Courageously Overcoming Fear

text graphic with quote from Rick WarrenOur fears rarely remain stagnant. They either grow stronger over time or they diminish, depending on whether we feed or starve them. At least, that’s my experience. For years, I allowed anxious thoughts to control me. If asked, I would’ve said I couldn’t help this. I couldn’t just shut my mind off and avert it to something else. Or so I thought, but that was before I learned about neural plasticity.

Psychologists have discovered that our thoughts develop pathways, almost like how rainwater forms channels that deepen over time. I talk about this more fully in Wholly Loved’s Becoming His Princess Bible study (week four). In short, the more we entertain our fears, the deeper those pathways become, making it feel as if we have no rerouting control.

But Scripture indicates otherwise and encourages us to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” This mental rerouting takes time, determination, prayer, and the power of the Holy Spirit, but it can be done. We have the power, in Christ, to annihilate self-defeating, paralyzing thought patterns and to anchor ourselves in truth.

Spiritual and emotional freedom is a process acquired, in ever-increasing depth, as we grow closer to Christ, learn to replace lies we’ve believed for truth, and yield to the perfecting Holy Spirit within.

My guest today, Janet Thompson, focuses on a crucial step in this process—releasing our concerns to God.

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And a fun bonus! She’s giving away a free copy of her latest release. She’ll select a winner randomly from the comments left on this blog.

Keeping Your Brave On

By Janet Thompson

We all have fears. Our hearts race. We tremble and experience a sinking sensation in our stomach.Frozen, we determine not to be brave this time.

Often fear is a healthy reaction to a dangerous situation. Other times, it’s rooted in past or recent trauma or chronic worry. Conquering a fear can offer countless new opportunities and accomplishments previously avoided, like applying for a new job after a string of rejections or flying to a Caribbean island after a lifetime of homebound staycations.

We each must face our fears if we want to move ahead in life. In my new book, Everyday Brave: Living Courageously as a Woman of Faith, I admit my long-time reaction to dogs—especially those that bark. My mom loved to tell how a small yelping beast chased me home when I was around five-years old. When she opened the front door, I ran upstairs crying and screaming. Though I no longer behave so dramatically, these furry creatures still tempt me to run the other way.

I live in a rural area where most people own dogs and I like to take walks. Heading out for a morning stroll, I pray the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18), and in a particular area, recite the twenty-third Psalm. I refuse to let fear stop me from enjoying my exercise. With God’s help, I overcome fear and proclaim courage over myself.

My grandkids now have a cute little dog appropriately named Barkley. Gradually . . . bravely . . . I’m getting to know him and we’re becoming good friends.

Sometimes fear of loss or harm motivates a valiant act we wouldn’t otherwise consider. We’re usually brave in situations that involve something or someone valuable to us. If you’re a mother, you would probably do anything to defend your child. Even though you justifiably fear death, you’d risk everything for a loved one.

But what about brave men and women who lose their life protecting students from a school shooter? Where does their courage come from? Maybe it’s the vow they took as a police officer or first responder to protect others at any cost. A teacher or coach often considers students his or her responsibility, just like their own children. Honor, duty, and love for their fellow man or woman, more than their own safety, empower them to act heroically.

We hear stories of those who are asked, by gunpoint, if they’re a Christian. They might consider denying Christ to save their life but don’t. Love for Jesus more than love of life resides in their heart, overshadowing fear. They say yes, and the gun goes off.

God knows we live in a dangerous world, and He knows our concerns are real. But more than that, He knows the solution to every problem we’ll face and is bigger than our every threat. He invites us to “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for [us]” (1 Peter 5:7).

Though conquering fear and anxiety can be a complex issue, often our first step is to release—to intentionally hand our worries to God and to remind ourselves we’ve done so whenever they reemerge.

A friend recently shared wise words from Mary Anne Radmacher on a wall hanging in her home: “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”

Like my fear of dogs, is fear stopping you from doing something God is prompting?

What fear has God helped you overcome? What fear does He want you to overcome? How can you intentionally reroute your thinking off of your fears and onto God’s power and promises instead?

