Abiding in God’s Presence Drives Out Fear

lets_goContinued from here.

The day after I wrote yesterday’s blog entry, I attended an evangelism meeting at my church. We talked about a presentation I am building on talking about our faith: why we need to do it and how. I felt so alive in that meeting and did not have a whit of anxiety during or after it. I realized that my focus was on God rather than my problems, and I felt the difference between a “life” and “death” focus in a tangible way.

And then God pounded home the same message during my quiet time the next morning. I read the following quote in Daily Wisdom for Women 2017 Devotional Collection:

Try ‘abiding, not striving nor struggling.’” ~ Hudson Taylor’s friend

Next was this quote in Jesus Always: Embracing Joy in His Presence:

Relax in My loving Presence.’”

And then this quote from Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God (Workbook):

To be God’s servant, you must be moldable and remain in the hand of the Master.”

When I hear the same message three times in a row, I take notice.

I am now getting a better understanding of what I keep doing “wrong.” I have a similar nature to Peter and Paul, always running ahead of God, zealous to do His will but not waiting for His signal to act. Both men truly wanted to serve God, but their view of servanthood aligned too much with the world’s view – as soon as they thought they knew where God was going, they ran out ahead of Him and tried to do the job themselves. I don’t know if this caused them anxiety or not, but that’s what happens to me when I do it. Like Peter and Paul, God can use me to go boldly where He leads, but I first must learn to follow, just as they did.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace running and saying, “Let’s go!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

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How Love Drives Out Fear

do_not_panicContinued from here.

I am still in the early stages of processing all of this, but here’s what I have learned thus far…

God is love, so whenever I am with Him, I am “with love.” While He promises never to leave me, I can leave Him, and I do whenever I run ahead of Him into my circumstances. He always walks with me, but I don’t always walk with Him.

My pattern is to run ahead into the circumstances, reminding myself that God will show up. My faith has developed enough to know that God will, indeed, show up, but it always seems like he does so at the very last minute. Meanwhile, I’m surrounded by unpleasant circumstances, trying to hold onto my faith and remain standing until God arrives. I don’t think that is how God plans for us to live.

I have been pondering if perhaps there is another, better way to live. Perhaps God wants me walking alongside him with my focus on Him rather than on my circumstances. Instead of running ahead into my circumstances and waiting for Him to catch up, perhaps I have another option – to walk alongside God at His pace and enjoy the blessings of His love and presence while the circumstances come to me. For all I know, by the time those circumstances reach me, they might look quite different up close. Rather than being a river at flood level, it might just part the moment God and I step into it. And even if it doesn’t, the time leading up to my inevitable intersection with the river can be spent experiencing love, joy, peace, and rest as I walk alongside God, knowing that I am in His presence the entire time we are walking together.

When I was in therapy, my therapist repeatedly told me to live in the present moment, not in the future. Perhaps this is what he was talking about. The only moment I can do anything about is right now, and right now is the only moment that intersects with eternity. If I can stay focused on walking with God right now in this present moment, might love drive out the fear and anxiety?

Only God knows the answer, and only He can empower me to do this. Please pray that I learn this lesson. I am so tired of living in fear.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace holding up her arms and saying, “Don’t panic.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Do Not Fear

fearAnxiety has plagued me for most of my life. It used to be much worse: I struggled with an anxiety disorder for decades, which caused me to have panic attacks regularly. I cannot remember the last time I had a panic attack, so I have certainly progressed. However, anxiety continues to be an issue for me.

I have been praying about what I am doing “wrong,” and God led me to this verse:

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” ~ 1 John 4:18

I have always struggled with this verse because I don’t perceive what I am fearing as “punishment.” The root of my fear is other people harming me, and that comes from a childhood of abuse, where authority figures had the power to inflict much harm. I do not view the child abuse as “punishment” so much as simply evil.

Looking at the context of the entire passage, the focus is on love – God’s love for us, our love for God, and our love for other people. It sounds like love and fear are incompatible, so where I have a fear problem (anxiety), I have a love problem. I know that God loves me, and yet I fear (experience anxiety). How specifically does love drive out fear?

Multiple passages in the Bible tell us not to fear. The reason provided for not fearing is that God is with us:

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” ~ Is. 41:10

I know that God is always with me, but do I really believe it? If I did, wouldn’t that drive out the fear? And then where does love tie into this?

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace looking frightened. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Body Image Issues

upside_downIf you have been walking with God for a while, you have likely already noticed that God gets into your business. A relationship with God is not just about your spirituality, although that is certainly an important part of it. God is not only interested in spending eternity with you: He also wants to make you victorious in every area of your life on this earth.

One of my areas of defeat for decades was my body image. I hated my body. The cause of that hatred was the child abuse I suffered, particularly the rapes. While the physical act of rape only lasted for a brief period of time, the emotional fallout of the rapes left deep emotional wounds that plagued me for decades. Because my body was the door providing access to my deeply wounded soul and psyche, I rejected my body.

Just as my deep emotional wounds were inflicted through my body, temporary relief also came through my body in the form of an eating disorder. Whenever I binged on large quantities of particular foods, such as a bag of chips or a half-gallon of ice cream, the physical act of “stuffing down” food resulted in temporary emotional numbing as I “stuffed down” the pain.

Of course, when you overeat by thousands of calories, you are going gain weight … a lot of weight. The world is not kind to fat teenagers, so I was ashamed of my overweight body and would diet by restricting calories rather than by developing healthy eating patterns and eating healthy foods. I would lose weight, but then the emotional pain would become so intense that I would binge eat again … and then binge eat again to “stuff down” the shame of having no willpower … and this cycle continued for decades, fueling my hatred of my body.

