Archive for April 2011

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Fear Not: Part 9

(If you missed the earlier posts in this series, start with this post and go from there.)

God really does weaken the fears in our hearts as we fight for faith in Him.  But you don’t just have to take my word for it, or Isaiah’s or Paul’s or Martin Loyd Jones’ for that matter.  Listen to the testimonies of a few other ladies in our church about how fighting for faith in God really does weaken our fears.

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Friday, April 15, 2011

Fear Not: Part 8

(If you missed the earlier posts in this series, you can find them here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7.)

Shortly after we had our first child, Tali, I found myself really overwhelmed by fears about her safety.  When she would cry the lies of fear would shout, “Maybe she’s crying because there’s something deathly wrong with her.  Maybe she has some sort of incurable disease and won’t make it through the night.  If I was a better mom I’d know what’s wrong with her.  I should be able to help her and keep her happy!”

The lies were strong but with the help of my husband and friends, I went to God’s Word and searched for truths that would help me fight for faith.  I made a simple little sheet with the lies I was thinking and truths about God that combatted them.  Tali would start crying, I was sometimes crying too, but I’d grab up my sheet of truths and start praying to God and preaching to myself.

I’d pray from Isaiah 41:10; “Lord, I don’t know why she’s crying and I’m scared.  But You promise that You’re with me.  I’m scared that something’s really wrong.  Father, help me  believe that you’re going to help me.  Lord, give me wisdom to help her. Please help me, Lord.  Help me not to fear right now!” 

And then I’d speak to myself.  "Ok, I’m not all-knowing but God is.  He is sovereign over Tali’s life, and only He can keep her alive; I can’t.  I’m not a perfect mom and I never will be.  I'll never know how to perfectly help my daughter no matter how hard I try.  I’m a sinner saved by grace.  But God is perfect and He is able to sustain Tali’s life and to help me."

I’d pray and then I’d talk to myself.  And then about 30 seconds later, I’d have to do it all over again.  It was a long, hard, exhausting fight.  But over time, I began to see peace increasing in my heart and fears when Tali cried stared to weaken.  This practice of talking to God and talking to myself when a variety of fears struck, became a common practice for me.  The Holy Spirit really used those means to bring about true change in my heart.  I became much less characterized by fear and much more characterized by peace in God.

I saw the fruit of this change most clearly over the past year when I faced a pretty scary situation with my health.  After Addie Beth was born I just didn’t feel quite right. At first I just chalked it up to post-baby exhaustion.  I started having pretty bad digestive issues, awful headaches, and trouble regulating my body temperature.  I  was so tired that it was hard to even change a diaper and I’d have to sit down and rest after I walked up the stairs.  I couldn’t think clearly, everything seemed like too much to handle.  I was eating a full sized meal every two hours but dropping weight.  I felt overwhelmed, angry, and depressed all at the same time.  And then I started having serious heart palpitations, even in the middle of the night.

The fears started screaming, “What if I die? What if I can’t take care of my kids?  What if I have an incurable disease?”  And then, I ended up in the emergency room with a resting heart-rate of 140.  That was a scary situation.  I found out that I have a thyroid condition that may plague me for life, yet when I heard that, I was much less afraid than I anticipated. Instead of being consumed with fears like I have been most of my life, there was help for me in that moment and in the weeks to come to trust God. I wasn’t able to pray anything lengthy in those moments, but I kept asking, "Lord help me.  I know You’re good.  Help me believe it.” I tried to speak the truth to myself, “He’s promised He’ll be with me and help me.  Even if I don't see how, He is going to help me.”  

I didn’t know what His plan was or what the outcome would be.  I didn’t know then and I still don’t know now how this autoimmune disorder with my thyroid will affect every element of my future in this life.  But I do know that the outcome is in the hands of the One who promises to uphold me with His righteous right hand.  And believing that He is with me is making a difference even as my health continues to go up and down.

I’m not saying it’s been easy-it’s been a fight.  The lies of fear continue to whisper or even shout in my ears on a regular basis.  But when I hear those lies in my heart, with the Spirit’s powerful help, I’ve been crying out to God.  I’ve been speaking the truth about God to myself.   And when I’m finding it hard to do those things, I’m going to great books, great family, and great friends and asking them to help me believe what is true.  And I’m finding that overall, I’m experiencing a lot of peace in what really is a frightening situation.

You heard a bit of my story so you and I both know that for me to not fear something genuinely frighting is a huge change!  God really does weaken the fears in our hearts as we fight for faith in Him.

(2 more posts to come!)

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Fear Not: Part 7

(If you missed the earlier posts in this series, here they are: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6.)

I want to just be really honest here and say that this idea of actually needing to fight for faith has been the crucial point of challenge for me.  I don't want to have to work at this.  I want everything in life to be easy-lasting peace included.  I want to just slap a scripture on it and repeat, “Fear not, fear not” a couple times and feel all better. But that’s not how trust in God usually grows.

If you want to strengthen your muscles, you don’t expect that just sitting at home on your couch is going to do anything to help you get toned.  And we rarely grow in trusting God by merely doing nothing either.  There is a war going on in our hearts - the war for faith in God.  Wars aren’t won in a day and we won’t win the war against fear in a day either.  There’s battle after battle after exhausting and challenging battle before victory comes.  The question is whether we’re going to choose to pick up our weapons and fight for faith or merely be trampled by our fears.

So how about you?  Are you using the weapons of prayer and the weapon of reminding yourself of what God’s Word says is true about Him?  Are you doing that even when your feelings and circumstances are screaming otherwise?  Or are you just passively listening to what your fears and circumstances seem to be saying?

