Tag Archives: worry

Not to Worry!

“But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves.  For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.” Luke 21:14-15

We’re living in scary times. The world seems to be spinning out of control. Terrorism is a growing problem at home and abroad. Political tensions abound, and our politicians seem ineffective to accomplish anything worthwhile. Police officers, the very people who are charged with keeping peace, have become targets of radical factions and our nation is more divided than ever. To top it off, I don’t see anyone rising up to bring us back together. In times like this, worry would seem to be the natural response. So when I read this passage from Luke 21 this morning, one little phrase jumped out at me like never before– “make up your mind not to worry beforehand.”

What an amazing statement! In this passage, Jesus was talking about the end of the age, and what his disciples should expect. The entire passage indicates catastrophic events, unfair persecution, and even martyrdom. Yet, Jesus tells them to decide in advance not to worry about their response to the persecution. Further down in the passage, he indicates that some would even be put to death, but not one hair on their heads would perish. It almost seems contradictory. However, we are looking at someone who would soon face death himself. He knew that this life is merely a shadow of eternity, and that his Father had a good plan even in the midst of his suffering. If you look at the whole passage, Jesus is warning about awful events, but always reminding his disciples of their hope in God.

I was listening to a interview with a Munich mall shooting survivor this week. He said one reason he and his girlfriend were able to avoid harm was that he had already considered what he would do in a crisis. He said that each time he goes somewhere, he assesses his environment and makes a plan for escape, but says panicking can only make things worse. His final advice to listeners was that everyone should have a plan in place to deal with crisis. I think Jesus is saying the same thing, but in spiritual terms rather than physical. If we do not stop and consider how we will respond to crisis, our response will likely be one of panic, and more harmful than helpful.

Basically, it comes down to making a choice. We can choose to let fear rule us, or we can choose to believe that God holds us in the palm of his hands, and that is the safest place to be, whether on earth or in heaven. We must choose to make his goodness bigger than the evil all around us, and believe that his Spirit will empower us to stand no matter what happens. We do not need to worry, because his promises towards us are sure.

Many of us spend time worrying about what we can say to convince others that some political system holds the answer to our problems, but I say make up your minds now not to worry about it. Frantic debates over politics reveal a lack of faith that he is ultimately in control. Perhaps God has called you to politics, but fear should never be the motivation. Choosing to worry is a choice to refuse the peace he offers his children. In John 16, just before his death Jesus told his disciples about the troubles soon to come, but followed it with, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33). Once again, he was letting his followers know that they had a choice to walk in peace in spite of outward turmoil. Today, I am deciding beforehand not to worry, and to choose his peace instead. I pray you will do the same.

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

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).

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).

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.