The Power of Presence: Review

Thanks to Kregel for a copy of this book for review, which contains affiliate links.

Caring for children is a challenge. But what may be an even greater challenge is caring for an adult with dementia. Author Neil Anderson faces this situation with Joanne, his wife of 50 years. Thoughts while caring for Joanne led him to write The Power of Presence.

I expected this book to deal with the issues the Andersons face during this season of life, and it does, a bit — but it covers other areas as well. I see this book as a journal of sorts for Neil, full of sermon-like reflections (he is the founder of Freedom in Christ Ministries) and stream-of-consciousness thoughts on life.

As I read the book, I couldn’t help but be impressed with Neil as he recalled various facets of the life he and Joanne lived together: years earlier, for instance, he had changed jobs in order to better support his wife when she faced health issues.

He had some good insights into Scripture and into God’s workings, as I suppose would come as no surprise, given the time he has to reflect on such things during the hours spent visiting his wife in the facility where she lives: “During those dark times we can’t help but wonder, ‘Why, God; why?’ I firmly believe that He has no obligation to answer that question. “I’m God, and I can do what I want with your life, and if you don’t give Me that right, I’m not your God.’ Job’s friends were wrong in their counsel. Job was not suffering because of his sin. People do suffer for the sake of righteousness. Job was wrong in defending himself, and he realized it when God asked him a hundred questions, beginning with ‘Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?’ You will know why, when morning comes.”

Neil goes into some lessons God has taught him through Joanne’s battle with dementia. I always become a bit antsy with this line of thinking: God taught me this and that when my friend died, etc. I’m sure it’s true that God uses moments like these to teach us, and of course the person who suffered/died is better off (if they’re in heaven), but still — I bristle at the idea that someone had to suffer horribly or die in order for God to teach someone else a lesson. I similarly cringed when Neil ruminated at the end of one chapter about “what God has in store for me and my ministry when Joanne is no longer with me. The other periods of darkness resulted in extraordinary changes in my life and ministry, I sense that will be the case this time as well.”

I look at this book as similar to sitting down to a visit with a friend — they share some of their day, and some of their thoughts. It rambles here and there, as conversations often do.

My sister saw that I was reading this book, and mentioned that she had read others by Neil Anderson. Have you read anything by him? What did you think?





4 thoughts on “The Power of Presence: Review

  1. I agree with your first paragraph – caring for aging adults is similar to taking care of children in many ways, but with children, you have every expectation that they will learn, grow, mature, be able to do some things for themselves some day. With older adults, it’s only going to go downhill.

    I’ve not read anything by Anderson. I don’t think most people, when they say God taught them something through someone’s illness, trial, or death, mean that that person had to go through this just so they could learn what they needed to learn, but rather, one of the ways God “worked all things together for good” through the situation was in what He taught those going through it, usually something about Himself. I remember reading Elisabeth Elliot saying that God did many things in multitudes of people’s lives through her husband’s death (salvation, drawing them closer to Himself, calling them to service), but He could do that without taking someone’s life to do so, so the “results” weren’t a satisfactory answer to the “whys” of her heart. On the other hand, I’ve known people who claimed to know just why God allowed something, and I’ve thought, “He’s probably doing a number of things through this that they are unaware of and has His own reasons.” But I’m not brave enough to say it. 🙂

  2. I think I’ve read two of his books, years ago, but I couldn’t name either of them. I believe one of them might have been, :”Don’t Waste Your Suffering.”

    I agree that taking care of older people must be much more difficult than caring for children. You know the older person’s journey is not going to turn out positively, until, or unless, they get to heaven.

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