Finding God Amid Our Uncertainty

bridge picture with Proverbs 2:7-8

Imagine having deep, soul-quieting peace, regardless of the circumstance. Imagine being so rooted in Christ and His will, every step on a foggy and unclear path felt certain. Imagine experiencing deep peace even in the middle of great uncertainty. I’m convinced this is where God wants to take us, and He does so, primarily, by drawing us closer to Him.

Proverbs 2:6-11 puts it this way:

For the Lord gives wisdom;
from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He holds success in store for the upright,
He is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
for He guards the course of the just
and protects the way of His faithful ones.

Then you will understand what is right and just
and fair—every good path.
10 For wisdom will enter your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
11 Discretion will protect you,
and understanding will guard you.

This passage assures us of a few things. First, while we can gain insight from a myriad of places—books, teachers, friends—all wisdom comes from one place: God. Most of us recognize this intellectually, but do we live this practically? When uncertainty arises, where do we go first? Our friend, spouse, or trusted spiritual leader, or to Christ? And what voice do we give most weight to? What’s more, what voice do we most have the courage to wait on?

That’s what I find most challenging. I’m quick to seek God’s guidance, but can lose footing in the waiting. Life can feel so urgent. I fear, if I don’t act now, I’ll miss an opportunity or the situation will implode beyond repair. But this type of thinking demonstrates I’ve lost sight of a few things, such as the fact that God is so much bigger than me, that His love is greater than my mistakes and ability to understand Him, and that He will, always, guide me toward His very best.

That’s the second assurance this passage in Proverbs provides. The Lord truly does give us wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. He’s not stingy. If His desire is that you and I remain in step with Him, will He not give us whatever we need in order to do so? But this wisdom doesn’t come from periodic and impersonal downloads as we’re frantically running about. It comes as we live in relationship with Christ. Day by day, as we read Scripture and closer to Him, He begins to transform our thinking and desires, pouring His wisdom into our hearts.

Finally, this Proverbs passage reminds us of God’s grace as He lovingly leads us toward His very best. As we wait for this transformation to occur, for truth to replace our areas of deception and wisdom our folly, we can trust this: Our God is a good, good Father who doesn’t treat us as our sins and stupid errors deserve. Instead, He gently, persistently nudges us along the way. Scripture makes two truths clear: God has a plan for us and has taken full responsibility of that plan.

Oh, we can rebel against it. We can seek out our plans over God’s, and rob ourselves of the peace, fulfillment, and joy our souls were created for.

But if we’re honestly trying to honor Christ, we can trust Him to direct our steps and protect our way. In the meantime, we keep woman on beach with text from poststepping, with our eyes on Him, maintaining a heart of surrender, prioritizing our relationship with Him above all. Knowing He’s with us, going before us, standing beside us and behind us. He encompasses us in His love, and His love, when received to the depths of our soul, truly does have the power to cast out all fear, fear of the unknown included.

Let’s talk about this! Pause to consider your journey thus far. Review where you’ve been and all the steps, some that perhaps, in hindsight proved vital, though you were unaware of their impact at the time? If you’re in a period of uncertainty now, what truths regarding who God is and what He’s promised can help you find peace? And perhaps most importantly, what is one thing you can do this week to grow closer to the God who knows you, loves you, and has an amazing, hope-filled plan for you?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

If today’s post resonated with you, I encourage you to listen to my Faith Over Fear podcast episode titled the Courage to Face Uncertainty. You can find it HERE.

If you’re in a place of waiting, I encourage you to listen to my Faith Over Fear episode titled: The courage to Wait. You can find it HERE.

Before you go, and especially for those currently navigating challenging relationships, I encourage you to watch my latest iBelieve video devotion. You can find it HERE.

For those struggling with the pain and fatigue of chronic illness, I encourage you to read my latest Crosswalk on finding joy amid chronic illness HERE.

