Tag Archives: anxiety

Where Faith & Depression Meet

The first time I met with “Jennifer” she told me she was struggling with severe depression. As usual, I spent our first counseling session gathering information about her past, and wasn’t surprised to learn that she had experienced sexual abuse at the hands of an older cousin from the time she was 8-years-old until she was 13. When the secret finally came out, her mother told her not to say anything to anyone, but just to avoid being alone with her cousin. She wasn’t even sure if her mom spoke to her cousin’s parents, and somehow she was made to feel responsible for what happened.

For years Jennifer carried the shame of what happened to her. She grew up and married, but he turned out to be physically abusive, and by the time her son was 5 she was divorced. As her marriage was falling apart, a friend invited her to church. Within months of visiting the church, Jennifer fell in love with the One who suffered and died in order to redeem her soul. Her life was changed, and she felt peace like none she had ever known. Yet, five years later she was meeting with me because of depression.

As a survivor of abuse I could relate to Jennifer’s struggle. Getting out of the abuse was much easier than getting the abuse out of my head. It had warped my thinking, and caused me to believe lies about God and about myself. I found myself consumed with negative thoughts, and the more I thought about things, the more depressed I became. I wondered why God allowed the abuse to happen, and felt that my experiences had damaged me for life. It seemed as though I was engulfed in darkness, and suicidal thoughts plagued me. If  not for my children, I’m not sure I would be here today. But that wasn’t the end of the story for me. Misery drove me to scripture. Between my own private bible study, and a few solid group studies, I became determined to “cast down” the negative thoughts that overwhelmed me (2 Co. 10:5). I often tell people God brought me through an intensive period of supernatural cognitive behavioral therapy that eventually set me free.

Jennifer was looking for freedom from depression too, but when I asked her about her thought life, she just looked at me and said, “I really don’t think about anything.” That is the day I came up with the idea of keeping a “thought journal.” I asked Jennifer to set a timer to go off several times a day (especially those times when she was feeling depressed), and to write down what she was thinking about during those times. The idea was to write out any negative beliefs that were fueling the depression, and then to find scriptures to counter them. When I met with Jennifer a week later, I asked about her journal. She told me that the timer had worked, because she realized that she was constantly thinking discouraging thoughts. Even though she had been out of abusive relationships for years, her abusers still had power over her. Deep below the surface she felt she was unworthy of God’s love. Even worse, she doubted it altogether.

The solution for Jennifer, and for anyone struggling with negative emotions, is to identify beliefs that are contrary to God’s truth. I often tell ladies in our support group to print out specific passages of scripture, and to say them out loud any time the destructive thoughts come. I also believe that singing along with praise music is powerful, because it makes God bigger than our problems. In his presence there is fullness of joy (Ps. 16:11), and depression will have to flee. I used to imagine myself being held by the Mighty Warrior as he quieted me with his love and rejoiced over me with singing (Zep. 3:17). There is nothing more healing than being in his presence. Those who make the effort to find him in the midst of their pain will not be disappointed. He gives us “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” (Is. 61:3). 

God is a healer! I have never seen him fail to restore those who have tenaciously determined to believe his truth. It’s not a quick fix, but it is a powerful one. Nothing gives me greater joy than to watch the faces of God’s precious children learning to embrace the freedom he offers. If you are plagued by depression or anxiety, please know that he offers “liberty for the captives” (Lk. 4:18), even as you learn to “take every thought captive” to his truth (2 Co. 10:5). Identifying false beliefs about God and about yourself, and replacing those thoughts with his promises will heal your broken heart. Ultimately, his peace, that surpasses human comprehension, will protect your mind from worry and your heart from despair (Phil. 4:7).

 

If you read this article, and are wondering where to begin, please contact me  for a list of helpful scriptures.

Feeling Frantic?

Do you ever feel frantic? I know I do, and I’ve learned it is a sure sign that rather than trusting God, I am seeking control. Basically, it boils down to idolatry. Idols are the things we run to for comfort so that we can keep things from getting out of hand.  Yet, from time to time, in spite of all we do, things do spin out of our control. As people of God, those times are wake up calls to help us realize only he is sovereign over everything, and our efforts are feeble. They are an illusion, because in reality, we have control over very little. The One who holds everything together could allow it to fall apart at any time, but because of his grace, he sustains us. He is good, so he can be trusted. And trusting him leads to joy (being blessed), while trusting in flesh (self and other shallow substitutes) leads to misery or being cursed. The choice is clear.

This is what the LORD says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the LORD. That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes. They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. “But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” Jer. 17:5-10

Jeremiah’s task as a young prophet was to proclaim God’s coming judgment against his people, because they had forsaken him and turned to idols. Yet, even in judgment, he was offering hope to those who would chose to trust him. It’s interesting to me that while much of Jeremiah’s warnings against the people are related to sins of commission and omission, this passage seems to get to the heart behind those sins. It’s all a matter of trust. The blatant sins were idolatry and failing to honor the Sabbath, but at the root of those sins was a lack of trust in God. As God’s people we are supposed to be different. The tendency of human flesh is to trust in self or others that we can see and touch. It it not in our nature to trust an unseen God. We want to be in control. We can control flesh, but we cannot control the unseen. It seems unnatural for flesh to trust in supernatural, but that is what God calls us to do, and if we don’t, there are consequences.

To be cursed means to be miserable, as opposed to being blessed or happy. Trusting him results in something else that is unseen—our roots are firmly established. They develop deep and tap into the fountains of living water. Being tapped into those streams of living water is the key to blessing. This is not based on activity, but trust. Trust stands still and waits. It does not feel the need for control, and it is never frantic. When we realize we have no control, and that the One who does have it is good, and wants the best for us, we can choose the blessing of trusting him.

Oh Lord, help us to trust you rather than frantically strive for control. We know you are good, and you can be trusted, but sometimes we are afraid anyway. Help us to be still and know you are God and that your love for us is everlasting. We can trust in One who loves us that much. So even though circumstances and things in this seen world try to move us, we will not be moved. We will be like trees planted by streams of living waters and have no need to fear. We choose to believe you. Amen

 

Living in Dread…

I often tell people that whatever we fear is what we serve, so that the object of our fear basically becomes our god. This morning a passage in Isaiah reminded me of that truth.

“Whom have you so dreaded and feared that you have been false to me, and have neither remembered me nor pondered this in your hearts? Is it not because I have long been silent that you do not fear me?  I will expose your righteousness and your works, and they will not benefit you. When you cry out for help, let your collection [of idols] save you! The wind will carry all of them off, a mere breath will blow them away. But the man who makes me his refuge will inherit the land and possess my holy mountain.” (Is.57:11-13).

