Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Category: Philippians 2

Comfort

To continue my thoughts in Philippians 2….

The next part of verse 1 reads: ‘So if there is… any comfort from love,…’

When I was a little girl, the Love is… cards with a cartoon boy and girl were popular. Well here, Paul seems to be saying that love is comforting. It certainly is. When my dad was at death’s door, he said his ‘official goodbye’ to me one night as I left the hospital. I held it together until I reached the car park, and then sobbed the entire drive home (from Sheffield to Nottingham). By the time I got to our front door, almost blinded by tears, I was incapable of finding my key in my handbag. But Adi had heard the car pull onto the drive and was ready to wrap his arms tightly around me. Although the circumstances hadn’t changed, Adi’s hug gave me comfort.

In another letter, Paul writes: ‘Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.’

Love and comfort go together.

The dictionary defines comfort as being a state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint, and the alleviation of grief of distress.

In God, I am loved and comforted. Sometimes He takes away pain here and now; I’ve known physical healing from pain as well as healing from emotional pain. But one day, I will be completely free of all pain forever. God promises that when He wraps up this world like an old cardigan and introduces a brand new earth, He will wipe away every tear from my eyes.

There’s a lot I don’t understand…. When babies are stillborn, when friends are diagnosed with cancer, when bad things happen. I don’t know why. But there is still this: in Jesus there is comfort from love. Despite unexplainable and terribly painful circumstances, I am loved by God and I am comforted by Him. When I have no answers, I must hold onto the anchor of this truth.

Loved and comforted. Now, and perfectly in the future.

I Have Encouragement

Back in August, I read an online article by John Piper that challenged me with the words Philippians 2 would change my life. It’s a chapter I’ve tended to avoid in the past…. So far out of my realm of experience and with the potential to be deeply uncomfortable, I’d always read it without reading it (if you see what I mean).

But, I was challenged in a positive way. I want to change, to be more like Jesus, because He’s fantastic and to be even a tiny bit like Him is amazing.

Over the next few weeks, I’m planning to share on here some of what I learned. It’s taken from my journal so may be a little rough around the edges. But I was blessed by my study and I hope you will be too. I fell a little more in love with Jesus, who is truly extraordinary.

In verse 1, Paul writes: ‘So if there is any encouragement in Christ…’.

Paul seems to be me to be writing from an assumption that there is encouragement in Christ. Present tense: is. Now, for this time.

If encouragement comes from God, surely discouragement comes from the enemy. So I don’t want anything to do with discouragement. I will remember that in Jesus, I have encouragement. Have, have, have.

En-courage = to put courage into.

It puts courage into me when people say truthful things to build me up. They tell me I can do this, that I’m good enough, not to be afraid. Courage helps me step outside of my comfort zone and try new things. (My latest ‘stepping out’ is to dance with a rainbow-coloured ribbon during worship – a huge step for me but I’m doing it because someone has put courage in me.)

God does this. He tells me I am hidden in Jesus – literally hidden in His perfection. I am loved and accepted by the Father who sings loudly and exuberantly over me and dances around me because I am His.

Encouragement in Jesus? Oh yes!

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