Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Tag: fear

Hope

May the God of hope fill you will all joy and peace in believing,
so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
Romans 15:13

Hope is vital. Adi and I watched George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces when he and Will Hardie followed a WWII POW’s plans to build a caravan. It was incredible. Writing those plans and dreaming of being free again gave that prisoner hope in a very dark situation.

So it’s not surprising that God, in whose image we are made, is a God of hope.

I’m glad that it is He who fills us with all joy and peace in believing. Filling with all – that speaks of generosity, filled up with good things. I like Jesus’ description of a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over. This is God’s nature: to give in abundance.

He gives all joy and peace in believing.

When God had broken in and miraculously healed me from cerebellar ataxia and ME in 2010/11, I pursued Him for complete healing from migraines (these have lessened in frequency and intensity but not quite gone completely). Initially, every time I asked someone to pray for healing, they asked for me to be filled with joy. I remember one motherly lady saying: ‘You’ve not known much joy, have you?’

I had a normal happy childhood, but that lady was right. I was so fearful in general and busy trying to be in control that there was no place for joy or peace in my life.

As God chucked out the clutter of fear and control and whatnot from my life, He filled those spaces with His joy and peace. The most memorable time was when He’d delivered me of a spirit of fear, that night He filled me with joyful, belly-aching, rolling around on the carpet, snorting laughter.

Joy and peace are daily companions now, I’m thankful to say. That’s not to say life is hunky-dory and all sorted. I still need to discern fear (it can be subtle), or trying to be in control or whatever and deal with it before God. But He is my hope and He restores joy and peace. In fact, He increases it.

I think the more we walk in the Spirit, the more capacity we have for God. The more I allow Him to sweep out the dusty corners of my heart, the more room there is for Him. That’s how it feels to me anyway 🙂

It’s all by the power of His Spirit. Oh that’s such a relief. I couldn’t drum up joy and peace if my life depended on it. But He gives it freely and extravagantly by His great power. Woo hoo!

The God of hope wants us to abound in hope, having been filled with all joy and peace by the power of His Spirit. Hope is a prayer away, and He is generous to those who ask.

Darkness

Light is most clearly seen when darkness is at its darkest.

The darkest day in history was one Friday a couple of thousand years ago in the Middle East. A young man in his early thirties was unjustly executed. Talk about the biggest miscarriage of justice. His mangled body was laid to rest in a friend’s tomb.

Saturday was silent, dark and hopeless.

But on the Sunday, light exploded into that tomb as Jesus came back to life. He rose from the dead in glorious might and power.

Jesus went down into the darkness of death and beat it. He emerged as the ultimate victor holding the keys to death and the grave. Jesus defeated the one who has the power of death – the devil – so that He, Jesus, could deliver everyone who is afraid of death. He doesn’t want anyone to be enslaved by fear; He came to set us free.

Jesus is life. His life is light. This light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot – ever – overcome it.

 

 

 

Path

Life is like a path, you never know what’s around the next bend. It leads through dark valleys and takes you to exhilarating mountain-tops.

It can be scary, not knowing where my particular path of life is leading next.

I don’t much like being the leader on the path. I much prefer having someone to follow.

Last summer while on a prayer retreat with my friend Elizabeth, I had a powerful picture of walking along a beach. I felt alone and vulnerable, out in front. I didn’t like it. But then I looked again and saw Jesus just in front of me, glancing back over His shoulder, beckoning me forward with a smile. He made me to be a follower.

Within four days of arriving home, mine and Adi’s path took an unexpected turn through a short valley. Adi was given notice from his job. Suddenly Fear and Anxiety leapt onto the path determined to be my companions.

But I remembered that I was following Jesus along this path of life. And He has promised to provide for all my needs, including peace in place of anxiety. So I cold-shouldered Fear and Anxiety whenever they got too close, and fought to keep my eyes on Jesus. There were times when ‘what if we can’t keep up with the mortgage?’ filtered through my mind. Then there were moments of real peace when I actually managed to trust God.

Within two and a half weeks, Adi was offered a new job with a great firm. We never even missed a pay cheque. It was his one year anniversary in the firm yesterday.

God knew what was ahead of me, and gave me a powerful experience of Him mere days before I would need to lean on Him completely.