“Whom have you so dreaded and feared that you have been false to me…” I’m not sure how much more clear that could be! At the heart of being unfaithful to God is usually a fear of something else (no matter what that something else is, I’d call it an idol). An idol is anything we meditate on, and spend our time trying to appease. For years, I did the dance of fear trying to keep an abusive husband happy so he wouldn’t lash out. I feared him much more than God, and the result was I served him rather than God. In fact, he became my god, because of the way I served him.

Another interesting thing about this passage is “I will expose your righteousness and your works…” Very often people do good works out of fear—they worry what people think and are trying to impress them rather than God. This fear of man is idolatry of the worst sort. It becomes works-based rather than love-based. God does not desire our feeble efforts; he desires our love. From that love, genuine works of righteousness will flow naturally. The ones born of fear of man are wood, hay, and stubble mentioned by Paul in 1 Cor. 3. These works may look wonderful to people, but they cannot stand before the Judge.

This passage should be a wake up call to the people of God. The warning here is not based on actions, but on misplaced fear. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and when we are more worried about pleasing him than people or unpleasant circumstances, that is wisdom. Then we will be like the man who built his house upon the rock in in Matthew 7:24-25. No matter what life brings our way, we can overcome because we know the One we fear is in control and his love casts out sinful fear. We can stand firm knowing he is in charge. Sinful fear dreads losing control, and that is why the Israelites sacrificed to idols. They believed that appeasing them would make things run smoothly, and that if they didn’t sacrifice things would go badly. When we live in fear of man, we have a similar mentality. “If I can just…” everything will be ok. We’re trying to maintain control. Yet, the Lord calls us to leave the control in his hands. That is what the fear of the Lord does. It trusts in his goodness for the outcome, and we have nothing to dread.

Lord, help me never dread anything more than I desire to love and please you. Help me to avoid the trap of misplaced fear. Nothing on this earth is more powerful than you, so I need to reserve my fear for you alone. Yet, it is a different sort of fear than dread. It is honoring you above anything else, and resting in your control rather than trying to be in control. You are worthy of all honor and praise. Nothing on earth can ever cause me to be consumed with fear as long as I am consumed with you. Amen

God Uses the Reluctant

I love the story of Gideon. It amazes me that God was so patient with him. Like Moses he argued with God about his calling. Like Moses he saw only his limitations, but God proclaimed who he would be. We see things according to human limitations, God sees the limitless possibilities when we put our trust in him and walk in his Spirit. Gideon would question and test God numerous times before he became willing to step into the spiritual realities God pronounced over him. I love the following account in Judges 6. Gideon was sure the Lord had abandoned his people, but God…

And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor. “ And Gideon said to him “Please sir if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ’Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.” And the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you? And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” And the Lord said to him, “But I will be with you and you shall strike the Midianites as one man” (Ju. 6:12-16).

The Israelites were being oppressed by Midian because of their sin. The Midianites swarmed in against them and stripped the land like locusts every harvest season. Everything the children of Israel had worked for was stolen when they came. After seven years in this pattern scripture says that “Israel was brought very low… and the people of Israel cried out for help to the Lord.” It was basically the Lord’s compassion that answered, because nothing here says the people repented. They were just brought very low, and God had mercy. When he answers prayers it is rarely because of our worthiness. It’s more about him than us. When he answers, he comes in and empowers weak and reluctant people. Gideon remained reluctant until God showed up and proved himself to him. God did not say, “Go read the scripture, examine your sin, find my promises, and walk in obedience.” Instead, he answered every one of Gideon’s fear-based prayers, and he proclaimed something over Gideon that seemed completely removed from reality.

Reality was harsh. The enemy was devouring God’s people. The Israelites were hiding out in caves to escape with their lives. They were basically working for nothing, because everything they produced was stolen. The enemy was stronger that they were, yet God would not let them remain in defeat. When they cried out for help, he was faithful to answer, and to find a reluctant hero to lead the charge against the enemy. First he had to convince Gideon to take on the job, and of course that required answering his doubts and fears. Even after God answered, Gideon obeyed by tearing down the altar of Baal, but he was so afraid of his own family he did it at night. As God continued to prove himself to Gideon he soon began to live up to the angel’s description “mighty man of valor.” Before it was all over, God tested Gideon by reducing his troop size from 32,000 to 300. By this point, God had proven himself to Gideon, and he obeyed in spite of circumstances. It made no sense for a band of 300 to rise up against a huge army, but Gideon did it, because he had learned God was faithful.

This account is beautiful, because it shows me that God uses reluctant, weak people. It shows me that there are no limits with God—all things are possible. It shows me that as long as I am walking with him and willing, he will empower me in his strength. I can express my doubts and fears as long as I don’t run away. I need to wait and watch for his answer. God comes to the aid of the weak. He answers prayer, and he gives his power to the powerless. His reality seems far removed from circumstances and human logic, but nothing is more real! The One who created the universe can certainly turn a reluctant weakling into a mighty man of valor, as long as the man is willing.

Father, we face many impossible looking circumstances right now.  We ask you to show yourself to us, and answer our doubts even as you did for Gideon, because Lord you have great compassion on your children who are being downtrodden by the enemy. This is not about us, but about you, and we are willing to go and do whatever you call us to do. Regardless of our doubts, we will not run away in fear. Instead, we will be your mighty men and women of valor in spite of ourselves, because you will be with us. We will look to you rather than circumstances. We love and trust you. Amen

 

 

Hope for the Discouraged

Those who belong to God have no reason to walk in fear or discouragement. His promises and presence help us overcome our natural tendencies to be fearful and discouraged. Walking with him sets us free from fear. My reading in Joshua recently emphasized that point.

Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:8-9)

I find it interesting that God repeatedly told Joshua to be strong and courageous, but that wasn’t all. He also repeatedly told him he would be with him. That is where our source of courage comes from—from walking with him. When we go out on our own without his leading, we will end up walking in fear. His presence and his Word are the remedy for fear and discouragement. Discouragement is strongly related to fear. When we are afraid we can’t do something we become discouraged. When we are afraid of failure, or afraid of looking foolish, we get discouraged.

In this passage, God is surely asking Joshua and the Israelites to do something that would seem foolish in the eyes of the world. The task alone would make most discouraged, but rather than standing still in fear they chose to move forward in the promises of God. Rather than cowering and longing for the comforts of Egypt, they chose to follow God’s leading and believe his promises. The generation before them had failed this same test. They looked at things from a human perspective and failed to enter the Promised Land. Finally their children made the better choice to walk by faith, and they were able to take the land. They even walked into it on dry land as the waters of the Jordan parted for them.

