Battling Anxiety/Seeking Peace: “Fear Not!”-An Invitation Not An Admonition

It’s a commonly repeated untruth that there are 365 “fear nots” in the Bible.

But there ARE a lot of them.

While many folks like to interpret these commands as admonitions to the trembling hearts standing, kneeling or falling on their face before the Angel of the Lord or begging to be delivered from a perilous situation, I think they are an invitation.

Image result for i will never leave you or forsake you

I think they are an invitation to walk into the perfect peace promised by the King of Peace.

They are an invitation to rest in His Presence.

They are an invitation to admit my weakness and appropriate His strength.

I love the book of Psalms because in many ways it feels like the most accessible and “human” book of the Bible.

David and others poured out their hearts to God-no filter, no mask, no pretense-the good, the bad, the ugly, the hopeful, the desperate. So while we could explore many other “fear not” verses, I will start here.

“I will bless the Eternal, whose wise teaching orchestrates my days
    and centers my mind at night.
He is ever present with me;
    at all times He goes before me.
I will not live in fear or abandon my calling
    because He stands at my right hand.

This is a good life—my heart is glad, my soul is full of joy,
    and my body is at rest.
    Who could want for more? ” ~ Psalm 16:7-9 VOICE

The Psalmist says a lot in these three verses:

  • he relies on the truth found in God’s Word to guide his days and focus his thoughts at night
  • he trusts that God is with him always
  • he knows God will fight for him
  • therefore he can rest secure
Image result for psalm 16:7-9 image

When I spend time in Scripture, saturating my heart and mind with God’s Word, I have truth readily available to combat the lies of the enemy.

Satan wants me to worry and fret, to doubt my Father’s goodness and faithful love and to shake my confidence that God is for me.

The more I sit with Jesus, the more I listen to HIM and learn His voice, the less power the enemy of my soul has over me.

Another favorite :

Image result for psalm 27:1

I am hardly fearless.

In fact, I struggled with fear of the dark until I was nearly 40 years old. I only overcame that fear when necessity forced me to face it and I walked out trembling reciting every verse I could remember about not being afraid.

This was one of them.

I face different fears now.

When the one thing you think won’t happen DOES happen, the thought it might happen AGAIN is never far from your mind.

So all this virus talk is working on that fear. People I love might get sick. People I love might die. I know exactly the wreckage death leaves behind and I don’t want to live through that again.

But I might have to so I’m clinging to the truth David sang hundreds of years ago:

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 27:1 KJV
  • the Lord is my light-He illuminates my path and my heart
  • the Lord is my salvation-He alone can save me (in this life or in eternity through Christ)
  • the Lord is the strength of my life-He made me, He keeps me and I am His
  • with the Creator of the universe caring for me, what can anyone or any force do to me without His consent?
  • I have nothing to fear

When I accept my Father’s invitation to crawl up into His lap, rest in His arms and rely on His strength, I am fearless.

But like a child I often run away just when I most need His comfort.

I love this translation of Psalm 94:19 because it reflects my temptation to bring my anxiety, sorrow and fears to God but then to take them back:

After the multitude of my sorrows in mine heart; thy comforts made glad my soul. (And after a multitude of sorrows gathered together in my heart; once again thy comfort gladdened my soul.)

Psalm 94:19 WYC

God knows I am made of dust. God knows my heart is prone to fear and worry. God knows my feelings often drive reason right out of my head.

He’s not surprised by my trembling knees and weak hands.

He doesn’t turn away because I am afraid.

“Thy comforts made glad my soul”-God will comfort me in my distress. He will wait for me to turn to Him and will wait for me to turn to Him again when I turn away. “[O]nce again thy comfort gladdened my soul.”

He never tires of holding out His arms to me.

He says, “Fear not, little one.”

I see you.

I love you.

Come here and let me comfort you.

QUESTIONS:

  • Use an online or print concordance to find at least 3 other Psalms that speak about God’s desire to comfort us when we are afraid. Copy out one of them and put it where it will encourage your heart.
  • What frightens you most today? How can these verses help your heart hand that fear over to your Father?
  • Do you consider yourself a fearful person? Why or why not?
  • Have you conquered any fears? If so, think about who or what gave you the courage to do it. Can you weave your previous experience into your current situation?
  • List at least three times you have been afraid of something that MIGHT have happened but DIDN’T happen. Did your fear contribute in any way to the outcome?
  • How can thinking about “Do Not Fear” as an invitation instead of an admonition strengthen your faith?

PRAYER:

Father God, When I look around at how impossibly different the world is today from only a few weeks ago my knees buckle and my heart trembles. I know I’ve never really been in control but at least there was the illusion of control.

