Standing Strong in Fearful Times

Living fearlessly means living with your eyes glued on the Lord, not on your circumstances. Focusing on who God is and what He is able to do changes everything.

In the book of Daniel, we read about the men who were thrown into the fiery furnace. King Nebuchadnezzar had set up a golden image and commanded that all should bow down and worship it and that whoever refused would be cast into a “burning fiery furnace.” The command was given by the King and three Jewish men Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down. This sent the king into a rage, he asked that these men be brought to him. When they came before him he asked if what he had been told about them was true and they told him that it was. The king asked them who could deliver them from the punishment of the fiery furnace. The men answered him with these words, “If our God Whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning furnace, He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up.” This response caused the King to become more furious and he commanded that the temperature of the furnace be raised to seven times hotter than normal. And when this had been done the three men were cast into the midst of the fiery furnace.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego chose only to worship God no matter what. They did not compromise even in the face of such drastic punishment. (You can read this story in Daniel chapter 3.)

More and more in this world we see anger and rage threatening people’s safety. Persecution is real and threatens many who stand up for Christ. Many die for their faith. As I read and hear about these stories it always makes me question, what I would do?

I look at the threats and beatings endured by many of the disciples, apostles, and early believers with amazement. Paul and Silas sang as they sat in prison in stocks. And when given an opportunity to escape they stayed and influenced the other prisoners to stay as well. (Acts 16:16-40)

Peter and John held firm to their convictions when warned not to speak or teach in Jesus’ name. They responded to those opposing them with these words,  “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than God, you be the judge, for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard. ” (Acts 4:19-20)

Peter and John were firm and immovable in their beliefs. They were confident in the truth of God’s Word and in His faithfulness. Their convictions made them stand firm even when faced with great consequences.

When our fear of man overrides our trust in who God is and what He can do we often choose the path of compromise. Too often it seems easier to ride the fence and not make a stand for Christ at all. We may not say anything in rebuke, or say as little as possible in order to not stir up trouble.

The truth is hard to take and generally many do not want to hear it. When choosing to stand up for the Lord we often will meet with opposition to stand up for the Lord we often will meet with opposition. Holding firm to our convictions may mean losing the popularity vote because we make a choice that others disagree with or do not understand.

We have to choose whether to walk in obedience to God or not. And we will face consequences for our choices. Often fear gets in the way! Fear may keep us from sharing the Gospel or from showing love to one others think isn’t worth the time of day. Or maybe fear keeps us from saying we can’t meet on Sunday morning because that is when we worship. Our fear can also stop us from speaking the truth about holiness in many areas of life.

So how can we stand up to our fears and stand firm in our convictions?

Here are a few things we can do:

1. Know God’s Word.  When it comes to making a choice find out what the Bible says about the choice. If we are unable to find the answer on our own, we can ask a trusted pastor who has studied God’s Word.

2. Be in prayer. I am doing my third study by Jennifer Kennedy Dean, each one of the titles of the studies have worked on begins with the words The Praying Life. Dean says that the praying life is turning every fear, concern, or worry into conversation with God. We need to seek God for wisdom and direction. We need to learn to “be still and know” that He is God.

3. Be committed to living for the Lord. Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). His Word is our plumb-line.

4. Follow Paul’s advice to the Ephesians in the book of Ephesians chapter 6 verses 10-13. Put on the full armour of God. We can be empowered through our union with Him. We can draw our strength from Him. He will help us to stand firm in crisis situations.

We cannot allow our fears to open the door to compromise. We have the Lord and His Word to help us. Here a few verses that are helpful to me:

Psalm 50:15Call on Me in the day of trouble and I will deliver you and you shall honor and glorify me

Psalm 56:3-4What time I am afraid, I will have confidence in and put my trust and reliance in You. By [the help of] God I will praise His Word, on God I will lean,  rely, and confidently put my trust. I will not fear, what can man who is flesh do to me? “

Psalm 18:3I will call upon the Lord, who is to be praised, so shall I be saved from my enemies.”

Psalm 119:105 “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

Those are only a few there are so many more that can encourage our hearts in times of fear. God’s Word really can help us to stand firm. We all need help to keep our confidence in the Lord and not allow our fears to cause us to compromise. Let’s pray for strength to stand strong in our convictions so we can bring God glory no matter what comes our way.

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When Fear Blinds You

Numbers 13:27-28 “They reported to Moses and said,”We went in to the land where you sent us and it certainly does flow with milk and honey and this is its fruit. But the people who live in the land are strong and the cities are fortified (walled) and very large; moreover, we saw there the descendants of Anak [people of great stature and courage]… “

The Israelites were ready to enter the Promised Land that the Lord had told them He would give them. We learn in Deuteronomy 1:22-27 that the Israelites, in their lack of trust, decided that they should check it out themselves. They did not take God at His Word believing His promise to be true, but wanted to see it with their own eyes and decide for themselves what would be best. So the verses you read above from the book of Numbers records what the spies saw when they scoped out the land.