Create

I loved making up stories with my teddies and dolls when I was little. I even created a family made from empty toilet rolls at one stage. My imagination was fertile and fun. After Christmas when the balloons were taken down from the ceiling, I made up all sorts of stories as the air slowly leaked from them, leaving them deflated bits of uninteresting rubber.

Growing into adulthood, my imagination remained as fertile as ever but became unhealthy rather than fun. My secret stories were fit more for a cesspit than my mind, and fear became even more embedded into who I was. It was as bad for my soul as air leaking from a balloon. But, thankfully, Jesus got hold of me, gently but powerfully cleaned up my mind, and rescued me from fear.  He blew in life-giving air, inflating me to be more the person He created me to be.

We’re all creative in some way, whether it’s scribbling stories, designing skyscrapers, or finding a better way of using limited space in our kitchen cupboards. Not surprising really, since we are made like the One who created us.

To believe in God as creator is to have the security that life has meaning; we are important to Someone; Someone loves us.

Refusing to believe this, we think, lets us off the hook: if we arrived by accident, we don’t have to answer to anyone, therefore we can do as we like. Life ultimately becomes meaningless and, deep down, we don’t believe we have any value at all. What a sad lie.

God created you because He loves you. He has always loved you, and He has good things planned for you.

 

Grow

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord,
you must continue to follow Him.
Let your roots grow down into Him,
and let your lives be built on Him.
Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught
and you will overflow with thankfulness.

When we feed something, it grows.

When I eat food, especially now I’m in middle age, my tummy grows. Sad but true! But when I exercise, my fitness level increases so that I can do more exercise. Hopefully, if I keep running, my muscles will develop and my tummy will stop growing. Hopefully….

It’s the same with my spiritual life. These verses urge me to keep following Jesus.

How do I do that?

I need to put down roots in Jesus. That means learning more-and-more to rely on Him, to be settled in Him. I want to get to know Him well and the only way to do that is by spending time with Him like I would any friend. My Bible is full of Jesus: His character, what He does, what He likes and doesn’t like. When I read it and pray, my roots are growing .

Building my life on Jesus is being secure in Him and in who He says I am. He gives me the freedom to be the person He made me to be.

And then I find that my faith grows as I get to know the truth. Jesus said that the truth sets free, and it really, truly does. When I think of how much Jesus has done for me it brings a huge smile to my face. I do overflow with thankfulness.

YEEE HAAAAH! YAY JESUS!! WHOOP!

Let me finish with a story.

When I was thirteen, my parents and I went on holiday to the Norfolk coast. It was a last minute booking because my dad had just come out of hospital. Amazingly we found a chalet near the beach that was available.

Hmm. It had been closed up all winter and we were the first people in. It hadn’t been cleaned. And it was full of spiders. Big, small and every size in-between. There was a monster under the kitchen table that even my dad wouldn’t tackle. They were literally everywhere.

Somehow we stayed in that horrible chalet for a week.

But I came home with a fear of spiders. It got so bad that I wouldn’t enter a room without quickly checking out floor, ceiling and walls first. I almost crashed the car when I spotted a tiny money-spider on the rearview mirror.

I had secular counselling which helped a little.

But the fear was still there. I never even prayed about it because I was scared of not being afraid. And if I’m honest, I didn’t think God could handle it anyway. Not even He could do the impossible, could He?

Three years ago, God stepped in. I was going through prayer counselling and He set me free from fear.

The result is that last Monday, my mum had a biggish spider in her kitchen that I was calmly able to deal with. No hyperventilation, no screams, no shaking.

This is truth: God’s perfect love casts out fear. My roots are in Jesus and I’m building my life on Him. My faith in Him is growing. The truth is setting me free and I’m so grateful.

Wibbly-Wobbly Writer

When I first thought God might be calling me to be a writer, I was excited: a childhood dream come true!

But it didn’t take long for doubt to set in, and those of you who know me can testify to my teetering back and forth.

Who do I think I am trying to do this? Is this really what God wants? Do I even have a gift?

It’s draining.

I even do the ‘right’ thing and take my doubts to God: ‘Are You sure You want me to write?’

It’s kind of inevitable that I tie myself in knots and end up chained by fear. Fear of failure, fear of what people think.

Too often my confidence is affected by how many Facebook likes I get for a blog post or whether it’s retweeted on Twitter. A comment on my actual blog makes my heart sing and dance.