Get to know Janet:

Janet Thompson is an international speaker, freelance editor, and award-winning author of 20 books. Her passion is to Janet's author biomentor other women in sharing their life experiences and God’s faithfulness. Her latest book Everyday Brave: Living Courageously as a Woman of Faith releases September 10, 2019 and is available for pre-order now!

She is also the author of Mentoring for All Seasons: Sharing Life Experiences and God’s Faithfulness; Forsaken God? Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture Has Forgotten; The Team That Jesus Built; Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby?; Dear God They Say It’s Cancer; Dear God, He’s Home!; Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter; Face-to-Face Bible study Series; and Woman to Woman Mentoring: How to Start, Grow, & Maintain a Mentoring Ministry Resources.

Janet is the founder of Woman to Woman Mentoring and About His Work Ministries.

Visit Janet and sign up for her weekly blog and free online newsletter at womantowomanmentoring.com.

Join Janet on Facebook, Linkedin, Pinterest, and Twitter.

cover image for Everyday BraveAbout Everyday Brave: In Everyday Brave, Janet explores the extraordinary bravery of fifty ordinary

women in the Bible. Twenty-eight women of today also give testimonies of realizing their strength and courage through God’s love. As Janet shares the stories of these women, she reminds us that the real heart and substance of bravery comes from unconditionally placing our hope in the only One who can give us the courage to stay the course.

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If you struggle with Fear, I encourage you to watch the week four video for Wholly Loved’s Becoming His Princess Bible study. You can find it HERE. I also encourage you to check out our daily Bible reading plan on YouVersion titled 30 Days of Emotional Health. Find it HERE.

 

 

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God Opens Doors

God Opens Doors by Sarah Foust

God opens doors. Sometimes I don’t feel like walking through them, but He makes them available. A few years ago, my husband and I felt called to become foster parents. It was a tough process. Scary. More like terrifying. But, God presented us with an opportunity and we chose to follow. I’m so glad we did. It led to personal growth, parental growth, and to adopting our fourth daughter and first son. What a blessing they’ve been in our lives.

If we’d chosen to ignore God’s prompting, we wouldn’t have these two beautiful children. And, I wouldn’t be writing yet. It was through the process of becoming foster parents to our son that I realized I could no longer work full-time. When my job as a medical transcriptionist disappeared the week he arrived in our home, I knew it was time to pursue my dream career.

Through this, we stepped through another door, and I chose to write. I love writing. I’ve dreamed of it since I was in second grade. I remember sitting in the desk, zoning out while the teacher talked as I pictured crafting a real, long, tons-of-words novel.

I put that dream off for a long time because I feared I would fail. What if I pursued this career and fell on my face? What then? My dream would be dead and I’d have nothing to hope for my future career. But God gently nudged me forward, and I am so glad He did.

On November 4th, my first real, long, tons-of-words novel comes out. It’s an idea that originally popped into my head in high school (a few years ago). But with prayer for direction, it has become so much more than that initial spark. I poured my heart and soul into my book baby and it is about to arrive! I cannot wait to hold it in my hands and read my name—my name!—on the cover. I’ll probably cry. No joke.

I don’t know what the next door God will present me with will be, but I plan to step through it. I know that He only wants good for me and that He has a plan. If I’m to do my part, I need to be obedient, brave, and trusting. Who better to place blind trust in than God? If I were to encourage you to do any one thing, it would be to step through the door God has placed before you. He won’t let you fall, or if He does, He will pick you up. He’s waiting on the other side. Waiting to take you where you’re supposed to go. Waiting to lead you to who you are supposed to be.

Let’s talk about this! Do you have a dream career you’ve never pursued because of fear? Is God presenting you with a door of opportunity? Do you plan to walk through it?

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Speaking of living your dreams, or living out your identity in Christ and who He created you to be, as I like to put it, if you’re in the Omaha Metro area, I encourage you to come to Wholly Loved’s Bold and Brave conference. Our first one will be held at St. Paul’s Methodist Church in Papillion, NE on February 11th; our second one will be held at Good Shepherd Presbyterian in Lincoln, NE on June 24th. Mark your calendars, and follow us on Facebook for more information. And if you’re a writer living in the Seattle, WA area, I invite you to join me in October at the NCWA monthly meeting where I’ll be talking about overcoming the fear that hinders us from fully living out our calling and the freedom, creativity, and power that comes from surrender. And on the 28th, again for those in the Omaha area, I’ll be speaking at the local Wordsowers meeting on developing a mind of success. Find out more HERE. Because successful people think differently than unsuccessful people do, and science is discovering more and more, our success (in pursuit of our dreams) is much more dependent on our grit than our talent.