They saw fortified cities and giants, and fear blinded them to the truth of God and His faithfulness. Have you been there? Have you been blinded to what God is able to do in your trials and difficult times? Have you lost sight of His faithfulness because of the impossibility of the situation? Has the reality of His strength and willingness to fight your battles, His ability to work on your behalf, has it all been lost to you in your trembling fear?

Caleb and Joshua were two of the men that had accompanied the spies and they came back to the Israelites with a different report. The spies saw defeat and felt that they did not have a chance. Caleb and Joshua said, “Let us go up at once and take possession of it for we will conquer it” (Numbers 15:30). But the spies replied that they could not do it because the people of Canaan were too strong for them.

What giants are you facing in your life?

What is causing fear to engulf your heart?

The truth here is that God made the Israelites a promise. He promised to give them this land. They only had to step forward in faith. The spies focused on the impossibility of the situation, Caleb and Joshua saw what God could do. The spies were looking at the problem and it blinded them to God, while Joshua and Caleb looked at God and found hope.

Life can lead us into place where we may face looming giants.  Our hearts tremble in fear. Yet the Lord calls us to trust when we are faced with insurmountable giants.

Psalm 28 is a psalm of David, it is a plea of his for help. David calls on the Lord because enemies of God that he is facing cause him to feel fear and hopelessness. David is earnest in his prayer, he calls the Lord his “rock.” David is believing and trusting in God’s power. He is choosing to depend on God. He feels as if death is at his door and focuses on God, crying out and pleading with Him to answer his prayers, to not be silent. David prays for deliverance, he recognizes apart from God’s deliverance there is no hope.

Later in the Psalm, David goes on to speak of how the LORD heard the voice of his supplication. David prayed in faith and rejoices as he finds hope in God. David encourages himself to live in that hope,  trusting that God will perfect everything concerning him.

We see his dependence on God in verse 7, “The Lord is my strength and my [imperishable] shield, my heart trust [with unwavering confidence] in Him and I am helped. Therefore my heart greatly rejoices. And with my son, I shall thank Him and praise Him”

David is trusting God to be his strength, to support him, and to carry him through the difficult times. He is trusting God as a shield to protect him from all that his enemies can throw at him. And in trusting, David finds God to be faithful. David trusted in God’s power and His promise and was not disappointed. David finishes this psalm by telling us he is standing firm in the Lord.

Fear is at the bottom of so many reactions and emotional responses. My desperate need to control has been fueled by fear. At the base of my anger and frustration I find fear. At the bottom of my people-pleasing behaviors I find fear. Where do you find fear in your heart today? Satan uses fear to cripple us. He uses fear to blind us to the truth of who God is and what He can do.

In Jennifer Kennedy Dean’s study,  Live a Praying Life Without Fear:Let Faith Tame Your Worries, the author states: “The situation causing you fear or anxiety right now is an opening for God to show Himself strong on your behalf and He delights to do so. ” She goes on to quote one of my favorite verses (written here from the Amplified version).

For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth so that He may support those whose heart is completely His. ” 2 Chronicles 16:9a

God wants to support, help, and strengthen those who are fully committed to Him.

Dean goes on to say,  “He is not aloof from your struggle or inured to your pain. He is eagerly waiting for you to turn to Him so He can do for you what you cannot do for yourself. ”

The part that is most difficult is recognizing that I cannot do it myself and then for me to be willing to let Him do it His way. When we choose to acknowledge our need and relinquish our grasp on the outcome, then we allow Him to have His way with us. That is the surrender He calls us to.

We, then, are able to praise God with David, Joshua, and Caleb, with all those who have trusted in His way and found Him faithful. He is the One who gives us victory!

So today in the midst of your fear, seek Truth.

1 John 4:4b AMP “… He who is in you is greater than he (Satan) who is in the world [of sinful mankind] .”

Isaiah 41:10 AMP “Do not fear [anything], for I am with you; Do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, be assured I will help you; I will certainly take hold of you with my righteous right hand [a hand of justice, of power, of victory, of salvation].”

Philippians 4:6-7 AMP “Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God. And the peace of God [that peace which assures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus [is yours]. 

Allow His Truths to encourage your heart, and in your fear step out in faith. Rely on Him who is our loving, sovereign God!

Self-Reliance or God-Reliance?

Which one is true of you? Are you self-reliant or God-reliant? Or maybe, as with me, it varies depending on what is happening in your life.

When we act in self-reliance we, in reality, are telling the Lord that we don’t need Him. We forget to pray and don’t spend time with Him or even read His Word. Maybe it is because life is going smooth. Or maybe it is because our crammed calendars tell us that there are too many things going on and there isn’t time to fit it in. And then as decisions need to be made we choose to go by our own wisdom rather than seeking His because it feels safer and we feel more in control. We figure we have as good as plan as any. We forget how fragile and needy we are. Sound familiar? We run in independence, relying on self so easily through life.

