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

Battling Anxiety/Seeking Peace: Shape Worry Into Prayer

I am not a worrier by nature.

I tend to look at a problem and immediately marshal available resources to find a solution.

But sometimes, there is really. truly not one single thing I CAN do and it’s then I fall prey to those niggling “what if” thoughts.

You know the ones.

The kind of things that keep you from drifting off to sleep at night or visit you in your dreams when you do. The unbidden and unwelcome scenarios that flash across your mind when the phone rings too early in the morning. The spiraling downward plunge of your heart when headlines scream disaster and it seems to be coming closer and closer to your own home and your own family.

Paul tells the Philippians to shape those worries into prayers:

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

Philippians 4:6-7 MSG (paraphrase, not translation)

I think I was in my mid-thirties, knee deep in raising and educating my children and experiencing some health problems when I realized that worry is really all about trust.

Do I trust God or not?

Is He the loving, perfect, faithful Father the Bible tells me He is or not? Will He bring me through (either physically safe and whole or onto Heaven) or not? Is there a single thing on this earth (disaster, disease, schemes of men or even the devil) that can separate me from His love or not?

I DO believe God is a loving, perfect and faithful Father.

I DO believe He holds me in the palm of His hand.

I’ve had many, many times when I needed to remind my heart that was really what I believed. I’ve had to drag out those promises, write them down, post them on my fridge and bathroom mirror and ignore all the ways the world and my own mind drove me to worry.

When Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, it almost destroyed my trust in God.

Not my faith that He IS or that He is in control, but rather that what He allows is so absolutely awful.

I had to start over and learn again to shape my worry into whispered prayers.

Don’t worry over anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7 PHILLIPS (translation)

There is no magic to lift the weight of worry from my shoulders. I must choose, as an act of will to take whatever is pressing down on my heart, making me anxious, speaking lies to my soul and give them to God.

When I do that, He is faithful to set a guard over my heart and mind.

Jesus invites me to pour out my worries at His feet. He begs me to lay down the burden I am unable and unfit to carry and let Him bear it.

He promises to replace my questions and fears with His Presence and His peace.

Schools closing, businesses closing, the world practically shutting down all while a virus makes its way across the globe and may already be at your door is enough to make any heart fret.

For many, it may be the very first time they feel as if there’s truly nothing to DO to protect themselves and the ones they love. And that is its own kind of panic.

Even here, even now Jesus is waiting for you to wrap those worries in prayer. A whispered prayer will do.

He hears.

He cares.

He will overwhelm your anxious heart with His peace if you let Him.

If there is anywhere on earth a lover of God who is always kept safe, I know nothing of it, for it was not shown to me. But this was shown: that in falling and rising again we are always kept in that same precious love.

Julian of Norwich

I do not expect that I will necessarily be safe from this disaster but I know I will be kept safe in His love.

QUESTIONS:

  • Do you worry? Do you think it helps in any way? Why or why not?
  • It’s been said that we can’t help the thoughts that fly around our head but we can decide which ones get to make a nest. Do you agree?
  • Write down three things you worry about. Use a concordance to find a verse or two that speaks directly to the things on your list. Copy them out and hang them up where you can see and be reminded of God’s faithfulness when you are tempted to doubt it.
  • What does it mean to YOU that the “peace of God…will guard your heart and mind”?
  • Read the quote by Julian of Norwich. Is it comforting? Why or why not?
  • So often we want God to make us comfortable and safe. From your own knowledge of Scripture, do you find that to be the norm for His people?
  • How can you turn your worries into whispered prayers?

PRAYER:

Lord,

These are trying times.

So, so many things to fear and so, so many things out of control. The very people I could normally depend on to guide the way or save the day are just as impotent as I am to fight this battle.

It seems the whole world is hiding away and hoping against hope it won’t get as bad as some predict.

But I am not without hope.

I have a Great and Good God who welcomes my petitions. I have a Mighty and Merciful Savior who loves me and wants to bear my worry burden.

Help me shape those worries into prayers. Help me hand off the things I can’t control to the One who can. Help me rest secure in the promise that nothing -No. Thing.-can separate me from Your love.

Let this be my watchword: “What time I am afraid, I will trust in You.” ~Psalm 56:3

Amen

Through The Fog And Dark

Through the fog and dark and limits of my sight

I hear birds singing

as they welcome the day

I still can’t see.

Are they better than me at knowing the edges of inky night?

Or do they simply have more faith?

Either way their hearts are boldly trusting in the sun they can’t yet prove is real.

Oh, that my own heart would always rest!

Assured.

Unmoved.

Confident.

Certain.

Even in the dark,

even in the fog,

even under the smothering blanket of sorrow,

in the Son.

The One who burst forth from the grave to prove He IS the One.

The One who promises night has limits,

that death is not the end,

that resurrection is sure.

Then I could sing for those still in the fog

and in the dark,

those whose sight is dimmed by tears.

And remind them that

morning is coming!

As sure as the sunrise.

As sure as the Son rose.

