There’s no love like the love of Jesus

One, never to be forgotten, day in December 2011 Patricia’s husband, Gerrard, who was 77, went to buy his morning paper. Gerrard, a retired accountant, and Patricia had been married for 13 “incredibly happy years.” That morning Gerrard did not come home and Patricia went to look for him. She discovered that he had been knocked down by a car driven by a young man named Brian. Patricia arrived in time to see the aftermath of the accident. She said, “I ran up the road and saw a pool of blood on the pavement, it was horrendous.” Gerrard was taken to hospital, but died from multiple injuries 2 months later.

When Patricia arrived at the accident scene, she saw Brian, who was “in bits” at the roadside. Despite her distress she managed to console him. She said, “It never occurred to me to blame him, I just thought ‘poor chap’. It was the worst day of my life and, no doubt, the worst day of Brian’s life as well.” Brian, a 30 year old aircraft engineer, said he had not seen Gerrard crossing the road because his vision was impaired by an oncoming vehicle. At a recent court hearing, however, he was found guilty of causing death by careless driving and received a 3-month suspended sentence.

Patricia, who is a Christian, attended the court hearing to support Brian and wrote a remarkable letter, which was shown to the judge. In it she wrote, “Dear Brian, Today is a very important day and I will be in court to support you. On the day of the accident, however bad it was for me, I realise it was 1,000 times worse for you. Neither Gerrard, if he was here, nor I feel any sense of condemnation towards you. Will you make me a promise that you will get on with your young life, knowing that you will always be supported by my prayers?” The judge said the letter was “extremely moving” and Brian’s barrister called it “truly astonishing.” As Brian left the court, sobbing, Patricia hugged him.

It is clear that Patricia’s experience of God love and forgiveness in Jesus has enabled her to respond in this remarkable way to this tragic situation. God’s love in Jesus is unique. There is no one else who loves us as he loves us. Experiencing the love of Jesus transforms us and makes us long that everyone around us might know his love as well.

Real relationships in an impersonal world

The amount of time spent in face to face contact with family and friends has dramatically reduced because of the increased use of mobile phones and social media. Psychologist Dr Aric Sigman has said, “As the amount of time spent looking at a screen or plugging in increases, the amount of direct eye-to-eye contact and developing real-life relationships inevitably decreases. By the age of 7 years, the average child born today will have spent one full year of 24 hour days watching screen technology. By the time they reach 80 they will have spent almost 18 years of 24 hour days watching non-work related screen technology. That’s a quarter of their lives.”

The implications of this are very serious for developing meaningful real-life relationships. Although on the face of it mobile phones and social media are means of keeping in touch with people, they are seriously distorting human relationships. People may have many “friends” on Facebook, but they seldom meet them and spend time with them. Instead they exchange information. Given the option of making a phone call or sending a text most people today choose to send a text. Famous people send brief messages to their “followers” on Twitter.

Real relationships are very important for us all. We are essentially relational beings. When God first created Adam he said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” Eve was a God’s special creation as an equal to Adam, so that they could share their lives together. Human relationships between husbands and wives, parents and children, brothers and sisters can be the source of the deepest joy and happiness. The experience of mutual love is a wonderful blessing. When close relationships go wrong we inevitably experience intense pain and sadness.

The iPad and the mobile phone can be turned off. Only slaves are on call 24/7! How important it for us to make it a priority to spend quality time with our family and friends. We can also spend quality time with God. Through his Son, Jesus Christ, any of us can experience the privilege of becoming one of God’s children. Through prayer we can speak to him at any time, wherever we are. He is never too busy to hear our prayers. We can also listen to him. Through his Word, the Bible, he speaks to us and makes many wonderful promises. Through a personal relationship with God in Jesus we can experience his love and discover the purpose for which we were created.

God is our refuge and strength

Some new stories are very sad and reveal how vulnerable we all are when we are exposed to exceptional pressure. Jacintha Saldanha, the nurse at King Edward VII hospital who answered a prank phone call from two Australian DJs, took her own life just 3 days later. Frances Andrade, a mother of 4 sons and a very talented violinist, committed suicide after giving evidence against the music teacher who abused her when she was a teenager. Both Jacintha and Frances were living fulfilled lives until they were subjected to pressures with which they could not cope. Both deaths are tragic and have devastated the families.

The apostle Paul was once imprisoned in Philippi. He and his friend, Silas, were in the deepest cell with their feet fastened in stocks. At midnight there was an earthquake which shook the foundations of the prison. All the prison doors flew open and the chains of every prisoner fell off. The jailer woke up and, seeing the prison doors open, assumed the prisoners had escaped. He drew his sword and was about to kill himself when Paul shouted to him, “Don’t do it! We are all here!”

Under great pressure the jailer made a mistake, which any of us can do. He had experienced an earthquake, saw the prison doors open, and assumed all the prisoners had escaped when, in fact, none of them had. All of us can be brought to a situation where we are in the depths of despair and feel there is no way forward, no hope for the future. It is so important to be sure we have really understood the whole situation. It is easy to think that we need to do something drastic and to do it now!

It is also important to be able to talk to those who love us, our family and friends. Feelings of despair and hopelessness are strongest when we are alone. Those who are tempted to take their own lives often feel that everyone would be happier if they were not around, but nothing could be further from the truth. We can also ask God to help us and give us strength. He is a refuge for all in need. One hymn writer, who had experienced great troubles, wrote, “How oft in the conflict, when pressed by the foe, I have fled to my refuge and breathed out my woe! How often, when trials like sea-billows roll, have I hidden in Thee, O Thou rock of my soul!”

God hears our prayers

I am staying for a few days with friends in São Paulo, a teeming megacity in Brazil. While I have been here I have heard of people facing real difficulties. Peter, who is in his early sixties, was visiting Christians in a remote town in Amazonas when he fell and broke his leg. In great pain he was taken on the back of a truck and then in a small motorised canoe to a small hospital in a nearby town. They were unable to perform the operation he urgently needed so he was flown 500 miles to Manaus, the capital of Amazonas. After a number of delays he had the operation and special arrangements are being made for him to return to the UK.

At church on Sunday morning we were told about the minister’s 10 year old granddaughter who is seriously ill in the United States with an inoperable brain tumour. Soon after she was born she had surgery to remove a large brain tumour and made a remarkable recovery. Now, 10 years later, the tumour has returned. Emmeline is very unwell and has talked with her mother about the fact that this time she may not recover. They have talked together about Emmeline trusting Jesus and going to heaven.

Our response in both situations has been to pray. We prayed for Peter’s operation, for a good recovery and then the difficult journey home to be reunited with his family. We are praying for Emmeline and her family and asking God once again to graciously heal or, if not, to be with her as her short life draws to an end and she goes to be with Jesus.

It is a wonderful thing to be able to bring all our needs, and the needs of others, to our heavenly Father. We all face situations which are too big for us, but they are never too big for him. Even in a city like São Paulo, with its 18 million people, it is amazing to think that God knows each one from the children on the streets to the millionaires in their mansions. Whoever we are we can cry out to God and he will hear and help us. He will give us strength to face each situation and promises that we can trust him when we walk through the darkest valley. Even in that valley there is no reason to be afraid because he has promised to be with us.