Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Month: November 2012

Renew Your Joy And Wonder

Oh, the joys of those who trust the Lord,
who have no confidence in the proud or in those who worship idols.
O Lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us.
Your plans for us are too numerous to list.
You have no equal.
If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them.
Psalm 40:4-5 (New Living Translation)

Is there joy in your heart?  I pray that if you are low on joy today, God will fill you with joy by the time you get to the end of this post.

I used to trust God for things, sort of, but I always wanted to get to that place where I could trust Him completely and stop worrying about things.  Worrying doesn’t accomplish anything except a quickened heart rate, sleepless nights and a mammoth-sized headache if you’re not careful.  When I was ill, God took me to a whole new level of dependency on Him.  My regular prayer during the illness was ‘help’ – several times a day I would stand at the top of the stairs knowing I had neither concentation nor adequate control of my body to get down them safely and in one piece.  Same for going up them, I knew there was every likelihood of my body lurching over backwards as I climbed.  But every time, God got me safely up and down the stairs.  Every time.  At the worst of the illness, at my weakest stage, I was unable to get out of a chair by myself.  I would count under my breath, ‘one, two, three, hup’ but no matter how I tried, I couldn’t get to my feet.  Only when I prayed, was I able to get out of the chair.   The fact that I counted the Lord in is neither here nor there…. ‘Okay Lord, one, two, three, hup’ – as if He needed help!

When you have that kind of confidence in God – confidence in Him enabling you to do the small, everyday things that we normally take for granted – it brings a real sense of joy in Him.  This is a joy that can’t be manufactured.  It’s an impossible joy that bubbles up inside, despite the circumstances.  We realise on a new level the wonderful deeds God has done for us and know that we could never get to the end of thanking Him for all the things He does.  Do you realise that every breath you take – and the fact that most of the time you’re not even aware of breathing – is a gift from God?  Every time your heart beats – and it usually beats around 80 times per minute – is a gift from God.  It is due to Him entirely that you are able to read this blog post and understand it.  Just a handful of all the wonderful deeds He does for us continuously.  Because He loves us, and because He wants us to enjoy Him and rejoice in Him.

Joy characterised Jesus.  It says of Him that the Father anointed Him with the oil of gladness more than His companions.  Therefore, joy must characterise the life of a Christian.  It’s God who gives the joy; it’s part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit.  It’s a no-brainer, isn’t it?  If you want joy and don’t have it, or you want more joy, just ask God.

While I was ill, my brain was pretty messed up and it was hard (impossible at times) to pray coherently for myself, but I had a handful of wonderful friends who lovingly prayed me through that time (and I’m convinced God shielded me from the worst of that illness because of my praying friends).  So, if you’re needing help but feeling overwhelmed by life just now, please leave a comment on this post and I will pray for you.

Image courtesy of dream designs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

‘Many Will See… And Be Amazed’

I’m in Marseille right now meeting with my team-mates and unexpectedly found myself with a free morning so, since I’m leading Prayers on Friday, I thought it would be a good time to prepare.  And now I’m excited about God’s wonderfulness so I thought I’d share it with you.

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and He turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire.
He has set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.
He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what He has done and be amazed.
They will put their trust in the Lord.
Psalm 40:1-3 (New Living Translation)

Do you feel bogged down with life just now?  Are your circumstances difficult?  Are you stuck in some temptation or situation that you know is wrong and you don’t want to be caught in it but feel you have no power to help yourself?  Are you at the end of your tether?

I have good news.  Jesus specialises in breaking the power of temptation (He really does!), cleaning up horrendous messes, and rescuing hopeless situations.  When we’re at the end of ourselves, all we have to do is tell Him that we need Him and ask Him to rescue us.  And He does.  He is able to forgive, and provide us with a new heart and a positive outlook on life.  He makes everything new, bringing healing and wholeness, as He gradually changes us from the inside out.  The more we understand – really comprehend – what He has done for us, the more we want to sing and praise Him out of a heart overflowing with thankfulness.  And people around us will notice, and want to know why we are different.  They will be attracted to the Jesus they see in us.

Let me show you how this was mirrored in my life a couple of years ago.  As you know, I had a debilitating illness – cerebellar ataxia and chronic fatigue – which meant that most days my brain and mind were exhausted and I had no strength in my body.  I was constantly dizzy, and could only walk by slowly shuffling along, lurching unsteadily from side-to-side.  It felt as though I was drowning in the mud and mire of excessive weakness and confusion.  My body was in a terrible state, some days every ounce of energy and concentration went on simply breathing – in… pause, out… pause, in… pause, out… – and I knew I was in the valley of the shadow.  But praise God, He healed me!  It felt very much as though He had set me on solid ground and steadied me as a I walked along – literally! – by taking away the vertigo and infusing my body with strength.  I soon discovered the power of praising Him (not for nothing did the songwriter pen those words:  ‘His praise shall be our battle cry’).  I felt as if I’d been made new in some way from the illness, and I had a new song to sing of praise to God-my-Healer.  As I tell my story, and as people have witnessed the change His healing power has wrought in my life, they are amazed and built up in their faith.  My prayer is that through my story of the wonderful things Jesus has done for me, many will put their trust in Him.

