Difficult News

Today I shared some difficult news with the fellowship at Pier Avenue and, I think it is only right to share it with you.

Over the past few weeks, things have been coming to a bit of head for me.  During this time, I read a passage from the Bible that really made me angry.  The passage is one that is really well known, Jesus stilling the storm on the lake.  It is found in Mark 4 vs. 35 – 41.

Ironically, our Regional Minister chose to preach on this passage when he was with us a couple of weeks ago.  My preaching on this was not an attempt to “put his sermon right” because, his was an excellent sermon!  But, I needed to address my own struggle with it and explain why I find this a difficult story, at the moment.  The reason for my struggle is found in verse 40;

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

(Mark 4 vs. 40)

When I read those words, part of me wants to grab Jesus, shake him and say “of course they are afraid, I would be more worried if they were not.  They have just come through this incredible storm which has terrified experienced sailors.  Their lives were on the line.  They were face to face with death and you ask why are you so afraid?”

I have, in the past, sat through those sermons that have told me fear and worry are a sin.  I have been told that fear is about faithlessness and, by implication, if you worry and if you have fears then you cannot be trusting God.  If you are not whole-heartedly trusting God then, you must be in sin.

Eugene Peterson, rather unhelpfully, in the Message translates this verse as

Jesus reprimanded His disciples “why are you such cowards?”

And that really angered me!

Not wishing to lack grace here but, those sermons and those kind of comments have not helped.  All they have done is piled on guilt on top of the fear and the worry and told me what a poor Christian I am.

So, why is this passage so sensitive for me at the moment?

We are living through an “annus horribilis” – if I may borrow the Queens phraseology.  My son has had major health problems.  My, as yet unborn, grandchild has had shown on a scan that he is going to be born with a cleft lip – the same condition I was born with.  Although there is, according to the medical staff, no genetic link I am sure you can imagine what is going through my mind.

As if all this wasn’t enough, I have recently had an accident at home.  My prayer became “come on Lord, give us a break!”

Then came some news from left field.

Following the accident, I made a trip to A&E.  I was convinced that I must have broken ribs.  The doctor came to see me after the scan and advised me that there was “good news and bad news”.  The good news was, no broken bones.  The bad news was they had found a growth in my pancreas.

I needed to see my GP urgently and had an emergency referral to see a Gastro Intestinal Surgeon.  As yet, I do not know if this growth is benign or malignant and I will be returning to hospital for further tests this week.  We are in that awful “this may be something or this may be nothing” phase.  I think our family is living proof of the truth of Shakespeare’s words in Hamlet;

When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions

What amazed me was the fears that began to surface in me.  Life or death is not a major issue but, I am a fairly private person.  My biggest fears centred around me becoming “the centre of attention”.  I cannot explain why but I became terrified that, if people knew, I would have people laying hands on me and praying for me in front of the church (in private is a different matter altogether).  I didn’t want people to fuss!

I have come to realise and believe that God created us to be people with feelings and emotions.  I think Jesus understood the fact that His disciples were afraid.

So, what if, this question is not a criticism?

The word rebuke or reprimand does not appear hear.  So, what if this is not reprimand but, an invitation?

You see God wants us to trust Him.  God wants us to grow in our faith and the starting point for this growth isn’t criticism or condemnation; it is honesty. That is what I have come to believe Jesus is saying here in this verse.

Be honest about it.  No false bravado.  No mask.  No hiding behind your religiosity – be truthful and together we can deal with this.




20 thoughts on “Difficult News

  1. My husband has been through a prolonged illness – pneumonia, sepsis- resulting in a cavity found in his lung which was removed last November in Papworth hospital. I feel people praying for us carried us through which was and continues to be difficult times. I soo recognise what you say about “Lord Give us a Break”. I’m sure your congregation will be praying for you and your family .

  2. You are one of the best examples of ‘human’ that I know

    Please continue, it’s what you do best……..

  3. Good-day Sean!
    Thank you for those difficult yet heartfelt words.
    We are all human.
    Part of our make up is having feelings and thoughts. When we are in the phase of not knowing one way or the other, our fears tend to take over our rational thinking.
    Our thoughts are with you, full of positivity and Love.
    Lorraine & Gifford Rose
    One of the few POC in the village – please smile.
    Sincerely yours,

  4. Even Jesus said “Why hast thou abandoned me?” to his father to demonstrate fear is normal. This night of darkness will pass. You are in God’s hands now. God bless you.

  5. Sean what a wonderful honest blog . As someone else who is also having an annus horribilis this year thank you for your honesty . Praying that your tests will have a good result and that all your family problems will improve . Our God is amazing and continually surprises us when we least expect and especially when we are low . Xxx

  6. As you say things get thrown at you when you least expect it. I have the poem ‘Footprints’ on my wall at home to remind me when all my strength has failed He will be there to carry me. Know you will come through this stronger and I will join evetyones prayers at this difficult time for happier times.

  7. As much as you are the bestest minister I’ve known at pier ave, it just shows that you are no doubt, human. Strength always comes from within and your family.

  8. I am so sorry to read this please take comfort in knowing that you are loved and we are here for you x my dear friend and mister x

  9. Sean, thank you for being so honest and human. My heart goes out to you and your family. Thank you so much because through all your problems you have continued to minister to us. Please know that our prayers are with you and we are here for you.

  10. Sean. I am so sorry to hear your latest news on top of everything else. Experience has taught me that being honest & real are what God wants & expects. I’m with the psalmist on this. This period of waiting is the most difficult. I will be praying for you all. I’m away at the moment & will be moving next week but will be in touch.

  11. Sorry to hear all of this Sean. I know you and Paula will continue to trust God in all of this, knowing he will bring you through. Will be praying for you. Barbara Barrett, Birmingham.

  12. James 5:13-15 New International Version (NIV)
    The Prayer of Faith
    13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up.

  13. Dear Sean. This verse in Mark was part of our meditation at Taketime Together Reigate and we too struggled with the words “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”. It was wonderful to read your thoughts on this and I will be sharing them with the group when we meet again on Tuesday. I send you my prayers and best wishes and hope, like the storm, life calms down for you soon

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