I am afraid.

Thank You that I am not defenseless in the battle against fear and worry. When anxiety rises up within me let Your truth be my sword and shield.

Help me run to You. Help me climb into Your lap and rest in Your Presence. Deafen my ears to the lies being whispered and even shouted that threaten to undo me.

Speak courage to my heart and sing comfort over my soul.

Amen

Why Lament Is Worship

We usually think of worship as songs of joy and happiness extolling the virtues of God and Christ.  

While that is most certainly a form of worship, it is absolutely not the only one.  

Biblical lament is an honest, vulnerable expression of pain, a crying out to God in faith as we are suffering.
― Cindee Snider Re

Worship is also the broken whimper of a scared and wounded child, crawling into the lap of her Abba Father.  

There is no less adoration in this ultimate act of confident trust than in the most eloquent declaration of theological truth in word or song.  

Lament is worship.  

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/02/03/refuse-to-hide-lament-as-worship/

You Will ALWAYS Be A Mama (or Daddy)!

There are all kinds of ways child loss plays with your head.

One of the most common and often repeated questions among bereaved parents (especially those who have lost their only child , all their children or a child before or at birth) is this: Am I still a mama (or daddy)?

Short answer: YES. Absolutely!

The fact that your child has taken up residence in Heaven and is no longer here to hold and love and parent on earth changes NOTHING about your status.

Being an almost mother isn’t a thing. You have seven children, whether they made it here or not doesn’t take away from the fact they existed. They were yours, and they were loved fully if only for those small moments.

You are a mother, Grace. I am so, so sorry you were never able to hold your babies, but you are, and always will be, a mother.

Brittainy C. Cherry, Disgrace

For the uninitiated, it may well seem that the lack of a physical presence changes how a parent’s heart feels or thinks about a child.

But it doesn’t.

Sure it’s more complicated-in fact I’m not certain that six years has been time enough for me to figure it out-but I am still Dominic’s mother. He is not an only child, but even if he were, I’d still be a mother.

I know that for those in our “club” who had only a few minutes or hours with a precious child it can seem even more difficult to convey to others that our daughter or our son is very, very real and important to us.

Image result for child loss I an still a parent"

When there are few witnesses to the beautiful life and light of a tiny baby, it can almost seem like a dream.

But it’s not.

So for every single parent who has wondered if you are “still” a parent-please accept this affirmation: You ARE a parent. Your child matters. Your relationship is ongoing regardless of your child’s address.

You are a mama.

You are a daddy.

And don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

A Reason Can’t Wipe Away Tears: A Modern Lament

If it’s random or providence neither are a comfort to me

Are You cruel if You planned it or weak if You allowed it to be?

Half of me is still believin’, the other half is angry and confused

Oh, but all of me is desperate and longing to be held by You

Jason Gray, “Remind Me You’re Here”

I have lots and lots of questions.

And I don’t think ignoring them or shoving them in a chest and sitting on the lid is helpful.

But I’m far enough along in this journey to admit that if I let my heart and mind focus on the questions I’ll drown in sorrow and despair.

Because whatever reason I might come up with or answer I might get from God will never feel like it’s enough to wipe away the tears and satisfy my mama heart.

So I’m learning to live with mystery.

None of my pain has ever caught You by surprise

Still it’s hard to trust You when I’m lost in the wondering why

But I’ll trade every question just to lay down and rest in Your heart

And I’ll reach for Your hand, though You led me here into the dark

Jason Gray, “Remind Me You’re Here”

I love this new song by Jason Gray.

“Remind Me You’re Here” is a beautiful and honest lament before the Lord.

And like all good laments, it ends with asserting the truth about our faithful Father, His everlasting love, and the promise that I am never, ever alone.

So I won’t ask You for reasons

‘Cause a reason can’t wipe away tears

No, I don’t need all the answers

Just be here beside me

Father, remind me You’re here

Jason Gray, “Remind Me You’re Here”

Scripture Journal Challenge: In The Very Presence of God

It’s kind of counterintuitive really-that my initial response to Dominic’s death would be affirmation of my faith and my response weeks later would be doubt.

But it makes a lot of sense really.

When the unthinkable happens, if your heart is already turned in a particular direction the path of least resistance is to keep flowing downhill.

A bit later, when shock has worn off and your brain wakes up and you begin to do the “math” suddenly it’s not so easy to believe that God is good, He is sovereign and He has a perfect plan.

I wanted explanations!

Like Job I had a list of questions for the Almighty. And also like Job, I found that when He showed up (not in person but through His word) I could only cover my mouth in shame.