When we choose to trust God, rather than looking at circumstances, he makes a way when there seems to be no way. It involves a choice on our part to walk by faith, to believe his Word, and to stay in his presence. When we do these things, fear will not be able to overtake us.

Lord, it is so easy to live by fear rather than faith. In fact, I would say fear is our natural human tendency, while faith is a choice to reject our natural inclinations. Faith is not the easy road, but it is the better road. When we decide to walk by faith, you always make a way. I am so grateful to be your child, because otherwise I would be paralyzed by fear on a regular basis. Thank you for delivering me from myself. I love you Lord! Amen

I’m CONFIDENT!!

Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident. (Ps.27:3) I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. (Ps. 27:13)

The world teaches us that if we believe in ourselves we can do anything, but I have to say that my self-confidence levels are really not that high. I’ve lived with myself long enough to know that I can utterly blow it in the blink of an eye. Outside of the grace and Spirit of God I don’t trust myself, and I know that without confidence in his great love for me, I would be crippled by fear and anxiety. Even after I became a believer, fear was a constant struggle for me until God graciously used some trying circumstances in my life, and his Word, to help me overcome it. (Click here to learn more.)

Victory over fear is far more than just the absence of anxiety and dread; it is confidence in God’s goodness towards us even in the midst of trying circumstances. Psalm 27:10 has long been a favorite verse of mine. “Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.” When I fear that people will fail me, I can trust that he will not. 1 John 4:18 says that perfect love drives out fear. It took me a while to grasp that, but now it gives my heart great confidence. I know that he loves me, and that he promises to work “all things” together for my good (Rom. 8:28), so I don’t have to freak out when bad things happen. I can remain confident that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of living! No matter what happens (even a full-scale war against me!), my heart can be confident and reject fear. So yes, I am loaded with confidence; it’s just not in myself.

In this psalm David reminds himself to seek God’s face. That is his response to fearful events, and as he turns to God his fears begin to melt. He reminds himself that the Lord has been his helper, and then boldly proclaims he will never be forsaken. Knowing his goodness, and getting into his presence will dispel every fear. There is nothing that can shake us when we are hiding in the shadow of his wing. When I am afraid, I close my eyes and imagine myself climbing up into my Heavenly Father’s lap and listen as he sings over me (Zep. 3:17). I think of the many times I held and sang over my own children and grandchildren when they were upset or afraid. As soon as they stopped struggling, rest and peace came. I chose to be still and know that he is God. He is bigger than all my troubles combined, and I can have confidence in him as I rest in his love.

Lord God, I praise you for your great love! I am so honored to be your child. That the sovereign Lord, creator of heaven and earth, cares enough to quiet me with his love is simply amazing. Today I choose not to strive, but to rest as you hold me and give me confidence to face the day. Life in this world is just hard sometimes, but you are so good, and you have overcome the world for us. Bless your holy name! I love you, and I rest in your love today. Amen

Waking up to Worry…

Do you ever wake up worried? I know I do! In my case, it’s usually because of people. Either something they did or didn’t do leaves me wondering how I can change the situation. To be more honest, I’m really wondering how I can control it! I know I should simply submit the problem to God, and roll back over, but my mind won’t let go. Don’t these people care? Don’t they realize their action or inaction is affecting me? Honestly, they probably don’t. They are usually wrapped up in their own worries, and have no idea that I’m lying awake fretting—which makes the whole exercise even more pointless! Not to mention the fact that God has instructed me to cast my cares on Him. It amazes me that I even allow my mind to go there after all He has done for me. Daily I see evidences of his grace and provision, yet I freak out when things aren’t going according to my plan. It’s a little “Martha” of me. Basically, I’m thinking “Lord, don’t you care that these people aren’t helping me?” Then I remember Jesus’ words that cut right to the heart of Martha’s worry. “Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary” (Lk. 10:41-42). That one thing is to spend time in the presence of the One who is in control of everything. Although He will never force anyone to change, His plans cannot be thwarted (Job 42:2), and that means I can trust Him, even when people fail. It means that I need to be directing my thoughts towards Him rather than worrying about imperfect people. I have no power to change them, so it’s a complete waste of time. When you think about it, worry is almost like a negative for of worship. It is allowing your mind to mediate and dwell on bad rather than good things (Ph. 4:8).

Worst of all, I am sure it’s just plain sinful to worry. At the heart of the problem, I really am saying, “Lord, don’t You care?” I’m not only filled with doubt in people, but the bottom line is that my doubt is aimed at God too! I am failing to trust His ability to accomplish His good purposes in my life in spite of people, or even through them. Perhaps He wants to use their faults to teach me more about His amazing patience and grace towards me. Maybe they are actually instruments in His hands to help grow my faith. It certainly wouldn’t be unlike Him to use negative circumstances for good. In fact, I would say that’s His specialty! On numerous occasions throughout my life, He has given me beauty for ashes, and yet I still wake up worrying as if He doesn’t care about the latest difficulty. I don’t know if I should cry or laugh at myself. I know I should ask for forgiveness for questioning His goodness. I also need to replace worry with truth! “If God is for me, who can be against me?” I know He will work all things together for my good! (Rom. 8:31, 28). I will not let my heart be troubled or afraid (Jn. 14:1), because in the end, worry really is a choice. It’s a choice to be anxious and distracted about many things when the Lover of our souls is inviting us to come and sit at His feet. It’s a choice to tune out the still small voice of hope, and to make temporary things a priority over the eternal (2 Cor. 4:17-18). We live in a world that is filled with trouble, but we have a God who has overcome it. He took on suffering and death to secure our place in His family, and our Daddy loves us with an everlasting love. His perfect love should dispel all fear (1 Jn. 4:18), and worry is nothing but fear. I refuse to let it remain in my heart this morning. Right now I am casting all my cares at the feet of the One who cares for me, and am choosing to replace unholy fear with true worship. He is worthy and able to guard everything I entrust to Him forever (2 Tim. 1:12).

Time to Rest

Lord, this morning I decided to look at Ephesians to try and help my mind get a better grasp of all the blessings I have in You. The description of what You have provided for your children in chapters one and two always just blows me away, and I realize that I am not walking in the abundance You offer. You have blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms, have redeemed us through grace that You have lavished on us, chosen us to be holy and blameless before the world began, adopted us as your very own children through the kind intention of your will, and made know to us the mystery of your will. We are your very own possession, and You have given us your Spirit as a pledge. At the end of chapter one, Paul prays:

“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places.”

It just overwhelms me every time I read that, and I long to walk in the fullness of my calling or the fullness of your power. I decided to meditate on this book for a while so that perhaps the eyes of my heart will be enlightened. In Philippians 3:10 Paul talks about knowing him and the power of his resurrection, but then he talks about knowing the fellowship of his suffering. He then said even though he had not fully attained all that Christ had attained for him, he was pressing on towards that high calling.

