Sunday, 24 April 2011

The View from the Valley

No one wants to be diagnosed with a brain tumour. A craniotomy still sounds to me like a medieval form of torture, or at best an early Victorian form of surgery when lusty butchers hacked away with lots of gusto and little precision. This is not something I would have chosen to have faced, but I feel as well prepared as possible, and I want to share why.

I’m quite familiar with hospitals.

Normally I pop in, have a chat, read a passage from the bible, pray- then it’s back out to the car and home. It’s been an altogether different experience of late. Here I am in the valley. And I’m pleased to report, there is much to be thankful for, even here.

I watched Question Time recently and one panellist lamented ‘where is Florence Nightingale?’ speaking of the nurses she had encountered in the NHS and complaining that it was to them a profession rather than a vocation. Well our Florence Nightingale’s are all in the Monklands and Southern and General Hospitals. They are professionals- and I’m pleased to know that before I pop the pills they provide, but they lack nothing in care and compassion. I am therefore very reluctant to offer any criticism of them. One thing however I have had to correct is when they say to me –knowing I’m a minister- ‘its good you have your faith.’ Maybe it’s a phrase you’ve used before, I’ve heard it repeatedly in the last few days. But the reality is my faith is no help to me. It’s the Object of my faith who matters.

When I hear the phrase ‘its good you have your faith’ I respond ‘I have a great God’. My faith is powerless to help, to heal to comfort or console, but the One I have faith in is my Rock my Redeemer my Refuge and my Rest.

Commending me for my faith as if it’s something I’ve worked hard to earn is to totally miss the point. I have great hope, because I have a great God.

There is a peculiar peace and even joy in suffering as a Christian. Spurgeon said   'I have learned to kiss the wave that strikes me against the rock that is Christ.' These past few days have driven us deeper to God. We have known the presence of the living Lord and the power of prayer. Every day God has gifted us the grace we’ve needed and we trust in that grace for the day tomorrow!

I’m pleased to report that the passages I’ve read to others in difficult days are proving true sources of strength and peace in the valley. I’ve been dwelling in some very familiar places; Psalm 23, John 14, Romans 8, Psalm 103. What power there is in these words.

God has prepared us for this so well in many ways, recently I’ve been reading Bonar’s biography of McCheyne (buy this if you can!) a minister of the gospel who suffered much, but whose sufferings bore much fruit.

McCheyne also knew he was a sinner. When suffering came there was no anger, no ‘why me’, no questioning of God’s sovereignty or goodness. I have to say a lot of man-centred rubbish which passes for Christian literature today would have left me totally unprepared for the valley.

I am a sinner. A few non-Christian friends have been surprised that a minister- (surely a good guy) and a nice minister, and a young minister would face something like this. The reality is Jesus does not promise his followers a life of comfort and ease, infact he promises the opposite. But he does promise his presence and peace to those who turn to and trust in him. He is faithful to that promise and to his people.

Neither have I any cause for complaint. I have not just broken his commandments, I’ve broken the one Jesus called the most important.

Actually I’ve broken it every day.
Truth be told, I’m not convinced I’ve perfectly fulfilled it for five minutes of my 31 years of life.

And yet for 31 years he’s let me breathe his air.

I don’t know how many times my heart has beaten, or my lungs have filled over these years but I’ve not earned a single breath or beat. I never earned my way into existence in 1980, and haven’t made up for that since. It’s all gift, all grace. We all like to think we’re good people. That the scales of our lives tip the right way, for that reason people put ministers like me on a pedestal. The truth is we’re all sinners, we’ve all treated the God who gifts us life as if he didn’t matter, we all need forgiveness. And its only found in Jesus.

Only in Jesus has a truly good man got what he didn’t deserve- he got it on the cross, to take the punishment of every believer.

I believe God is going to heal me, but I don’t fear death, not because I’m good, because I’m forgiven. I know God’s smile in the valley, he is for me, he is with me, he goes before me.

If you were to be brought into the valley, would you know this hope and peace? If not, stop praying for me and start praying for yourself. This wee website explains the gospel, but best thing to do is to find a strong Christian and a bible to talk\pray you through this.