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Blessed Obedience –– Guest Post

If God told us ahead of time, where our steps of obedience would lead, I’m certain we’d surrender to His leading. Well, assuming everything turned out as we hoped. But then, therein lies the problem, right? We know God is good, loving, faithful, and true, and we know He will ultimately work all things out for our good, if not today, then in heaven. But what if the journey He calls us to between now and then is hard quote on obedience pulled from post with a sunset backgroundand painful? Does that question ever hinder your response? It has mine. But perhaps there’s a more important question we need to ask: what if, in our disobedience, we miss something amazing and life-changing? What if we miss the very thing God created us for?

Blessed Obedience
By Martha Rogers

“You need a change!” I slammed my notebook on my desk and plopped into my chair. One more confrontation with a principal about something over which I had no control led me to this angry comment. I didn’t realize the impact those words would have on life or where they would eventually lead me.

I taught at a public high school and loved teaching, but the principal’s temperament and his behavior with another teacher troubled me. In addition, my responsibilities with school and family gave me no time to pursue my ultimate dream of being a published writer. As I prayed about the situation, God confirmed my thoughts. “Yes, you need a change.” The words were as clear as if He sat next to me.

Our church had opened a private school for students from preschool to high school, and I thought about teaching there, but it would mean a cut in pay whereas transferring to another school in the district or going to another district wouldn’t.

With more prayer for guidance, the Lord tugged on my heart and pulled me toward the private school. I still held doubts, but after more prayer, I could no longer deny the call God laid on my heart. In 1981, I obeyed, applied at the private school, was accepted, and resigned my position in the public school.

At the time, I didn’t think of it as obedience. Instead, I saw the opportunity to get out of an unpleasant non-Christian environment. I loved the new school and the people there. The teachers became good friends who were willing to help each other and pray for each other. The teenage students I taught were typical teens with all different behaviors and attitudes, but for the most part easy to teach. I even had time to begin work on a novel I had in my head and wanted to write.

A few months ago, our First Place 4 Health group began a study called, Seek God First. One of the lessons was on obedience. On one day, the writer discussed the blessings and the rewards of obedience. She asked the question, “Has there been a time in your life when you were obedient to something God spoke to about?” That question took me back to God’s direction to change schools. As I looked at my life since that spring of 1981, I began to see that if I had not followed His direction in obedience, I would have missed so much He had planned for my life.

I had the opportunity to go back to college and earn my MEd in Curriculum with an emphasis on Creative Writing. I thought seventh and ninth grade English and loved it. However, after ten years, a new headmaster came in and told me, along with a number of other teachers, that our contracts would not be renewed.

Although I was able to procure a college teaching position because of my graduate degree, I held disappointment and resentment against God in my heart for a year. During that year God brought circumstances into my life I couldn’t have handled if I’d still been teaching full time. Once again God spoke to my heart and I realized I’d been grieving the Holy Spirit while being in the exact place God needed me to be at that time.

I released my resentment and prayed for the Lord to show me what He wanted me to do and where He wanted me to go. He started me on the next part of the journey which would take me through major ups and downs until I finally reached where God wanted me to be.

While teaching at the college level, I worked on my novel, joined writing groups and attended writing woman writingconferences. I also battled breast cancer, but continued to write and teach as I went into remission. When the cancer returned, I sensed God wanted me to retire. I did and went through more treatment, and the cancer was healed.

Now I had the time to work on the novel, attend more writing conferences, and become more active in a local and national writing group. I met other wonderful authors and the woman who became my literary agent. I also had several magazine articles published, and stories selected for various compilations.

In 2009, another ten years after retirement, I received my first contract for a historical novel that led to six books in that series and two more four book series. In the next ten years I went on to publish over fifty novels and novellas.

If I hadn’t obeyed, I wouldn’t have had the time to return to school and earn my master’s degree. Without that degree, I wouldn’t have been able to teach at the college level when God took me from the private school. Then God gave me the time to work on my writing and attend conferences and to move forward.