That is what I want to do Lord. Show me how to press forward, and to forget what is behind. Do not let yesterday’s heartaches and struggles prevent today’s victories. Help me to understand the incredible calling I have as your child. It is simply miraculous! I know it. Many times I have tapped into you great power, but I do not stay there habitually. Teach me to walk in your Spirit, and to press forward. That requires an active stance on my part. Pressing forward means that I am determined, and steadfast in my resolve. Father today, help me press forward towards that amazingly high calling in Christ. Thank You many times over for what You have provided me through Jesus. I have been transferred from death to life, and made part of your family. Never let me take that for granted. I am in awe! Today, help me appropriate your blessings in every aspect of life. I praise You for who You are, and thank You for who I am because of Jesus. Hallelujah!

Sweet child, you are the apple of my eye (Zec. 2:8). I am always watching you and listening to your cries (Ps. 34:15). Cling to Me (Jer. 13:11), and you will naturally walk in the abundant life and blessings I offer. You are still too affected by your circumstances—the struggles you face are intended to show you that. When you focus on troubles, they rule you. When you focus on Me, I will carry you and give you peace that passes human comprehension (Ph. 4:7). It makes no sense in the eyes of the world when you live that way; yet it when you are able to overcome circumstances it draws people to Me and I am glorified. When you look anxiously about and become tossed to and fro by life, you are glorifying the problems. Even though the children of Israel had seen my glory, their unholy fear of the false gods of the nations kept them from walking in my blessings. Surely none of them desired to sacrifice their children to Molech—they did it out of fear. What are you afraid of? Whatever it is, it becomes your master. That is why you must fear Me. However, the fear of the Lord is not associated with punishment or panic. It is honoring Me above anything else that tries to exalt itself in your life, and casts out all other fear, because you know that you are secure in my love (2 Cor. 10:5, 1 Jn. 4:18). Yes, I realize the problems are big, but I am bigger. Remember that my purposes cannot be thwarted (Job 42:2). Since my will is your desire, you can rest assured that I will work all of these circumstances together for good (Rom. 8:28), but holding on to fear and the need for control can postpone the victory. You must surrender this completely dear child. I will not force you to let go, but I am standing here waiting for you to cast your cares on Me. I AM the answer; so stop looking anxiously around you for another solution (Is. 41:10). As you press forward, be diligent to enter into the rest I offer (Heb. 4:11). Do not let unbelief keep you from it. This is a choice dear one. Choose to reject fear and unbelief. Choose to cling to Me instead, because I am faithful. Hold on to Me, and I will lead you into victory.

Finding Stability

Lord, I am so concerned for a loved one right now. It seems everything is out of control and unstable. I want to control it, but I can’t and even if I did I’d probably make it even more of a mess. So right now I ask You to take over. I ask You to help me resist the urge to try and become the director here. Help me surrender this to You every day, and every moment. Forgive my tendency to worry, and help me to keep my eyes on You rather than fearful circumstances. Please work mightily! Amen

Be still and know that I am your God and your loved one’s God. I will be exalted in this situation. This is not your battle but mine! I have begun a good work in this child, and I will be faithful to complete it. Remember, you’ve been here before? You thought if only you could your loved one to the right counselor, everything would be ok, and it never worked. You exerted your might, but it was never enough. It will not be by your might or power, but by my Spirit that this mountain will be removed. What is impossible for you is nothing for Me! Cease striving and leave this in my hands. You cannot add anything to your life by worrying. I see and I care. I have not abandoned you in this situation so do not be afraid. Trust in Me, believe in my goodness towards you. You are treasured, and the one you worry about is too. Do not look anxiously about you or seek answers from the arm of flesh. Find peace in my presence and wait for my salvation. I see your concern for stability, and I will help. I am the only true stability. Trust me.

The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness, and he will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is Zion’s treasure. Is. 33:5-6

Just Another Bump in the Road

Lord, help me. I am so needy. Circumstances completely stressful and out of control right now. I feel like there is a vice on my chest. Please help Lord! Come to my rescue. Without You I am so sunk. Change me, so that I am not shaken by circumstances, but rather overwhelmed as I choose to stand in your powerful presence. I am weary and heavy laden, so I come to You seeking rest for my soul. I cannot handle this without You! You have been so faithful to answer my prayers in the past, so I ask You to intervene now, to quiet my anxious thoughts, and help me to soar above this storm. So many times You have helped me do that. It is never easy, but I know I can choose to abide in You even in the midst of trouble. Forgive me for trying to take control before looking to You. That’s such a foolish move, especially when I have no possible of hope of controlling anything. I ask you to give me grace and wisdom to respond to everyone involved in your perfect love, and in the interim let me abide in the Vine. Take the reins Lord Jesus. I am at the end of myself and ask for You to take over.

Dear daughter, I am here and I have a plan. It does not depend on you, and it won’t be thwarted by anyone. You must listen for my voice, and seek my wisdom now. Do not respond in your flesh, but seek Me first and I will put proper responses in your heart. Regardless of what people say and do, you are to walk in the Spirit. To do any less will only worsen matters. You cannot add a thing to this situation in your own strength, so bring it to Me and let me handle it for you. My yoke is easy and my burden is light. Come find rest in Me. These burdens are nothing compared to my strength, and they are only temporary. Remember to set your eyes on the things that are eternal. Set your mind on things above, and not the fleeting things of earth (Col. 3:2). Remember that I understand your struggles, because I have struggled even more. Consider the hostility I endured for the sake of those I love, and do not lose heart. Even as I endured for the joy set before Me, you can endure (Heb. 12:1-3). Remember my promise to work all things together for your good, and you will not be overcome by this bump in the road. That is all it is dear one. It may slow you down, but nothing can stop you as long as you hold onto Me. I will take care of this for you, and am not intimidated in the least. Your calling in this is to learn your lesson well. Learn to overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:21), and learn to wait on Me. You are precious in my sight, and I am always working on your behalf. That does not mean the road will be easy, but it means you will reach the destination and that every trial will better equip you for the journey. Trust Me, believe my promises, and I will get you there.

Answering the Call

Ministry Update

The Vision

I think it is true that when you know God no experience is ever wasted. When I look back on my life, I can see where I knowingly rebelled against his best for my life, and in my mind now it seems a complete waste. Yet, God has managed to use the suffering born out my sinful choices to bring me into a deeper relationship with him. Even my stubborn heart attitudes have become valuable teaching experiences, and I have been able to use those lessons when counseling others. I have lived through a lot: abuse, infidelity, divorce, wayward children, sudden financial ruin, deaths of loved ones, and a host of other painful experiences. In the end, it seems as though each miserable event has resulted in a spiritual triumph as I have learned to cast my cares on Him. That is the key. For years, I tried to force God into yielding to my plan, rather than yielding to Him. True victory comes in complete surrender. How contrary to human thinking! The truth is we are all surrendered to something—whether it be it power, wealth, relationships, addictions, or whatever we seek for satisfaction. The problem is that these other things bring heartache while surrender to God results in freedom, along with satisfaction, peace and joy.

