The valley of tears

Philip Logan’s journey led Elaine and I this past week to a hospital room in North Shields, an English town between Newcastle and the North Sea coast.

His story began here:

 “On the morning of the 20th of November 2011, I begrudgingly accepted an invitation to go to church. I was 27 years old, with wild dreadlocked hair and filled with anger. I walked into the meeting, which was held in a dated hotel function room in Newcastle, England. That day, the Holy Spirit took hold of me, and I walked to the altar trembling from the power that seemed to be surging through my body. Knowing my life was a hopeless mess, I asked Jesus Christ to be my Lord and Saviour. He came into my life with such power, and changed me into a different person. He poured his love into me, flooding my heart with his grace. The rubble left from where I had blown up my life with drugs and toxic relationships was washed away in seconds, making their memories seem like a fading bad dream. I could no long relate to the person I had been. I could never go back.”

This was what Phil describes as the first of two days that changed his life. The second was this:

“Seven months later in a hospital room on the other side of the world in Wellington, New Zealand, I was diagnosed with cancer. The day began like most days. I went to work and during the morning, I began to feel a little off colour. Within a few hours, I was checking myself into a hospital with agonizing stomach cramps and a high fever. This led to emergency surgery for what was a suspected appendicitis. I woke up in agony from the surgery to the news that my appendix had ruptured during the procedure and torn a hole in my bowel releasing toxins into my body. That night, I was deathly ill. The next day some very serious looking doctors approached my bed, with a grave look on their faces, and informed me in a very serious tone that I had cancer and that I urgently needed to go straight back into the operating theatre. I had just enough time to phone England, where it was the middle of the night, to tell my parents, before I was back in surgery again. This was the traumatic beginning of what would become a long battle with this evil disease.”

The time since in has been filled with many things. Chemotherapy with dreadful side-effects, seasons of excruciating pain, powerful dreams in which God spoke to him, words from Scripture and from other people which restored him, and impossible or near-impossible surgeries which succeeded. And then a promise from Psalm 84: those who go through the valley of tears will make it a place of springs, going from strength to strength until each appears before God in Zion.

Phil wrote these words about his journey:

“There were indeed many tears in the dark valley. But when I got to the end of that course of chemo and looked back along the road, I didn’t see the pain. All I saw was the good he did along the way. He opened my eyes to him as the loving Father that he is, who is there walking every step with me (Psalm 121). Through that time, he built in my heart a solid trust that with him I can walk through the hardest situations. The truth is his goodness far outweighs any pain we can endure. The goodness of God extends far beyond and above what we read in the pages of the Bible. What is written in the Bible is meant to become real in our lives today.”

Cancer is a horrible foe. It never admits defeat and always seeks to reclaim the territory from which it has been evicted.

In a hospital near the north-east coast of England, the battle continues. And we, along with many others, fight it with him through our prayers, encouragement and whatever practical help each is able to give. What a privilege, after having said my own prayers for him, to find him reaching out to God in prayer for us.

Please listen to his closing words:

“So here is my counsel to you. If you ever find yourself in the dark valley of tears as I have, hold on, fear not and trust him, because where others will find only pain, you will find Jesus. And finding him is worth the price of every tear you could ever shed.”