According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of people facing terminal and long-term illness will increase 80% by 2020. With life-threatening diseases, terminal illness, and the long-term care of elderly parents, come such questions as: If God is good, why are we going through this? What will our family do during this crisis? How do we fight the fear that’s trying to consume us? How can we encourage reconciliation in our family? Where can we find peace in the journey? What happens when we die? Is there life after death? What’s heaven like?
Bible Gateway interviewed Robin Bertram (@robinbertram) about her book, Hidden Treasures: Finding Hope at the End of the Journey (Abingdon Press, 2018).
Tell about your personal experience that led to the writing of this book.
Robin Bertram: Nearly 20 years ago I started my ministry as a prayer minister. I walked with numerous families that were facing difficult life challenges, some facing long-term and terminal illnesses. As I worked with these diverse families, I realized there were commonalities. They were all seeking answers in the midst of their most challenging times and they all had a difficult time finding them.
What is the meaning behind the book’s title?
Robin Bertram: Isaiah 45:3 says, “I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.” As I began to think of all the questions these families were asking, I recognized that God had already supplied the answers in Scripture; we just have to find them. This verse always reminds me of how incredibly intimately God is involved in our lives.
How is Hidden Treasures unique from other books on the topic of terminal and long-term illness?
Robin Bertram: While Hidden Treasures is written from life experiences with others, several years ago I faced the possibility of my own mortality. I had been given four potential diagnoses, and after three were taken off the table, the only one left was a slow, agonizing path to death with no cure, no treatment, and a life expectancy of two years. During that time, I completed Hidden Treasures, as I was also searching for those same answers.
What are appropriate words to say to a terminally ill person to help them through difficult days?
Robin Bertram: The most important word to share is the message of the gospel. Jesus died, was buried, was raised on the third day and sits at the right hand of God the Father, interceding on our behalf. Every person who is facing the end of life can achieve a peace that passes understanding when they accept Jesus as Lord. They will have a security that only God can provide. They’ll understand that death has no hold on the believer and that eternity is a treasured gift for the saint going home.
1 Corinthians 15:3-4 says, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,”
How does the Holy Spirit help those in severe distress?
Robin Bertram: The Holy Spirit is our Comforter and Helper. Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he told the disciples that he’d leave us another: the Comforter, his Spirit. The Holy Spirit fulfills the work of God in us. He strengthens us and empowers us. He renews and restores us. He seals us—meaning he marks us as belonging to God. He’s always with the believer.
I cannot tell you how many times I cried out in the middle of the night during my time of illness and the Holy Spirit would bring peace to my heart. In the midst of our deepest pain, God is watching to see if we’ll reach for his promises, and peace is a promise of his presence.
But the fruit of the Spirit is joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law (Gal. 5:22-23 ESV)
What Scripture is most encouraging for those walking the end of their life journey?
Robin Bertram: Everlasting life is a promise to the believer. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26 NASB)
Your beliefs define your life. Your beliefs will define your death. Your beliefs will define everything in between.
What are some ways a person can show love to their dying family member?
Robin Bertram: One of the most important ways to show love is by being present. Be present; touch, hug, kiss, hold their hand. Oftentimes family members and friends tend to distance themselves because they cannot deal with the pain. Don’t. Be present. It’s the greatest gift you can give your loved one.
I also included a section in Hidden Treasures, titled “Love in Action,” to help families, friends, and church members create an actionable plan for taking care of their loved one.
How can someone who has no hope grow in hope when the odds are against them?
Robin Bertram: Biblical hope is not wishful thinking. It’s a confident assurance in what’s written; reading the word of God builds hope in the heart. It’s in our weakness that we’re made strong through Christ Jesus. In our sorrows, he’s our comfort.
The Christian life is not meant to be without problems or without trials, and no man is guaranteed tomorrow. However, God promises when we go through difficulties that he’ll be with us. If we belong to Christ, even our trials will bring him praise, and it’s in this that we’re truly triumphant.
First Peter 1:6-7 (NASB) says, In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
What encouragement would you give to caretakers, family, and friends of those who are terminally ill or near the end of their lives?
Robin Bertram: Let your loved one have a voice. We often tend to answer for those who are in a weakened state. As long as they’re capable, allow your loved one to make decisions. Allow them to have a say in the way things should go day-by-day. Ask them questions and then follow through on their wishes.
What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?
Robin Bertram: For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world: your faith (1 John 5:4 WEB).
Many battles are won by our faith. Faith is believing beyond our circumstances. Faith is believing when all odds are against you. It’s believing when your intellect screams you’re wrong. This is one of my favorite Scriptures because it reminds me that no matter what life brings our way, we’re already victorious. God’s Word gives us hope that will carry us into eternity.
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App and Bible Audio App?
Robin Bertram: I absolutely love Bible Gateway and use it on a regular basis as I prepare for Bible studies that I write and teach. It’s a valuable tool.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Robin Bertram: If you do not know Jesus as Lord, today is the day of salvation. He died, was buried, was raised from the dead on the third day and sits at the right hand of God, the Father.
If you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth, the word says, you will be saved.
Bio: Robin Bertram is an author, Christian speaker, and the executive producer and former host of the nationally and internationally syndicated television show, Freedom Today. She is a leader of media leaders for 25 years and has placed several Christian programs onto the national and international stage. She is the author of No Regrets: How Loving Deeply and Living Passionately Can Impact Your Legacy Forever and Hidden Treasures: Finding Hope at the End of the Journey. For more information visit www.robinbertram.tv.
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