Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Tag: suffering

Test

I love reading and hearing stories of people who’ve been through extraordinary experiences. Two of my ‘go to’ books when I’m feeling low are Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place and Joni by Joni Eareckson Tada.

Corrie’s account of hiding Jews during WWII and consequently surviving Ravensbruck puts strength and heart in me, and reminds me of how to look at my own circumstances through an eternal lens. Joni’s story of learning how to live life abundantly again after a diving accident left her paralysed from the neck down also encourages me in the midst of difficulties.

Life for me over the past sixteen months has been testing and trying me to my limit (and beyond, it feels like sometimes). Struggling to come to terms with past events and mental illness, I am often overwhelmed, grieving and angry. Anger and grief beyond anything I’ve ever before experienced.

I have been reminded in the last few days that suffering is an expected part of life. We live in an imperfect world where people are selfish and do evil things. Suffering is the consequence. I don’t want my suffering to be for nothing. I am desperate for it to mean something, for there to be a purpose to it. To suffer for nothing leads me to despair.

Through testimonies like Corrie’s and Joni’s, I am reminded that with God suffering isn’t for nothing. My Father in heaven can somehow turn my past and present suffering to something good and beautiful. I am yet to see the fruit of this, but I am choosing to believe it will happen. This is God’s way: first comes suffering, then glory. Even Jesus had to suffer before the glory and reward.

Smith Wigglesworth puts it like this:

Great faith is the product of great fights.
Great testimonies are the outcome of great tests.
Great triumphs can only come out of great trials.

 

Undivided Heart

Undivided Heart by Lucy Mills is a thoughtful book based on a verse from Psalm 86 in which the psalmist prays: ‘… give me an undivided heart…’

In the first half of her book, Lucy explores what makes us who we are and what motivates our actions. She looks at the many different things that give us a divided heart: our drives and desires, issues, circumstances, boxes we squeeze ourselves into, social media, and labels we put on ourselves or allow others to give us. All of these things can limit us, create unnecessary burdens, and keep us from enjoying the abundant life God has planned for each one of us.

The second half of the book, Lucy considers what has motivated God’s people in the past (from the Bible) and looks ahead to our glorious future with God, and how abundant life is offered right now. Our incentive is to enjoy some of the benefits of knowing God now, not in a ‘health, wealth, prosperity’ way, but in going deeper in our relationship with God and seeing His kingdom come.

If kingdom is about the royal reign of God… then the ‘requirements’ of living under this reign emphasise how we live together under the kingship of God. … being generous… acting with fairness and justice, forgiveness and mercy.

In the kingdom, treasures are found in unexpected places, the poor are considered rich and the weak are made strong.

Somewhere, right now, two people with two different viewpoints are praying together in the name of Jesus, under the banner of love. Such is the kingdom.

Having an undivided heart results in God being so crucial to us that we are able to face suffering that has no answers here. Lucy looks at Job, and how God did not answer his ‘why?’ but gave him a vital encounter with Himself. God didn’t give Job answers, He gave Job Himself. Lucy also considers how Jesus – the Son of God – came to fully identify with us in our suffering. He became our sin so that we could have God’s righteousness. In our sufferings, God gives Himself.

In her final chapter, Lucy sums up what it means to ask God for a united or undivided heart.

An undivided heart is not soft, pink romantic snuggliness. It’s a fierce, focused, even suffering heart, which looks towards its one redeemer. A heart which longs and thirsts and waits.

Each of the twenty chapters is short. Included within most if not all of the chapters is a Bible verse or passage and a poem. Each chapter concludes with a few helpful questions to aid the reader in gaging where their own heart may be divided and how this can be changed.

I thought Lucy incredibly insightful in this book, which is uncomfortable at times and helpfully illuminating at others. I certainly had one or two light bulb moments in reading it.

I have given it 4* on Amazon. I was provided with a free copy for the purpose of writing an unbiased review for the book’s launch this week.

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