Death, Alzheimers, Temporary Marriage: Is It Actually Worth Being Intimate?

Riley Adam Voth
Riley Adam Voth

My wife and I were having lunch this week when an interesting and difficult topic arose.

We have an older couple that joined our church plant last year, and the wife has Alzheimer’s disease.

growing old intimacy death

The subject arose because this Sunday we’ll be praying for them as they plan to submit the wife into a care facility. This couple, Doug and Pam, have been an amazing, both joyful and sorrowful, pair to watch and learn from over the last year.

Doug has cared for Pam by himself, bringing her to church, feeding her, telling her when to take a step, and on and on. The person Doug married, the Pam he knew once, is no longer, I dunno… “there”… for lack of better word. Still Doug cares for her, loves her, and leads her.

It’s been a challenging and motivating testimony to witness as a young man.

As my wife and I discussed what Sunday service was going to look like as we ate lunch, we began to ponder the spiritual involvement with a disease like Alzheimer’s is. We’ve both been curious enough to have researched it in the past, and we both concluded what we have before: we don’t know.

What we do know is that Alzheimer’s seems a lot like death – a painful consequence of our sin that has brought pain and destruction on all creation.

Diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cancer, and so many more, all cause a great deal of grief, hard work, pain, and loss – ultimate earthly loss eventually.

Doug is now caring for a woman out of love and honor and duty, and it’s painful. He will, in essence, grieve the death of Pam twice because of this disease.

Shouldn’t We Just Avoid Intimacy?

As we talked about this we discussed how it would be seemingly so much easier to just protect ourselves from the pain we’ve brought on ourselves: Keep from becoming intimate with people. Never have as much to grieve.

Even if you marry, don’t become too overly attached so as to become what some might call “dependent” – or in other words, what God might call, “becoming one with each other.”

After all, if God will restore it all one day and we’ll have eternity of perfection and joy, what’s a little bit of time not spent intimate here? Probably worth it to avoid the pain and grief that follows all earthly intimacies, right?

I don’t think so.

Apparently, God doesn’t think so either – he made us with an extreme longing for it, here and now!

As my wife and I were discussing this, my wife recalled that just a few days ago she had coffee with another elder lady in our church. This lady had shared with my wife that she had become so close to her husband as they’ve grown older together, working through difficulties, learning to think as each other think, that she wouldn’t know how to exist without her husband at this point.

She said, “I know more about God and love because of my husband, and I experience more of both because of my husband.”

My wife and I pondered these words.

Knowing that Jesus himself told us marriage is temporary (Matt 22:30), a relationship meant only for this side of eternity, it makes sense that this is exactly what God has designed marriage for: to experience more of God, himself!

Experiencing the relational intimacy of marriage is the ultimate witness to the relational intimacy of God and his triune nature, God and his love for us, and Jesus and his sacrifice and pursuit of his church.

It makes sense to then conclude that this has been God’s plan all along:

A man and woman to be joined together in relationship so intimate that we know and experience God more fully. God, the fullest source of joy!

Gain Through Pain

So does this make the pain and grief that inevitably follows all intimacy in this life worth it?

Yes, it does!

If we can have more of our greatest satisfaction, God himself, and lesser satisfactions, human relational intimacy, and know God more fully because of it, why would we not do it?

And besides, couldn’t we say the same about avoiding the pain as to why we should lean into it? It’s only temporary.

It’s already defeated. We know who wins!

The eternal rewards far outweigh the temporary pain!

Plus, I believe that God is good enough, wise enough, and caring enough to be able to fulfill our desires in heaven and meet any perceived “hole” we might anticipate feeling due to no longer being married in heaven.

So go on, love intimately. Know and be known.


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