We forget God, we diminish our need for Him. We aren’t the first to do this. The Israelites did the same thing. In Deuteronomy 8:11-14 Moses warns them “Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by failing to keep His commandments and His judgments (precepts) and His statutes which I am giving you today, otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply and all you have increases, then your heart will become lifted up [by self-conceit and arrogance] and you will forget the LORD your God who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” 

We forget all He has done for us and the greatness of our need for Him. We forget when life is going well and we feel satisfied and nothing is pressing hard on us.

As I thought about the way the Lord worked in the recent circumstances of my life, I realized that He showed me His presence and power when I chose to abandon outcomes to Him. I mean when I admitted I needed Him and His help and His wisdom.

The Lord doesn’t grab the reins of our lives from our hands and tells us to do it this way. But when we stop and let go of our control and ask Him to take over, He is able to do so much more than we can ask or imagine.

When my hands, heart, and mind are busy controlling outcomes I miss looking for, praying to, and trusting in the Lord. It is only when I recognize my need for Him, and let go of self-sufficiency that I then seek Him in the desperate, fragile, needy way of reliance. It is then that my eyes are searching for Him, His power and His presence, and it is then that my hands, heart, and mind are free to focus on Him and His faithfulness. Empty hands can be lifted up in praise and thanksgiving.

What are your hands filled with?

Is it the many material blessings He has given? Is it the overwhelming problems you feel weighing you down that you are trying to carry in your own strength? Is it all of the things on your endless to-do list?

There has to be something that keeps us from Him, that allows us to forget Him. There has to be something that keeps us moving forward at break-neck speed relying on self.

When our hands are filled and our houses are stuffed to overflowing and are calendars are bulging with too much to do and too many people to see, it is then that we forget God. We forget prayer, we forget praise, we forget to seek Him in His Word. It is in those times that it is too hard to lift our hands and our hearts. In fact, it is on those times that I find myself much more likely to grumble and complain.

I am not sure that I had realized that before, but I recognize that as being true now. My grumbling and complaining come because the weight of it all is way too heavy. Self-reliance weighs us down after a while. We weren’t created to rely on ourselves.

Self-reliance say: “I can do it!” “I’ve got this.” “I don’t need help.” “It is best that I… ”

God-reliance says: “Lord, I must depend on you, I don’t know what to do.” “Oh, help me Lord! ” “Lead me Lord, give me direction. Where do I go from here?” “Grant me wisdom, Lord! ”

What do you hear yourself saying most often?

I know it seems like I think that I can control and manipulate things so I work hard to figure it all out. But the truth is, it usually does not work out well when I do this. I need His wisdom and knowledge to lead me.

In Psalm 103, the psalmist tells his soul to bless the Lord. It is thought that this Psalm was written by David at the time he was pardoned of his adultery with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:15). David wrote this after the child, conceived with Bathsheba, became very ill and was near death.

Can you imagine how he felt? It was from that place he pleaded with his soul to bless the Lord and to not forget all the benefits from the Lord.

When things are out of control, which is true often in our lives, we get to choose how we will respond. Will we try to manipulate circumstances? Or will we remember Who God is and remember His faithfulness in our lives and then choose to bless His name? Remembering how He has been at work in our lives builds our level of trust.

It would be difficult to choose to step onto a single-strand ladder and feel even a tiny bit safe. But when the ladder rungs are made of rope with several strands braided together we feel more secure.

So it is with trusting in God and learning to rely on Him to lead and guide us. The more we see Him at work in our lives,  taking care of situations, and resolving problems that frustrate us, answering our prayers in amazing ways, the more strands of faith we have getting braided together building our trust.

David knew that his heart needed lifting, he needed hope. David knew that in gratefully praising God for all that He had done for him and the Israelites, new hope would be found. He would remember God’s faithfulness and find reason to rely on Him again.

David was quite aware of the mess he had made by following his own desires and lusts. We too find ourselves in the middle of messes unsure of what to do. Maybe you are there right now. Maybe you have made a string of decisions based on your own wisdom and knowledge, pure self-reliance, and now you realize you are in too deep. The Lord waits for us to let go of control and turn it over to Him. There may be consequences, but the Lord is faithful to give us the help we need and He will work in the middle of the mess. We, like David, can choose to bless His name in the middle of the mess. We just need to remember Who God is and all He has done, pray for help, and watch Him work!

Psalm 103:2 KJV “Bless the Lord, O my soul and forget not all His benefits.

This is the path to seeking to choose God-reliance over self-reliance because our trust in Him grows through it. This is the path I want to take, how about you?

 

 

Relinquishing Control and Finding Peace

The correlation between my fears and my need to be in control recently became apparent to me. But, I am happy to say that I am finding peace as I am learning to relinquish control. Actually, it comes down to learning to live out the truths of Proverbs 3:5-6.

This is what that Proverbs says in the Amplified version of the Bible. “Trust in and rely confidently in the Lord with all your heart. And do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know and acknowledge and recognize Him and He will make your paths straight and smooth (removing obstacles that block your way.)”