When I was beleaguered and bitter,
    totally consumed by envy,
I was totally ignorant, a dumb ox
    in your very presence.
I’m still in your presence,
    but you’ve taken my hand.
You wisely and tenderly lead me,
    and then you bless me.
25-28 You’re all I want in heaven!
    You’re all I want on earth!
When my skin sags and my bones get brittle,
    God is rock-firm and faithful.
Look! Those who left you are falling apart!
    Deserters, they’ll never be heard from again.
But I’m in the very presence of God—
    oh, how refreshing it is!
I’ve made Lord God my home.
    God, I’m telling the world what you do!

Psalm 73:21-28 MSG (paraphrase)

Here’s the good, good, good news: God isn’t surprised at my anger, disappointment or lack of understanding.

He- like every good parent who recognizes a child is reacting out of ignorance-takes my hand, holds me close and waits until the energy of rebellion and frustration spends itself, and says, “There, there, dear one. I’m here.”

I can’t scare God away. He’s the Perfect Father.

So if you are struggling with questions and struggling whether or not to take them to God (as if He doesn’t know)-go ahead. Hand them over.

He is neither afraid of nor offended by our weakness, our impertinence nor our honest questions. He wants us to let them go. He wants us to speak them aloud, admit to our own hearts we have them and then release them.

Because in the space created in surrender, He can work.

In the gap between our own strength and the awful struggle ahead, He will pour grace, mercy, endurance and hope.

He never leaves us nor forsakes us.

My parents would argue I am young.

My children would laughingly accuse me of being old. (My skin is definitely sagging!)

Some days I feel one way or the other and it has nothing to do with the years I’ve lived and everything to do with the hardships I’ve endured.

But I can say with absolute certainty that I am more sure now than I was before that God is God.

He is good.

He will redeem, restore and resurrect.

QUESTIONS:

  • Have you ever been bitter? How do you think it might have informed your feelings about God?
  • Are you bitter now? Have you considered telling God about it?
  • Do you feel God is near you? Why or why not?
  • When the psalmist compares himself to a dumb animal he’s referring to the fact that oxen or donkeys go where their masters tell them to (or not!) and either comply or resist with no real understanding of why they may be asked to do this or that. But we are not dumb animals. We can choose to trust our Master because of past experience and the sure promises of Scripture. How does focusing your attention and heart’s affection on the Truth of Scripture help you surrender?
  • Our flesh will fail. It’s not a question of if but a question of when. Honestly,my flesh has failed many times in these 55 years. I’ve written before that I’m convinced the years of Bible study before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven were years spent preparing my heart to receive that blow. I was not spared, but I was prepared. If you haven’t made a commitment to spend daily time in Bible study and the Presence of God, would you be willing to try to do it now? Have these days of reflection given you any new nuggets to hold onto?

PRAYER:

Lord,

I know You can drag me around like a recalcitrant child or a misbehaved pet. But you don’t. You want me to bring my hurt, my anger, my bitterness, my disobedience and distrust to You.

You don’t run away. You aren’t hard to find. You don’t turn your back on me. You are always a breath away-waiting to hold my hand, wrap my heart in your love and whisper courage to my soul.

Help me run first to You. Always, always to You. You truly are my only hope. My true salvation. My Rock and my Shelter.

Keep my eyes focused on You and not on people around me. Comparison only breeds discontent. I know that one day-one glorious Day-the song I’ll sing will be to my Redeemer and tell of Your faithful goodness to me.

Amen

Scripture Journal Challenge: God Sees You. You Are Not Alone.

We’ve all done it-pretended to be looking somewhere else when we pass a needy soul.

Who has time to get involved?

They might be an addict or have a contagious disease or mental illness. They might be too lazy to work, too unpredictable to trust, too likely to be here next week and need something again. It might cost more than the five dollars we’re willing to hand out.

So we walk on by and hope they don’t force the issue by standing in our way.

But God never ignores a hurting heart.

He never redirects His gaze so it doesn’t fall on the one begging for mercy.


He does not ·ignore [despise or disdain] ·those in trouble [L the suffering of the afflicted]. He doesn’t hide his face from them but listens when they ·call out to him [cry to him for help].

Psalm 22:24 EXB

How amazing that the God of the universe, the One who hung the stars in the sky and told the sea, “This far and no farther!” hears me when I cry out to Him for help!

And not only does He hear me, He longs to comfort me with His love.

He does not despise my weakness or look down His nose because I’m unable to solve my own problems or help myself.

Even when others ignore me or try to make my pain small, God is listening. He never sleeps. He’s never too busy. He’s never hoping I go away and stop bothering Him.

He knows my name.

I’m not a faceless, nameless one of thousands or millions chattering away like background noise in a crowd.

He hears MY voice.

