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- ISBN: 9781449760489 | 1449760481
- Cover: Hardcover
- Copyright: 10/2/2012
Nobody is immune to grief--not even pastors. Grief is a part of life―it is the cost of loving someone. Have you ever thought about what it must be like for pastors to lose someone they love? Is it any easier for them? They are usually the ones who console others during a loss, officiate at funerals, make those late-night hospital visits when someone is sick, and who are there to listen to grieving church members pour out their hurting hearts. But to whom do pastors turn when they suffer a tragic loss? Often people perceive grief as a sign of weakness and Christians mistakenly reason if they have a strong faith then they shouldn’t be grieving. On the contrary Jesus wept at the tomb of a dear friend and set the example for us all to follow. So what is a pastor to do in times of immense personal grief? What would happen if a pastor got angry with God for taking a loved one to Heaven? What would church members think if they found out? This story is a love story cut short by cancer, a story of immense grief and anger, a story of purpose in God’s plan not to waste our suffering, and a story that evolved into a seminary thesis and subsequent book made possible only through the personal experience of having walked through a journey of grief. John Whitton, youth pastor at Westwood Christian Church, embarked on a church mission trip in 1994―a trip where he would find the love of his life. “I had waited a long time to get married. I was an old bachelor,” says John. But John discovered on the mission trip that he had found that special person, and on March 30, 1996, John Whitton and Leah Smith exchanged vows. John had concerns about being 12 years older than Leah. “We talked about that an awful lot― the implications of that,” says John, but they didn’t let it stop them from planning to serve in ministry, begin a family, and grow old with each other for the rest of their lives. John and Leah began serving side by side in a multitude of ministries. As newlyweds, they planned out the perfect life―when they would buy a house, how soon they would start a family, etc. Everything was falling into place--or so it seemed. However, in November of 1997--about a year and a half into their marriage--Leah began to experience vision problems. Tests revealed that Leah had an inoperable malignant brain tumor. “I’ll never forget the day when the surgeon met us in the conference room, gave us the word on the biopsy, and then basically said it’s bad. He gave her less than a year to live,” says John. The news was devastating considering Leah was only twenty-eight years old and a picture of absolute health. John and Leah knew what they had to do―they embarked on a journey to save Leah’s life. John poured over medical research and spent countless hours reading anything and everything he could about this type of cancer. In the midst of dealing with chemo and radiation, Leah also had to cope with paralyzing stroke-like symptoms on her left side caused by a biopsy bleed. It would take six to eight months before she would regain most of her motor functions. Contrary to medical predictions, Leah favorably responded to the treatments. The tumor shrank by 90%, putting her into a four-year remission – something unheard of with her diagnosis. During that four-year remission, Leah would return to the doctor every three months for a scan, because the doctors were certain the cancer would return. John says, “And so we lived with that―we lived life in three-month increments. For about eleven weeks we’d be good, but the week before the scan we’d get nervous. When we received a good report (a good scan) we’d celebrate, relax, and breathe.” However in January 2002 the cancer returned just as the doctor had predicted. From 2002 through 2005, Leah underwent continuous chemotherapy. Determined to overcome the disease, John and Leah gathered up all her scans and traveled throughout the country, meeting with numerous physicians. Everywhere they traveled, doctors would comment at how miraculous it was for Leah to be alive.