Wow, what a beautiful promise! And, what a familiar promise. It is one we read often, and read over without thinking about because of its familiarity. I wonder how many truths of God’s Word I totally miss as I read my Bible. And in missing them I miss out on the amazing blessing He promises. But God is faithful and true to His Word!  He is showing me the magnitude of His love for me as He works in my life and shows me His personal presence as well as His omniscience regarding what I need. I stand in awe, thoroughly amazed at what He is doing!

Trust! Trust is very hard for many of us because of previous hurts, betrayals, or whatever is at the bottom of our fears. Yet, God is trustworthy and I am finding that as I reach for Him in trust He meets me with His faithfulness.

I knew something had to change because the stress in my life was too much. I needed to give it to God to take care of. I needed to let Him be in control. Oh, it’s not like I hadn’t prayed about it before, because I had given Him my frustration and overwhelm often, and I had told Him how to best work out the whole situation. But that is not what real prayer is, He wants me to rely on Him and let Him take control. So this time, out of complete desperation, I gave it to Him. I stopped meddling and trying to control the outcome. I told Him that I can’t deal with it anymore, You have to take care of it, and as I did I felt deep release within.

I shut my mouth, bit my tongue, stopped complaining,  arguing, ranting and raving. I completely stopped discussing the issue because the more I would think about it and share my frustration the more worked up I would become. Each time an opportunity arose that made me want to make a comment, I chose to abandon the outcome to God. I decided to let God do it His way. I know that is the way it is supposed to work, but I will be honest that is not what I had been doing.

Proverbs 3:5 tells us not to rely on own understanding or insight. That means I am not supposed to try to figure it all out and try to make it work my way. But my understanding of this particular situation said that there is a time limit and it needs to be done now. My insight says you can do it if you plan it all out. Just keep pushing and working at it. The problem was, it isn’t my stuff to control. I cannot physically make the other person act on it and forcing the issue has not worked. So the next best option, which is really the best option always, was to fully give it to the Lord to work out.

This verse is very clear, I am not only to “rely,” I am also to “acknowledge” His Lordship, and “recognize” His presence and power over the situation. He needs to be on the throne, not me. So, when I felt the urge to control, I had to tell my anxious heart that the Lord God of this universe had it in His control, He is present with me and has the power to bring the solution to pass. It all became a moment-by-moment prayer that I said. I needed to remind myself Who God is. I needed to develop greater trust in Him.

So, I lived out the trust part, even though it was a struggle for me, and then the blessing came. The blessing came and I have to admit that I did not even recognize it at first. Amazingly, I saw a heart-change in the other person. When I stopped pushing and controlling suddenly she moved into action. She recognized the things that needed to be done and responded positively when help was offered.

My path truly became straight and smooth. God removed the obstacles blocking the way, namely her refusal and constant disagreement. And my constant griping had stopped also. Now my path is one of loving support as I am given opportunity to do so, not stress-producing control.

The stress in the relationship has lessened a great deal.  I don’t have to take care of it all. And I am not trying to “people-please” or earn love. I am accepting the relationship for what it is and seeking to know God’s love for me in deeper ways.

Okay, so it is a start, and I know it is only one area that I have tried to control, there are others. But this one was one of the greater stress-producers in my life! So I am finding peace in my heart. It is in the relinquishing, in loosening my tight grip, in giving God space to work, this is where I see Him making changes. This is where I see Him giving me the answers necessary and in those answers I am growing in trusting Him and finding great peace.

Just now, as I was writing this post, the phone rang and I learned of another open door to the necessary solution. God is at work in this stressful situation. He is securing an outcome in a way that will be perfect no matter the timing, it will be available whenever we are ready. Wow, what an amazing God we serve! And how beautiful it is to see the truths of His promises at work in my life!

We can trust Him and believe Him at His Word!  His love is real. I know I knew these things intellectually, but now once again I know them experientially. He is drawing me back from my path of independence to full dependence on Him and this is where I want to live.  I hope you will join me here, there is such great peace.

Thank you Lord that You know the way and are patiently gracious with control-freaks like me. Thank you Lord for teaching me more of how to trust You and for showing me Your amazing faithfulness! You are an amazing God and I give You all of the praise! Amen!

 

 

Letting Go: Trusting God and His Love

Letting go is difficult, we clutch on with fear in our hearts. Last week I shared biblical truths that are helping me toward abandoning outcomes to God.  I am focusing on repeating one of the truths as I find my neck and shoulder muscles tightening as I strive to gain control or get it done my way. Sometimes I just tell myself two words, “abandon outcomes.”

It seems so easy to recognize our need toreally know God and to acknowledge our need to be growing in trusting Him. But, I am finding what I think I know and how much I trust is different from the way I live it out in reality.  I am realizing I do not know Him the way I need to, I already knew that, but I did not realize to what degree. I guess we can deceive ourselves into thinking our faith is stronger, and our trust is deeper than what it really is.

