Overcoming Fear

Image

I am constantly living in fear.

Last week I heard one of my dearest friends, a strong and Godly woman whose faith I profoundly respect, confess these words.

The existence of fear in a Christian’s life is an absurd idea. Since we are supposed to know the power of Christ, fear should never have a chance to get a foothold in our minds. However, fear seems to be Satan’s weapon of choice against many Christians, especially Christian women.

From a worldly perspective, Christian women have many things to fear: their children’s safety, their financial security, their own health and their family’s health, and the list never ends.woman-1150111_1920

From God’s perspective, a woman should fear nothing and enjoy indescribable joy and freedom in the arms of Christ– a freedom that is ours for the taking.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. ~Isaiah 41:10

This is one of over 300 verses in the Bible where we are instructed not to fear.

Why then is it so hard to turn away from fear?

Satan is skilled in the art of dressing up fear to look like truth. In fact, many of our fears are born out of our own experiences and realities.

I fear for my children’s health because the fact of the matter is, a healthy child is not a guarantee in this broken world.

bank-note-941246_1920I fear for my financial security because through 5 years of marriage I have seen our financial situation ebb and flow in some dramatic ways. These are my realities, so naturally, these are my fears.

However, God asks us to live in His reality, which is a much better place to spend our time.

Even though, I have never been fully released from my fear of losing financial stability, God has been faithful to us and shown me over and over that His provision will always be enough (2 Corinthians 9:8).

Even though, the loss of one of my family members is a thought that nearly brings me to my knees, the Bible tells me that even in our darkest moments, God is sovereign and His love for us is all we need (Psalm 16:5).

I have lived with a debilitating fear since I was a young girl. It has been the culprit for my anxiety, my panic attacks, and many desperate prayers. Until I became a mother and recognized it as a stronghold in my life, I accepted it as a part of me; it is just the way I am.

Let’s stop right there: No matter what fear has taken root in your life, no matter how real it is, how logical it appears, fear is not a part of who you are. Fear is sin, and because of Christ, a true believer is no longer a slave to sin, but rather is a slave to righteousness (Romans 6:18). The enemy wants us to believe we cannot be free, so he feeds us this lie in hundreds of different ways: This is just who you are.

God did not intend for his children to live in a constant state of fear; in fact, his desire for us sets the idea of fear ablaze.

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. ~John 8:36

As I struggle to free myself from the fears that have held me down for so long, God continually reminds me Jesus is the answer.bible-1149924_1920

Of course, I have been a Christian all my life so I know Jesus is the answer to everything.

However, the more I prayed about my fears, the more God kept whispering this idea into my heart until it finally took root.

Spending time in God’s Word and learning more about who Christ is has released me from many of the toxic thoughts I was convinced I would never be free from.

Knowing the Word of God ensures a Christian woman that she will be able to combat her habitual and fearful thoughts with a piece of truth right from God’s mouth.

If we spend our time in the world, and therefore, outside of God’s Word, we will not know Him well enough to be confident in His promises to keep us from fear. Therefore, fear will easily infiltrate our everyday thoughts.

hands-2667461_1920On the other hand, if our thoughts are full of God’s unending wisdom we will recognize a fear for what it is and not allow it to take root in our vulnerable minds.

I am thanking God today that He has revealed His truth to me and I have experienced moments free from fear. As I draw nearer and nearer to Him each day, these free-filled moments will become more frequent, and I will get to see Christ’s power working in my life.

Advertisements

Not Today, Satan

Image

Exhausted from playing “the shark game” with my boys this afternoon at the park, I decided to sit out for awhile and watch them race down the double red slides.

As I smiled at their smiles, my eyes wandered over to a big blue van that had just pulled into the handicap spot. Later, I watched this young mom push her disabled son on the zipline, happy to observe that he did not seem to take notice of the able-bodied children running around him, and they took no notice of him. A feeling of immense gratitude washed over me as I yelled at my oldest for heading down a particularly dangerous slide head first. He squealed, “Okay, mom!” as he ran around the equipment for another try at the monkey bars.20181022_204232

As I thanked God for my three healthy children, an uninvited, but not all that surprising, thought entered my mind:

What if all of it is taken away from you?

