"My Life" by Martin Bakker (Part 17)

9 mins read

Editor’s note:  All images featured in this chapter are taken from historical sources.

(Continued from Part 16)

Doubts and Assurance

Ever since my conversion in 1898 in Pretoria, I have stood strong in the faith, for I did not look much at myself but at Christ the Savior. The work the Holy Spirit had begun in me He would also finish. However, that does not mean that at times I did not doubt. I experienced again and again such moments of darkness for my soul, but afterwards the assurance of salvation was so much stronger.

When I was younger I always thought that old, godly people would never doubt and always walk in the light, but now that I myself have passed the three score and am past half of the time, I know better. Many have told me of their doubting even when they are past 80, and also God’s servants in the ministry have said so.

One Sunday evening we had friends over. We talked about the sermon and also other things were the subjects of our conversation. As usual, they left a little past 11:00 and we had a nice pleasant few hours together. That night, I did not sleep. After a while, when in bed, my mind dwelt on the wickedness of mankind. But then I asked myself, how about your own sins? They passed as a panorama before my mind’s eye, sins that I remembered even from my 5th year and throughout all my life. What a long and ugly list, sins of omission and commission in thoughts, words and deeds. At terrible darkness crept over my soul. Then I also remembered the unspeakable thoughts that entered my heart even when I was down on my knees in prayer. All became darker and darker. I concluded for such a one as I it would be impossible to be saved. Then I thought you should not pray, and you may not pray, and I could not pray, and finally decided I did not want to pray. Oh, if God was not the beginning and the end of my salvation, I would have surely gone under. But He helped me. I did not pray, for I could not pray, but a sigh escaped my soul and body and the words came clearly to me, “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sins.” Then I said,  “Go away Satan,” and I realized the mercy and love of God and the preciousness and all-sufficiency of the atoning blood of Christ my Savior.

Even this experience did not and will not forever, I presume, end my doubting inclinations. The trouble is in myself. From time to time, again and again, I realize my sinfulness and my lack of obedience to and compliance with God’s commandments. Then I have of necessity the thought, is it well with my soul? Can such a one be saved, and should I be saved? Then I experience in a measure what the holy Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 7:24: Wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me out of the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. For (Romans 8:33): Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justified, who is he that condemneth? It is Christ Jesus that died, yea rather that was raised from the dead who is at the right hand of God who also maketh intercession for us. We therefore cannot be separated from Him and in Him we are really more than conquerors. He is our salvation, the author and finisher of our faith. Therefore to Him, the Triune God, Father, Son & Holy Spirit, be the Glory and Praise now and forever, amen.

As related on a previous page, my wife was never herself after the operation. Time and again she complained about her weakness. Nine years later she had what we thought a gall attack. The doctor diagnosed it as gallstones and advised to operate. However, she was afraid to be operated on and of going to the hospital. She had to endure a lot of pain, but slowly on the distress subsided and got over it. She had to diet for a long time. After about 2 years she had gradually returned to the use of normal food and felt well, except that her heart was weak. She thought she was completely over her gall trouble.

During the six weeks of her illness, I tried to get rest on the couch, but in that time I developed a restless semi-conscious condition that made me get up immediately at her call, and sometimes I would get up thinking she had called when she didn’t. I kept going at my regular work but at times I felt dizzy and had to take hold of something for support to keep me from going down. When in bed, I dreamed often I could swing or fly through the air and had no trouble to alight or drop down wherever I wanted to.

My children, who I told about it, wanted me to see our doctor what I finally did after some coaxing on their part. When I told him about my condition of being dizzy he said, “Well then, we better begin with taking your blood pressure.” Looking at the instrument he was very much surprised and asked me how I got to his office. I told him with my automobile. “I don’t see how it is possible,” he said, “Your blood pressure is only 90.” Then he gave me some pills, told me to take some rest and sleep in bed again, take it easy during the day and it would turn out all right. I followed his advice and after a while I got better. As I said before, my wife thought she was over her gallstone trouble. However, a little later she got another attack and it aggravated the poor condition of her already weak heart. She got over that attack but felt tired all the time. During the winter and spring I did as much of her work as I could, and we had a woman come once a week to clean up, for my better half had to rest most of the day.

Summer came. We had some peaches from our own tree and they had a wonderful flavor. I did the canning but one day these were some left and Mama said, I will do a few. I did not trust it, but knowing her, I got everything ready and told her not to do more than five quarts. I had already peeled one quart and a half and put them into jars. Everything stood ready. When I came home at night she met me with a smile and said, “Look Pa, doesn’t that look swell! I canned 10 quarts.” “Yes, good, it sure does,” but I continued, knowing her weak heart, “Only if you did not overdo it.”  “Oh no,” she answered me, “I felt so good.  It is all right.” But I had my doubts.

As usual, my wife went to rest after supper. After 8:00 she got up for an hour or so but at 9:00 she could look at the clock and shortly she would retire for the night. In the morning at 7:30 or 7:45, I would bring her fruit juice and her breakfast and she would eat it in her bed and lie down for another 45 minutes or so. When I left the house around 8:30 she would be up or get up but would have to rest before lunch and the same in the afternoon.