I’d like to share a little bit about how fighting fears with faith in God has made a difference in my life.  I share this not to make you think highly of me (I could never have brought about this change on my own).  I share this to give you hope.  I’ve never met a person more consumed with fears than I was and I have seen that God really can transform fearful hearts like mine.  It really is possible for you and for me to grow with the help of the Holy Spirit.

First, let me share some things that I’ve tried to do over the years to weaken fears and anxieties.  I’ve tried to ignore it (you know-try just not to think about it and hope it goes away).  That didn’t work.  I tried to convince it away (you know-tell myself that the statistics were incredibly unlikely that I would get kidnapped while going to the mailbox).  That didn’t help.  I tried to educate my fears away (you know-scour the Internet for every possible way to eliminate anxiety attacks).  That didn’t work either.  In fact, going to the Internet to help me weaken fear has only brought on more fears.  I’ve tried to barter with God; “Lord, don’t you think I deserve some peace?  I’m trying to follow You!”  That didn’t bring me lasting peace either.  So what did help me not to fear what is frightening? Honestly it’s been the two things that Philippians 4 mentions: prayer and talking to myself.

I started really engaging in this war against fear when I came to our church. The Lord kindly introduced me to a book by Ed Welch that my friend, Jodi gave me.  It was on the “fear of man.”  Through this book and some other excellent resources, God started to show me that my fears were not happening just because I’m naturally introverted or because of my family background or because this is just how I’ve always been.  I started seeing that fear had to do with my heart and what I was really believing about God.  I started to see that through the help of the Holy Spirit teaching me to fight for faith, lasting peace was really possible.

I began to re-read passages in scripture about anxiety and started asking God to help me see how trustworthy He really is.  Instead of just reading the same scriptures over and over hoping that just reading them would change me, I started praying through scripture and thinking about it.  I began talking to myself and reminding myself of who God is.  Over time, this started to become a way of life for me.

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Fear Not: Part 6

(If you missed the earlier posts in this series, here they are: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.)

We weaken fears with faith by talking to God and we weaken fears with faith by talking to ourselves, in other words, by thinking about what is true.  “Whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, worthy of praise-think about that.  Practice that and the God of peace will be with you.”  Do you see what the Apostle Paul getting at here? We weaken fears and anxieties by thinking, or talking to ourselves about what’s true.  

This kind of thinking is not some sort of power of positive thinking. This isn’t just trying to make yourself feel better by repeating, “Don’t fear!  Don’t fear!  Don’t Fear!” This kind of thinking is a way of fighting for faith in who God really is. 

But what if we do try to think about truth and we find that it’s just not doing anything for us-that it’s making no difference?  You know, “I’ve tried.  It didn’t work.”  Ever been there?  When fears and anxieties threaten to overwhelm us, it can be really hard to believe the truth. When we feel like the truth about who God is really isn’t helping us, that should be like a warning light.  “Alert!  Alert!  Something’s not right.  Check your heart!”  If we’re not believing that God is who He says He is, we’re doubting Him.    

Ladies, I just want to pause for a second and say again that some of the situations you’re facing right now are really absolutely frightening, more than I can understand. When fears and anxieties seem to be closing in all around us, believing that God really is our loving Father who will strengthen us and help us does not come naturally.  If you’re having a hard time believing the truth about God in the midst of your scary circumstance, that’s not surprising.  That’s especially true because our fears lie.  I’ve seen this over and over again in my own life; fears lie and their lies seem so believable when I’m afraid.

We’ll talk about this more specifically in a little bit, but right now, I just want to encourage you-this is why we desperately need the Holy Spirit’s help; we are so quick to doubt God.  We need to go to Him, just like Paul exhorted us to in Philippians 4.  We need to cry out to Him to help us believe. “I do believe, Lord help my unbelief!”  It may also be helpful to include others, asking them to remind us of what’s true about our loving father that is with us.  And it’s also really important not to just read scripture, but to preach it to ourselves and to keep preaching it to ourselves rather than listening to the lies that whisper and sometimes SHOUT in our hearts.

Martin Loyd Jones, a Welsh preacher that lived in the first part of the 20th century explained it this way:

“The main trouble in this whole a sense is this, that we allow our self to talk to us instead of talking to our self. Am I just trying to be deliberately paradoxical? Far from it. This is the very essence of wisdom in this matter. Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?”

“You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do.”

We’re constantly talking to ourselves.  Thoughts go through our head all day long.  But are we talking to ourselves about what is actually true? In the midst of being afraid, it’s not easy to believe what is true about God and to think about those things-that's why it's called a fight.  It really is a fight for faith.

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Monday, April 4, 2011

Fear Not: Part 5

(If you missed the earlier posts in this series, click here for Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.)

What does it really mean to weaken fear by fighting for faith in God?  Let’s look together for a minute at some familiar verses, found in Philippians 4:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

These verses mention two main ways we can weaken fear by fighting for faith in God:  first, by talking to Him-in other words, by praying and crying out to Him. And secondly, we fight for faith in God by talking to ourselves (essentially, by thinking about what is true).

The beginning of these verses pretty plainly say, “Don’t be anxious-don’t fear.  Instead-pray let your requests be made know to God."  And then, here’s what happens: the peace of God will guard your heart and mind.  We fight fear with faith by praying to God-pouring our hearts out to Him and asking for His help.  

So for example, when we face a really frightening situation like when we’re uncertain about the state of our finances, we can fight our fears by going to God.  “Lord, this is really scary.  I have no idea how You’re going to provide but I know that you’ve promised to meet our needs.  You provide for the birds! Please help me believe that you’ll provide for us, and please do provide. I know that You’re with me even though I don’t feel like it.  Lord, please help me to trust you!”  We weaken fear by fighting for faith in God through talking to Him.  Who else could we possibly talk to that can help us more than God himself?  

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