A thought like that could not have come from anywhere, but the one and only, the giver of crap, the father of lies, good ol’ Satan. Attacking a young mom’s blissful moment with her children has Satan written all over it.

It shouldn’t be a secret that I, as a young mom, often push away illogical fears of sick children, injured children, kidnapped children, and the list goes on. I know I’m not alone, either. The constant bombardment of media telling parents what we should and should not fear guarantees we will never feel completely free from worry.

Of course, Satan has seen my weakness (my unrelenting love for my children) and my strength (my complete dependence on God to raise them in a way that honors Him); so what better way to attack a perfect moment than to remind me I could lose it?

Satan wants to steal our joy; in fact, I think it may be his greatest weapon against us. In 1 Peter, he is described as a lion, and lions are excellent hunters. Then in John, we are reminded that he does nothing but steal, kill, and destroy. Since my joy in the life the Lord has blessed me with is something that draws me near to Him, it is also something Satan has on his radar to steal from me.

20181022_204253

On many occasions, I have had a thought like this and allowed it to get a foothold on my heart, with absolutely no resistance. Gosh, that’s a good point, I should probably be afraid of that. However, these are the moments that Satan has caught me unaware, usually when I am weak in my prayer life. Satan’s lies are so deceiving they cause us to believe perhaps our logic and intellect brought such a thought to the surface. Just as Eve engaged in conversation with the serpent, I often allow one of these lies to fester within me, until it becomes truth.

Today, however, he had no power over me. Possible pain in the future will have no control over my joy in the present. Today I have three healthy kids, and God willing I will have this for the rest of my life. I am the child of a God who is infinitely more powerful than any lie Satan can feed me.

Let him never catch us unaware.

Enough is Enough

Image

I know the answer to all of my problems.

I know that the answer is Christ.

I know Jesus is the answer to my impatience.

I know Jesus is the answer to my anxiety.

I know Jesus is the answer to my love of gossip.

I know Jesus is the answer to my toddler’s attitude.

sunset-174276_1920I have shared these thoughts with friends of mine, and I have had a few reply, “It’s not that easy.”

Oh yes. It is.

It is that easy.

Jesus is the answer to the skyrocketing suicide rate in this country.

Jesus is the answer to the dangerous drug use among our teenagers.

Jesus is the answer to the gender dysphoria that so many suffer.

Jesus is the answer. Period.

Since God has blessed me with a faith that believes these statements without hesitation, I wonder then why I hesitate to develop my relationship with Him.

I wonder why I press snooze instead of getting up to read my Bible.

I wonder why I ask a friend to help me, long before I get on my knees.

I wonder why I trust my plan, my ideas, and my desires more than His.

I wonder why I turn on Netflix to find my peace after a long day with my children instead of spending time in the presence of a Savior who heals and restores all things.

Of course I know why I do or don’t do these things. I’m a lot like Paul when he says in Romans 7:15, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”

Amen, Paul! I hear you loud and clear!tree-736875_1280

You see, I love the world more than Christ. And sure, I could just chalk it up to the idea that I’m only human, but that excuse just shouldn’t be enough for me.

Enough is enough.

I want everything the Bible has promised me.

I want peace. I want unwavering strength. I want freedom. I want every single one of my prayers answered because every single one of my desires aligns with the King of the Universe.

I want to throw away the things of this world, those things that lie to me and promise peace, and I want to grab hold of an everlasting, all-powerful, indescribable love and devotion for the One who made me.

This is the only answer for me, for you, for any of us.

An Unlikely Victory

Image

The gentle flutter within her was the reminder she needed that life would go on, even after this day. Her hand instinctively went to her abdomen, as if the small life within her held the strength she needed to keep moving, to keep walking.

nature-3244120_1920A smile wearied itself on her face, but not one of happiness, realizing then that she was a walking oxymoron–an equal blend of life and death. Her eyes flickered to what had been a shrub next to the cracked front step, the leaves dried and shriveled, but still clinging to the once strong branches. The vivid teal and red welcome mat was another blinding oxymoron.

She took one last deep breath, a vain attempt to steady herself, and walked across the threshold.

Her eyes instinctively searched for her brother. She knew he would be the voice of reason–the calm one– he was always the calm one. She had no desire to look into her mom’s eyes, or worse, her dad’s, but they were both rushing toward her now, desperate to hear what she had to tell them.