When I came home the day after she did the canning, she told me in answer to my question, how do you feel, “Well Pa, after all maybe I did overdo yesterday, for I feel so terribly tired today. And it does not get any better, so I guess now that you are home I better go to bed again.” I said, yes, right away. She never got up again.

It was about the later part of August. Her heart was enlarged. From then on, she was in constant misery and distress, groaning almost continually, but especially during the night. She gradually got worse and died the 10th of December. During the four months of her illness, I never had a whole night’s sleep and was always ready to help her. She developed inflammation of the bladder and had fluid on one lung. I prayed the Lord to give me strength and sustain me so I might take care of her until the end. In the first two months, my own daughter and two daughters-in-law took turns to help out and also my daughter from Flint came over to help relieve the situation. Mama preferred to stay home and was afraid to go to
the hospital, but consented to go for a blood test and for x-ray pictures. In the last 6 weeks of her life, another daughter (Winifred), who took up training for nursing  and who always came home as much as she could to help, especially with giving hypos, got a leave of absence. That made things much better, but I maintained vigil during the nights.

The two sons that lived in our city offered time and again to take my place, but I said as soon as it is necessary I will tell you. However, I received strength to keep it up and was with her every night to the very end. Time and time again I stayed home because we thought the end was near. One day about 6 weeks before she died, she said “Pa, today I go to the Lord Jesus.” I watched her closely. In the afternoon it appeared that she breathed her last but after about 10 counts with a shocking deep sudden breath she revived. After that day she started to improve and the doctor said if she would continue that way, in about three months she would be able to be up and around again. It was during this period that she talked to every one of the children. Two came from New York, one from Flint and one from Chicago. The other children were living in Grand Rapids. She spoke to them one by one, very intelligently, according to their character and spiritual and physical needs, telling them about the only way that leads home, namely the way of the cross, through the blood of Jesus Christ that cleansed us from all our sins.

She was very appreciative for what we had done for her and was a thankful patient, especially to my daughter who so efficiently and lovingly helped her every day. She also said, “Pa, the Lord has forgiven us all our sins and has made things well with me in the past, and will make all things well with you after I am gone to Him”. (As I write this, more than 13 months after she passed away while I am sitting in bed at the advice of two doctors, as my heart is not just right, sorrow overwhelms me and I have to let my tears flow for a while. She was very definite as to her departure and talked about it with all of us, and friends, and also her former and present pastor. Also to two other ministers who called her blessed, as they had derived a blessing on account of her faith in the Lord. The first time she said to me she was going to be with the Lord she also added, “And you will soon follow me, Pa.” About three weeks before she went, she repeated this saying. Again I was at her bedside and again I saw her breathe what appeared to be her last, but she revived with a deep breath. This time she remained weak and got weaker, slowly from day to day. With daily liver extract injections the doctor tried to prolong her life and get her stronger, but it was of no avail. Complications set in. Her gall bladder failed to function and her kidneys gave out. As a result she got dropsy and every day we could expect the end.

At 10:30 p.m. Thursday, December 9 she asked me for a cup of tea. I made it quickly and gave it to her, supporting her even when she insisted to hold it herself. She drank it almost all. At 10:45, it seems as though someone clearly said to me, if you want to ask her something yet, do it now, otherwise it will be too late. I thought a moment and then said to her, “Mama are you still anxious to go to the Lord Jesus?” She answered immediately with a clear assuring voice, “Oh yes, Pa, and soon I am going, very soon, and you will follow me soon afterward.” To this third assuring saying that she was going to her Savior and that I was going to follow her soon, she added “afterward.” I thought at that moment, could I only go with you now. Later on I thought whether it is hours, weeks, months or years, it will be soon anyway. She must have meant to comfort me with this repeated thrice saying.

At 2:00 a.m. I gave her a drink through a bent glass tube. She motioned it away with her finger but said nothing. At 3:00 and 4:00, I tried again to give her a drink of water, but I thought she was sleeping. My daughter tried it at 5:00. When as usual near 8:00 I brought her breakfast I could not arouse her, neither could my daughter. At 2:45 in the afternoon she died in the same manner as it had appeared to me three and six weeks ago. I was sitting on the side of the bed holding her hand with my finger on her pulse. This time she breathed her last and her heart stopped at the tenth, last beat.

At the funeral a young man sang a hymn which had the words “and gaze and gaze on Thee”. She had expressed herself that she was longing to do that very thing, to be filled with His presence. During the funeral sermon my tears flowed freely, but my heart was singing. The Lord marvelously sustained me and the children also. Yes, I miss her still every day in a hundred ways, but she also still speaks to me in many ways. Heaven seems to be dearer and nearer. Lord Jesus makes me long also more for Thee. Everything has changed but the Lord is the same yesterday, today and forever. Life goes on, never waiting, and in Him we move on until we also are called home to be with Him and with all that loved His appearing.

(Continue to Part 18)

Raised in a home filled with books on Western civilization, P.G. Mantel became a lover of history at an early age. An amateur writer of verse, he makes himself useful as an editor for Men of the West.

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