God-my God-has a personal, specific relationship with me, His child.

He leans in, bends down and listens attentively to whatever I tell Him. Like any human father, His heart is pierced when mine is broken.

I am so, so thankful that the God I serve loves me.

He specifically, purposefully loves me with unconditional love.

Even when I’m weak.

Even when I’m running away.

Even when I question the things He allows in my life.

He will never look away or stop reaching for me.

QUESTIONS:

  • What does it mean to you that God hears you?
  • Do you always FEEL heard? Why or why not?
  • When have you felt God’s personal care and encouragement?
  • How might you help your heart hold onto the truth in this verse when it seems God isn’t listening or at least isn’t giving you the relief you seek?
  • Can you find two or three other verses that emphasize God’s attentiveness to His children?

PRAYER:

Father God,

Sometimes I am willing to give mental assent to the fact that You hear me. And yet my heart argues that my head must be mistaken because the answers I beg for are long in coming.

The silence is deafening.

But I know your ways are not My ways and Your time is not my time. Give me confident assurance that You hear me whenever I cry out to You. Thank you that in Christ I can call You “Daddy” and always rest in the truth You are for me and not against me.

Fill my heart full of Your love. Overwhelm me with Your grace-grace to ask and grace to endure no matter what the answer may be. Amen

Scripture Journal Challenge: My Righteous, Raging King!

They say there’s nothing more terrifying than a mama bear protecting her cubs.

If you’ve ever witnessed one come charging across a clearing, changed from a lumbering giant to a fierce killing machine you believe it.

What seems safe at a distance is oh, so terrifying up close and personal.

I think many folks picture God as the great Granddaddy in the sky, looking down benevolently at the earth and showering blessings on its inhabitants.

God IS love. Scripture says so.

But God is also a fierce Father who will protect His children.

That’s the image David brings to mind as we continue Psalm 18:

In my time of need, I called to the Eternal;
    I begged my True God for help.
He heard my voice echo up to His temple,
    and my cry came to His ears.
Because of His great anger, the earth shook and staggered;
    the roots of the mountains shifted.
Smoke poured out from His nose,
    and devouring fire burst from His mouth.
    Coals glowed from Him.
He bent the heavens and descended;
    inky darkness was beneath His feet.

Psalm 18: 6-9 VOICE

I’m so thankful that God in all His glory, majesty, strength and might is both my Savior and my Shepherd. He’s ready to defend me against the enemy of my soul and He’s made perfect provision for my eternal future. He’s also my constant Companion and guide as I journey toward Heaven.

I appreciate the passages in Scripture that talk about God as loving Father, as Comforter, as gentle, meek and kind. Those help my heart when I feel emotionally vulnerable.

But when I’m under attack, I want a Warrior to come rescue me!

When I cry out, I’m looking for a righteous, raging King to ride in and vanquish my enemy.

This is no battle of equals. Satan doesn’t stand a chance. The end of the story is already written.

I don’t fear my Father.

I know that in Christ His wrath is perfectly satisfied. I’m a child of the King, safe and secure in my position and my inheritance. He will defend me to the end.

“No weapon formed against me shall prosper.”

That’s a promise.

QUESTIONS:

  • When you’ve cried out for deliverance do you feel the Lord has always answered? Why or why not?
  • If He answered, was His deliverance what you were expecting?
  • I’ve written before that some of us (myself included) might need to admit God has disappointed us.* If you feel like He hasn’t done what you expected/needed Him to do, are you prepared to voice that? Are you ready to breathe out the pain, the doubts, the disappointment-even anger-and make room for Him to minister grace and healing to your broken heart?
  • David’s imagery is definitely at odds with most popular depictions of God the Father as a Santa Clause type figure. Do any of the words he uses challenge your own idea of who God is? Are they comforting, frightening or something else?
  • What is your takeaway from the verses we’ve looked at so far in this Psalm? How can you make it personal?

PRAYER:

Father God,

Too often I want to stuff You in a box where I can pretend to understand You. Or I lean too heavily on verses that describe Your love and compassion and gloss over the ones that emphasize Your holiness and righteous anger. Truth is, when things are going along alright, I don’t really enjoy being challenged much.

But the “god” I design or understand is not You at all. You are more than I could ever comprehend. Your ways are not my ways. And when I’m forced to come face to face with that truth, it’s a little frightening.

Give me the courage to read and heed ALL the verses. Guide my heart to embrace the full revelation (so far as we have it) of who You are. Grant the grace to to receive Your love and Your correction.

Thank You that you are both Savior and Shepherd. Thank You for fighting for me and singing over me.

Amen

*Here are links to a couple previous posts about trust after loss and “forgiving” God: