Jeremy…husband of Catherine, father of Ben, Simeon, Tom, Joshua & Lydia. Up until the end of April 2015, he was pastor/vicar of a group of churches on the edge of Exeter in Devon, UK. In early October 2014, aged 48, he was diagnosed with advanced cancer, a stage four malignant melanoma presenting as a tumour on his lungs. The usual life expectancy is 8-12 months. Then, in late December 2014, 23 year old Ben suffered a seizure. After prolonged medical care for what was most likely to have been a viral infection affecting his brain, Ben died in April 2015. Jeremy has up until recently seemed to have responded well to pioneering immunotherapy treatments that can extend life, but from September 2016 is now facing the fresh development of brain tumours and potentially now just months to live. On January 27th 2017 Jeremy took his last breath and went to be his Lord and Saviour. The family share their thoughts, feelings and reflections as they taJeremy…husband of Catherine, father of Ben, Simeon, Tom, Joshua & Lydia. Up until the end of April 2015, he was pastor/vicar of a group of churches on the edge of Exeter in Devon, UK. In early October 2014, aged 48, he was diagnosed with advanced cancer, a stage four malignant melanoma presenting as a tumour on his lungs. The usual life expectancy is 8-12 months. Then, in late December 2014, 23 year old Ben suffered a seizure. After prolonged medical care for what was most likely to have been a viral infection affecting his brain, Ben died in April 2015. Jeremy has up until recently seemed to have responded well to pioneering immunotherapy treatments that can extend life, but from September 2016 is now facing the fresh development of brain tumours and potentially now just months to live. On January 27th 2017 Jeremy took his last breath and went to be with his Lord and Saviour. The family share their thoughts, feelings and reflections as they take this painful and unexpected journey.

Islands of Encouragement

EncouragementSome weeks ago while I was house sitting for friends one morning, I noticed some words they’d written on a piece of paper and stuck to their fridge. They were words first penned by Charles Spurgeon, England’s best-known preacher for most of the second half of the nineteenth century. The words struck a chord that morning and have continued to resonate with me….

“When I thought God was hard, I found it easy to sin; but when I found out that God is so kind, so good, so overflowing with compassion, I smote upon my breast to think that I could ever have rebelled against One who loved me so, and sought my good.    

Pastor RichardThat love “so overflowing with compassion”  has continued to be an anchor for us as we continue this journey into each week and it’s shown itself in a number of ways. Among the encouragements was a few days in London with my brother Hamish and his wife Tanya before they left on a long trip, then also a visit from Pastor Richard Zevenbergen, one of Ben and Dabi’s church leaders from Joinville, Brazil. He took time out of a busy ministry trip in Europe to fly across to UK for two nights to pray with me and spend some time. It was great. Then seven nights in Guernsey last week with old friends Phil & Sarah Baskerville, leaders within Shiloh Church on the island, was so refreshing. To spend time with them, laughing and reflecting on old times, on family life, on ministry, was a re-charge.

IMG_0054While we were in Guernsey, after a couple of days of feeling unwell, I called my oncologist in Exeter to ask him whether he could expedite my CT scan results from the previous week. A couple of days later, while lunching with more friends, news came from Exeter that the scan showed further tumour shrinkage and that all looked to be well – ‘disease control’. A cheer went up from the lunch table that day! If we don’t already know it, a couple of GP friends have since commented that this really is a remarkable thing with a usually impossible disease that we’re seeing. Whether by ipilimumab or prayer, or through a combination of both, something is happening.

IMG_0057A day visit from Guernsey to the tiny island of Herm was a highlight, especially as it marked six months to the day that Ben died. We were able to spend a few quiet moments in the ancient chapel on the island in prayer and thanks, and later on the ferry, a memorial moment in our minds as we remembered the actual time Ben left us.

Grief is such an unpredictable thing. Some days, I feel as if life is normal, other days it is not. The night before we left for Guernsey, Catherine and I, Joshua and Lydia were siting at the meal table, all laughing loudly over something. Suddenly I stopped. Catherine looked up at me. I sat, my eyes welling.

“Are you OK?

“No”

“What’s wrong?”

And as I started to answer, I broke down and wept, “Ben’s never going to sit round the table with us again, never going to laugh with us again here”.

