On April 5th, 2013 the last of three unimaginable days of my life came to be and pass. The first of those three was my wedding day, the second, the passing of my dear Annie and the third, the laying to rest of the body of my sweetheart, my best friend, my helper, my wife, my dearest of dearest, my Annie.
Jesus, my Good Shepherd and King brought me to and through each one of those days just as He promised.
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me. – Psalm 23
When Annie first got news of cancer, there were many times when I tried to imagine the last two of those three unimaginable days, but my mind always stood paralysed on the threshold. The closest I got to it was one sunny evening in May, 2012 when Annie and I sat down to talk about how she would like the service of thanksgiving to look. Three things were certain: she wanted it to be joyful; she wanted lots of music and singing and testimony from friends and family; and most importantly, she wanted Jesus to be lifted up, worshipped, adored, thanked and proclaimed. That night was the only night the Lord allowed me to walk into that unimaginable place before it had happened. It was a night when the Father very powerfully poured out His Holy Spirit upon us both and as I type this post, outside on the deck, I can picture and feel that night so well. After that evening I never again was able to approach that unimaginable place in my mind until the hour itself came upon me and my mind, body and soul would come to it and pass through it in the strength that the Lord gave to me that day.
The three weeks preceding the day of my Annie’s burial and thanksgiving were exhausting – especially the last three days that Annie and I were together. And yet, when April 5th arrived, I remember not just the absence of fear and dread but overwhelming peace and joy and clarity. Perhaps that sounds strange to some of you reading this. ‘Joy? On the day you buried your wife?’ Do not confuse joy with happiness. Do not confuse joy with the feeling you get when you have no reason to be sorry or sad. This joy is exclusive to those whom the Lord Jesus has saved and in whom He dwells. Yes, exclusive. That means, you cannot have it without Him as your King and you will not get it without Him as your King. It directly faces the darkest, most dreadful and sorrowful events and confidently sees through them and beyond them to a much brighter and greater reality which has been secured and guaranteed by Jesus, the Son of God who has victory and mastery over death. As I preached and testified that day, with Jesus we have confidence and assurance in death; without Him we have absence and nonsense.
Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken. – Psalm 62:6
I will not be shaken. And I was not shaken. Because Jesus is my rock. He is my King and my Shepherd.
For that reason, Annie’s thanksgiving service – which took place in the very same church building where we were married on August 4th 2001 – could be a joyful occasion and it was exactly that. Some estimated that there were around 600+ people there (certainly a lot more than were present at our wedding). All I know is that as I preached that afternoon, I looked out on a sea of faces. And with gratitude to the family and AV team at Woodgreen Evangelical Church who hosted the event, we were also able to broadcast the service live and had many folks watching from around the globe on that day.
There were others who were not able to be present for the thanksgiving service; I know that many of the nurses and medical staff at the hospice kindly sent their apologies. However, we filmed the entire service (all three hours of it!) and it was down to me to make time to edit and stitch the video and audio footage together at a later date. There have been multiple reasons for the delay in me doing that and it’s been difficult to find a space in my schedule and my grief to do that. However, a few weeks ago I started work on that with the intention of publishing the service on this blog before I leave for the US to be with family over there for a few weeks. Editing all that footage has been a bitter-sweet process but it’s my prayerful desire that the Lord may continue to use it to bear witness to the reality of His presence, His power and His love.
You are my God, and I will praise you;
you are my God, and I will exalt you.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever. – Psalm 118:28-29
Click here to start watching my Annie’s thanksgiving service
Please note that the videos are sorted in order of the order of service on the day.
The memory of the righteous is a blessing, – Proverbs 10:7
May the Lord Jesus bless you,
In His Arms,