Since it took me so long to surrender all to God, I prolonged the misery in my life. (Still not wasted—I’m just a slow learner.) The result is that I now have a passion to help people move past destructive choices and decisions that leave them in misery. I feel like Harriet Tubman. Now that I am free, I want to start another underground railroad to freedom! There are so many issues that stay underground and unaddressed in our churches. God continues to prick my heart about starting a ministry to help those struggling as the result of destructive lifestyle choices. Sometimes people struggle because of the sinful choices of others, yet I find that even in those situations, victims often make things worse by the way they respond. However, nobody is hopeless when they have God and the freedom He offers through Jesus. Redemption is not a one-time event; it should permeate our lives and our relationships. He offers hope and deliverance!

 Providing Support to Local Churches

Yes, churches do proclaim deliverance through Jesus, but sometimes in order for people to find true freedom they need intensive help that many churches may not be able to provide. When I left my abusive husband 18 years ago, I had no money, no place to stay, and it seemed as though nobody I talked to understood how to help. I didn’t want to go to a secular shelter, because I didn’t think they would support my biblical conviction to try and save my marriage. How I wish there had been a Christian place I could have gone with my two children. I have seen many other women struggle with this over the years, and I have also seen women return to abusive situations, because there were no resources for them. Even the secular shelters only allow them to stay for 3 months. What if there was a place that would provide free or low cost housing, temporary childcare, career training, and other practical needs to help women get on their feet for up to 2 years? What if there was a place that would provide free biblical counseling for families caught in the midst of crisis as the result of sinful choices? What if?

As I write this, I am thinking that this dream is just too big, but for some reason I can’t seem to let it go, and I know that nothing is impossible with God. I know that there are many others out there who have struggled through life crises and have seen the need for such a place. While I envision it being a haven for those coming out of abuse, I also know there are many other situations that could benefit from such a ministry. In addition, I see education as a huge component to this ministry, particularly helping churches learn how to deal with domestic violence more effectively. So here it is. Would you pray that God would make a way, and if you are interested in joining in this ministry, would you please let me know? I am especially looking for folks in the Raleigh, NC area to help establish a local ministry, but would welcome input from anyone. I cannot stress how much I need your prayers, because it is never easy to step out and respond to a call that seems impossible by human standards. Still, I know that all things are possible with God so I am moving forward.

 

Laying Every Burden Down

Father before this day gets started, I would like to give it to You. I dare not go into it without your help. There are so many burdens on my heart right now. I am weary and heavy laden, so I come to your feet and lay the burdens down asking You to give me rest in the midst of these trials. Life is hard, but You are so good! I pray for my loved ones who are struggling. They don’t understand how to tap into your goodness, because they can’t see past themselves. I pray for those who need You desperately, and yet reject You. I pray for all the crises that were brought to my attention yesterday—for a domestic violence situation and many more. Lord, You are sovereign and want to use these situations for good in the lives of those who love You. I know that when I was getting out of that horribly abusive situation I could not imagine how You could possibly use it for good, but You did! In the midst of that, You taught me more about your great love than I could have ever imagined, You taught me about your faithfulness, and You have used it to help me minister to others. The most awful time of my life was also the most beautiful, because You met me there and proved yourself faithful. When I made the decision to trust and to hold on to You circumstances took a while to change, but those years transformed my life and I am grateful for them now. For all the people on my heart, I ask You give them the same blessing. Use their suffering and misery to draw them to yourself. Help them to see beyond themselves to the eternal One who transcends circumstances and whose perfect love casts out fear. Calm the raging storms today dear Lord. Amen

My child, drop those heavy loads at my feet. You have no power to change anything without my divine intervention, so release all your cares to Me. Worry will not accomplish anything. You have learned that I am trustworthy, so entrust your troubles to Me knowing that I care for you. Do not borrow trouble from tomorrow by worrying. It will only ruin today. Instead seek Me and leave your burdens in my loving hands. Unlike so many people, you have learned that I weave my eternal purposes into the everyday trials of life, and that knowledge should give you peace. I am never out of control even when people and circumstances seem to be. You may wonder why I allow those situations to happen, but you cannot see from my perspective. Do not ask why, it will only cause more grief. Rather, ask Me to show you what I have for you in the midst of each trial. Yes, life is full of horrible and grievous circumstances, because I allow people choices and you live in a fallen world, but I still hold the reins. My plans transcend your time limitations. That is why I can look on the ocean of horrors that occur daily in this world and still see the good. I know the end before it begins, and I promise to make all things new. Life is but a breath and I promise to right every wrong in eternity. Do not forget that I came down and bore those burdens on the cross. I did not leave you to wallow in misery, but provided hope by taking the full weight of human suffering on myself. That provision is enough to get you through this life. It breaks the power of sin, and gives you the ability to overcome. My resurrection proves that I have overcome this world, and you do not have to be defeated. So leave your burdens here my child. Drop them and take my hands instead. I will lead you by still waters and restore your soul. I will be your comfort. Rest in Me now. In my presence nothing will be able to overwhelm you, and I am here waiting. Come bask in my lovingkindness. You are loved and I here to carry your burdens. Let them go.

(1 Pet. 5:7, Mt. 6:33-34, Is. 46;10, Rev. 21:5, Ps. 144:4, Ps. 23).

They’re Driving Me Crazy!