You might also enjoy:

Grit by Angela Duckworth

Courage and Calling by Gordon T. Smith

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Sara Foust writes Inspirational Romantic Suspense from a mini-farm in East Tennessee, where she lives with her husband and their five homeschooled children. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science from the University of Tennessee and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Tennessee Mountain Writers. Her debut novel Callum’s Compass won second place in Deep River Books’ 2017 Writer’s Contest. Sara finds inspiration in her faith, her family, and the beauty of nature. When she isn’t writing, you can find her reading, camping, and spending time outdoors with her family. To learn more about her and her work or to become a part of her email friend’s group, please visit www.saralfoust.com. And make sure to connect with her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Collum’s Compass:

Kat Williams’s brother died in a gruesome accident in the mountains of East Tennessee. She blames herself.

Ryan Jenkins’s fiancée was murdered. He couldn’t protect her.

With the death of her brother, Kat believes she is unworthy of love from anyone—even God. When a good friend elicits a promise that she will stop living in the past and then leaves her clues to a real-life treasure hunt, Kat embarks on an adventure chock-full of danger. To find the treasure, Kat will have to survive wild animals—and even wilder men. Can she rely on Ryan, the handsome wildlife officer assigned to protect her . . . without falling in love?

Ryan swore off love when his fiancée was murdered, but feelings long-buried rise to the surface around Kat. He volunteers to help with her treasure hunt, vowing to keep her safe. Together they venture deep into caves and tunnels . . . and even deeper into the depths of their unplumbed hearts.

Available soon! Find information at www.saralfoust.com under the books tab

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Want more great content, sent straight to your inbox? Then make sure to sign up for my free quarterly newsletter. With each edition, you’ll receive a fun short story, devotion, recipe, and more! You can sign up HERE!

God’s Grace Revealed in Us

My hands were shaky, my stomach queasy. I’d been to the bathroom five times in maybe twice as many minutes as my jumble of nerves worked against my courage to obey. Having given my word, committed to this thing, I knew I couldn’t back out.

Though the thought had crossed my mind over a dozen times.

The strength to obey. For the apostle Paul that meant facing incredible persecution—beatings, floggings, imprisonment … the continual threat of death. I may never endure such hardship for Christ, but that morning, I felt like I was facing a kind of death—death to my reputation.

And yet, like Paul, I knew I’d been entrusted with the gospel, and my story, as ugly as parts of it were, revealed the power of the gospel within me.

I knew. As much as I hated it, as much as my pride fought against it, I knew, God wanted to use my testimony to bring hope and healing to other women. To do this I’d need strength—the strength to die to myself. And only He could give me the power to do that.

Determined to surrender to God’s leading, trusting Him to show Himself strong on my behalf, on the morning in May of 2012, I took several deep breaths, checked my appearance in the mirror one last time, and left the safety of the bathroom to unveil all to women I considered friends.

Certain they’d hear, clearly, the message of God’s unyielding love and grace. Equally certain that, by the time I finished, I would lose any ounce of respect or admiration they’d held for me.

It’s easy to share our triumphs, and perhaps even our struggles. But to reveal our ugly, the deep secret shame that hinders our freedom until Christ intervenes?

That’s hard. That takes courage, a decision to “die to one’s self,” and leaning hard on Christ.

Sharing my story, as a high school drop out and former homeless girl, was rough. But not nearly as rough as Paul’s must have been. He was part of the ISIS or NAZI soldier of his day, deemed powerful by some and evil by others. A man who witnessed incredible brutality and “agreed completely with the killing” (Acts 8:1) The kind of man mothers warn their children about and whose very name must’ve caused countless Christians to freeze in fear.

The very group of people he now spent most of his time with.

What must it have been like to carry a past like that around? What kind of shame would such a history cause?

To what lengths would a tyrannical murderer go to, to keep that past hidden?

