Resting and recovering – an endurance or a blessing?

Hi everyone,

Got home yesterday – which is great. Spent most of yesterday sleeping. I am feeling very, very sore – both my throat and my neck itself – i.e both muscular pain and internal post-operative pain. I am not allowed to speak at all until Sunday/Monday because the growth was much larger than they thought. They could not remove it all because they were worried about causing permanent damage to the vocal chord if they tried that, so they have cut away as much as possible and have left a small flap to cover the scarring – hence the command to completely rest my voice. Both chords were very swollen and impacted by the presence of the one growth – and it had almost completely closed the gap between the chords. Biopsies have been taken and I am back to get results and discuss the way ahead in the next week – ten days or so. Also await appointments with speech therapists etc, so the decision to cancel all speaking engagements between now and the end of the year was absolutely right – will give me a chance to recover and rest the voice and let healing and restoration take place.

There is no point in worrying about what happens next – I have a real sense of God’s continued peace and power and presence – and promise of restoration, so please join me in thanking God for that blessing and his love and peace which absolutely remain with me and the family.

The funny thing is that I am communicating with a simple ‘etch-a-sketch’ type thing that Debbie and the kids bought me. When I started writing with it, they started using it to write back to me! I’m the one that can’t talk though – not them! The same has happened with anyone who has used it – funny, eh! I may not be able to talk to you, but you can talk to me!!!

Thank you

Thank you all for your love, patience, kindness and prayers.

Part of the fabric of life?

Anyway, continuing the reflections on this whole thing, I am so aware of God’s grace and peace.

Whether we like it or not, pain is part of the whole fabric of life. To escape suffering completely, we would have to live in some sort of vaccuum – detached from the reality of most people’s lives and experiences – like sterilized and cushioned pods, where there was never risk of the unexpected or the experience of real life. If we do no not face trouble, pain or difficulty in our lives, then we would have no need of courage, patience or faith – and we would have no opportunity to grow in these virtues and learn how to become more like Christ. We would also loose the ability to show and have real compassion and empathy. If you do not understand, you cannot trully care – that is why the second person of the Trinity became a man, isn’t it – so he could be tempted in all ways, like we are, and he could be ‘touched by the feeling of our infirmities’.

Carravagio scourging

Without pain and struggle, we would never learn from our mistakes or grow through the struggles and hard challenges. Our life and ‘goodness’ would be like the robotic response of puppets, made to look pretty, but with nothing but wooden hearts and strings to pull us – no freedom, no life, no depth.  The more I try to think of a painless and a flawless world, the more impossible it becomes to think of whilst we live in the midst of a Kingdom which has come in part, but not yet fully. One day the struggles will end, but until that moment, we live in the midst of struggle and are changed by it  – and given the chance to show those around us that God is just as real in the midst of pain as He is in the midst of blessing.

Difficulty and struggle are part of the inescapable mystery of what it is to be fully human and fully alive.

It doesn’t make suffering any easier to bear, though. I still protest and fight against pain and struggle when it comes my way. I still want to get out of it as quickly as I can – and I still believe that I can ask God to end it as quickly as possible – but not until He has taught me, and others, of his grace and power in all of life. Of course we tend to complain about how unfair it all appears. We often ask, ‘Why did God let this Christian or that Christian struggle with illness or pain or tragedy?’ We can reduce God to a petty wonder worker who looks after his favourites and forgets the rest.  Some Christian theologies make God into a puppet and us into the puppet masters, with the church being a consumer based convenience store. God is a heavenly resue service who can be called upon to do what we want, when we want, how we want, with the currency being our faith rather than his grace.

This seems to be a far cry from the call of Jesus to give our all, take up our cross and to follow him. Sometimes discipleship leads us into more struggle, not less. God has not abandoned those who go through pain – he is not detached, he is not distant and he is not uninterested. He is with those who struggle and suffer as much as he is with those who do not. The absence of suffering and struggle doesn’t equate to the absence of God’s grace and power and love.

Faith to endure is as important as faith to escape.

Prodigal Son Bronze


  1. Dear Malcolm, I was trying to find a way of communicating with you directly & privately ! I don’t think others would be interested in what I have to say especially ! So, how can I do that ?
    Meanwhile, I so empathise with what you say on suffering, it is a foundry in which we are melted & moulded by God. We come to a point (for me very rapid) where we realise that there is nowhere else to turn (Ps118v19), even the best Drs’ knowledge has its limits. The Word of God, being opened up by friends who send me so many verses, becomes alive. And Jesus’ tears in the garden,so heartening, if He wept then He understands my need to.
    Here I sit, in the City Hospital in Belfast, hearing ‘your’ accent all around me ! I’m having the 2nd lot of this ‘experimental’ chemo & am so well …can it be working already ? I trust in God alone.
    We pray for you as you stay mum ….obviously difficult ! And as you wait to hear the outcome of the biopsies, not easy. May you all continue to know the depth of the peace of God which is so unlike anything else, & keeps our hearts & minds at ease. I also pay for a solution to your pain, & deep sleep at night.
    Anyway, I have more to say to you …..
    With love, Jan x


  2. Hi Jan
    Thanks for the message – I have spent quite a lot of time praying for you today. You can email me on and it will come to me privately.
    I have to say that you are an inspiration to me – and both you and Jonathan are a continual reminder of God’s grace and power in the midst of adversity. Your attitude to your cancer and the way in which you have radiated the love of God is amazing.
    Trusting you are enjoying the beautiful Enniskillen – it is a remarkably ‘thin place’ I think, with such beauty and tranquility all around. I was once part of the Ulster Youth Theatre and performed in the Ardowen Theatre there – is it still flourishing?
    Assuring you of my thoughts, prayers and love.


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