When People “Make” us Anxious…

Lord, today I ask You to remove any anxious ways in me. It is so easy to allow the circumstances of life and people to plunge me into stress and anxiety. How did You do it? You were so connected to the Father that with a sea of hurting people around You, You were never anxious. You were fixed in purpose and had confidence in the sovereign plan of the Father. Help me be the same way. Sometimes counseling can be so frustrating. People don’t receive truth and insist on believing lies. It is so hard to watch them struggle when I know the freedom You offer. That’s the part I’m having a hard time with. It is painful to watch people self-destruct. I know it grieves You too, but it doesn’t cause You anxiety. Help me get to that point. Help me realize that their success or failure is not in my hands, but yours. Help me surrender them to You, and not to worry. I am sure that when I let it stress me out, I am far less effective, or even ineffective, for your kingdom. Walking in the flesh is what truly causes stress, while walking in the Spirit brings peace. Help me cling to You and to walk in your Spirit today, and help this poor, confused person I am counseling to see the truth. Amen

My people perish for a lack of knowledge. Your task is simply to share the knowledge of my truth. You are correct that you are not responsible for the outcome. Remember my words to Ezekiel, you must speak whether they listen or not. Only I know what is in a person’s heart, and when that seed will penetrate the soil. Perhaps I will bring circumstances into their lives that will make them more willing to break up the fallow soil, but if they continue to resist, that is not your responsibility. I know it grieves you, it grieves Me as well, but when you stay stressed it means you are striving and not surrendering them to Me. Remember the years that you believed lies? You would not receive the truth, because it was too painful. Surgery is never without pain. Some of these people need some complicated procedures, and healing takes time. Those who belong to Me will eventually receive my truth, because I am faithful to complete the work I begin in them. Some of those you see are not my sheep. Share my message of hope. If you lack wisdom, ask Me. I can show you their hearts. Unfortunately, that will not always be easy to see. Until you stand in my presence, there will be pain, sorrow and trouble, but those who are mine have been made overcomers. You will lead some to freedom, and others will choose bondage. Stay close to Me, and rejoice in the love and grace I pour out on you daily. It is sufficient.   Hos. 4:6; Ezek. 2:3-3:27; Phil. 1:6: Jas. 1:5; 2 Cor. 2:14 & 12:9

At The Heart of Every Fear

I believe that at the heart of every unhealthy fear there is a question about God’s goodness. 1 John 4:18 tells us that perfect love expels fear. That is, when we know we are loved, we know we can trust that God has ultimate control, and that He will work all things out for our good (Rom. 8:28). For years, I was crippled by fear, because I did not understand the concept of his sovereignty. I acted as if He wasn’t paying attention, or like the disciples in the storm tossed boat mentioned in Mark 4:38, I thought he might not care that I was sinking.

The older I get the more I realize that God has a good agenda– even in our suffering. He has used awful circumstances in my life to bring about good that never would have happened without the bad happening first. When Jesus got up and calmed the storm for the disciples, he asked them why they were so afraid, and asked why (after all the miracles they had seen) they still had no faith. If you are a child of God, fear should not be status quo for you. It is the opposite of faith, and those are belong to Him are called to live by faith. Yes, the world is a hard place, and fearful things happen almost daily, but those who belong to Him should never give in to fear-.

It is a choice that says “even though the storms of life are raging, I know He is in control and I can trust Him with my life. If He does not choose to immediately rescue when bad things to happen, He still has my best interest at heart and will use it for good.” This does not mean we don’t remove ourselves from danger or try to improve circumstances when we have the power to do so. (There is a healthy, God-given fear that protects us when we are in immediate danger). However, it means we do not desperately grasp to control things we cannot control. We will all experience fear in life. The key is to learn to surrender it to God, so that He can replace it with faith. Paul admitted to the Corinthians that his visit to them had been characterized by “weakness and fear.” Yet, he went on to explain that this was so that their faith would be based on the power of God rather than the wisdom of men (1 Cor. 2:3-5). It is in our weakness that God’s power is best displayed (2 Cor. 12:9). This means that fear gives us an opportunity to proclaim His power. When we can say we were afraid, but still moved forward in faith, it shows the world it is His power rather than our own.

Are you struggling with fear? Perhaps you have received bad news from the doctor. Perhaps someone you love has rejected you. Perhaps you fear for a loved-one who is making bad decisions, or even choosing to deliberately hurt you. Perhaps your fear is related to finances. Whatever it is, I urge you to surrender it to the One who loves you most. He knows the situation. It has not caught Him off guard. Even though your circumstances may be the result of sin, and not part of His perfect will for your life, He promises to use all things for your good.

Think about the story of Joseph in Genesis. He was captured by his brothers and sold into slavery, then falsely accused and unfairly imprisoned. He suffered undeserved consequences for decades, but he held on tightly to God. In the end, Joseph told his brothers that even though they intended their actions for harm, God intended them for good (Gen. 50:20). His circumstances were the result of their sin, but God ultimately used it for good. In every fearful event of life we are faced with a choice. We will either focus on the goodness of God or we will focus on our negative circumstances . We always have the power to choose. Will you choose to trust in his goodness and love for you, or will you question his goodness and let fear rule you? Jesus told his disciples not to let their hearts be troubled or afraid (Jn. 14:27), but to believe (Jn. 14:1). Obviously, we can’t just turn off our emotions, but we can choose our response. When fear rolls in, choose to look to God in faith and confidence that his promises are true. Believe that He will use your circumstances for good, and you trust that He always has loving intentions towards you.

Psalm 56 has long been one of my favorites. Notice how the psalmist chooses to deal with his fear. I have recited these word many times as I have made the choice to believe rather than fear. If you are struggling with fear, I hope you will pray this psalm now.

Be merciful to me, O God, for man would swallow me up; Fighting all day he oppresses me. My enemies would hound me all day, For there are many who fight against me, O Most High. Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me? All day they twist my words; All their thoughts are against me for evil. They gather together, They hide, they mark my steps, When they lie in wait for my life. Shall they escape by iniquity? In anger cast down the peoples, O God! You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book? When I cry out to You, Then my enemies will turn back; This I know, because God is for me. In God (I will praise His word), In the Lord (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? Vows made to You are binding upon me, O God; I will render praises to You, For You have delivered my soul from death. Have You not kept my feet from falling, That I may walk before God In the light of the living?    For further study see: Psalms 23, 27, 34 & 46, Isaiah 41:10, 51:12-14, Romans 8:15, Hebrews 13:6

What are you Afraid of?

In my counseling ministry, I would say fear is one of the biggest problems I see. It is at the root of many deep-seated problems like depression and anxiety, and definitely at the heart of many relationship struggles. When I talk to most people, they do not even realize they struggle with fear, but when they are going to great links to control something, it is usually because they are trying to avoid something that makes them afraid. Scripture tells us the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. I believe that is because whatever we fear will control us, and we will do just about anything to control our lives so that the things we fear will not come upon us.

Fear and control are inexorably linked. Are you doing what I call the dance of fear; this is, trying to force circumstances and people to line up with your demands– all to avoid something you fear?  If so, the answer lies in learning to trust the One who loves you most. His perfect love can surely cast out fear, as you let go of the reins and surrender everything to Him, you can experience the peace the passes human comprehension. 

In my own life, fear was a dominant factor until I finally learned to refuse it during one of the greatest trials of my life. If you are struggling with anxiety, depression, or even relational conflict, fear could very well be at the heart of the problem. When you have time, I have written an article outlining my own battle and victory over fear. It is posted below and will probably take some time to read, so feel free to come back later. I hope  it will be helpful to you. Always feel free to message me with any questions or comments. Many blessings!