Now, almost forty years later, I sit at my computer pounding out words in fulfillment of a dream I had as a child. God fulfilled my dream because I chose obedience to His call no matter where it led.

Let’s talk about this! Has there been a time when you went ahead with plans of your own without truly asking God what He wanted you to do? What was the result?

Why is it sometimes so hard for us to listen to what we know is right, but our hearts rebel against doing it?

Get to know Martha!

Martha Rogers is a free-lance writer and multi-published author from Realms Fiction of Charisma Media Martha Roger's Headshotand Winged Publications. She was named Writer of the Year at the Texas Christian Writers Conference in 2009. She is a member of ACFW and writes the weekly Verse of the Week for the ACFW Loop. ACFW awarded her the Volunteer of the Year in 2014. Her first electronic series from Winged Publications, Love in the Bayou City of Texas, debuted in the spring of 2015.  Martha is a frequent speaker for writing workshops and the Texas Christian Writers Conference. She is a retired teacher and lives in Houston with her husband, Rex. Their favorite pastime is spending time with their twelve grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Visit her online HERE.

Check out her latest release, Legacy of Deception:

Cover image for Legacy of DeceptionA case of mistaken identity, a long hidden family secret, a plan to take away a woman’s wealth, and a determined young woman’s plan to stop it, all lead to a family showdown when evil is uncovered and deceptions are.exposed that will change lives forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When God Speaks–Our Role

Listening to God on image of a flower

God is always speaking to His children, always guiding us toward His very best, but sometimes His voice grows faint amid the noise and confusion all around us.

Early in my parenting days, I was probably the most insecure, and often confused, mother around. I felt bombarded by advice, warnings, and contradicting tips from so-called experts. As a result, I routinely felt overwhelmed. Initially, I tried to raise our daughter in my wisdom and strength, largely because I hadn’t learned to discern God’s voice. Therefore, I gave too much weight to the faulty and often shifting “insight” of others and falsely believed I could make sense of it all.

This characterized every area of my life, actually, and in fact, had for some time. But my so-called intellect rarely brought the results I wanted, nor did I experience the peace and confidence I craved.

Granted, I did pray. Oh, how I prayed. Only I wasn’t always alert to God’s answers—in part because I rarely sat still long enough to hear Him. And when I did, though my heart initially pricked with the confidence and assurance that can only come from God, shortly after “common sense” or popular opinion overshadowed His perfect wisdom.

I often resembled a woman caught on an inflatable in the middle of the tumultuous ocean. James, Jesus’s brother, describes this scenario in James 1:5-8, and while he was speaking specifically on how we as believers ought to handle life’s difficulties, the principles he reveals apply to all of life.

James begins by encouraging us to seek God’s guidance, saying, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (NIV)

This brings me such comfort because it tells me, in effect, that God doesn’t expect me to know it all. He doesn’t expect me to have life all figured out, or even to know His will perfectly. Rather, He expects me to seek Him, and when I do, no matter the question, no matter the struggle, He responds with grace.

And yet, responsibility comes with this access and invitation, for he goes on to say in verse 6, “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt,” hold tight to what God tells you, “because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

When we doubt the very truths God Himself deposits into our souls, our thoughts become divided and disordered and we become unstable, pushed and pulled in whatever direction feels strongest or screams loudest. What an unsettling, if not terrifying, place to be!

Have you ever tried to swim or paddle in choppy water? I have, and it’s exhausting and defeating. For every stroke forward, the waves pull you two strokes back, then shove you to the right, then the left. Without a bright buoy to mark one’s course, it’s easy to get turned around completely and find yourself, hours of intense physical labor later, a long way from where you need to be.

A few years ago, our family vacationed to Hawaii. One afternoon, my daughter and I went paddle boarding in the ocean—over jagged Prayer for a listening ear on pink backgroundbalsamic rock and in waters where sharks truly do lurk. Close to the shore, I felt no danger, and so I relaxed and allowed the current to gently carry me farther out to sea. At some point, I became more alert to my surroundings and realized how far I’d drifted. The people on the beach looked so small and the water surrounding me so vast and deep!

