Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Book Review - Second Forgetting: Remembering the Power of the Gospel During Alzheimer's Disease

The fall has taken its toll on our bodies. We get sick. We grow old. We die.

We may also forget.

Something has gone wrong with the intricate inner workings of our brains, and we can't recall recent events. This may begin gradually, but it doesn't stop here. The inexorable progression of this disease begins to impact other areas of our lives. The normal day-to-day routine becomes more difficult, which ultimately leads to the inability to function and the need for constant care. It's as though we have lost who we are. We've lost our intellects, skills, talents, and personalities at the hands of this foe, and we are left as mere shadows of who we used to be.

This is the picture of Alzheimer's disease, and it is heartbreaking.

How do we respond as Christians to this tragic effect of the fall? How do we respond if this indeed becomes our own diagnosis or the diagnosis of a loved one?

Dr. Benjamin Mast, an Associate Professor at the University of Louisville, has written a book on Alzheimer's titled, Second Forgetting. It contains information about the disease itself and wise counsel regarding care, prevention, and planning. But the strength of this book is its application of the gospel.

Dr. Mast defines the first forgetting as the experience of memory loss.  However, the second forgetting is when not only the patient, but the family and church experience a spiritual forgetting. We forget God and His promises and are overwhelmed by it all. Thus the author seeks to remind us that God does not forget us because of Christ's work on our behalf. Through the Scriptures, he offers specific encouragement to the sufferer and those who are providing care. Additionally, the book provides very helpful suggestions for interacting with someone with Alzheimer's and ways to spiritually engage him/her through prayer, song, and the Lord's table.

I was eager to read Second Forgetting because I have a loved one with dementia. I learned a great deal and cried a great deal, but there was hope mingled with the sorrow. I was reminded that God cannot and will not forget for Christ's sake, and my family member's identity in Him is something that this illness can never take away. I was also encouraged that, as time goes on, my family can cry out to the Lord for wisdom and grace, and He will hear those prayers.

I highly recommend Second Forgetting if you have a loved one with Alzheimer's. This would also be a great resource for the local church as it seeks to minister to families who have been affected by this disease.

Though Alzheimer's disease is a frightening and powerful enemy, the promise of God is greater: nothing can separate those who are in Christ from the love and grace of God. Not the plaques and tangles of Alzheimer's disease, not memory impairment observed in psychological testing, not the behavioral problems, the aggression, the confusion, or even the apparent forgetting of the Lord can separate us from him.

Because of Christ's suffering and resurrection we are promised that our suffering will come to end, and God will bring us into his presence where all things are made new. Here we will know incomparable glory, enduring joy, true freedom from sin and decay, and restoration to the perfected image of God.  
We may doubt and forget, but God has not forgotten us or his promises.2

1. Second Forgetting: Remembering the Power of the Gospel During Alzheimer's Disease, Benjamin Mast, Zondervan, 2014, pg. 69.
2. 167.

About the author: Dr. Benjamin Mast, PhD. is a licensed clinical psychologist, Associate Professor in Psychological and Brain Sciences and an Associate Clinical Professor in Geriatric Medicine at the University of Louisville, and an elder at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky. 


  1. Tony Reinke interviewed Dr. Mast for his podcast, Authors on the Line, back in December 2014. My husband is a pastor and, while we don't deal with this issue in our immediate family, we're sure to deal with it within the church family. Thanks for the reminder about this book.

    (Folks can hear that podcast here:

    1. Thanks for sharing the link to the interview, Suzanne.