For me, my healing is a picture of salvation.  I was bogged down by the mud and mire of selfishness and pride, in the desperate pit of wanting my own way and of ignoring God.  I couldn’t do anything to help myself.  When I realised I needed someone to rescue me from that, I prayed to Jesus.  He is the only one who can save and bring us into relationship with God.  He forgave my sin, and kept a careful watch on me as I learned to live with Him as my boss.  He keeps me on the right path and hoiks me back when I stray.  The more I understand of what He has done, the more I praise Him out of a deeply grateful heart.  And I trust that my joy spills out so that others notice it and want to know the Source of my joy.

How about you?  If you feel like you’re weighed down by the cares and responsibilities of life, in the pit of despair, tell Jesus about it.  He can and He will help you.  If you’d like me to pray for you, then please leave a comment on this post or contact me using the ‘contact’ page and I will be happy to do so.

When Life Is Turned Upside Down

Our house is upside down at the moment.  The lounge is echoey with bare walls and a minimum of furniture (we’ve taken the minimalist look to a new level!), the bedroom furniture is all bunched together in the middle of the room, requiring Adrian and me to go through all manner of gymnastics just to get into bed at night, and there is stuff all over the study that doesn’t belong there.  As for the spare room, it’s become a storage box for all the stuff that is usually in the lounge, bedroom and study….  The kitchen hasn’t escaped unscathed with its constant smell of white spirits and array of paint tins, brushes and rollers.  Even the shower in the bathroom is joining in by working haphazardly.  All our spare time is spent on painting or preparing to paint, looking at colours, carpets and curtains, and endless trips to B&Q, Homebase and Ikea.

Consequently, life is exhausting and somewhat stressful in the Johnson household.  At times, I look around at all the work that still needs to be done and am in danger of being completely overwhelmed.  Deep breaths are needed.

It will be good when all these rooms are finished and home is back to being home.  But we have to go through the mess and upheaval before we can sit back and enjoy the results.

It’s the same when God comes in and turns your life upside down.  At first you think, ‘I can do this, yes I trust You Lord,’ while merrily trundling along in your own strength.  And then He adds in something else to the mix, and then that thing goes wrong.  Before you know it, life feels overwhelming and you begin to wonder just how it could all go so wrong.  It’s not pleasant, it’s not easy and it’s downright hard when it happens.

At various times, God has – without notice or my prior consent – stepped in and caused apparent chaos in my life.  The first major upheaval came along in my late teens when my dad was ill with heart problems, in and out of hospital.  Eventually he was told he needed a heart transplant, for which the likely wait would be two and a half years.  But the doctors only gave him two years to live.  At that point, I decided I’d had enough of God messing things up in my life.  If that was how He was going to manage things, fine, I was going to take over.  I could do a much better job.  While my mum and dad quietly accepted the diagnosis and committed themselves and the situation to God, I rebelled in my heart.  They had inner peace that kept them sane in the months waiting for a heart to become available, and during the long nights when my dad struggled to breathe and my mum secretly wondered if she would wake up in the morning a widow.  I, on the other hand, had nothing but stress and fear.  I was terrified of losing my dad and I was stressed because I was completely helpless.  This was not one of those situations of knowing the right people to get things done.  There was nothing I could do – apart from pray, and there was no way I was going to do that!  Subsequently, my parents’ prayers were answered and my dad got his new heart (albeit it on the third time after two false alarms).  They both pulled through.  I collapsed a few months later, having learned the hard way that God loves me way too much to allow me to just cut Him out of my life without a second thought.  He brought me to a complete standstill so that I could say, ‘sorry’ and get right with Him again.  Through that I’ve learned that no matter how tough life is, keep the communication lines open between you and God.  Cutting Him off is the very worst thing you can do.

Why does God allow these hard times to happen?  I believe there are two main answers.  If you don’t know God personally, then He may be using difficult circumstances to get your attention.  He loves you and wants you to enjoy a relationship with Him.  That’s why Jesus died on the cross, to make it possible.  So if you don’t know God right now but you are going through a hard time, why not consider finding out more about Him?  He might be trying to get your attention.

If you are a Christian, then you could well be going through hardship so that He can refine you.  The best way I’ve learned to deal with difficulties and heartache is to ask God to take you right through the bottom of it and help you to learn all that He wants you to know.  I’m not sure it makes it any easier to go through the problem, but you will become a richer Christian for it – rich in an intimacy and knowledge of God that you would otherwise not have the opportunity to know.  I’ve practiced this through a painful broken relationship and through ill health that cost me my job and my independence.  But through both of these difficulties, I’ve absolutely gained.  Knowing Jesus intimately is the best thing that can ever happen.

My house is upside down while we redecorate.  We’re not enjoying all the upheaval and mess but it will be worth it when it’s finished.

Maybe life is upside down for you.  Is God trying to get your attention?  Respond to Him and make this momentary affliction worth while.

Rejection

Rejection is something every human being will suffer at some point in their lives; sometimes it’s obvious and sometimes it’s the little things that you don’t think really bother you but are chipping away at your very soul.  It’s when you should be feeling complete and whole in Christ, but you’re feeling bruised and shattered.

No one was more despised and rejected than Jesus – even on the cross, those who said they would never leave Him turned and fled… and He must have known.  Even in the harsh truth of full rejection, Jesus forgave and prayed to His Father for another.  He had the strength to do this because He knew He had the acceptance of the One who brought the earth to life.

So know this:  every person you meet in life could and probably will reject you at some point; but there is One who looks on you with full acceptance.. .and in the end, He’s the one you’re living for!

For You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in Your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

Based on Psalm 139:13-16 (quoted from English Standard Version)

  Ruth Barbour

 

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