I felt vulnerable, to say the least, and so I began hurriedly paddling back, but no matter how fast and hard I paddled against the waves, I didn’t seem to get anywhere. I only grew more tired, and certainly more frightened.

Praise God, I did indeed make it back, but that experience painted a vivid reminder of what life feels like when we’re not anchored to Christ and His truth. We’re unstable and unsettled, pinged from one philosophy or decision to the next.

Praise God there’s always grace, but life’s hard enough, y’all, without wasting time and energy heading away from our finish line and all the great things God has in store for us. We can trust Him to lead us toward His very best at every moment. But we must trust—trust that He will indeed guide us in His way and His perfect timing. And trust that His ways truly all best.

That’s not to say we’ll never experience doubt, but when we do, may we bring our questions and uncertainties to the One with all the answers. And when He speaks, we must choose to believe what He says, or soon we’ll discover we’re on treading aimlessly against life’s tumultuous waves.

What is God saying to you lately? How can you hold tight to the truths He’s already given you? How can you move forward in faith?

Share your thoughts in the comments below, and connect with me on Facebook and Instagram.

Catch my Faith Over Fear podcast HERE.

Snatch my next release, Building a Family, HERE.

And find inspirational messages from my ministry team members HERE.

Additional resources:

The Divine Dance by Jennifer Slattery

Discerning the Voice of God by Priscilla Shirer

Discerning the Voice of God Bible reading plan by Priscilla Shirer

Also, don’t forget about our online book discussion this evening at 7pm CDT! We’re working through Breaking Free from Fear by MariaBook discussion invite Furlough. Contact me HERE for more information on how you can join us.

I also invite you to join Wholly Loved‘s private online Facebook community, a safe and encouraging place to share your struggles, fears, celebrations, and prayer requests. Find us HERE. And make sure to participate in our #freedomchallenge! All participants are automatically entered into a drawing to win all THIS.

 

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

No More Leftovers: A Gift For My God by Guest Blogger Jessica Brodie

quote from Keller with woman gazing toward sunset

Our trust in God is often most clearly seen in our checkbook. Our finances are also often the hardest areas to surrender, because we’re apt tie our sense of security to our paycheck more than we do to our Lord. At least, that’s my tendency. Unless I regularly guard against this, I can easily make our savings account my god, but like so many other idols I’ve clung to at various periods in my life, those crisp little green bills make lofty but empty promises.

As I read my guest’s post last night, I thought back twenty-some years ago to all the financial struggles my husband and I used to have, all the tension and stress and conflict that seemed to plague our home, back when we bowed to the almighty dollar.

No more leftovers: A gift for my God

By Jessica Brodie

I used to be that girl who’d slip a dollar, maybe a five if I were feeling flush, into the collection plate at church and feel just fine.

“God doesn’t need my money. He’s God. He’s ‘above’ such things,” I’d tell myself. Besides, I was a broke college student, or later, just scraping by in the workforce. Tithing was an Old Testament concept, or something only wealthy people did… or so I thought.

Much later, I came to understand tithing was for me—a way to honor God, to acknowledge Him tangibly as Lord over my life, to know that everything in my life (including my bank balance!) belongs to Him and I am merely His manager, His overseer. Twice a month, I forced myself to allocate ten percent of my paycheck to God’s tithe. Soon it became a habit, and eventually a joy. Some months, when finances were tight, I’d hold off on my tithe until I’d paid all my other bills, or I’d double up and pay it all the next pay period. But it always got paid.

I was feeling proud of myself… until this morning, when I was reading the Bible.

In the Book of Nehemiah, the Israelites had recently returned from exile to Jerusalem and had just learned through the Instruction Scrolls all the ways they’d disobeyed God’s Laws. Feeling horribly guilty about their behavior, they made a covenant with God to follow His commands, include pledging not to let their children intermarry with other faiths and to keep the “sabbath year,” which meant forgiving all debts and letting the land rest from crops every seventh year.

