Battling Anxiety/Seeking Peace: A Stout Heart

It’s hard to wait.

It’s harder to rest patiently for something you desperately want .

That’s why children shake the presents under the Christmas tree and grown-ups dip into their savings.

It’s also why we so often doubt that God has things under control.

When circumstances require sacrifice I want the Lord to step in and fix them. I want my omnipotent God to use a little of that power to make my life more bearable. And when He doesn’t, I’m more likely to call His character into question than to doubt my own motives.

Psalm 27 helps turn my heart back to truth:

13 [What, what would have become of me] had I not believed that I would see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living!

14 Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring. Yes, wait for and hope for and expect the Lord.

Psalm 27:13-14 AMPC

Other versions render the first part of verse 13 like this: “I would have fainted” or “I would have lost heart” or “I would have despaired”.

Hope is a powerful thing.

Often it’s the thread a heart holds onto when everything else falls away.

And while I am absolutely looking forward to God’s ultimate victorious remaking of this world into the perfect and beautiful place He always intended it to be, I am also confident He will continue to work in me and through me to redeem parts of it even here, even now.

Lots of hearts are impatient with our current situation.

Life has been upended. Retirement accounts depleted. Jobs disappeared. School closings and no big graduations. Plans made for months wiped out by government decree. We are stuck at home eating from pantries and refrigerators full of things that may be nutritious but which don’t quite fulfill our appetites.

It’s frustrating.

Why Frustration And Anxiety Make You Fat | Mindset for Success

I know it’s scary right now. I realize that it might look to some as if God has taken a step back or is not paying attention at all. But that’s simply not true. He is still in control. His plans cannot be thwarted. This is NOT the end.

When we stop expecting God to move, we stop listening to His voice, paying attention to His direction and following His Word.

What I’ve got to do is wait.

Not wait in defeat but wait in expectation!

Because I know my God IS moving I can look toward the future with confident assurance that He is going to work all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Endurance IS the victory!

Sometimes it’s only a matter of standing my ground, declaring the truth and refusing to give way to the enemy of my soul. I am undefeated as long as I hold fast to the hope I have in Christ Jesus.

Fear can only make a home in my heart if I allow it. Faith is the bulwark against that invasion.

Restlessness and impatience change nothing except our peace and joy. Peace does not dwell in outward things, but in the heart prepared to wait trustfully and quietly on him who has all things safely in his hands.

Elisabeth Elliot

QUESTIONS:

  1. What is your greatest struggle/fear/frustration right now with the coronavirus situation? Can you rewrite it in terms of what you wish God or the government or someone would do to fix it?
  2. How might patience erase some of your anxiety?
  3. Do you think God has abandoned you (us) in this crisis? Why or why not?
  4. If you have children, are there times when you simply can’t give them an adequate explanation they can understand yet insist they obey or endure? Can you apply that same truth to yourself and your Heavenly Father?
  5. Are you confident you will see God’s goodness “in the land of the living” or do you only hope for His goodness in Heaven? Why ?
  6. I use verses like these and quotes like the one from Elisabeth Elliot to help MY heart hold onto hope. How do you help your heart hold onto hope?
  7. The Bible says that the enemy comes only to “steal, kill and destroy”-he will steal your peace if you let him, he will kill hope in your soul if you listen to his whispered lies that God has abandoned you and he will destroy your confident assurance that Jesus loves you if he can turn your heart and mind to focus on circumstances instead of on the truth found in God’s Word. What practical steps can you take TODAY to shut him out, stop listening to his lies and turn your heart and mind to TRUTH?

PRAYER:

Father God,

These are frightening times.

They are unprecedented times for a world used to flying here and there, running out to the store or a restaurant whenever we want to, having freedom to come and go as we please. Now we are being asked to stay in with the families we created but don’t always get along with. We are told that the things we touch-door handles, cans of food on store shelves, random things everywhere -may be sources of danger.

An invisible enemy is stalking us and we feel defenseless. And yet we are not defenseless because You are still on the Throne.

You are still in control.

Nothing is going to happen to me today that You can’t handle. Help me hold onto the promise that in sickness and in health, You are with me. In times of plenty and times of scarcity, You are with me. You have not abandoned me.

Make my heart stout and steadfast. Don’t let me faint. Help me wait patiently and expectantly for You in the midst of this mess.

Be my strength, be my bravery.

Amen

Battling Anxiety/Seeking Peace: Strength To Endure

When suffering is time-limited it is often more easily endured.

If I know six weeks of intensive though painful physical therapy will help me regain strength and use of a limb or joint, I can power through.

If restricting calories for a month helps me fit into that dress for a special event, I’m more likely to sacrifice for a short time so the pictures look good.

But if you tell me I’ll hobble around for the rest of my life because there’s nothing to be done about my bad back or crooked joints or you want me to change how I eat for good-well, that’s gonna take more strength than I have on my own.