The Lord wants us in a deep trusting relationship with Him and as Christians we all have trusted Him for our salvation and we trust Him to varying degrees beyond that. He is at work within each one of our lives to draw us nearer to Him, to lead us to know and trust Him more and more, day-by-day, moment-by-moment. Yet, humankind has been striving for independence ever since the fall of man. Unfortunately, independence never gets us to where God wants us. Stillness not striving is what God wants of us.

I am studying “Living a Praying Life Without Fear: Let Faith Tame Your Worries” by Jennifer Kennedy Dean. It is a study that was given to me, and initially I considered passing it on, it didn’t seem relevant to where I was at. But now, months later, I am learning some very important things about fear. I am realizing how very blind I have been and am to how my own emotions are related to my fears. And I am realizing how my fears are really about my lack of understanding of God’s love for me and my trust in Him.

One of the questions Dean asks her readers is to consider about how we would complete this thought,  “if only…  than I’d be happy and secure.  She asks us to fill in the blank with whatever it is we think would bring happiness and security. At first I didn’t know what to write, but as I thought about my fears, especially the ones that keep me striving. to have control, I wrote, “If only my heart weren’t a sieve, then love would stay and I would feel happy and secure.” If that were true I wouldn’t need to strive to people-please to earn love and satisfaction.

Writing that made me wonder what my heart does with God’s love.  I don’t know the answer to that question but in my prayer journal I paraphrased part of Paul’s prayer from Ephesian’s 3:17-19 AMP. I wrote this:

Lord, help me to be deeply rooted and securely grounded in Your love. Help me to be capable of comprehending the width and length and height and depth of Your love, fully experiencing your amazing, endless love. Help me to come to know, practically through personal experience, Your love, and help me to be filled up with all of Your fullness so that I may have the richest experience of Your presence in my life. I want to be completely filled and flooded with You, Lord. ”

God is love. The Amplified Bible explains that He is the originator of love, and it is an enduring attribute of His nature (1 John 4:8 AMP).

Be still and know that I am God.

Be still and know that I am love.

When we really know His love with every fiber of our being we can be still, we can stop striving. We can stop striving because we will be fully satisfied in Him.

It always amazes me how the Lord keeps bringing me back to this place, repeatedly, as if to ask me: Do you know My love for you? Do you trust me? Why do you keep striving and trying to control outcomes?

So here I am AGAIN, holding my heart up to Him, like a dripping sieve, my heart needs to have all of the holes filled with His love, so no love can seep out. And I ask Him to hold me in His love and help me feel secure in Him, I realize that it is the only place where I will learn to grow to trust Him. It is the only place that I can be still knowing that He is God; knowing that He is love makes all the difference.

I need to bask in His love in order to stop the fear and stop the striving. I need to bask in His love in order to feel safe enough to abandon outcomes to Him.

After all that the Lord has done for us, how can we question His love? It doesn’t make sense. Yet, He continually has to help me see my need for Him, my desperate state. He continually has to help me know His love for me. He has to continually help me be willing to release my clenched fists and stop holding onto control. It is not a one-time-and-done lesson, at least not for me.

When I am striving I miss out on His presence and His love because my focus is not on Him. I miss knowing all the blessing He has for me because I am holding tightly to getting what I want.

What about you, do you need to know His love more?

How will learning more about His love help you to stop fearing and stop striving?

What He asking you to release to Him?

Oh Lord help us! We are a desperate people and so blind to our desperation.  Help us to stop striving and learn to abandon outcomes to You. Help us to trust You, for Your love is all we need. Amen!

Letting Go

Are you carrying too much?
What do you need to let go of?
I ask you this because I have been carrying too much. I temporarily took a break from posting because my life felt overwhelming. And now I come back to writing still feeling overwhelmed and stressed but I have learned something. This thing I learned is not earth-shatteringly new, in fact it is probably something very evident to you that you may have recognized in yourself in your own life. I should have known, but instead when it became apparent to me I actually was shocked. Shocked that I knew the connection intellectually but had not applied it in my actual life. Let me explain.
You see, it became apparent that I am very controlling. My thoughts tell me that if I don’t do it, it won’t get done. Nor will it get done according to my timeline unless I keep pressuring myself to push through. You see, I realized that I must think it is all about me, I am responsible for it all. And then the really tough thing I realized is that it is not everyone else “stressing me out” as I thought, but rather it is my need to control it all that is at the bottom of all my stress. And all of this stress is causing problems. Anger, frustration, hurt, and guilt are frequently at the forefront of the way I feel and respond. I have been complaining to others that they are the cause of my stress when in reality it is me and my attitude about life.
I recently read a beautiful prayer that spoke of abandoning outcomes to the Lord. It was that prayer that gave me a clue about what was going on. I decided that I need to be praying for help to abandon outcomes; to let go, and really put it in the Lord’s hand. What happened to trusting Him? You know the little verse, “Be still and know that I am God” from Psalm 46:10. That is what this is about. But instead of trusting in His will, I clutch on to my own will to make sure everything turns out the way I think I should. Choosing to abandon an outcome to Him would demonstrate trust in His sovereignty. I trust Him with some things,  but I guess I pick and choose which are safe to trust Him with and which ones I need to control. It is quite obvious to me there are way too many situations where I feel the need to be responsible for things. I can tell by the tightness in my neck and shoulder muscles. My need for control keeps me striving instead of surrendering.