They also pledged to give toward the upkeep of God’s house—not just with what was left over, but with their “firstfruits,” the best and initial results of whatever it was they could offer:

  • “…the firstfruits of our crops and of every fruit tree…” (Nehemiah 10:35 NIV);
  • “… the firstborn of our sons and of our cattle, of our herds and of our flocks…” (36); and
  • “… the first of our ground meal, of our grain offerings, of the fruit of all our trees and of our new wine and olive oil…” (37a).

The point hit hard within me: These Israelites pledged to bring the first, the best—not the leftover.

And that was what I needed to do, too.

Ouch.

See, the Israelites had gotten off track in obedience. Some of this wasn’t necessarily their “fault,” for their parents hadn’t taught them these things, and no one in their life remembered God’s rules because His commandments were all hidden away.

They’d forgotten or never understood what God had commanded His people way back in the wilderness: “Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God” (Exodus 23:19a NIV) and “When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest” (Leviticus 23:10 NIV).

But when they learned all those years later what God had asked of them, they wanted to do right. They wanted to honor God with their very best.

What I was doing—making sure God “got paid” His tithe—was behaving as though my tithe was a bill and not a sacrificial offering. And that was not the point. My tithe is not a bill. It’s a gift and an honor.

Just like the Israelites, I was off-track in my own obedience. And now that I understood this, I needed to make things right.

This morning, as I write this, happens to be payday. Yesterday, I’d planned to postpone my tithe until Sunday, after my fridge was restocked and my other bills paid. But now I know what I need to do.

Before anything else, I need to give over my firstfruits to God. And for me, that means heading to my church’s website and paying my tithe online, so it can go right away to all the ministries and mission work God is doing through His people and His church.

It’s a simple distinction in my life, but it’s important. It says “God comes first,” both literally and figuratively.

After that, I can hit the grocery store. For I know He will provide. He always does.

It’s an honor to kneel before my Lord, whether at His altar or online, and offer Him what I can.

Get to Know Jessica!

Jessica Brodie's headshotJessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden. She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism, and a member of the Wholly Loved Ministries team. Learn more about her fiction and read her faith blog at http://jessicabrodie.com. Connect with her on Facebook and follow her on Instagram.

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If this  post hit your insecurities, now with everything related to the C!9 virus especially, you might find my latest article on Crosswalk discussing wise financial choices we can make today to help us weather whatever comes well. Read it HERE.

And make sure to listen to my latest Faith Over Fear podcast episode on living deeper anchored in grace––especially when we feel we’ve messed up. Find it HERE.

Plus, I’d love to connect with you tonight on Zoom or Facebook for a Book discussion invitegreat discussion on Maria Furlough’s Breaking the Fear Cycle. As an added bonus, she’ll be join us via Zoom for our last week’s discussion! Find the zoom meeting join link HERE.

 

Hiding in the Shelter of God’s Wings Until the Danger Passes

 

hiding in God

What happens when life pummels us from every side, relentlessly? When the dangers seem much larger than we can bear? We hide ourselves deep within Our Father’s embrace. We hide ourselves in the shelter of His wings.

A couple Sundays ago, my daughter was in a car wreck. She called us in tears, and the minutes seemed to tick by so slowly as my husband, her fiancé, and I drove to the crash site. Though my head told me she was fine—she’d been able to call us, after all—my heart worried. I needed to see her for myself; I needed to hold her close, if only to comfort her.

When we got there, our fear immediately turned to praise. Though she’d totaled her car, she was fine. Shaken, but fine. God had sheltered her in His wings—as she had done for her dog, who was riding with her.

Apparently, her reaction was instinctual and instant. Her brain hadn’t even fully registered what was going on, but as another car smashed into her front driver’s side, she folded her body over her dog to ensure its safety. She covered sweet Misha with herself, cushioning her in the most protective position possible.