What kind of love—for God and mankind—would it take for such a man to open up and share all?

What kind of love would it take for us to do the same?

We all have stories, testimonies of God’s grace and faithfulness—of the power of the gospel revealed in us. That is why our testimonies have such power, so that, as we share, “others will realize that they, too, can believe in Him and receive eternal life” (1 Tim. 1:16).

As I close, I can anticipate some of you thinking, ‘But what about me? I don’t have a dramatic God story. I was never homeless, on drugs, or murderous. I grew up in a strong Christian home, was connected in church all my life. Does my story still have power?”

Absolutely. My story, and Paul’s story, give a glimpse of the darkness that comes from living out of step or apart from Christ. For me, though I belonged to Christ when I went through my rough years, I certainly wasn’t living as He desired, and my life was characterized by darkness. For Paul, he didn’t have the light of Christ at all.

Your story is probably different than mine and Paul’s, but it can still show the beauty and love and freedom that God intends, when we turn to Him, He works in us and our circumstances, and when we live with Him. Our world needs to see both, and our Savior speaks through both. And besides, our stories aren’t truly about us anyway but rather, they’re about Christ in us. When we remember that, and shift our focus off ourselves and onto Him, He overpowers our fears and insecurities with His strength.

The strength to make Him known.

Take a moment to write out your testimony, either of when you first came to Christ or perhaps when He did something significant in your life that revealed His love, grace, and mercy. Who might God be calling you to share your story with?

Before you read today’s suggested Bible passages, I wanted to provide some background information. Stephen, the man mentioned in Acts 7, was the first Christian martyr, and prior to our passage, he publicly shared the gospel and how the Old Testament pointed to Jesus.

For those participating in our 1 Timothy study, here’s today’s suggested Bible reading: Acts 7:54-60, Acts 8:1-3, and Acts 9:1-22. Pop over to our FB group to join the discussion! Our memory verse for this week is Psalm 105:1

“Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim His greatness. Let the whole world know what He has done” (Psalm 105:1, NLT).

And … before you go, I’ve got fun news! Today is Healing Love’s release day! You can check it out HERE! (I’m not sure when the print copy will go live, but it should be within a day or two.)

When We Say No–Missing Out

It’s weighed heavy on my mind and heart for over fifteen years now–the day I said no. I was working out, minding my own business, in a crowded (and slightly smelly) Southern California gym. I went often, most every afternoon, as did a middle aged, disabled gentlemen. I don’t know his story, I didn’t even know his name, but I knew this–he was incredibly unhappy. He was always frowning, as if sending clear, “Do not approach,” signals. But one day, I felt a strong desire to pray for him. The more I thought about this, prayed for an out, the stronger the desire became.

I ignored God’s prompting that day, and I’ve regretted it ever since. I thought about that moment as I read Jana Kelley, author of Door to Freedom’s post below.

MISSING OUT

by Jana Kelley

Barbed-wire fences loomed on either side of me as I inched my car through the gates. I stopped at the guardhouse to show my volunteer badge and parked in the visitor section before making my way to one of several cottages. Nerves kept me alert as I crossed the lawn and entered the lobby. I was directed to a side room.

The juvenile detention center always made me nervous. My comfort zone waited for me somewhere far outside the confines

of this facility that housed troubled teens.

Every week, I joined two other ladies who also volunteered. One was the Bible study leader and the other lady, Kathy*, and I assisted her. Six to eight girls attended every week. We met as a group for the lesson and then divided for small group discussion and other planned activities.

As I waited for the girls to enter, I glanced at the white board on the wall. It hadn’t been erased from some previous group therapy session. Red and black marker spelled out the formative years of one of the participants: gender confusion, divorce, jail, victimization. All of this scrawled on the board for anyone’s perusal. I looked into the glazed eyes of the girls who entered the room. Medication kept most of them in a fog. I smiled at them, not expecting any smiles in return.

After the lesson, our leader called me and Kathy over.

“These two young women would like to pray to receive Jesus.” She gestured toward two of the girls then looked toward Kathy. “Can you help them do that?”

This made sense, of course, as the other volunteer had more experience than me. But she looked shocked.