The “what if” questions bombard me, and I tighten my grip on control rather than giving the outcome to Him. But the pressure is off, isn’t that the promise of Matthew 11:28-30? Aren’t we asked to learn “the unforced rhythm of grace” (The Message)? Reading those words brings tears to my eyes. There is nothing unforced in trying to control. The Lord is here to carry the burden and lead me through it all, so why do I hold on so tight?
Letting go is hard. I know I am carrying too much. I know I am feeling so overburdened. And it is all because I am trying to control so many outcomes. Yet, as I said, it all surprised me, it kind of slapped me in the face with a realization I have been oblivious to. I mean, I know the Lord’s love for me, why does my trust waiver?
I know that there are pressures and expectations constantly coming my way from others. And my stress starts when I first hear about another to-do, another obligation. But my need to fill the hole inside leads me to press on, work hard, and take control. I try to make the outcome feed the need within rather than find my satisfaction in what the Lord has to give me apart from my striving. And all of this leaves me exhausted from racing on the treadmills of performance and people-pleasing.
Are you exhausted and feeling overburdened?
This month’s posts will center on the theme of letting go of negative attitudes and emotions that keep us from peace within. I hope you will join me in this exploration.

A Look at Depression: Hannah

A heart of desperation is what we find in Hannah when we read her story in 1 Samuel 1.

Hannah lived in her home with her husband, Elkanah, as well as with his other wife, Peninnah and her children. Hannah had to share her husband with another woman and that woman’s children who were fathered by her own husband. How hard would that be?

And as if that isn’t bad enough, as if you wouldn’t already have a tendency to feel jealousy in your heart just because of what your husband shared, even as far as feelings for his other wife, there were also the children.

Peninnah was able to have children, and Hannah was not. The Lord had closed Hannah’s womb for some reason unknown to her and Elkanah. Hannah was desperate, she wanted children more than anything else. Month after month, year after year, she waited, hoping to become pregnant, but it didn’t happen just then.

Elkanah’s love, Penninah’s having children, and Hannah’s desire for children all became points of rivalry between these women. Peninnah taunted Hannah constantly reminding her of the fact that she had children and Hannah didn’t. It was obvious to Peninnah that Elkanah loved Hannah more than herself and it pushed her to rub in the reality of Hannah’s childlessness even more, causing more and more pain to Hannah.

It seemed that there was nothing to soothe Hannah, she was desperate. The pain of her infertility and the constant taunting sent her into deep depression. Hannah cried and cried, she suffered from loss of appetite, she was brokenhearted.

Have you ever felt desperation?

It is a feeling that seems to overwhelm you fully. You can only think about the emotional pain you feel and the unmet need or desire that seems to be constantly out of reach.

Infertility is only of many situations that can lead to desperation and depression. There are many single people desperate to be loved and to be married. There are many jobless men and women desperate to find employment to support them and their family.

When desperation goes on and on for weeks, months, and into years, one begins to feel so defeated and hopeless. Life seems impossible. And that situation can only be made worse if you are constantly bombarded by another flaunting that they have what you do not.

Our personal deep inner pain only becomes bigger and deeper when we see others having what we want. Whether it be children, a good job, or health, it only hurts more to see others living our dream. It makes us wonder more why we are left without it.

Hannah’s husband saw her deep sadness. He wanted her to be happy. He loved her whether she had children or not. But she knew in her heart the disgrace of not having children and there was nothing that could comfort her. Elkanah’s is not the only one who saw Hannah’s brokenheartedness. The Lord saw her pain also.

Psalm 34:19 says,

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Yet, when we are hurting we wonder, ‘where is God?’ There are many books written on this subject, and in the books of the Bible we see many men and women suffering greatly. And at times we see the Lord change the circumstances, or answer the prayer immediately in just the way the person requests. But that is not always true. Sometimes we must wait… and wait.
There is a song that I knew years ago, but only remember one line from it right now. This line has carried me through pain and desperation because it points me in the right direction. The line I am speaking of says this, “When you can’t see His hand trust His heart.”

I know, those words do not give you what you long for right this very minute in terms of the money, the job, or a child or whatever it is. Yet, the reality of truth is that God is a God of love. His heart is full of love!  It is this exact love that made Him send Jesus into this world to die for us and give us the opportunity to believe and be saved. It may seem to us at times that God is cruel, or the things He does just do not make sense, and we wonder why He does the things He does. Why must we wait? Why don’t things turn out the way we think is best? We have to remember that God is our loving parent, our Heavenly Father, and He knows what is best. I know all too often, that is not what we want to hear. We just want Him to make life easier and give us what we want.

I have learned that when I look to Him and trust Him to give me His best, His perfect gift in His perfect timing, it is always much better than what I thought I wanted or needed at the time.