Replacing Fear with Faith                                                          

 By Joy Forrest

Over my years as a Christian, I have come to realize that my greatest periods of growth have occurred during times of crisis. Yet, in spite of this truth, I had never really learned to face my trials with joy until a few years ago when problems in my marriage became the catalyst for one of the most profound lessons of my spiritual life. A year prior to our crisis, I would have told anyone who asked me that I had a wonderful marriage and family. Even though we have a blended family, we had managed to avoid many of the pitfalls common to these marriages. However, this particular year, a problem with one of the children caused a disagreement that nearly ended our marriage. We were unable to agree and both resorted to sinful patterns from our pasts. He shut down and I went into a panic. Eventually, my husband moved out of the house leaving me stunned and confused.

When I first realized that our marriage was in serious trouble, I responded with pure, unadulterated fear. I spent hours crying to the Lord and begging Him to “fix” us.  Not so coincidentally, I happened to be in the middle of my second year in seminary, and had signed up for a class on crisis counseling. While the class covered specific responses to crisis situations, there seemed to be a few dominant spiritual themes. We were reminded that God is sovereign, and as such, He often allows tragedies to occur in our lives. However, He doesn’t merely allow these unpleasant circumstances; He promises to use them for good.

I was not unaware of either of these truths; however, our professor made a statement that seemed to reverberate in my ears. He said that Christians in crisis situations should ask God what He wanted to teach them through their experience. That was something I had not considered in the midst of my pain. We also learned that sinful patterns within our lives often lead to crisis, and I realized that I needed to examine my own heart. One night, while I was praying I realized that fear had become the driving force in my life. I also recognized that this fear revealed a lack of trust in God. Perhaps it had even been a contributing factor in the failure of my marriage. I asked Him to show me how to overcome fear. Proverbs says that fear of man is a snare, but the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. I realized that my own life did not meet His standards on either count. I needed to figure out how fear had become such a powerful force in my life.

Some of my earliest memories are related to fear. I remember lying awake many nights staring at shadows in the corner of my room. Sometimes I would get up enough nerve to run to my parents’ room and get in bed with them. Other times I would lie awake till morning light poured through my window revealing the source of my imagined fiend to be the shadow from a piece of furniture or a tree outside my window. Even though morning light may have proven a particular fear to be without basis, daylight was also filled with things to dread.

During my early childhood, my father was the pastor of several small town churches. He preached a liberal gospel, and did not believe in the authority of scripture. His beliefs suggested that God was uninvolved in the affairs of people. Like most children, I admired my dad and naturally absorbed his beliefs. In his thinking, Jesus merely came to promote social justice. Our family was run out of town by the KKK after my dad preached a pro civil rights sermon to a small town Southern congregation, and I learned that people were to be feared. My father seemed to worry an awful lot about the deacon boards. They had a great deal of power in his life, and it did not take me long to figure out that keeping up appearances was very important. Eventually, the constant power struggles with these boards resulted in my dad leaving the ministry altogether.

My father stopped attending church with us, and his apparent bitterness towards the church spilled over into my life. Within five years, I was in full-blown rebellion and practicing witchcraft. My life was spinning out of control, and my fears were greatly intensified.Only an encounter with God’s grace could set me free from my all-consuming fear. When I poured out my heart to Him in repentance, I received peace like I had never known. Fear was no longer the defining characteristic of my life. However, something so deeply entrenched would not be so easily conquered. Overcoming fear would be a long-term process for someone in such great bondage, and fear of man would be the greatest challenge.

A few years after my salvation, my father left our family and eventually married a former secretary. This move shook me to the core. Nothing my mother and I could say or do would move him, and our prayers for his return remained unanswered. There was a point when I did not see or hear from my father for over a year, and bitterness began to fill my heart. I eventually forgave my dad, but this period of bitterness left lasting effects on my life. My father did not approve of the young man I had been dating, and so, with all the wisdom of youth, I decided to prove him wrong by marrying the fellow.

Unfortunately, my father’s instincts about him were correct. Within the first month of our marriage, he was waking me in the middle of the night and screaming at me for hours. By the time we reached our thirteenth year of marriage, screams were accompanied by threats and physical violence. I also learned that my husband had been unfaithful numerous times. No amount of counseling was able to fix what was broken in our relationship. Fear was my constant companion as I jumped through hoops to please a man who changed the rules every day. I reached out to pastor after pastor, and got the same response again and again. Maybe if I would be a better wife, keep a cleaner house, or boost his ego more things would improve. Things finally got so violent that I was forced to take our two girls and flee.

I had left for “cooling off” periods many times over the years, but this time was different. My husband went through our house intent on destroying everything I owned. He chopped up and burned most of the beautiful antiques I had inherited from my grandmother. He then bagged up all my clothes and personal items, and took them to the town dumpster. He called my mother to tell her that all my things were going there. We had left home with the only the clothes on our backs, so I set out to retrieve what I could from the dumpster.  Some ladies from my bible study volunteered their husbands to accompany me. It was dusk when I climbed down into the rubbish. So many of my precious belongings were strewn over mounds and mounds of garbage. I recovered antique silver, plates, trays, jewelry, books, my bible, clothes, shoes, and so much more. Some items were in trash bags, so I opened bags as I went and handed items up to the men outside. Some bags contained my things; others just had garbage.

Before long I was knee deep in dirty diapers and rotten food. Suddenly I heard screaming outside. My husband was back and yelling at the men helping me. It had gotten dark, so I turned off my flashlight and prayed that he would not see me. He didn’t, but began throwing items back into the dumpster. First he threw a lamp, and then a large bag that knocked me over into the filth below. I just sat there and prayed until he left. I found myself saying, “Lord, nobody has ever been through this before! Nobody knows what I’m going through.” No sooner had I uttered those words than it seemed as if Jesus Himself was there right beside me saying, “I have. I know your pain.” Suddenly my heart understood that He really knew the betrayal I was experiencing. He had been betrayed by an intimate friend, and was beaten and shamed by those He loved. Although I had known Him for over twenty years, I had never experienced the depths of His love like I did at that moment. He endured the cross because he knew my sin would cause me to suffer, and He chose to share in my suffering. I never would have chosen such pain.