Considering we were made in God’s image, God does not want us hating our bodies as I did. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and we dishonor God when we hate them. However, simply knowing this won’t make you magically love your body, so I’d like to share my own journey in the hopes of leading anyone with body image issues to freedom in this area. Because God healed me, I know He can heal you as well!

I previously wrote a series on eating disorders, which can be helpful for other types of addictions. However, this series focuses specifically on body image, which is an issue for many people (particularly women) even without an eating disorder.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace flipping upside down. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Change Your Attitude

rainbowContinued from here.

In my last blog entry, I talked about how I have been complaining about an area of my life that I am tired of dealing with. I have made the decision to stop complaining, even though the circumstances have gotten worse rather than better. But watching my mouth is not enough – I also need to change my attitude.

I previously shared that I am inspired by Vicktor Frankl, who managed to keep a positive attitude in a concentration camp. The situation I am frustrated with is nowhere near the level of intensity of what Frankl dealt with. If he could keep a positive attitude there, then God can certainly equip me for a positive attitude here.

One concept I have been pondering to help me choose a better attitude is that I am a servant of God. A servant doesn’t get to tell the master what he wants to do. The master tells the servant what to do, and the servant does it, whether he likes it or not. So, I’m trying to keep the attitude that if God wants me metaphorically cleaning latrines, then that’s what the Master has called me to do. It’s a job that needs to be done, the Master has chosen me as His servant to do it, and so I need to do it with a positive attitude. Whether or not I like the assignment is not relevant. I cannot call God my LORD and refuse to submit to His authority.

As I have previously shared, submitting to authority is not my strength. In my flesh, I don’t want to do it at all, and if I do, the authority better be trustworthy. This particular situation involves my struggles with earthly authority that I do not trust. However, I do trust God, and He’s my Master. Thus, until He tells me the latrines are clean enough to stop, I need to keep doing the assignment He has given me, not because I like the earthly authority but because I trust my LORD.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of a head shot of Grace looking at a rainbow over her head. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Stop Complaining

many_thanksContinued from here.

I’m not proud of it, but in my flesh, I’m a big-time complainer. Years ago, if my lips were moving, I was grumbling about something. Gratitude was a foreign concept to me.

Thankfully, I have come a long way since then, in large part thanks to Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, from which I learned to focus intentionally on counting my blessings. No matter what’s going on in my life, I have many things to be grateful for.

When I’m in a bad place emotionally, I start by thanking God for the elements of the bathroom – having the luxury of hot water for a shower, being able to use a toilet rather than an outhouse, having toilet paper rather than leaves (or whatever they used in Biblical times) … you get the point. When we’re suffering, it can be easy to let our pain overshadow our blessings, so focusing on something simple like the bathroom is a good way for me to begin the process of shifting my perspective back to one of gratitude.

Despite my progress, there’s one area of my life that has been bothering me for a while. It’s gotten gradually worse and worse to the point that I have been ready to remove it from my life since the end of last year, but God still has me in the situation. I have learned from past experience that until God gives me the green light to leave, I need to stay … but I don’t want to stay, and that’s invited my Flesh to start grumbling again.

It’s disturbing how easily we can fall back into old patterns like complaining. I just make one simple negative comment … no big deal. That makes it easier to make the second negative comment … and then the third … and so on. Before I know it, I can’t seem to be able to talk about this area of my life without grumbling.

So, I’m now holding myself accountable for what comes out of my mouth. The Bible says that I should only be saying things that are beneficial to others and builds them up. Complaining doesn’t do that, so it’s time to stop. God help me because this is very difficult for me in my flesh, but nothing is impossible with God.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of a greeting card with Grace smiling and the words, “Many thanks.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Stop Seeking the World’s Peace

A friend bought me the book Daily Wisdom for Women 2017 Devotional Collection, and I have been working through it each morning during my quiet time. I was blown away by this quote from Sunday, June 25, which was written by Jennifer Vander Klipp:

When we pray during life’s storms, we tend to think God is going to make things the way we want them, with ease, comfort, lack of conflict, and prosperity. But those things are not the things that draw us closer to Him and grow our faith. He promises never to leave us and to give us His peace, not the world’s peace. His ways are different from ours…

The end of that quote is what hit me hard – For all of these years, I have been asking for God to give me the world’s peace! I never thought of it in those terms, but it’s true. I want a life that’s easy, comfortable, and problem-free, which is the world’s definition of peace. Anyone with or without a faith finds it peaceful to be in a state of external comfort. That’s why we love vacations, spas, etc. These are slivers of time in which our problems are temporarily removed as we focus on our own comfort. However, God’s peace is internal, not external, and is completely independent of our circumstances.

And the next thought about God’s ways being different from ours drove home the point that I need to learn: I need to stop praying for God to give me what the world offers and start receiving what God has already provided. I already have access to God’s peace 24/7 because I always have access to GOD! He IS peace. But I haven’t been looking to God for peace in the form He offers. I have been asking Him to remove X, Y, and Z from my life to give me the World’s comfort instead of opening my spirit to receive God’s peace, which works even if X, Y, & Z get worse instead of better.

God, forgive me for seeking the World’s peace instead of You. Help me follow Your ways instead of the World’s ways and receive the glorious blessing of Your peace, which has been available to me all along. Turn my eyes off my external circumstances and back onto You where they belong. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cover of Daily Wisdom for Women 2017 Devotional Collection]. Courtesy Amazon.