She continued looking at the floor as if the answers to their questions had fallen at her feet.

Breathe, Claire. Just breathe.

“Okay, guys. I really need you to back off a little and have a seat. I will tell you everything if you just give me some space,” she struggled to keep her voice from quivering.

When she did finally look up from the floor, her mom’s deep green eyes were imploring her so profoundly, Claire was sure she was staring through her, instead of at her.

That’s when her brother walked into the room.

“Claire! Did you find anything out?” he asked as he sat down next to their parents, taking his mom’s hand.

“Yes,” her gaze immediately hit the floor again. “It’s…not good news.”hallway-867226_1920

Her mom was already sobbing and her dad began to visibly tremble.

Now she was speaking like a computer program, like the information she received from the doctor had been programmed into her, so she could spout it off with the press of a button. It is stage 4. Inoperable. Begin first round of chemo early next week. Three rounds to start with. Probably more. Side effects would be very damaging. Hoping to stop the spread, to extend life, but unlikely it will ever go away.

Except for her mother’s hysterical sobs, a suffocating silence enveloped the room.

Claire felt the room begin to move, the ground heaved beneath her, and then her brother’s arms were around her, leading her decaying body to the couch.  

As Claire’s parents collected themselves in the kitchen, Grant sat with Claire, holding her hand, saying nothing.

“Claire, you need to tell mom and dad about the baby. What did the doctor say to do about the baby?”

She tried to speak, but nothing would come. You are dying. You are dying. You are dying. This fact was the only one she could comprehend, the only one that currently mattered.

“Claire. I will support any decision you make. You know that.”

She did know that. You are dying. You are dying. You are dying.

After an hour of this oppressive silence, Claire’s parents finally came into the room. Her dad knelt in front of her, while her mom stood motionless behind him.

“Claire, we are going to fight this. We are going to trust God’s plan. This is not going to defeat you, do you understand me?” Claire found it ironic that her dad’s words were so confident, when his voice sounded like that of a little boy’s.flower-316437_1280

Claire raised her eyes to his. The words she said next came from a different atmosphere; they were heavy and felt strange inside her throat, “Dad. I am not going to do treatment. I am pregnant, and I am going to let this baby live. After I am gone, he will still be here. My baby.”

You are dying. You are dying. You are dying. After these words were out of Claire’s mouth, she finally had the power to answer this torturous voice within her. But the life inside me is not.

Claire hardly noticed her mother fall to the floor, or her dad begin to curse into the air as he crawled from the room.

Grant just sat there; his facial expression impossible to read.

The strength that flooded into Claire after she pronounced her decision left her feeling a strange sense calm, a peace she had never experienced.

Grant knelt down to help their mother into a chair, where she sat motionless for many minutes, no doubt wrestling with losing her daughter and becoming a grandmother in the same day.

“Grant,” Claire still didn’t recognize her own voice, “I need you to be behind me on this. I need you to tell me this is the right thing.”

That’s when the expression on his face changed, becoming one of unmistakable admiration, similar to the look he had when his little sister hit her first home run, but that was when life was simpler. 

“I have never been more proud of you in my life. We were raised to believe that life always defeats death, and I don’t think there is a better way to tell death to screw itself than to continue to allow that baby inside of you to grow,” tears were streaming down his face now, “and besides, I am gonna be the world’s coolest uncle!”

When Claire left her parents’ house that evening, neither of them had spoken to her. She didn’t know if they were angry, confused, or grief-stricken. Grant had begged her to stay, trying to convince her she shouldn’t be alone.

beach-1822598_1920What Grant hadn’t realized, however, is that Claire was not alone. Her child grew within her, and her Lord walked beside her. She did not know what the future held, and when she allowed her mind to think on it, it was nearly unbearable–fear viciously stopping her breath inside her chest. The only thing that Claire knew for sure is that she’d made the right decision–she had chosen life, when death threatened to consume every corner of her existence.

Now she knew that what she’d learned in church all these years was true: death never wins.

*******************************************************

Thanks so much for stopping by Pursue Peace!

To read the conclusion of Claire’s remarkable story, subscribe to my email list.

