Easter Hope from Suffering

jimmy's photo
Jimmy Mizen

In the height of summer sitting outside my caravan under a tree in Oxford, the chill of Easter seems far away. Yet a few days ago those balmy days came back me when I found a book given to me by my cousin over that holiday. More to the point, it’s heart rending story reminded me also of why this season can be dark and cold. Because it is a story of suffering and this is the week of suffering.


Jimmy Mizen was a member of a large Christian family living in Lewisham, London. We can imagine his excitement that morning. It was his 16th birthday and he was popping out on the 10th May 2008 to buy his first lottery ticket. After  the newsagents, he stopped to get his usual snack  at the bakery. A few minutes later he would be lying dying in his own blood after being stabbed. Shortly after,  his family arrived, his mother fainted at the sight as a young brother said – Jimmy’s gone to heaven.


His assailant had a long criminal record and had several times tried to mug Jimmy’s brother. That day he came into the shop and demanded that Jimmy move aside using foul language. Jimmy asked for the word – please and was assaulted for his trouble. This attack resulted in him being dying as from a cut to his neck. At the subsequent trial, the Judge didn’t believe the story of Jimmy’s killer that he had been provoked and  jailed him for 14 years. During the trial Jimmy’s family had to suffer the taunts and sneers of the defendant and his family.


Here then is suffering; suffering of Jimmy who was said to have looked scared even in death, suffering of his family and even if we are reluctant to accept it – suffering of the killer for he was to be attacked himself and stabbed in prison.


How then did the suffering of Christ help with the suffering of Jimmy’s family? How did the suffering of Christ bring a form of hope to Jimmy’s family? How indeed did the suffering of Christ bring some fruit from from the suffering in this story?


Well, despite the bleakness of the days, weeks and years ahead, Jimmy’s mother,  Margaret,  said they were held by a strength outside themselves. This was need shown at the church door on that first Sunday when she said that she was thinking of the suffering of the killer’s parents.


It was the strength given to the family when 16 candles were brought forward at Jimmy’s funeral as they could ask – did their flame fix Jimmy in eternal memory or did their flame call on the story  of Jimmy’s life to fix what is broken – to fix us?


It certainly gave Danny, one of Jimmy’s brothers, the strength to say to Kay Burley on Sky News – I have tried to hate Jimmy’s killer – but I can’t.


Ultimately this inner power allowed the Mizen family to set up the Jimmy Mizen Foundation. Now it has the aim of giving teenagers a sense of being part of a community, of having a role to play and be responsible for their actions. To that end they have fostered a number of programmes including a drop-in cafe that can be a place of advice and safety. However,  it is their talks that have really made a change. These are given everywhere including prisons. One such gained this letter from an inmate.


I’m writing this letter to thank you for the touch you placed on my life.  I am currently in prison for murder and serving 16 years. You advised us to write a sorry letter to my victims parents.  No matter how much I twist and turn and ask God to rewind time,  I cannot make up for a life lost.


My mind has been at battle for a long time over the existence of God, but today you have shown me who will win the war.


Today God showed me you.


And today you showed me God.

Thank you.


So where did this strength and power come from?


The day after Jimmy’s death, his father Barry was due to act as a Eucharistic Minister at his local Catholic church. He could of got out of it, but he chose to serve the chalice.  As he did – he of course said the words ‘blood of Christ’.  As he  did people cried and cuddled him. He felt that he had the strength to  comfort them as he became literally soaked in their tears.


It seems then it is in contemplation of Jesus suffering we not only put our own in context but know, that through him, God knows suffering.  Moreover, it is through his suffering this week we find the the power to bear our own even transcend it into making it a place of hope and reconciliation.


Since it is only through not looking away from Christ on the cross can we find meaning and inspiration in the song that Tommy sang at Jimmy’s funeral:

Brother I feel weak

Feels like his and seek

Now you are gone.

The directions you give

Are all that I love for but I’m lost.


So come on and find me

I know you’re behind me

Cause you sparkle.


I’ll never lose your sparkle


I’ll never lose your sparkle


It brightened up the darkest day

And cheered up the saddest face

No, I’ll never look away

No, I’ll never look away

From your life.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s