I often tell people that that day was both the worst and best of my life, because my eyes were opened wider to His great love for me. That day was a huge victory in my battle against fear, because perfect love casts out fear and I saw His perfect love more clearly than ever before. I stood in that dumpster and thanked Him, because I knew that such a great love would never let me go. Paul’s words seemed to sum up my feelings perfectly; “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.” (Phil 3:8)

In the years since that experience, I have never doubted the Lord’s love and care for me. However, I have still struggled with the fear of what men might do. Even though I know Him to be completely faithful, the experiences I had with my father and my first husband showed me that men are not. Therefore, the fear of being hurt by another man had remained deep inside my heart. I had failed to believe God, and failed to heed Jesus’ command to fear God rather than man (Matt. 10:28.) Hebrews 11:6 says, “…without faith, it is impossible to please Him,” and Romans 14:23 says that “…whatever is not born of faith is sin.” My heart had chosen to fear rather than believe, and that had lead to unbiblical actions within my second marriage.

As I began to examine what had gone wrong in our marriage, I realized that fear had often controlled my behavior. I had never been very good at speaking the truth in love, and knew that I should have done that in every aspect of my marriage; but I didn’t. If something my husband did bothered me, I rarely found the courage to tell him. It was always agonizing for me to speak truth when I disagreed, because something in me cringes at the thought of confrontation. I guess deep down I was afraid that upsetting him might lead to losing him. There were a few issues that we never agreed on, so I decided that withholding information was better than speaking the truth. Basically, this secrecy amounted to nothing more than sanitized lies, and every once and a while I even told “little white lies” to protect my interests. Our Lord desires truth in the innermost being (Ps. 51:6) and my actions fell short of His desire.

Once these sinful actions became ingrained in my life, I was left with a multitude of negative feelings. As I allowed vain imaginations to flourish in my mind, I became depressed and panic-ridden. When I yielded to fear, rather than faith, my emotions became more and more unstable. My actions and reactions were based on emotion rather than truth. I went to great links to try and make circumstances and my husband line up with my desires. Sinful words and lies were the natural result, and these sinful actions only aggravated the problems between us. My intention was to control the situation, but instead I made things worse. In the end, my husband found out about my lies and used them to justify his departure. “The thing I greatly feared [came] upon me.” (Job 3:25) Our marriage came to an abrupt halt, and just like when my father left; nothing I could do or say was enough to change my husband’s heart. I had to decide whether I would respond with fear or faith. The path of fear had been a downward spiral for too long, and I realized that I needed to make some changes.

When I lived in fear, my focus was on myself. I failed to trust God’s sovereignty and tried to take control of my own life. His Spirit convicted my heart of this sin, and I confessed it. I made a decision to turn from my sin, and also asked the Lord to give me wisdom to overcome my fears. Changing my sinful patterns required casting down imaginations, and focusing on Him rather than myself. It also required choosing to focus on things that were true and honorable, and to worship the only One who is worthy to be feared. Each time fear rolled in; I made a conscious decision not to yield to it and I learned that scripture was an effective weapon against fear.

“For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God…” This passage in Romans (8:15) reminded me that I belonged to Him, and that my heavenly Father was bigger than anything in this world. He had promised to use bad circumstances for my good, and I knew I could trust His promise. I found many scriptures that brought peace to my heart. I even printed out and posted Psalms 27 and 46 in my house. When I was tempted to fear, I read these Psalms out loud. Over the years, I have read Psalm 46 many times, but this time around it seemed to take on new life. “There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved…” (Ps. 46:4-5)  I thought of Jesus’ statement: “He who believes in Me… ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.'” (John 7:38)  As I thought of these two scriptures, I realized He was in me and nothing could shake Him. No matter what happened, I did not have to be moved. As the world changed around me, I chose not fear but rather to stand behind the One who never changes.

Consistent time in God’s word was also essential in my battle against fear, and prayer was equally important. After I committed myself to deliberately turn from my fears regarding my marriage, a new fear crept into my life. I believed that God has called me into a teaching ministry. Seminary training was not part of my plan for my life, but a few years earlier, I had felt compelled to go and had no peace until I answered the call. However, from the day I signed up for classes, I realized that my divorce could be an obstacle to ministry, in spite of the fact that God had used that experience to teach me so many things: the freeing power of forgiveness, His faithfulness, and surrender to His will. That is why I had become so compelled to minister to others. Still, it was bad enough when I only had one failed marriage to report, and I feared that a second failure would cause most Christians to see me as entirely useless to minister. Quite frankly I was feeling the same way.

I searched God’s word for an answer to my fears concerning ministry, and was encouraged by the story of David’s life. Even after he committed adultery and murder, scripture called him a man after God’s own heart. I prayed that I would be a woman after His heart. However, I remained afraid that people would never allow me to minister. I poured my heart out to Him in prayer, and He faithfully answered my cry. I decided to visit a friend’s church one Sunday, and the pastor’s sermon was on ministry. It seemed like it was written just for me. The pastor said that many times people feel unworthy to minister because of their pasts, and went on to quote Romans 11:29 which states that His gifts and calling are irrevocable. I cried throughout the whole message, because I understood that His grace is sufficient. It was His ministry; not mine. If He wanted me to minister, He would cause it to happen. He was faithful to hear my prayer and answer my fear directly.

The path to overcoming fear was, and is, filled with choices. I had to choose to obey His word and truth, rather than my emotions and fears. I had to reserve fear and reverence for the only One worthy of it. I also had to choose to commit myself to prayer, and to walk in His Spirit rather than my flesh. I presented myself to Him as a living sacrifice, and refused to conform to the ways of the world (Rom 12:1.) It was my choice- I could have focused on my circumstances, but I chose to focus on His goodness. In the past, I had let my mind dwell on the negatives, totally disregarding His sovereignty. However, now I had chosen to trust that He would even use our separation for good. I found joy in knowing that His loving hands would never let me go. Even joy was a choice. Though my heart was grieving, I was able to rejoice in my faithful God. I found that praising Him lifted me out of the mire of self-centeredness. In His presence there is fullness of joy (Ps. 16:11.) Worship reminded me of how big He is, and helped me see how small my problems were in comparison. I found that as long as I continued to choose His ways instead of mine, He blessed me with the peace that passes understanding.

Although I had no guarantee of reconciliation with my husband, I realized that I had to do what the Lord required of me and left the outcome in His hands…. I chose to walk His path to abundant life, and did not let my “…heart be troubled, nor letit be fearful.” (John 14:27)  Though things continued to look dismal for several months, I understood that the things that are seen are temporary, but unseen things are eternal. (II Cor. 4:18) I remembered how my eyes fooled me as child looking at shadows in the darkness. When the morning came, the shadows were gone and there was never anything worthy of my fear. “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” There is nothing on this earth to compare with the light of His glory, and every shadow of fear will fade in the light of eternity. As I chose to live in that light, God was faithful faithful to use a horrible situation to help me overcome sinful patterns, and to deliver me from a lifetime of fear.

I sought the LORD, and He heard me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces were not ashamed.
Ps. 34:4-5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scripture quotes were taken from the NKJV or NASB versions of the bible.