Bruce Baker is a pastor, theologian, author and a personal friend of mine. In August of 2017 he was told he has ALS and only a short time to live. So far he has lived longer than expected and continues to minister as he can. For Thou Art With Me is a product of his life and ministry during this time of illness.
Baker is a man of the Word. He studies and teaches it with accuracy. When he comes to the subject of death I am not surprised that he provides biblical insight and sound teaching. Couple this with the fact that he is facing death himself and is personally seeking answers to many related questions, and the expectation is an excellent, helpful, practical and theologically sound treatise for those who are terminally ill and those who love them. Baker does not disappoint.
He covers, in readable fashion, many subjects, including: the gospel, handling fear, the death process for the believer, and the resurrection of the body. In some ways I think the heart of the book, covered in chapters 5-8, is in addressing four common questions asked by the terminally ill: Why do Christians suffer? Why me? Why this? And why now? Baker’s handling of these questions is excellent. He proclaims what can be known from Scripture but does not make conjectures about what we do not know. I loved chapters nine on the biblical descriptions of the death of the believer and ten on the process of dying. Chapter 12 will be valuable to many people who need help distinguishing between termination of life (i.e. assisted suicide) and termination of treatment. He writes:
All forms of suicide have one thing in common: they try to interrupt the natural processes of the body to bring about death. But the removal of artificial means of support (feeding tubes, breathing machines, and the like) do not interrupt the natural processes of the body. Such an action merely allows the natural state of the body to continue in its course (p. 93).
The book ends with quotes from both Charles Spurgeon and Matthew Henry. Spurgeon said:
If Jesus loves you, and you are sick, let all the world see how you glorify God in your sickness. Let friends and nurses see how the beloved of the Lord are cheered and comforted by him. Let your holy resignation astonish them, and set them admiring your Beloved, who is so gracious to you that he makes you happy in pain, and joyful at the gates of the grave. If your religion is worth anything it ought to support you now, and it will compel unbelievers to see that he whom the Lord loveth is in better case when he is sick than the ungodly when full of health and vigour (p. 109).
Matthew Henry’s quote is even more poignant:
Would you know where I am? I am at home in my Father’s house, in the mansion prepared for me there. I am where I would be, where I have long and often desired to be; no longer on a stormy sea, but in a safe and quiet harbor. My working time is done, and I am resting: my sowing time is done, and I am reaping; my joy is as the joy of harvest (p. 113).
Baker has written an extremely important little book which should be read by everyone in the process of terminal illness, as well as their loved ones. In my role as pastor I will be distributing this book to many in my congregation facing death. They will receive biblical truth, be reminded of the gospel, find encouragement for now, and hope for the future. A must read.
For Thou Art With Me, Biblical Help For The Terminally Ill and Those Who Love Them by Bruce A. Baker (Larkspur, Colorado: Grace Acres Press, 2019) 116 pp., $11.95 paperback
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor-teacher at Southern View Chapel