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Previous. Next. Through My Eyes

Losing a young wife to cancer

What a refreshingly honest book this is! Most Christians are afraid to be honest about suffering because they think frankness will be seen as a ‘lack of faith’. The plain fact is that the vast majority of sick Christians never receive a miracle of healing. And, to be ruthlessly honest, there’s no biblical reason for thinking they should.

Stephen Hackney watched his wife Lesley, over four years, gradually succumb to a particularly grim form of cancer. She was just 37 and the mother of their young daughter, Charlotte. The diary Stephen kept—one of the means by which he kept a grip on his thoughts and stopped himself from going under—tells of his own desperate struggle with his faith, the place of prayer and the theology of healing. It makes compelling reading: Through My Eyes: A husband’s diary of faith, hope, love and loss by Stephen Hackney (Authentic, 2011, ISBN 978-1-85078-955-0).

Stephen ends up, after Lesley’s death, in a place of stronger faith than ever, but he has had to ditch many of the trite attitudes to prayer, trust and healing that remain particularly rife in Pentecostal and charismatic circles today. His epilogue, which follows the diary entries, should be required reading for every unduly gung-ho and triumphalistic believer.


Through life some things come to change you; others to be changed by you. (Intro xix)

I live in the awareness that when you are desperate for God to speak, you can, in your mind, manipulate the situation. (p13)

How do you speak to the one you love when such a daunting threat hangs over their life? I’m really not sure. Death is such a threat, such a challenge and it brings with it such fear. Not even the fear of dying, but that of being robbed of what is yours. Years that should lie ahead for you, to watch your child grow up; years to spend playing, dreaming and working – fulfilling your purpose and living your dream – all potentially taken from you by the cruelty of this merciless disease. (p40)

I feel somewhat ‘prayed up’, not really knowing what to say any more – concerned that my repetition may be more detrimental to Lesley than helpful. Think I may be suffering from prayer fatigue. (p44)

Tonight Charlotte asked what I’d dreaded for so long: Will her mummy die? How do you answer such a question from a 7-year-old; how can you explain that her mummy will die, and possibly quite soon? (p89)

Paradoxically, most of the friends that are really close to me don’t offer much help, advice or books to read. They simply listen to our story, what’s new this month or week, and then cry. Afterwards, they might offer to take me for a coffee or a beer. That helps. (p97)

Should God expect so much from us if he is less willing or able to act significantly in our lives?’ My thinking for such a harsh question is simple: if God makes such great demands of us, then surely commensurate to demand ought to be intervention – there needs to be proportional representation on both sides. (p100)

We all know God did miracles in the Bible, but what about now? People talk about miracles with such flippancy, as if for the Christian they are a matter-of-fact part of our experience, but now I wonder if that’s right. Is it really true? I feel like the man in the Bible who, when questioned by Jesus replied, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’ (p123)

I received a text today encouraging us to watch God TV since the person believes Lesley could be healed as a result of it. Not sure whether to be encouraged or enraged. (p133)

It’s a really awkward situation; I mean, how can you ever suggest respite care for someone without at the same time insinuating you want a break from them? And how could you want a break from someone you love? (p142)

Another email arrived today from a person offering to pray for Lesley’s healing. I can’t make up my mind whether it gets easier or harder to receive such offers as Lesley’s illness progresses. He [and a friend, he says] ‘would both like to visit if you are agreeable, to bring new encouragement and stand in agreement with Lesley and yourself, for the manifestation of Lesley’s healing which is already hers, according to God’s promises.’ ‘Already hers…’ Well, that would be nice. I’m just left puzzled as to why, if it is already hers, she has not thus far been healed. (p152)

The idea of redemptive suffering has become one of the cornerstones upon which I’ve tried to build my life over the past few years. Without it, I can neither make sense of my own life or others’. (p165)

Prayer played a central role in both upholding and sustaining us during that long and difficult journey; it simply didn’t manifest in divine healing, which was a difficult truth to swallow, given my tradition as a Pentecostal. There were lots of ‘proof texts’ for us to turn to, offered from numerous sources; they simply didn’t work in the way prescribed, like medicine dispatched from a divine pharmacy. One now questions whether the use of proof texts as a form of Christian practice is a somewhat overstated and dangerously flawed theology. The way we handle the ancient scrolls should be of primary concern to all who profess to teach the Scriptures, myself included. (p187)

There is hope in our suffering, not because suffering is right, good or fair; there is hope in suffering because God can be found there. (p191)

The art of a good life is to reduce controllable regret to an absolute minimum. (p192)

There was a time when God and I didn’t speak for a while. Apparently he had nothing to say and frankly, neither did I. Now, he’s big and I guess could handle it, but I’m small and couldn’t, and it didn’t seem fair that he should pitch his omnipotence against my mortality. (p198)

I remember one day speaking to the congregation I lead: ‘What disappoints me most about prayer is how God apparently has so much to say when I don’t need to hear him, but then goes remarkably silent when I do. God appears to speak least when I need him most.’  (p198)

That God would appear to intervene directly in some situations and not in others is enough to leave even the most dedicated follower confused, and if viewed this way reduces prayer to some form of spiritual lottery. So perhaps prayer is better viewed as God’s interaction with, rather than intervention in, our lives. (p199)

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