The week before Julian and I got married, his mum became very ill. She was admitted into hospital and every day the report from the doctors got worse and worse leading to a call the night before the wedding telling us that she wasn’t going to make it through the night. In that moment, i felt like we were going to be swallowed up in grief and loss, just at the moment where we should have been caught up in great celebration. Amazingly, what the doctors predicted didn’t happen – mum pulled through, the wedding went ahead, and though she wasn’t there to witness the day, she’s alive and well today to witness our marriage. In the weeks after our wedding, Julian and i spent some time processing what had happened – we felt like we’d got caught up in a whirlwind that threatened to destroy our joy and peace and though we were thrilled at the turn-around in mum’s health and the wonder of being married, we needed to process some of the disappointment of his mum’s illness and her absence on the wedding day.

Shortly after this, we were in Redding, California for a conference at Bethel Church and i had an encounter with God that has completely transformed my understanding of battling in the whirlwind. God burst in on me in such a way that i spent about an hour and a half crying with laughter – i could not control it and every time i tried to stop it, another wave of pure, overwhelming joy would wash over me. What was unusual about this encounter is that it started as i was having my dinner in the hotel. You can just imagine what kind of scene i was making! Poor Julian had to half carry me out into the car, and again had to help me into the evening meeting of the conference. As i lay on the floor completely undone by this laughter i started asking God what on earth was going on. I had not asked Him for this hysterical manifestation so i knew He must be up to something!

He began to tell me that He was teaching me about warfare. That He was showing me how to be an effective intercessor – His joy is strength (Nehemiah 8), and in a battle, God knows we need strength. He spoke to me about how He wanted me to pursue this kind of happy warfare next time i was caught in a whirlwind that threatened to destroy. This is warfare Jesus style – get super happy in God, tap into the rivers of joy in His heart and laugh at the enemy’s plans, laugh at his lies and start declaring the exact opposite into being. After all, our Father laughs at the enemy (Psalm 37) and prepares for us feasts in the presence of ours (Psalm 23). It’s time for us to stop living an anaemic version of christianity because we’ve overlooked the importance of joy in the battle. When was the last time we accepted God’s invitation to feast in the presence of our enemies? To fill up on His joy and goodness and kindness and stand our ground and laugh at the absurdity of the enemy’s tactics.

Joy is not a frivolity. Joy = Strength. Live a life devoid of joy and i’ll bet there’ll be a great shortage of strength too. But accept the invitation to dive into God’s joy and you’ll find all the strength needed for the battlefield. Laughter is powerful and intercession can be fun. Who knew?

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I think it was a sermon from Graham Cooke that i was listening to – he said the devil doesn’t have the Holy Spirit in him and so it’s impossible for him to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit so he cannot be patient. It then follows, that in whatever situation that you’re in, if you’re in the place that God’s put you and the devil’s trying to come against you, if you just keep going, you can out-patience him. It’s like he’s playing a game of supernatural ‘chicken’ with you – coming at you head on – and he’s betting that you’ll be the one to flinch and change your course first. But what if you don’t? What if you’re the one who stays on course for longer? What if you refuse to change the subject causing him to lose patience and move first? I was mulling over all this when my amazing friend Sarah (of the aforementioned costa coffee experience) told me of some research she’d heard that shows that couples who are unhappy and wanting a divorce, if they just decide not to divorce (that’s all they have to decide – no change in behaviour, no new marriage strategy), in the vast majority of cases they’ll testify to being happy together in 5 years time. Just a simple decision to not change the subject, to keep going forward, to refuse to quit and voila, they’ve out-patienced the devil who loves to bring division and breakdown of relationships. It’s easy to assent to this idea of out-patiencing the devil from a distance, but harder when you’re the one going through the difficulties. When all that is around you is crumbling and the temptation to point the finger at God and say ‘Why aren’t you answering my prayers?! Don’t you see? Don’t you hear? Don’t you care?’ pulls you like an overwhelming current. I had just such an experience in this last month. Suffering a personal loss and feeling the effects of it in my own body with things seemingly going downhill even after much prayer. After a month of no recovery, i started to grow impatient. Impatient with the situation, impatient with God. And just as i was about to push Him away and give up i remembered Graham Cooke’s advice to out-patience the devil. And so, there was only one thing for it. I decided to write all my disappointments and hurts on a piece of paper then stand on that piece of paper and worship until i connected with God and had a good attitude. It may have taken a couple of hours (i’m a slow learner), but i tell you the sense of wonder when God touched my heart and all that felt like ash slowly turned beautiful in my heart was incredible. He really is able to turn mourning into dancing (Psalm 30) and out-patiencing the devil has turned out to be one of the best things i’ve done in a long time. Keep going. Keep pushing. Once you’ve heard God’s opinion, refuse to change the subject and you’ll see just around the corner, eventually, sometimes oh so gradually, the glimmer of heaven breaking in on the seams of earth.

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