Honestly, when I first learned this, I became frustrated. I adore her little dog, but my daughter had placed herself in danger by bending forward. But then God reminded me that she wasn’t completely exposed nor was she helpless. She also had been tucked within the protective embrace of the One bigger and stronger than her and the force of metal against metal.

That same morning, this is what I’d read, written by Israel’s second king, a man named David:

“Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy! I will look to You for protection. I will hide beneath the shadow of your wings until the danger passes” (Psalm 57:1, NLT).

Pause and consider the imagery presented by this verse. Picture the wingspan of an adult eagle, stretching the length of a man. Perched high in a tree and hid deep within its mother’s wings, that eaglet can rest in peace, knowing it is safe and well cared for.

Scripture demonstrates this is how God cares for us.

Perhaps you’re praying as David did so long ago, “Hide me in Your wings, Lord. Keep me safe until the danger passes.”

To which He responds, “I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you” (Isaiah 41:13, Verse imageNIV).

So what does that look like, hiding ourselves in our Savior?

First, we trust. We recognize that this is indeed our current position. We are held by God. He is our Protector and strong tower.

Second, we come away whenever we need and as often as we need to connect with Him. When we spend time with Him, He expels all that threatens to defeat us, to make us cower, with His love and truth.

Let’s talk about this! In what ways do you intentionally hide yourself in Christ when you’re anxious or afraid?

You might also enjoy:

Five Ways Fear Lies to Us

And check out Jennifer’s latest podcast episode, Overcoming Fear of Failure, HERE.

Connect with Jennifer on Facebook and Instagram and find her ministry, Wholly Loved, HERE.

Book discussion inviteMake sure to join her on Thursday evenings, starting April 23rd, for a faith-building book discussion aimed at helping us conquer our anxieties. Contact her HERE for more info! And as an added bonus, you’ll get to “meet” the author! Maria Furlough, author of Breaking the Fear Cycle, will be joining Jennifer via Zoom, which she’ll live stream to Wholly Loved Ministries private Facebook group (which you’re invited to join) on May 14th for the last week of the book discussion. How fun is that?!

AND … indie singer/songwriter will be live streaming to Wholly Loved’s private group as well, this Friday! Find out more HERE.

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

Fear of Missing Out–Finding Faith in God’s Leading

Woman walking down dirt road

Thirteen years ago, as we packed our minivan from top to bottom to move literally across the country, I felt as if I was losing myself. I thought my dreams, which God had slowly birthed within me as I served in a close-knit Southern California church, would languish then die.

Ten years later, when one transition after another crippled an organization I wrote for, my journey once again felt unsteady. Fearful to lose something that brought such fulfillment, I began striving and stressing and fighting to control every area of my career. As a result, every opportunity left me with more confusion than clarity, more exhaustion than hope or joy.

It felt as if I was standing at a main trail head with a thousand paths extending before me trying to discern which one would lead to my desired destination. And in my inability to make a decision, to rest in my Father’s loving and faithful arms, I chose them all, or at least, as many as I could, inevitably forfeiting my joy, peace, and effectiveness.

Ironically, my fear of missing out—of that perfect opportunity or experience or role—caused me to miss out on those things that truly mattered. Eventually, everything became stressful and burdensome, like I was constantly kicking against high tide.

Defeated and discouraged, I told God I was tired of the work, of the stress, and the pressure. I told Him I wanted to quit.

He agreed, though He didn’t want me to quit writing and serving. He wanted me to quit striving. He wanted me to rest in Him. To trust that He had a plan and was big enough and strong enough and loving enough to bring that plan to pass.

He’s strong enough to perfect all that concerns me, all that concerns my loved ones, and all that concerns the women I serve.

Like Psalm 139:16 promises, “all the days ordained for me were written in [His} book before one of them came to be” Psalm 139:16 with sunrise background(NIV).