So in the midst of our brokenheartedness, our desperation, or our depression, we must turn to the Lord and say, “Lord give me Your best, I trust Your heart of love for me.” And we must wait on Him to meet us with it in His perfect timing. We must trust His heart of love to give us the best gift for us.

He is with us in our pain and knows exactly what the longings of our hearts are. He also knows that we need the Giver more than the gift, and sometimes we lose sight of that. So today look to the Giver, our God of love, and tell Him of your desperation, and ask Him to give you His best answer. Tell Him you want His best for your life and wait patiently trusting His heart of love. He will not disappoint you!

 

Lord, I Need You, I’m Depressed

Sadness is a part of life. It is often related to or can be attributed to life circumstances, disappointments, or losses. But there are time of deep sadness or even depression that can really knock you down.

I went through a very deep depression a number of years ago. It was a time of darkness and hopelessness. I was out of work for 11 months. I felt like I was drowning, and I couldn’t find my way out.

When we deal with depression we have varying responses as to how we get help, or even if we get help. I met with a Christian counselor and she helped me work through some issues that were affecting me. I also went on medications to help me with my depression, anxiety, and sleep issues.

The more I knew about the emotional pain from which my depression stemmed, the more I felt like I knew exactly what I needed to have happen in my life so that I could go on. It was a heart neediness that I needed help with. There was a deep emptiness, a hurt endured, a need unmet, but, my first response was not to call out to the Lord. I thought that I knew what I needed and I tried to manipulate getting the need met on my own terms.

It took a number of months of suffering before the Lord made it clear to me that I was praying for Him to work in my solution in my predetermined way rather than coming to Him for healing according to His wisdom. I prayed that the Lord would work it all out according to my plan.

When I finally accepted that truth of my sin and confessed it, I chose to ask Him to heal me His way. It was then that I saw Him work in my heart and life. It was amazing how He showed me His love for me and helped to grow my trust in Him.

He used the medications, the counselor, and the doctor to help me through, but He is absolutely the One who healed my heart. He knew I needed to trust Him with my neediness. in the deepest of ways. He knew I needed a deeply intimate relationship with Him more than I needed anything else.

O Lord I need you!

Elijah went through a period of depression. It is recorded in 1 Kings 19 in the BIble. Elijah had just experienced God’s miraculous, supernatural power in response to his prayer. And the next thing we read is how Elijah is filled with fear. He is exhausted, he is depressed, and he wants to dies.

Elijah had been running because his life was being threatened. One day he knows the hope of God’s power and suddenly he can only feel the gloom of despair. The Bible doesn’t explain how Elijah gets from that mountaintop joy of a miracle to the place of defeat and despair. But the Lord is there too. Elijah tells the Lord that he just wants to die. And, God meets him in that place.

I think when we are feeling so depressed we often just want the pain to be gone. And sometimes the pain is so excruciating we just want to die.

The Lord knew Elijah’s need and met him there. We too can cry out to the Lord in our neediness. The Lord know our needs. He knew that Elijah felt lonely and scared. He knew that Elijah was exhausted and in need of food and water. And the Lord met those needs.

The Lord also knew that Elijah needed to know the Lord in a new way. I think that the Lord allows us to hit rock bottom so that we can look up with new eyes of neediness to see Him again. It is in those wilderness places of life when we feel no hope that the Lord wants us to see Him as all we need.

Elijah had just seen the Lord send fire down from heaven. Elijah had prayed and trusted that the Lord would answer and prove Himself as True God. Yet when Jezebel threatened his life he crumbled.

I know one thing I realized about my faith in my depression mostly after my depression is that the Lord wanted me to grow in my trust of Him. He wanted me to share the depths of my neediness with Him and depend on Him in it to care for me and satisfy me.

God is a personal God who is able to do amazing and miraculous things in this world. yet we so easily forget that He is that same able God in our personal wilderness of depression.

Yes, He has given us doctors, counselors, medications, and books that we can turn to for help. But He desires us to bring even our deepest neediness to Him. Nothing is too hard for Him. He wants to personally show us His glory. He wants to whisper hope in His still, small voice into our brokenness.

The Lord is able to take the deepest hurt and emotional pain and bring healing. He is able to use whatever we have gone through for His glory. He is able to satisfy our hearts with His love and with His perfect plans for our lives. When you cry, “Lord, I need you,” you can expect Him to show up and work in that hurting place. It may not be an overnight fix, but He will hold you in the pain and bring you to a place of new hope. We can always depend on and trust in HIm!

 

 

Yielding Begins in Your Heart

Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Our intent in living life by faith as a Christian should lead us to yielding to Christ living through us.

When we yield, we surrender our rights to God and also submit in seeking Him and His ways. Jeremiah 29:13 tells us that when we seek Him wholeheartedly we will find Him. So it seems that if we really want Him in our lives we need to look at our hearts. Yielding starts with the heart and the intent of our hearts.

I believe that yielding begins with trust. For example, when you are in need of surgery, you probably won’t randomly pick a name out of the phone book in order to find a surgeon. Most likely, you will want to find the best surgeon to perform your surgery.