Learning To Trust Again: Access The Truth

I have loved Scripture as long as I can remember.  When I was in second grade I got the notion to read the whole Bible straight through-in the King James Version.  I made it to Leviticus before I threw in the towel.

By the time my kids were grown I had read and studied Scripture for decades. 

But three years before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven I realized my reading had become rote-I felt like I “knew” all the stories.  So I slowed my study to a crawl-only one chapter a day-and I usually copied the whole chapter plus my notes into a journal.  I had just finished this time through the Bible in January before Dom was killed in April.

And all that truth stored in my mind and heart was what I “read” for months when my eyes were too full of tears to see print on a page.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2017/10/16/trust-after-loss-access-the-truth/

I Need To Get It Right


There are lots and lots of things in life where the distance between “good enough” and “perfect” really doesn’t matter.

I don’t aim for hospital corners while making my bed.

I cook without recipes-adding this or that until the taste suits me.

If I walk 8,567 steps or 10,291 steps I am not going to stress about it.

BUT-there is one thing I absolutely MUST get right.

My understanding of God-Who He is, Who Jesus is-matters for ever and ever.

I want to get it right.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2017/03/05/i-want-to-get-it-right/

Blessing The Dust, A Prayer For The Broken

There are many times in my life when I’ve felt small and unseen.

Many times when my spirit sank so low I couldn’t even remember “up” much less find it.

But there is no moment so humbling as the one when I came face-to-face with the undeniable FACT that my son had exhaled for the last time.

Walking into the sanctuary where his body lay still, unnatural and absolutely silent, my heart shattered into even smaller pieces.

So I understand Job’s cry.

I cry out to You for help, but You do not answer me; when I stand up, You merely look at me.

Job 30:20 HCSB

I know what it is to fall to the ground in utter dejection, complete hopelessness and pray, pray, pray that life leaves my body because the pain is unbearable.

That’s one reason Lent is a kind of relief every year.

It’s a season when others join me in admitting that from dust we came and to dust we will return.

Image result for from dust to dust

But it’s also a season of hope.

Because while Lent forces my heart to focus on my frailty, it points me toward my Savior.

The One who made us is the One who rescues us.

The One who saves us is the One who sees us.

The One who sees us is the One who longs to comfort us.

I love this blessing by Jan Richardson:

“All those days
you felt like dust,
like dirt,
as if all you had to do
was turn your face
toward the wind
and be scattered
to the four corners

or swept away
by the smallest breath
as insubstantial—

did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?

This is the day
we freely say
we are scorched.

This is the hour
we are marked
by what has made it
through the burning.

This is the moment
we ask for the blessing
that lives within
the ancient ashes,
that makes its home
inside the soil of
this sacred earth.

All those days
you felt like dust,
like dirt,
as if all you had to do
was turn your face
toward the wind
and be scattered
to the four corners

or swept away
by the smallest breath
as insubstantial—

did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?

This is the day
we freely say
we are scorched.

This is the hour
we are marked
by what has made it
through the burning.

This is the moment
we ask for the blessing
that lives within
the ancient ashes,
that makes its home
inside the soil of
this sacred earth.

So let us be marked
not for sorrow.
And let us be marked
not for shame.
Let us be marked
not for false humility
or for thinking
we are less
than we are

but for claiming
what God can do
within the dust,
within the dirt,
within the stuff
of which the world
is made
and the stars that blaze
in our bones
and the galaxies that spiral
inside the smudge
we bear.”

—Jan Richardson, Blessing the Dust, For Ash Wednesday

It’s no secret I am frail, prone to break-even shatter-into the tiniest bits of dust.

But that doesn’t stop my God from gathering what’s left to make something beautiful.

When I find myself face down in the dirt, no strength to lift my head, I remind my heart, “[Do] you not know what the Holy One can do with dust?”

Worn Out and Weary: Where Can I Go For Help?


I don’t know about you but I’m tired.

Not just physically tired-although there are plenty of days when chores done in the Alabama sun beat my body down.

I’m soul weary.

My heart cries out, “No more! I can’t carry a single other burden! I’m buckling under the load!”

Jesus understands.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/08/10/scripture-journal-challenge-worn-out-and-weary-jesus-understands/

All Our Sorrows Will Be Healed


Can we just admit that life is hard?

Can we stop hiding our sorrow and pain and struggles and difficulties and let people in on what’s going on?

I truly believe that if we did, we’d all be better for it.

Because no one-really, truly no one-is spared from some kind of problem. And for many of us, it has nothing to do with our own choices. It’s visited upon us from the outside.

It comes out of nowhere, happens fast and suddenly consumes every aspect of our lives.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/08/09/scripture-journal-challenge-earth-has-no-sorrow-that-heaven-cant-heal/

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

If you’ve joined me here for very long, you know I have a particular dislike for what I call “Sunshine Christianity”.

It’s not because I’m opposed to smiling faces and feel-good Bible verses plastered across doors, hallways, t-shirts and social media.