When I realized-probably sometime near the end of the first year-that the sorrow and missing and pain of burying my son was going to be a burden I carried to my own grave, it was absolutely, utterly soul-crushing.

That’s why Habakkuk’s words resonate with my heart:

I heard and my [whole inner self] trembled; my lips quivered at the sound. Rottenness enters into my bones and under me [down to my feet]; I tremble. I will wait quietly for the day of trouble and distress when there shall come up against [my] people him who is about to invade and oppress them.

17 Though the fig tree does not blossom and there is no fruit on the vines, [though] the product of the olive fails and the fields yield no food, though the flock is cut off from the fold and there are no cattle in the stalls,

18 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the [victorious] God of my salvation!

19 The Lord God is my Strength, my personal bravery, and my invincible army; He makes my feet like hinds’ feet and will make me to walk [not to stand still in terror, but to walk] and make [spiritual] progress upon my high places [of trouble, suffering, or responsibility]!

Habakkuk 3:16-19 AMP

Habakkuk was a prophet in Israel just before the Babylonians came and wiped out the nation. He knew what was coming and asked God to spare them.

God said no.

No miraculous rescue coming, no divine intervention to prevent destruction, no manna raining down from heaven to stave off starvation.

Israel is going to suffer.

And Habakkuk, though righteous, will suffer too.

Image result for habakkuk 1:6

Habakkuk is not immediately infused with courage and fearlessness: “I heard [what the Lord had to say] and I trembled…” Habakkuk isn’t only afraid, he’s terrified (“rottenness enters my bones”) !!

He’s out of things to do, convinced he must simply wait for whatever is headed his way.

So he sits down and waits.

And in the quiet stillness of waiting, his heart turns to truth.

Even though he will suffer, even though everything he depends on for physical safety may be stripped away, even though destruction and devastation is coming, he begins to meditate on the faithful enduring character of the LORD.

And he rejoices!

Nothing has changed except his focus.

Instead of concentrating on circumstances he is contemplating his Creator.

I admit I focus all too often on circumstances but sometimes it’s practically impossible not to.

Image result for even the wind and waves obey him

Remember the disciples in the boat with Jesus? A storm blew up and was tossing them back and forth all while Jesus slept soundly.

Fear really wasn’t a disproportionate response to a very real and present danger.

When the wind and the waves are high around me, and I realize how powerless I am to do anything about them, fear easily overtakes my heart.

But the disciples were not alone. The One who could calm the storm was in their midst.

The One who can calm MY storm is here with ME.

Image result for isaiah 41 10

Jesus rebuked the wind and the waves and the disciples finished their journey in safety.

God did not save Israel (or Habakkuk) from the Babylonians.

The Lord did not miraculously preserve Dominic’s life and He may not miraculously (or otherwise) save me or my family from the fallout of Covid19.

Image result for el roi

But whether He intervenes or does not, I know He sees me.

I know He loves me.

I know He longs to comfort me and strengthen me.

He IS my “personal bravery and invincible army”.

QUESTIONS:

  • Often Western Christianity focuses on “victory in Jesus” and tends to associate victory with safety or deliverance from uncomfortable or frightening or seemingly impossible circumstances. Habakkuk not only suspected God was not going to avert disaster, he’d been promised disaster was coming. How do YOU interpret “victory in Jesus”? Do these verses give you a different perspective? Why or why not?
  • It’s kind of been a joke that people rushed to stockpile toilet paper during the frenzy surrounding this pandemic. Apparently having enough TP made them feel a little more prepared, a little less frightened. We all have some tangible things that help our hearts stay calm. What are yours?
  • Fear is not a sin. Doubt is not disbelief. It’s perfectly OK to voice your fear, doubt and concern. But if you rest there, if you don’t then turn to truth, you will spiral downward into despair. What practical steps are you taking for yourself and family to keep the truth of Who God is in front of your eyes and foremost in your hearts?
  • For those of us who get our groceries from Walmart, the complete devastation described in Habakkuk may not be evident. Let me paraphrase for a modern audience: “Though the grocery store shelves are empty and there are no tasty snacks left in the fridge, though the last thing I had to eat was only enough to meet my caloric needs but not enough to satiate my appetite, though there is no hope that things will return to normal anytime soon and I may suffer more than I can imagine, I am going to shout for joy because I know God is in control and He has secured my eternal destiny!” Can you take these verses and rewrite them so they are specific to YOUR circumstances?

PRAYER:

Lord,

If I’m honest (and there’s no reason not to be since You already know my heart!), I want to be rescued. I do not want to live through whatever this stupid virus is going to do to my community, my country, the world. I don’t like the thought of weeks of uncertainty, forced isolation, reduced or nonexistent paychecks, figuring out how to keep kids that should be in school occupied and learning.

