I CAME back to take services at Romsey Abbey last Sunday ,after a year out, to a wonderful welcome from the congregation! I preached a little about how life can change in the blink of an eye.

I was diagnosed with terminal cancer last year and have been going through intensive chemotherapy.

As you can guess it was quite a shock when I was told I had cancer because I had felt fit and well and was running most days before I started chemo.

What I have discovered over the years of ministry is that life is nothing if not unpredictable. I have had the privilege of being alongside people in all sorts of circumstances not only tragic but also full of hope and love.

It isn't ,though, WHAT happens in our lives that really matters it is how we deal with it and what we make out of it. Only through both the ups and downs of life can we gain wisdom and help others.

Henri Nouwen ,a man of faith and a very perceptive spiritual writer said this. "Each day holds a surprise. But only if we expect it can we see, hear, or feel it when it comes to us. Let's not be afraid to receive each day's surprise, whether it comes to us as sorrow or as joy It will open a new place in our hearts, a place where we can welcome new friends and celebrate more fully our shared humanity"

This has been something of my experience as I have made new realisations and met people at hospitals and clinics going through a rough time to say the least.

I have found in so many hope and often amazing bravery, fortitude and even a sense of humour in the face of disaster in their lives.

As you read this you may be one of those going through incredibly tough times yourselves or with loved ones. Please know you are not alone. There are many organisations and individuals who understand and can come alongside you.

Life can change in the blink of an eye but God too knows what it is to suffer, as his Son Jesus came and lived among us and experienced the pain and loneliness of what it often means to be human.

Suffering as well as joy is our shared experience with each other and with God. Let's not be afraid of the surprises but live each day as fully as possible remembering that we are NOT alone.

Rev'd Bryan Taphouse

Romsey Abbey