“No,” she said. “I can’t do that.” She looked at me with frantic eyes. “Can you do it instead of me?”

I moved to where the two girls sat and, in simple words, explained how Jesus had taken the punishment we deserved and how He would forgive our sins if we believed in Him. That night those two girls prayed, asked Jesus to save them, and became my new sisters in Christ.

As I drove past the barbed fences and back to my comfort zone, I couldn’t help but wonder: “What happened back there?”

A Bible study volunteer was afraid to pray with others asking for salvation? Wasn’t that the “golden moment” for any believer? I felt blessed by the opportunity to guide two girls into the Kingdom. But I think that blessing was meant for the other lady. Her fear immobilized her at a most crucial time.

I learned a couple of things that night:

  • First, no amount of training enables us to do the Lord’s work if we don’t also obey the Spirit when it comes time to act.
  • Second, if I don’t step up when it’s my turn, the Lord may choose to give the blessing to someone else.

That night, I received the blessing of watching two girls receive salvation. But lest I become prideful, that night is also a reminder to me. I often give in to fear … that I’ll be laughed at, that I will be rejected, that I’m not good enough to do what the Lord asks. When I focus on fear and then refuse to listen and obey, I miss out on the blessing God has for me.

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Jana Kelley is a Texan who hardly ever lives in Texas. Raised in Southeast Asia, Jana developed a love for cross-cultural living early in life. Her love for writing came soon after. Jana returned to Texas to attend East Texas Baptist University. She and her husband married a month after she graduated, and by their second anniversary, they were living in a remote African town. After 13 years living in Africa and the Middle East, Jana, her husband, and their three boys moved to Southeast Asia where they currently live. Jana is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, a blogger, a contributor to Voices of the Faithful by Beth Moore (Books 1 &2) and has written a trilogy set in Northern Sudan. The third book will release in September. Jana loves to connect with her readers. You can learn more about her at janakelley.com.

 

Door to Freedom:

“It’s rough and it’s smooth. It’s dark and it’s light. It’s a masterpiece. It’s us. Here in Sudan. We are scared of it and drawn to it. There is an open door, and there is much opposition.”

In the dusty, Islamic country of Sudan, Mia, who is raising her family in a Muslim country, has learned to boldly share her faith. Rania, the daughter of a wealthy Sudanese Arab, seeks to find the reason for her sister’s sudden disappearance. Mia holds some of the answers, but both women quickly discover they must each walk through their own doors to freedom—the freedom that only comes when you trust God’s sovereignty more than man-made security.

Part of New Hope® Publishers’ line of contemporary missional fiction, Door to Freedom, the sequel to Side by Side, opens the reader’s eyes to modern-day persecution and the life of Muslims in Sudan. Based on real-life events, Door to Freedom also reveals some of the struggles that Christians face when living under Islamic law. The reader will be inspired to pray for those who are persecuted for their faith as well as for the salvation of the persecutors.

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Let’s talk about this! When have you allowed fears or insecurities to hinder your obedience and what did you learn from this experience. OR, when have you chosen, despite your fear, to do something you felt God calling you to, and what was the result? In the example I shared at the beginning of this post, numerous fears kept me from obeying. It seemed strange to walk up to a stranger in a crowded gym and offer to pray. I worried I’d look like an idiot or that I’d offend him. But I’ve often wondered, what if the man was going through a tough time right at that moment, asking God if He cared or if He was there, and God wanted to answer those questions through me, or love that man through me?

I failed to obey. Because of my pride. Man, pride is such an ugly thing, isn’t it?

Your turn! Share your stories, examples, or perhaps words of encouragement with us in the comments below.

*Name changed for privacy purposes.

You may also enjoy:

Are You Teaching Fear or Faith

What or Whom Do You Fear

Choosing to Stay

Grow Up

We were created to live victorious, abundant, impactful lives, but so often, we allow fear to hold us back and hinder us from creating the ambassadors God designed us to be. And yet, we can live bold and brave. We can leave an eternal, life-changing mark on our world, and Wholly Loved wants to help you learn to do just that.

That’s why we’re launching the Bold and Brave conference. Stay tuned for more info, and “like” and “follow” our Facebook Page to stay on top of all our events.