Comforting handTears flowed, as Lydia put her arm round my shoulder and we all sat in various states of undoing, once again looking into this chasm.

I find myself weeping for what I’ve lost. Weeping for Dabi who’d found in Benjy her life-mate, the one who seemed to have found the key to her soul. Gone. For my parents, for Catherine’s parents – four grandparents who in their senior years might have hoped to enjoy a certain sense of rest and peace as they look out and survey their family. They now find life is marred by a wound of loss that will be hard to heal. I weep for Simeon, for Tom, Joshua and Lydia. No big brother Ben to share life. No easy or slick answers.

But perhaps there’s an answer of a different magnitude found in words I tripped over in part of my daily bible reading this week. Hebrews 6 says,

“…we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf” 

HopeThe word ‘hope’ as it’s found in the Bible and as a good friend reminded me last Sunday night, doesn’t mean what we usually take it to mean in everyday speech where it’s generally no more than just wishful thinking eg “I hope it’s sunny tomorrow”. No, it’s a firm thing, based on firm facts and located around a real person. That person  – Jesus Christ – who lived, who died, who rose again from death and was attested to by eye witnesses, takes us in behind what was once a separating curtain between us and God.  And through His own body, torn and scarred on the cross, He opens up the way as both our ransom payer and mediator…but also as the eternal God. “He became what we are that we might become what He is.” (Athanasius, 296-373 ad). That without one who was God himself standing in my place, I am without hope.

The words I read from Hebrews remind us that real, lasting, secure hope  – hope that can be counted on even when everything else might seem to be crumbling –  is found Christ. HOPE that’s an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. Whether it’s grief over the loss of a son, tears for others, whether it’s death I face or life continuing in the body, I’ve found an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. The kind, good and compassionate God.

Though tears may come, nothing compares to the promise I have in Him.

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Comments on: "Islands of Encouragement" (18)

  1. Liz and Ron Hay said:

    Loss and hope – two sides of the same faith coin. You always express it so well, Jeremy. Ongoing love and prayer from Kiwi land.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. If life was all there was then death and all the pain and grief it brings would be unbearable but in the light of the life to come where all is made right then we have some solace in the here and now and hope to hold on to for the future. So pleased for your miraculous CT results and my heart goes out to you and Catherine as the enormity of Ben’s passing keeps hitting you at unexpected times.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for those words, Tim. It reminds me of Paul’s words in 1 Cor 15, when he says ,
      “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep”
      ….isn’t it a massive hope we have..? Because Christ was raised, so will we! And into a new creation where there’s no more disease or loss, or pain or tears. Beyond words.

      Like

  3. Mary & Peter said:

    Another wonderful blog Jeremy. Your words are very uplifting.
    We are very pleased at the news of your tumour shrinking and hope it will continue to do so.
    It is wonderful what prayer can do. You and your family continue to be in our thoughts and prayers.
    Much love Mary & Peter

    Liked by 1 person

  4. and little cheers echoing around Exeter too….

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Lisa Smith-Paterson said:

    Hello Jeremy, thank you for the updates & the good news with your improvement in health. Hope you all have a good week ahead.xx

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Lorraine Williams said:

    God is good `ALL` the time ,,,,Thank God – For Jesus

    Blessings and love from Lorraine Williams (St Mary Upton Wirral)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. David Williams said:

    Jeremy and Catherine, I dare not ask God to take me on the road you are travelling. But I know that, at age 82, there is a steep stony track ahead for me eventually, as for everyone. So I pray that the sacred signposts you have described in your blog will be shown to me and my family on the way. With love and thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks David. As I was reflecting on what you wrote, I thought about the words of Jesus in John 4, where He says –
      “but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
      It strikes me afresh that there’s just something wonderfully simple at the heart of the gospel good news – a relationship with Jesus, drawing life from His well…and that relationship in itself both leads to eternal life and is eternal life. That what we have in Jesus in all we need and more to face the paths that we walk, whether they be stony, straight or smooth, and that he’s both the signpost and the path. Bless you.

      Like

  8. Kate Woolven said:

    Praise the Lord, Jeremy. Reading this at just the right time to raise my spirits (much needed at the moment), along with yours. You will remain in our prayers.. With all love

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Chris Saunders said:

    Thanks again Jeremy for sharing your insights and enriching us, even through your pain. God bless

    Liked by 1 person

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