Psalm 23 Stories: Jo Manion
In the summer of 2023, Oasis spent several weeks delving into Psalm 23 — one of the most famous and most beloved passages in the Bible. During that series, a range of people from the community shared how they have known God as their shepherd during different times in their life, just as the Psalmist describes. In this blog article, Jo Manion shares how that has looked for her over the past few years.
In July 2019 I was diagnosed with secondary lung cancer, twelve years after treatment for kidney cancer which had resulted in removing my right kidney.
My initial reaction was shock and disbelief.
Since then, I have been on continual treatment for four years, including chemotherapy tablets for 2 years, radiotherapy, and I am now on immunotherapy which I have intravenously once a month, and will do indefinitely. I have had weeks of poor appetite, nausea, sore mouth, and a troublesome cough. Currently I am feeling well, but I do have reduced energy due to fatigue caused by the treatment side effects.
My life as I know it has changed dramatically, but I am able to say that within it all, I have known God as my Good Shepherd, as the Bible says in Psalm 23, in all sorts of different ways.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
The last few years has seen a lot of ‘laying down’. I am no longer able to do some of the things that bought me joy and fulfilment in serving God; helping with the B30 Foodbank as a meet and greeter, praying for people to be healed as part of the team at St Luke’s Church, seeing people one-to-one as a spiritual mentor to help them grow in their relationship with the Lord. As I have laid these things down, I have found it important to grieve their loss and to be honest with God about how I feel, knowing that He is big enough to take it.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
How have I seen God leading and restoring me? I have found it helpful to keep a thankfulness journal each day recording the little things that God has provided:
- Friends that have taken me to the hospital for treatment, prayed with me and for me, and taken me out for coffee or places to visit.
- My sister coming to stay twice when I had radiotherapy last year and also when I came out of hospital following a broken leg in February.
- Nurses and Doctors being able to find a vein first time.
- Enjoying food again, being able to drive myself to church, going on holiday, going to the supermarket, and doing my own shopping.
God has strengthened me through the Oasis Daytime Devotionals group — they were a life saver when it was impossible to meet up. Home group has also been very important in keeping me going.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
I have found scripture is a ‘right path’; really supportive and life-building. Especially, praying through Romans 8:28 — “And we know is all things both works together for the good of those who love him”. I may not know how, but He promises to work things for good.
Proverbs 3:5–6 — “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths”. That means not trying to work everything out myself but instead resting in Him.
I also pray Romans 15:13 for myself: “May the God of hope fill me with all joy and peace as I trust in Him, so that I may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”. I have found that joy, peace, and hope are very important to be able to keep on going on this journey.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
When plans don’t work out the way I was hoping, and the road looks darker and more uncertain, I have found surrendering to Gods plans and purposes is key. I had planned two 70th birthday parties, one for family and one for friends — the one for family was cancelled and the one for friends went ahead without me, as I was in hospital. Was I sad and disappointed? Yes. But once I stopped trying to work it all out myself and surrendered those feelings to God, a great weight was lifted.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
I have also found worship helpful as a “table” of provision that He has prepared for me. The words to ‘Waymaker’ have particularly stuck with me: “You are here, moving in this place, I worship you. Even when I don’t see it, you’re working, you never stop, you never stop working, He is waymaker, miracle worker, promise keeper, light in the darkness, my God, that is who you are”. When I sing it, it really strengthens my faith.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
It has been very hard at times. I try and take it a day at a time and not look too far ahead. God enables me to find that there is always something to be thankful for. Each day, I say from Psalm 118:24 that “this is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.”
As I was writing this, I found this prayer from Lectio 365 on 12th October helpful: “Holy Spirit, would you strengthen my soul today. Would you give me the strength to endure whatever comes my way and gives me the faith to believe that the challenges I face could one day be a powerful testimony that could encourage and strengthen others.”
It’s my prayer that my story would encourage and strengthen you in your own journeys.
Would you like to share a story of what it has looked like for you to know God as your shepherd? Get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org — he’d love to hear from you!