But this is a dangerous position to be in. I’m settling for praise from people, which is nice, but not what I should be aiming for. My aim should be the heavenly ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!’ from Jesus. It’s His opinion that really matters.

While it’s helpful to know if I’m reaching anyone through my writing, ultimately I need to focus on writing for an audience of One.

Love

I love that the Father had adventures planned for me before I was born: things to do, places to be, people He wants me to mother. How exciting is that?! The Father must be pretty passionate about me because He puts these desires in my heart, and is guiding me step-by-step into all He has for me.

So, how ever much I have wibbly-wobbly doubts, my part is to respond to the revelation I have right now.

For me today, this means taking writing seriously and giving it time, energy and prayer. If I’ve misheard, my Father will graciously redirect me.

The Father doesn’t clobber me over the head for getting it wrong. Nor does He operate through fear. He is love and perfect love casts out fear. So when I detect that knot of fear in the pit of my stomach, you can bet it doesn’t come from God.

What if I don’t pursue this dream because I’m scared of getting it wrong or failing? On that day when God is giving out rewards to His faithful ones, is it possible I could miss out because of being scared to go for it?

 

 

Whole

Lord, I want to be wholehearted. I hardly ever have been in the past, it’s tough when you don’t have much confidence. You think you’ll do something and then you stop to wonder if it’s okay, whether you can, what other people will think, and so it goes on.

But I’ve been reading about Caleb. What a guy! In his eighties, he was still going for it. He was the only one – as far as I can tell – who took possession of the land You’d promised the Israelites. He was wholehearted and so ended up with the whole of his territory. You even commended him for following You wholeheartedly, and that’s what I aspire to! 

Lord, I read in Judges 1 about the other Israelite tribes. It’s a woeful repetition of ‘…and they failed to drive out….’ They weren’t determined like Caleb, so never did end up owning the whole of the land You’d promised them. What a tragedy.

I don’t have enemies of the flesh and blood variety that You want me to fight. But I have other stuff in my life that probably shouldn’t be there. Baggage is a good term for it. I still battle with fear. But I want to be like Caleb, to be someone who goes for it. Fear and lack of confidence can do one!

Lord, I want to be wholehearted for You, bring me into the whole of all that You have for me.

The Perfect Administrator

‘Write these sums down and do them for homework. Hand them in next lesson.’

Thirty-odd eleven-year-olds dutifully scribbled the sums into our homework books. I didn’t enjoy maths, didn’t understand numbers (still don’t if it comes to that), and didn’t look forward to doing my homework.

Next lesson, I took in my homework book but the teacher never asked for it.

Over time, I lost heart. If my work was never going to be marked, what was the point?

In my job as a medical secretary, it’s important that I follow things through. Many of the specialists I’ve worked for over the years are great at their jobs but rubbish at paperwork. They don’t seem to understand that it’s not enough to initial a pathology result to say they’ve seen it if they don’t pass on the news to the patient. They simply file it in the notes, never realising that some poor soul is sweating over unknown test results at home.

In Strictly Come Dancing, Craig Revel Horwood is always going on at the celebrities about hands and unfinished movements. Not being a dancer, I don’t understand exactly what he means though I can tell when someone has beautiful arm movements from shoulder to fingertips.

Following through and completing things is important on all sorts of levels. Unfinished business is frustrating.

I had a little worship moment recently when it dawned on me that God is the perfect administrator. He always finishes what He starts and keeps His promises. He doesn’t make empty threats or get our hopes up only to brutally dash them by losing interest or forgetting what He’s said. His timing is often different to ours and we may misunderstand Him, but that says more about us than Him.

Cleaning TrolleyPaul wrote to the Philippian church: ‘I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion…’

How good it is to relax in the knowledge that God will follow through on stuff and not leave anything undone. I can have confidence in Him to do what He says He’s going to do. This is especially helpful when He is having a delve in my life and chucking out the rubbish.

‘Fear of rejection? You really don’t need this Mandy, shall we shove it in a bin liner and take it to the tip?’

When we’re in the middle of a soul spring clean, it’s good to know that God won’t get tired or fed up part way through, regardless of the mess He’s dealing with. He has begun a good work in me and has promised to complete what He’s started.

 

 

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