At the end of my visit to the nursing home, knowing that this could be my final goodbye to Robert, I bent over and kissed him on his forehead, “Goodbye, Robert. I love you, brother.” I left the room somewhat choked up but with a real peace that came over me knowing he was the Lord’s; and in the Lord’s hand. I weep, but not as others who don't have this wonderful sure hope of eternal life.
Yes, sickness, suffering and death is a normal part of this life. But: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3).
Pastor Robert Ham, younger brother of AiG-US President, Ken Ham, passed away in Australia on 9 June. Many AiG supporters worldwide had been praying for Robert, his wife Brenda, their two sons and the rest of the Ham family.
In God’s perfect timing, Ken was able to see his brother just before he passed away, and also spoke at his memorial service in Queensland. You can listen to Ken pay tribute to his brother here.