A Warrior of Feeble Faith

His fear had faded into a weak and desperate voice deep within, but he knew better than to pay it any mind. As he gazed down to the valley, the weary sun was just beginning to find rest on the west side of the hill of Moreh. The commotion from the enemy camp that could have been heard just a few minutes ago had now quieted to muted conversations and hushed whispers, another sign that the men were not anticipating an attack.

desert-1270345_1920A light breeze had picked up, common for this region, and had awakened the sand around his feet, still hot from the sun. He breathed long and deep as he felt his soul settle even more peacefully into what he knew was to come: victory. He knew now what he had to do, and as he headed back into his own camp to rally his men, he thanked God once more for His boundless favor.

***

This fearless fighter would soon accomplish a seemingly impossible task by defeating the Midianite army with just 300 men. God had already ordained that Gideon and the Israelites would be successful, and at this point in his story, Gideon is confident of this victory. However, it was only weeks before this courageous moment that Gideon was not valiant, nor confident, nor a warrior.

In fact, he was a member of the weakest clan in Manasseh, as well as the weakest member of this clan. Surprisingly when the Lord first addressed Gideon, he called him a “mighty man of valor.” Clearly God saw what no one else could.

Not only was Gideon physically weak, he displayed fragile faith when God revealed Himself. He questioned God’s motives, as well as His entire plan for the nation of Israel: “O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about? (Judges 6:13).” He goes on to claim that the Lord has forsaken the Israelites and has delivered them into the hands of the Midianites.

When he is finally able to accept that it is in fact God’s will for him to conquer the death-valley-89261_1920Midianites, he questions that it is God speaking to him at all, and asks God for a sign that it is really Him. This is not the only moment on Gideon’s journey that He asks God for a sign.

In fact, it takes Gideon a couple face to face encounters with God to truly find peace in His will. I like to think if God showed up on my doorstep and insisted that I was a mighty warrior, I would nod my head in agreement and follow Him to the ends of the earth, but I know this isn’t true.

Gideon’s story resonates so much with the way I have approached God over and over and over again. No matter how many times God proves himself faithful, I still question His motives, His presence, and His ultimate goodness. How do I know this is really Your will? If you’re really with me, why has all this happened to me? Where are your miracles? How could I possibly do what you’re asking of me? Give me a sign.

Just as Gideon wondered all these things, so do I, and I have a feeling I’m not alone. The comfort we are to find in Gideon’s story is that despite his complete lack of faith and qualification, God still worked through Him to accomplish one of the most unlikely victories in history. God saw something in Gideon, and not only did He see it, He turned Gideon inside out to reveal that part of his character.

When we follow the will of God, our victory is secure, just like Gideon’s. This means that our fear should be conquered and our doubt, crushed. Even in our faith’s weakest moments, we have something that Gideon lacked: the Word of God. God’s word shows us the improbable and phenomenal victories God has achieved for others, and we can be entirely confident that our own battles already belong to Him.

When God Asks you a Question

My kid was sick today.

I haaaaaattttteeeeeee when my kids are sick.

Since I suffer quite considerably from emetophobia, I try desperately to avoid all types of sickness. Fevers-yuck. Coughs-yuck. Sniffles-yuck. Sore throats-yuck. Vomit-double yuck.

20180625_195043Today was no different. Since my little one was suffering from a fever, I had a pretty serious case of the yucks. I didn’t realize until the sun was setting that I spent my entire day sulking about because my plans went on the fritz.

It’s summer. No one should be sick in the summer. Ever. This should really be written somewhere in the Bible. I seem to have spent last winter dealing with a sick kid at least every other week, so I firmly believe I should get to take the summer off.

On my way home from McDonald’s today (this is our go-to meal when mom’s day goes on the fritz) I am pretty sure I audibly heard God say, “Why aren’t you talking to me?”

And that’s when it hit me…

Despite my bad attitude, I had not spoken to God the entire day. In my weak defense, my little one was fussing all day long: It doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for in-depth Bible reading. However, talking to my Father about my frustrating day is the best antidote for a frustrating day, and yet, I avoided Him.

His question didn’t exactly melt away my bad mood:20180624_132711 (1)

“Gee God, I don’t know. Maybe I’m not talking to you because I got nothing done today, or I spent money I didn’t want to spend on fast food I don’t want to eat, or my little boy is hurting and there’s nothing I can do. Or maybe I’m simply not talking to you because you have allowed sickness into this world, and that is not cool.”