It’s because it doesn’t tell the whole story and sets up hearts for disappointment (at best) and walking away from Jesus (at worst) when their personal experience falls short of this hap, hap, happy picture portrayed by so many.

This life is NOT all smiles and rainbows. It’s hard work, hard times and often devastating circumstances.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/08/05/scripture-journal-challenge-never-alone/

Knocked Down But Not Destroyed: Earthly Days, Eternal Impact

Eternity is impossible for the human mind to grasp.

We talk about it even though we can’t really understand what it means because it’s so far outside our experience and imagination.

But it’s a fact and it matters.

The life I live on earth, made up of days, years and decades is but a blip on the screen of God’s eternal timeline.

Yet what I do here and now will ripple throughout forever.

Taking hold of that fact, clinging tightly to that truth can help me make choices that will make a real difference.

To win the contest you must deny yourselves many things that would keep you from doing your best. An athlete goes to all this trouble just to win a blue ribbon or a silver cup, but we do it for a heavenly reward that never disappears.

I Corinthians 9:25 TL

I remember one particularly grueling semester in college.  I had foolishly stacked five upper level political science classes on top of one another thinking that taking them together would be easier.

That was a dumb idea.

The end of semester assignments included 200 pages of written term papers along with essay tests and other random bits.  For two weeks I fell asleep on my bedroom floor, pen in hand, legal pad underneath my head and surrounded by dozens of open books I used for reference.

After composing the papers, I had to type them, add footnotes and bibliography and deliver them. All back before computers and word processing programs made it easy and electronic!

Oh, how I wanted to give up and give in!  I was certain that I was not going to make it.  I just knew that my body or mind or both would give out before I completed the task.

But they didn’t and I did manage to make it through.

I was willing to put forth the effort and pay the price for a letter grade!

No one cares what I made on those essays.  No one asks me about my college classes or grades.  At 56 I can’t even remember what I wrote about.

Now I face a much more challenging task:  Living without the companionship of one of my precious children.  The “grade” I make on this effort has eternal impact.  

This is the Valley of Weeping, yet Christ promises it will become a place of refreshing.

“When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of springs where pools of blessing and refreshment collect after rains!”

Psalm 84:6 TLB

I can’t see an end for this grueling work.  There’s no “semester break” circled on my calendar.

But there will be an end to this toil and pain-just as surely as there was an end those many years ago.

As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne.

Hebrews 12:1-2

And the reward for faithfully completing this assignment is so much more valuable than a good grade.

Yet, my brothers, I do not consider myself to have “arrived”, spiritually, nor do I consider myself already perfect. But I keep going on, grasping ever more firmly that purpose for which Christ grasped me. My brothers, I do not consider myself to have fully grasped it even now. But I do concentrate on this: I leave the past behind and with hands outstretched to whatever lies ahead I go straight for the goal—my reward the honour of being called by God in Christ.

Phillipians 3:12-16

This reward is eternal-a never-ending supply of God’s grace and love and joy that will overwhelm the toil and pain I’ve endured.

Reunion.

Redemption.

Restoration.

So while I wait, I encourage my heart with this truth:

We are cracked and chipped from our afflictions on all sides, but we are not crushed by them. We are bewildered at times, but we do not give in to despairWe are persecuted, but we have not been abandoned. We have been knocked down, but we are not destroyed10 We always carry around in our bodies the reality of the brutal death and suffering of Jesus. As a result, His resurrection life rises and reveals its wondrous power in our bodies as well. 11 For while we live, we are constantly handed over to death on account ]f Jesus so that His life may be revealed even in our mortal bodies of flesh.

2 Corinthians 4:8 VOICE

God invites me to join Him in the work He is doing. 

Isn’t that mind-blowing? 

He could announce the Gospel from the mountaintops or have angels declare it from the heavens, but He doesn’t. 

He has ordained that these fragile bodies of ours, these fickle hearts, these often disobedient hands carry the Good News to the ends of the earth.

Image result for how beautiful the feet of those

The God of Heaven entrusts me with His love, empowers me with His strength and commissions me as an ambassador of reconciliation to reach a world longing for reconciliation-with Him and with one another. 

So when I look up and say, “I don’t have time”.  He says, “Get your priorities straight.” 

When I whine, “I don’t know what to do”.  He says, “I’ve got that covered.  Just look around and do what’s at hand.” 

When I groan, “It won’t make a difference anyway”.  He says, “Do you doubt the power of obedience to the Gospel to change the world?”

My life makes a difference.

Your life makes a difference.

Eternity is shaped, in part, by how we spend it.

Image result for matthew 28:20 image

This post is the second in a series I began writing for a presentation I gave last Saturday entitled “Don’t Grow Weary In Doing Well: Making Kingdom Work a Priority”.

This is post is the third in a series I wrote for a presentation entitled “Don’t Grow Weary In Doing Well: Making Kingdom Work a Priority”.

If you want to read the first post, you can find it here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2020/02/07/today-is-a-gift/

The second is here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2020/02/11/life-has-limits-i-want-my-legacy-to-last/