I hate this!

When I read the headlines or listen to the news, it feeds my fears.

Help me to be like Habakkuk and appropriate the strength You provide so that I will not only endure, but will thrive! Speak courage to my heart when I would falter. Make me stalwart in the face of fear. Teach me to trust You when I would doubt Your lovingkindness.

Be my personal bravery.

Amen

He [Christ] said not, ‘Thou shalt not be tempested, thou shalt not be trevailed, thou shalt not be dis-eased,’ but He said, ‘Thou shalt not be overcome.’

Julian of Norwich

Continuing, Ceaseless, Unabating

We are used to getting sick, going to the doctor and being prescribed a drug or treatment or even surgery and getting well (after some period of time).

But some things can’t be fixed and must simply be managed and endured.

endurance is patience concentrated

Child loss is like that.  

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/02/06/chronic-continuing-ceaseless-unabating/

When You Think You Can’t Hold On-Let It Go

So many ways to be reminded of how hard it is to hold on in these days and weeks around Christmas.

If your heart is barely able to beat, the pressure to be “hap-hap-happy” can send you over the edge.

If your home is empty of cheerful voices, the constant barrage of commercials touting family togetherness can leave you feeling oh, so lonely.

Early sunsets and darker nights send feel-good hormones flying and leave a body aching for just a little relief from anxious and depressing thoughts.

SadGirlBeach

When you think you can’t hold on, let go.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2017/12/19/when-you-think-you-cant-hold-on/

Throwing In The Towel

I don’t like boxing.  

While there are those who defend the sport as the ultimate test of one man’s strength, fortitude and endurance against another, all I see is a couple of guys beating each other to a pulp.  

But I understand the heart of a fighter.  

I know what it feels like to be down but refuse to stay down.  I’ve lifted myself up and stumbled back into the center of the ring waiting for the next punch to land.

I’ve waved off the good advice of those in my own corner who say, “Take a breather.  Rest a little.  Sit awhile.”

But I’m throwing in the towel.  

Not for good.  

Just for today.  

liberal-blog-down-for-the-count

There’s been so much going on lately that I think I’m finally down for the count.  

I don’t care that summer days mean sunshine until eight.  I don’t care that I haven’t managed to complete half my list.  

I’m going to bed, curling up with a good book and reading until I fall asleep.  

I hope I don’t wake until sunrise.  

sunrise trees

HOLY WEEK 2019: Living Between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection

It is tempting to forget that there were three long days and nights between the crucifixion and the resurrection beause the way we observe this season rushes us past the pain to embrace the promise.

But it’s not hard for me to imagine how the disciples felt when they saw Jesus was dead.  It was neither what they expected nor what they prayed for.

There were many points in the story when things could have gone a different way:

  • When taken by the religious leaders-surely, they thought, He will explain Himself, they will let Him go.
  • When taken before Pilate-Rome will refuse to get involved with our spiritual squabbles, Pilate won’t authorize His death.
  • When presented to the crowd-no Jew would rather have a wicked murderer released instead of a humble, healing Rabbi.

At every turn, every expectation they had for a “happy ending” was dashed to the ground.

Read the rest here:  Living Between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection

God’s Provision is Adequate For My Pilgrimage

This is a hard, hard thing to grasp.

A painful lesson to learn.

But it is truth:

The provision of God is adequate for my pilgrimage. God does not fail to see, know, understand, care, love, and ultimately to work all things ‘in conformity with the purpose of his will’ (Ephesians 1:11). His love is constant, though sometimes unfelt. His presence is assured, though sometimes He seems far away. His plan is good, though sometimes I hurt. For this present time I see dimly, mere faint outlines of all God’s purposes and plans. Yet I believe that His ways are better and His thoughts are higher than my own. In my time of trouble, my understanding is not crucial. It is my confidence in the person, the goodness, and the sovereignty of God that is the great, indispensable necessity.
~James Means, A Tearful Celebration

When my children were young, we made a habit of listening to classic books on tape as we made the miles between our rural home and all the places we had to go.  It was glorious to learn together, explore together and build up a reservoir of common literary references.  

pilgrims progress cover

One of the books we listened to was Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan.

In it, Christian, the main character, is making his way toward the Celestial City.  Along the way he meets all sorts of characters representing various temptations and snares common to all of us as we journey through this life.

I learned much from that book, the most important of which was this:

“To go back is nothing but death; to go forward is fear of death, and life everlasting beyond it. I will yet go forward.”

The road is hard.  The journey long.  The way perilous and uncomfortable.  

But I will go forward, trusting that the Lord has made every provision for my pilgrimage. 

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who’ve set their hearts in pilgrimage as they pass through the valley of Baca they make it a place of springs. The autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength until each appears before God in Zion.” 

~Psalm 84:5-7

blessed are those whose strength is in you