I wish I could say that an unexpected sickness puts me in a bad mood because I struggle to see my kids suffering. Although that is a huge part of it, that is not the main reason I sulked around today.

I really just cannot handle when I am not in control, when the day I had planned becomes the day God planned instead. It’s selfishness: nothing more.

Uffda. That is not easy to admit.

I also have dealt with sick children so often in my 3 years of motherhood that I have decided to grit my teeth and just get through it, instead of falling to my knees and asking God to walk with me.

When one of our boys spikes a fever, I often say something like this to my husband: “I just wish I knew how sick he was going to get and what kind of sickness it is and how long it is going to last.”

It is so much easier for me to turn to the Lord when I have some measure of what I am dealing with. It is when I am left in the dark with a day I do not want to face that I suffer from the temptation to deal with it on my own. I will turn to God when it’s all over and offer Him a polite “thank you” for carrying me through until the sickness was over.

20180620_143347I don’t see this kind of weak faith very often in other areas of my life. When our finances explode and I end up shuffling money so we can eat, I have no trouble turning to the Lord. When I am at a loss for how to help my child overcome his fear and anxiety at swimming lessons, I seek help and guidance from God. It is only when sickness hits my house that I decide to muddle it out on my own.

Tonight I am humbled because I serve a God who fiercely loves me–a God who will chase after me on a day like today, and reveal my sin so that I might be transformed by it. I am a sinner. He knows it; I know it. It is when I am faced with my most difficult challenge, like a sick child, that I can truly become eternally grateful for His grace and mercy.

So tonight, despite having a difficult day and being faced with an even tougher night with my feverish little boy, I get to go to bed in peace, because I know that God goes before me–even when I am trying to shove Him out of the way.

All I Want

As I rush out the door, I don’t even notice the scowl that has formed harshly on my face. My diaper bag hangs haphazardly over my shoulder and my two boys are more interested in the ant hill by the car than actually getting into the car. Once again, the house I leave behind is in absolute chaos.

20180716_143811The day has not gone exactly as planned. My husband is late. Again. The lunch dishes are still piled in the sink, even though lunch was over hours ago; the living room looks like I run a daycare of fifty children; and my bed is still unmade: the knowledge of this is reason enough to crawl back into it and try again tomorrow.

The really shocking part about this particular day is that all I wanted when I woke up this morning was to get my house clean. That’s it. That’s the only real plan I had. Now, rushing out the door for the third time, I am painfully aware that I have failed, and I am fuming.

With my kids finally strapped in the back, I cry out to God as I head down the street, “God, all I wanted today was to get my house clean. Is that too much to ask? That’s all I wanted.”

20180622_140112As soon as these words are out, I remember the last moment I spoke like this. It was the night before and they were directed at my husband. As I stood in front of my closet, frustration building, I was trying desperately to find something to wear at a church picnic. Being eight months pregnant in the heat of the summer doesn’t exactly make a girl feel glamorous.

“All I want is to feel human again. I want to wear something that will make me feel more human and less whale. That’s all I want,” I whined to my husband.

Now, as I hit every red light and shuffle through these frustrations, I am completely overlooking what is happening in my backseat. Hair ruffled by the open windows, oblivious to their mom’s bad mood, my boys are wildly singing along to a country song: my son calls it “jamming.” If you have never witnessed two toddlers “jam”, it can melt away a bad mood quicker than a bowl of ice cream.

In that small, seemingly unimportant moment, God let me see my unmanageable day through His eyes instead of my own. His grace seamlessly found its way into my hardened perspective, and with that, I hear Him whisper, “My child, you have all you ever wanted.”

I have no clothes that make me look good this summer because I have been wildly blessed by the Father to carry another one of His children.20180702_164129

My husband often misjudges when he will get home because he is busy blessing others with the business God led us to start, a business that has been an answer to many of our prayers.

My house is never clean because I have two boys whose zest for life has renewed my own.

Stopping at yet another red light, barely able to think because my oldest has asked me to crank up the radio for a third time, I smile at all this chaos. For because of the Lord’s guidance, this maddening life is all I ever wanted.