As I was saying I have a lot to live for. And a lot to be thankful for.

As well as all the stuff we take for granted- life, food, colour, music, laughter, security etc

I have a loving, faithful, beautiful, loyal, godly wife
A beautiful wee girl who can make me weep just by calling me daddy
A great mum and wee brother who have loved me so well throughout my life
A church family who have been overwhelmingly kind, thoughtful, patient, prayerful, and loving.

Death for me as a Christian is gain.

But I’m not ashamed to say I’m praying for many more years here with these blessings and responsibilities. I want to be about to vet Katie’s boyfriends, and when if I reluctantly concede to one, to walk her down the aisle!

Matt Chandler sums it up better than I could. He’s a young minister like me, with a hot young wife and cute young daughter like me, suffered a sudden seizure like me, was diagnosed with a tumour in the right frontal lobe like me, requiring a craniotomy like me, and was overwhelmed by God’s love in the valley, like me.

Here he is speaking (he’s well worth a Google by the way!)

One more thing people have said to me- ‘it’s a shame you’ve taken so unwell right at your busy time!’

Actually Easter is a good time to face this, because the Easter message is the one that offers joy, not by building on the sand, or by burying your head in it, the Easter message offers joy and perfect peace even in the darkest of valleys.

Thank you for your love and prayers. We have shed many tears over these past few days, but none birthed of despair, most birthed simply in real, deep gratitude. 



  1. Ross - I've never been a religious man, I've seen nature as a cruel mistress at times, but I have to admire your positivity. I wish you all the best.

  2. Ross, I can only applaud your words shared here and be one of the unknown faces that stands in the crowds praying for you. Thank you for posting this with such honesty, vulnerabilty and clarity of purpose. I pray also that many others would read these words and know the truth within them. May you and your family continue to know God's presence and blessing even "in the valley." Cheryl.

  3. Bless you Ross, thinking of you and Deborah and wee Katie, much love, Rosemary Lincoln

  4. So touched by what you have written Ross. We are so blessed to have you as our pastor. My thoughts and prayers are with you, Deborah and Katie. X

  5. It was so incredible to read this. This blog is one of those few that are truly honest and humbling. I am proud of you and am praying for you, Deborah & Katie.
    Graeme McMeekin

  6. Ross - it's a privilege to listen to you in this blog. I, too, know what it is like to be in a valley, a valley with God. Truly - He is the God of the mountains AND the God of the valleys - and He is right there with you. He promised He would walk every mile of the road with you - and with your wife and daughter. He is not about to renege on that promise now

  7. With you all in Spirit, Ross.
    Stuart, Jacqui, Lewis, Euan and Callum

  8. Ross, your comments are an inspiration from the Lord - to us, and surely also, to all your dear family and your praying friends, who love you and care about you. You are "precious in His sight!" Each step of the way, He is with you, and goes before you!
    We pray His blessing upon you!

    With our love for you In Jesus,

    Jim and Jacqueline

  9. Airdrie Ebenezer Evangelical Church are praying for you and your family.

    May God be glorified in all this.

    Jeff Best

  10. Ross, I've just heard your news. Be assured of our prayers from across the Irish Sea.

    Colin Adams

  11. Hi Ross

    I just want to say that we are thinking and praying for you and your family at this diffcult time.

    I know that when I was ill I was so touched by the kindness of everyone. I was so grateful that people took the time (yourself included) to offer a kind word sit and have a wee chat.

    I know my illness is nothing to what you are going thru right now but if I can offer you any words of comfort it is this. God Will never give us more than we can cope with. I know that has been true in my own situation.

    Keep your chin up Ross and Maybe one day you get us back in church. Dave even said a wee prayer for you. *pity you had to get sick to get him to Pray) :)

    Mandy David and Mhairi Ewart

  12. Hey Ross, just catching up on your news from last year - May God continue that work of healing that your later updates testify to, and bless you and your family. Give me a shout if you want to meet up - we're not too far away! Dave