If I believe this to be true, for me and those I love, I have no reason to fear or to strive. I simply need to listen, surrender, and obey.

Whenever I begin to feel exhausted and overwhelmed, whenever I’m tempted to chase after that next shiny or exciting thing, I have to ask myself why. Because I’ve self-analyzed enough to know there’s almost always something deeper going on—some hole I’m hoping to fill, wound I’m trying to numb, or fear I’m trying to avoid.

True peace comes when I humbly pray, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24, NIV).

Search me: Penetrate to my depths, to those deepest, most hidden parts of me. Expose my self-deception and faulty perception and flood every shadowed crevice within my heart with Your truth-bearing, lie-expelling light.

Know my anxious thoughts: Reveal to me what I’m really thinking and those nagging lies that fuel distrust. Lies such as: God doesn’t care, doesn’t hear, or lacks the desire and power to lead me and those I love.

Lead me in the way everlasting: Purge everything false, everything hurtful or idolatrous, so that Your faith-bolstering truth may reign. Lead me in Your way, for only You and the things of You are eternal, and only You know how to feed and fill my heart.

Let’s talk about this. How often does fear of missing out—the fear that you or someone you love will miss out on something—drive your behavior?

For example, fear that:

  • turning down that extra project will cost you that promotion
  • not signing your child up for that traveling sports team will cost them popularity and social connections
  • declining that invitation will place you on the outskirts of your peer group
  • setting boundaries in that relationship will prevent you from getting married or having a family
  • should you prioritize financial wisdom over that vacation, the opportunity may never come again

But perhaps an even better question: Are you living like a called, empowered, and loved child of the sovereign God or like an orphan?

What is one truth you can meditate on this week to live more consistently as God’s chosen and deeply loved child and move deeper into freedom?

Additional resources:

Four Ways to Fight Fear of Missing Out by Jon Bloom

Have No Fear of Missing Out by

Countering Fear of Missing Out by Jennifer Slattery

Visit Jennifer’s Faith Over Fear page HERE for additional resources.

Let’s talk about this! Do you struggle with a fear of missing out, and if so how? How does remembering Christ is control and has a plan for you help you move from fear to faith.

Connect with Jennifer Slattery on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, join her private Faith Over Fear Facebook Group, Logo image for Faith Over Fearlisten to the first two episodes of her Faith Over Fear podcast HERE and find her free Bible reading plan HERE.

Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.comThe “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

When Anxiety Tries to Win

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When I’m feeling anxious, which is often, my husband says he’s going to “sit on me.” This isn’t some idle threat, nor a threat at all. Rather, his words convey a promise to, literally and figuratively, cover me with his strength and love, though he doesn’t actually sit. Instead, he rolls over on top of me, completely enveloping me in his much bigger and stronger self. Perhaps he’s attempting to squeeze out all my angst, or maybe, not knowing what else to do, simply wants me to know he’s there, sees my inner struggle, and that he cares.

The first time he “covered me” in his love occurred around eight years ago. It had been a tough week during which God had allowed some deep, long buried hurts from my past to resurface. In the middle of this painful, fragile time, I received a phone call that left me sobbing so hard, I couldn’t catch my breath. It was as if every hurt once suppressed suddenly rose to the surface. It’s hard to describe the intensity of my emotions except to say that it literally felt as if my heart were shredding .

And in the middle of my ugly cry, as I lay in bed, tears coursing down my cheeks, my husband came to my side and immediately rolled on top of me, squishing me in the strongest, firmest, most immovable hug I’d ever experienced. “I love you, I love you, I love you,” he said over and over. Then, after maybe the tenth time, realization hit: “That’s Jesus.”

I understood, with tear-quieting clarity, that Christ was loving me through my husband in that moment. Though this experience and the understanding that followed didn’t alleviate my pain, it did make it more bearable, because I knew I wasn’t alone. Through my husband, Jesus showed me that He saw me, loved me, was with me, and would carry me through.