You will probably try to find out about a few surgeons before making a decision. you may find out about the surgeons reputation, read reviews, get information about how often he has completed the surgery, and may even discuss previous surgeries with patients who are acquainted with him.

Each of these factors builds your trust in the surgeon and in his abiity. After you meet with him, learn his bedside manner, and feel comfortable with him, you probably will decide to move forward in having the surgery because he seems trustworthy and capable.

Our yielding to God is similar.

I see Proverbs 3:5-6 as a path to yielding.

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding, In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths.”

We need to first learn to trust, specifically to trust Him as Lord.

  • We read His Word and see His faithfulness to His people throughout the Bible.
  • We pray and see His faithfulness in answering us and meeting our needs.
  • We talk with other believers, learning about their experiences with a loving, personal God.

All of these result in building our faith and growing our trust.

We seek Him for His views, perceptions and judgments of each situation and need in our lives. Little by little we let go of relying on our thoughts and understanding alone as a basis for our decision making.

We acknowledge Him in every part of life.

  • We recognize His Sovereignty (authority and control) and His omniscience (knowing all).
  • We begin letting go (yielding) our need for personal independence, (self-sufficiency) and our grip on being in control.

At last, we look for His leading and direction in life and learn to respond to Him with obedient submission (yielding).

It is a lifetime process, a continual process that we grow in, as we grow in Christ-likeness. None of us have arrived. All of us need the Lord more than we know and often more than we admit. It is in recognizing our dependence on Him that little-by-little we see the importance of yielding to Him in heart and throughout life.

Lord, help us to grow more and more in trusting You, that we may yield with our whole hearts.

Starting Anew

 

Happy New Year!

Isaiah 43:18-19 “Forget the former thing, do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a new thing. Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” 

Our God is a God of renewal, restoration, and hope. This verse in Isaiah is a verse of renewed hope. The Lord wanted the Israelites to stop looking back at what was past, at what they left behind. The Israelites were in captivity when Isaiah wrote this and their minds were stuck on what had been. 

You know how that goes, when things go bad you think back to what the good old life was like before it all turned sour. When we get stuck or imprisoned in the problems of this life, we often wonder why God doesn’t change the situation. We may think why doesn’t He make it better according to what we think would be best. We may wonder why He ever allowed it to get this bad in the first place. We forget that no matter what, God has the best plan laid out.

Here we are at the beginning of a brand new year, we have set goals, and dreamed dreams of what we desire to take place. We think ahead to all of the possibilities, to what we want God to do in our lives.

We may have even taken time to look back over 2016. Just taking some moments to time review it in our minds. We may have smiled at our successes, remembering the people and things that brought us joy. Maybe we thought  about the things that went wrong, where we failed miserably, or about the goals that we didn’t meet.

We may have recognized and come to terms with how often failed to please God. Maybe we made poor choices, or didn’t even seek Him. We may  now realize how desperate we are to receive forgiveness and how we need the Lord’s wisdom in order to move forward.

The new year is a good time to take stock of all of that. It is a time to consider where the Lord is leading you. What opportunities is He making available to you?  Sometimes we realize the places we feel He is leading us are scary places that fill us with fear. A new job, a different town or state, a cut in our salary, or a crippling disease. Changes in life are often unexpected and frequently unwanted. We feel safe in the status quo. But we don’t learn trust when everything is going well. We often lose sight of God in times of self-sufficiency.

So,  in this new year, no matter what you are dealing with, remember the Lord will make a way when it seems impossible.

Isaiah 51:10 says,  “Was it not You who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep,  who made the depths of the sea a pathway for the redeemed to cross over?” 

Yes, it was You Lord! You are the one who gives us hope, who leads us through the impossible, and You are the one who gives us victory.

The Lord is able to make a way through whatever place or predicament we are in. And what is so beautiful is that it doesn’t matter to Him how we got there. His love overcomes it all. We can start anew now in 2017, no matter what our past has been. He is with us to lead us, we must only seek Him, trust Him, and follow Him.

There are no guarantees that it will be easy, in fact, He often waits for us to step out in faith. The Israelites, led by Joshua, had to walk into the waters of the Jordan River before the waters parted. They had to get the soles of their feet wet in the flooding river before God parted the water (see Joshua 3). It is as if God was asking them,  do you trust Me enough to move forward before I clear the path?

God calls us, leads us, and equips us for what He has for us. He gives us feet for the path He puts us on. We need to look ahead and move forward with courage and expectation as we begin 2017 trusting that God has a perfect plan for us. All that He has for us comes out of his heart of unconditional love.

My prayer for us is this:

Lord, Help us to start anew in 2017 with steadfast faith in You, believing that You have the perfect plan and will make a way for us. Thank you Lord for Your unfailing love, thank You for Your amazing grace. Our hope is in You alone. Lead us and guide us, moment-by-moment, step-by-step, through 2017. And Lord, may all we do be for Your glory and honor. In Jesus holy name. Amen. 

May your new year be full of many blessimgs.

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