Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows


For years I struggled to sing the worship song Blessed be Your name by Matt Redman. I’ve discovered I’m not alone in this. It takes the words that Job, a man in the Bible, said to his wife when they had just received the horrific news that all of their children had been killed in a freak accident. Job’s famous words were: ‘The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.’

On the terrible Friday afternoon when I lost our tiny twins, I was unable to face what was happening. It was too final. This was our only chance, barring a miracle, of having a baby of our own. I was unable to deal with the deep pain of loss, shattered dreams, and the finality of it. There was an unacknowledged sense of this particular pain never ending. Babies were delightful creatures that other people conceived. But not us.

And so for several years, I was unable to sing Matt Redman’s song without tears. Maybe for others they were just pleasant, biblical lyrics. For me they spoke of heartrending reality. God had given my life-long dream of twins and a few days later had taken it away.

But God is good. He really is. People say time is a great healer. Maybe. I’ve found God to be the best healer. He saw the grief I’d buried and the reality I’d felt unable to face and, when the time was right, He gently brought it to the surface. Together we turned and looked at the pain head-on so that He could bring emotional healing and wholeness.

I don’t know why He hasn’t given us children. I don’t know why He gave and took away. But I do know that He is good and trustworthy and loving and utterly faithful. The Bible says God works all things together for good for those who love Him and are called by Him. I can question and scream and cry but I’ll probably never know why. Certainly not this side of the grave. But I hang on to the fact that God is good. Because He truly is.

Blessed be the name of the Lord. Amen.

I’m dedicating this post to our beautiful twins Two and Three, to my sister Gina, and to all little ones who have slipped away in the womb or been born asleep or whose lives have been far too short.


  1. I find that song incredibly difficult to sing, too, but more because I think I haven’t really known tragedy like the one you describe so movingly and I don’t feel ‘qualified’ to sing it. I feel as though I’m being glib singing ‘My heart will choose to say’ when I can’t really guarantee that I would! I’m probably tying myself in knots, to be honest. But songs like that are tough. I also find songs which triumphantly announce, ‘I will surrender!’ or ‘I surrender itall!’ quite difficult. A little voice in my head says, ‘Really, Fran? Really?!!’

    • Mandy

      09/04/2017 at 7:45 pm

      Yes, it’s a hard one isn’t it. Another friend has commented on Facebook that unless the song is sung prayerfully and thoughtfully with sensitivity, it can be very difficult and painful to deal with. Sung with meaning, these songs can have lasting impact in our lives, I think.

      I also firmly believe that God Himself gives us strength to go through this stuff and causes faith to rise up in us. I always wobble over the question of whether I would die for Him? I’d like to think I would but the reality is, in my own strength, I’d be rubbish and bottle out. But He is the one who gives us the desire and the power to live for Him. So I think you would say ‘blessed be His name’ in difficult circumstances Fran x

  2. Coleen Dion

    09/04/2017 at 9:14 pm

    Thank you for sharing such a painful part of your life
    I can’t sing that song for similar reasons
    But I’m not sure if I believe it was God that did it
    You are amazing x

  3. Agatha Finch

    10/04/2017 at 4:27 am

    Oh Mandy, that is such a hard thing to have faced. Despite your grief, I am inspired by your faith that God is good. I know in my heart that you will be re-united with your babies and then all will be understood. It’s tough just now, though, but hold on to your faith. Xx

  4. Thank you for this post. I can echo the same thing. I lost my twins in 2000. Utterly devastating! That song! It stuck in my throat. I knew the truth of it, but in the searing pain of loss I couldn’t sing. I used to stand with tears streaming down my face, battling to keep some composure and wanting to honour my Heavenly Father who had indeed given and taken away. I have found peace and great comfort and joy now. My story is different to yours in that after losing a third child I have then gone on to have two wonderful and very precious sons, all the more so because I have more children in heaven than on earth! But, that song! I love it, but I still find myself overwhelmed with emotion when I sing it.

    • Mandy

      10/04/2017 at 1:16 pm

      I’m thrilled that you have two children with you and can identify in feeling rich because of having little ones in heaven. Someone commented on Facebook that Matt Redman and his wife wrote that song after losing a child of their own.

      I’m mostly okay when I sing it now but every so often, it takes me unaware. But tears can be healing too. x

  5. Thank you for your sacred and holy sharing, Mandy.

    I, too, have faced pain more difficult than I thought I could bear… a number of seasons of life.

    God is indeed faithful. He showed up in the pain and walked me through and out of it.

    My life is lived in “coming up out of the wilderness, leaning on her beloved” (Song of Solomon 8:5).

    It is indeed sacred work.

    Grace upon grace to you. Keep pouring out the grace you’re living.

    • Mandy

      10/04/2017 at 1:17 pm

      Thanks Deborah, and thank God He has a strong arm for us to lean on. Without Him it would be so much harder and more painful, doesn’t really bear thinking about….

  6. Ellen Flack

    10/04/2017 at 3:35 pm

    My daughter in law lost 4 babies before at last their daughter was born 7 yrs ago. I still can t bear that song and i m not sure whether i ever will . Its sung so glibly and merrily 😪😪 I grieved for my son and wife and for 4 grandbabies.Is it REALLy God that took them away? I think not somehow, butmaybe i m wrong. God bless you Mandy xx

    • Mandy

      10/04/2017 at 3:47 pm

      It’s hard isn’t it Ellen? I have to come back to God being sovereign and taking us through the bad stuff as well as the good stuff. Definitely don’t have all the answers and don’t understand it, but at the end of all the questioning and turmoil and pain, we have to rest in the fact that God really does love us. He must be my anchor in the storm. Blessings to you too xx

  7. How can we know that God ‘takes away’? That is in the Old Testamentband we live in the New. It is a useful concept but may be a bit off centre. That song is pure pain to so many , yet had a catchy tune and I suspect it’s ability to make us cry is almost universal. Whether or not God takes away, losing your children is always painful whether you only know them as tiny babies yet unborn or grown adults who have now got their own lives and do not need you. Kids are s gift of the Lord which we are loaned and giving up being mum is hard. They are a blessing we must carry lightly. They will give us a grief like no other, even when they are alive and doing well as the separate beings they are created to be. Just saying this: being a parent has its deep losses and sorrows too. God our Father also knows that, he gave his adult son at watched the process. As it were.

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