During the summer of 1998 my marriage broke up, which left me in a lot of financial debt. Because of this the only accommodation open to me was lodgings.
After a few weeks in lodgings, the landlord decided for various reasons to re-let the room I was in, which left me homeless because the council were unable to house me. I ended up sleeping on a friend’s living-room floor on an airbed, trying to still hold down my full-time job.
By the middle of November, I had a phone call at work to say that my Aunty Marion had died in hospital and to ask if I would arrange her funeral. She had been living in a nursing home in Hertfordshire, which meant that, because of the distance involved from where I lived in Norfolk, I’d not seen her for several years.
My initial reaction was: ‘On top of everything else that’s falling apart in my life, I really can’t cope with arranging a funeral!’
The hospital had told me that my Aunty Marion had a Christian friend called Aubrey, a gentleman in his 80s who would visit her once a week to check she was alright. I thought it made sense for Aubrey to arrange the funeral because he lived so much nearer my aunt than I did.
I spoke to him on the telephone and he sounded so encouraging, and he also said to me, ‘You can do this!’ So I agreed.
I had that Friday off for compassionate leave and travelled by train to Hertfordshire, where my aunt had lived, and arrived at her flat at midday. I looked through her photograph album and some paperwork, with the intention of finding her birth certificate to register her death.
The photographs brought back a lot of old memories and upset me a lot, but I did find her birth certificate. My aunt’s friend Aubrey arrived and, by the time I had gathered my thoughts together, it must have been about half past three.
This left us about two hours in which to go to the hospital and get the death certificate, take the death certificate to the registrar, and then go to the undertaker’s to arrange the entire funeral.
Bearing in mind that it was a Friday afternoon, and people are keen to go home, everyone we spoke to went out of their way to help us! On our way back from the funeral directors, I said to Aubrey how surprised I was at the ease with which we’d managed the task set before us.
He replied: ‘The Lord is with us!’ I remembered this, and his words stayed with me.
The following day I met Aubrey at a cafe for lunch and explained the circumstances I was in, and all the things that were going wrong in my life; and for the first time it occurred to me that, no matter what I seemed to do, things were very much out of my control.
I remember thinking, ‘If there’s a God, I hope it’s him that’s in control’. I also explained to Aubrey about all the bad things I’d done in my life, and how I didn’t want to keep doing these things any more, but I didn’t have the strength to solve it.
Aubrey explained to me that we all have a sinful nature which we have inherited from the very first man, Adam, from the Garden of Eden. Also, Aubrey explained that God himself has provided the way for us to be forgiven.
I told Aubrey of my feelings of guilt and he said to me, ‘That’s most probably your sin’. He quoted a verse from the Bible: ‘Behold I am the Lord, the God of all flesh, is anything too difficult for me?’
Aubrey explained that Jesus had been put to death on a cross to pay the penalty for my sin, and as proof that God had accepted his sacrifice, God raised Jesus up from the dead on the third day. So Jesus is alive now. I remember thinking that, if Jesus is alive now, maybe he can help me.
A few days passed and Aubrey and I went to see my aunt laid out in her coffin. Although she had been 90 years old when she died, she looked beautiful and peaceful. I remember saying to Aubrey as I looked at her, ‘I can tell it’s a hollow shell. I can tell there’s nothing there now’, and Aubrey replied, ‘The spirit has left her body’.
So I began to wonder where it might be, and I wondered what would happen to mine.
Sunday came, and Aubrey and I went to an evangelical church service. When I arrived, I was surprised at what I saw. Although the people there weren’t related to each other, and some had never met each other before, they all looked so content. Their eyes shone with it.
I thought: ‘They’re truly happy, and I need that; I need it badly’.
After the service, I rang my eldest son Simon to tell him what I’d seen, and he asked me: ‘What do they know?’ I told him that I wasn’t completely sure yet, but whatever it was, when I’d found out I’d let him know.
Later that day, before I left on the train to come home, Aubrey gave me a cassette tape. There was no pressure to listen to it; it was simply an invite.
When I got home, I listened to it and it turned out to be a talk given about the Gospel according to John. It described how Jesus is God’s only begotten Son, who came to earth as a man and lived a completely sinless life in glory to God. Jesus had lovingly and gladly sacrificed his own life, by being crucified on a cross to pay the price for the sins of those who would believe.
Jesus’ own words are, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me’.
I began to think about the gospel I’d heard. It was fascinating to hear about people’s reactions to meeting Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I understood that, because of Jesus’ sacrifice, I didn’t have to go to hell, which I knew I deserved. Instead, I could spend eternity with Jesus in heaven.
As the cassette came to an end, the speaker posed three questions. First, ‘Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God?’ The Bible says, ‘The Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world’.
Second, ‘Do you believe Jesus died to pay the price for your sins by being nailed to a cross?’ ‘For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord’.
And third, ‘Do you believe Jesus rose from the dead?’ ‘Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and … was buried, and … rose again the third day according to the Scriptures’.
Through hearing God’s Word I had come to know him who is the truth, Jesus Christ my Savour. Jesus came to save sinners and has promised, ‘Whosoever believes on my name shall be saved’.
My burden of guilt was taken away. My conscience was washed clean. A whole lifetime of sin was forgiven completely, for ever!
I urge whoever reads this to turn away from what you know to be wrong and trust the Lord Jesus Christ to save you from your sin. ‘Whosoever will call upon the name of the Lord, will be saved’.
He doesn’t turn anyone away. If you’ve never come to Jesus Christ before, come to him now before it’s too late.