Another Dose of Hope! - Midweek Message 10th March 2021
I hope you have received your copy of Jeremy Marshall’s devotional ‘Hope in the face of suffering’ and have this week begun to read the daily Bible readings and messages. If you have, you’ll know that today we’re looking at the story of Joseph and God’s painful, puzzling, yet ultimately wonderfully purposeful dealings which led Joseph to say so memorably to his brothers in regard to their maltreatment of him: you intended to harm me, but God intended it for good (Gen 50.20). Jeremy Marshall’s message concludes with an encouragement to us, ‘like small children (to) place our hand by faith in the hand of Almighty God’. One of the things I’ve really appreciated about his devotional is the way in which, though he understandably makes regular reference to himself and his experience of cancer, Jeremy is always seeking to point his readers away from himself to the One in whom he has found real and sustaining hope.
Reading his devotional has prompted me to get hold of his other book, the one that preceded it, namely, ‘Beyond the Big C- hope in the face of death’1 which to quote the blurb on the back ‘chronicles Jeremy’s extraordinary relationship with cancer and more than anything, his extraordinary relationship with the person who promises life beyond the prognosis.’ It continues… ‘The essence of Jeremy’s story is that, despite sickness and disease present in the world, a life lived in light of Christ’s death on the cross means there is hope for the future no matter what.’ You can tell from that, again, his ultimate aim is to point away from himself.
As I read through the original book, which I have just got hold of, that’s what I found. It’s there on his opening page:
‘This is the story of my journey with cancer but as you’ll discover if you read on, it's not just about me. I am 56 years old and have had cancer for the last seven years. I want to share my experience in the hope that it helps you. As it's my story, some parts of it may be relevant to your experience, other parts may not. You can be the judge.
I am not a cancer specialist, nor am I an expert on living with cancer. This is not a book about how to cope with cancer, nor how to beat it. I don't want you to think that I'm some amazing person - because I'm not. Although I am a Christian, I am not an inherently ‘religious’ person who sails effortlessly from 1 high point to another. I have doubts and I am often afraid. There is nothing exceptional about me and I am very far from being a model for others. So why am I writing this short book?
I would like to introduce you to someone else - someone who has utterly transformed my life and someone without whom I couldn't survive a single day in this messed-up world.
Having incurable cancer seems a dead end but I believe there is hope beyond the Big C.’
As he begins the story of how his cancer came to light and his reaction to the diagnosis, at one point he is honest about his fear:
‘I want to be very open that I am afraid, sometimes very afraid. This is despite having a strong Christian faith. In fact, I would say that the dominant emotion I have felt since being diagnosed is fear. Fear of dying, and in particular, fear of the process leading up to death…..Each time I had a scan or a test after the initial diagnosis, my fear grew slightly, even as I hoped and anticipated getting the ‘nothing to worry about’ message confirmed. My fear started as a small nagging doubt. It grew silently. Each time, I felt it slightly more strongly, until, in the end, it became full-grown terror…. My ‘fear index’ has gone up and down over the last few years. The times I feel most acutely afraid are sitting in the waiting room, waiting for the oncologist to tell me the results of the latest scan. There’s even a name for this: ‘scanxiety’.’
But then he says:
‘What have I found to be the answer to my fear? Fear not just of cancer but, most of all, of death. I don't see an answer to my fear if I look at the world around me. Nor do I find one if I look within.
But as I said at the beginning, this book isn't just about me - it's also about someone else. And that ‘someone’ does have an answer to my fear. That someone is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, whom I believe walked the dusty roads of Palestine 2000 years ago - and whom, I believe, you and I can know today.’
In the remainder of the book, as he engages with questions and the scepticism he knows his readers may have, he seeks to give good solid grounds for believing Jesus Christ can be known and can give hope in the face of suffering and death.
It is, as one reviewer from ‘The Spectator’ expressed it, ‘a moving and hopeful book’. It’s the kind of book, like his devotional, I think you would find encouraging for your own faith but also one you could give away to someone you knew who was facing a situation similar to Jeremy Marshall’s, or simply wrestling with questions and issues around the subject of suffering and death. Well worth reading!
If anyone would like a copy (or multiple copies) at £1 per book, please get in touch by email with myself or Doris in the office and I will send off an order in the next couple of weeks, with the intention that they are available from the Easter weekend. In the meantime, I hope we all keep reading and benefitting from his devotional!
1 Beyond the Big C – hope in the face of death by Jeremy Marshall is published by 10Publishing, a division of 10ofthose.com. It was first published in 2019.