When my emotions and circumstances feel out of control, I love to spend time reading through the Psalms. Many of them were written by a man named David who was hunted down for years and, at one point, forced to hide in a cave. Though proven to be a courageous warrior, many of his psalms reveal he also struggled with fear. But in the midst of his most terrifying circumstances, he never lost sight of what he knew to be true: that sovereign creator God was always with him, would never leave him, and would one day turn everything to good.

When others warned him of threats, encouraging him to flee, he responded, in essence, saying, “I trust God to protect me, so why should I run.” (Psalm 11:1) Even if a thousand dangers lurked in the shadows (Ps. 11:3), David refused to Quote pulled from post
cower, because he knew God was both intimately near (in His holy temple) and reigning from heaven (Ps. 11:4), where He could see all. Though life and David’s circumstances might have felt out of control, truth told him otherwise. He knew with unshakable certainty that the all-powerful, all-knowing God was with Him, in the middle of his greatest challenge, engulfing him in love and truth.

As David Guzik from the Enduring Word puts it, “When David considers the greatness of God, the care of God, and the vision of God, it all outweighs the danger.”

When we’re anxious, may we consider and meditate on those same unchangeable truths, and may we wrap ourselves deeply, completely, in God’s loving, protective embrace. Though this may not alleviate our anxiety, it will make it more bearable as we cling to the certainty that God will carry us through.

Let’s talk about this! Do you struggle with anxiety? If so, what are some things you’ve found to help?

If you haven’t already done so, consider joining my private Faith Over Fear Facebook group where I share daily challenges designed to help all of us move from fear to faith. You can join HERE.

I also invite you to join Wholly Loved’s private group where you can share your struggles, celebrations, doubts, and prayer requests and link arms with other women learning to anchor themselves in grace. You can find us HERE.

Additional resources you might find helpful:

Breaking the Fear Cycle by Maria Furlough

When Our World Feels Out of Control

Tracing Our Fears to Their Proclamations

Faith Over Fear Bible Reading Plan

Fear and Faith: Finding the Peace Your Heart Craves by Trillia J Newbell

 

 

 

Finding God Amid Our Fear

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Sometimes God must allow us to experience our greatest fears in order to free us from them. When it feels as if the ground beneath us will crumble to dust, we learn in a deeply personal way that “though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed” God’s unfailing love will always remain.

To put it simply, we often discover who God is in all His faithful and merciful glory, not during the tranquil periods but when we feel as if our lives have upended.

Some of you may be familiar with this story I’m about to share. I tell it often because, of all the things I’ve experienced throughout my life, this particular event led to my greatest freedom. Though at first, I felt anything but free!

At the time, I was enslaved to fear, primarily of relational loss and financial insecurity. We were living in Louisiana at the time, in a newly built, gated neighborhood and had plenty of money coming in to pay our bills and then some. My husband drove a company car, had a company pension, and managed our finances well. I had every reason to relax, but anxiety frequently won, resulting in a constant fight for control. I lived as an orphan, as if I were forced to navigate a harsh, unpredictable world all alone rather than the beloved, cherished daughter of Christ Scripture promised I was.

Had God not intervened, I’m certain I would’ve destroyed my marriage. But He did, tearing me from my highly-regulated safety plan and allowing me to land in one of my greatest fears—unemployment (my husband’s). This resulted in a three-year transitionary period where we lived off of savings for a while then moved, first to Texas then to Missouri. And with each move, God allowed falsehoods to rise to the surface so He could counter them with truth.

When I felt abandoned and unheard, He assured me He would never leave and was attentive to my every cry. When it seemed my prayers went unanswered, He reminded me that He was working out all things according to His good and loving plan, for my growth and His glory. For every fear, He gently guided me to timeless promises in Scripture, reminding me of who He was, what He’d done, and what’s yet to come. As my vision shifted off of my problems and concerns and onto my powerful, unconquerable God, my fears slowly died.

When I’m feeling frightened, I love to spend time in the psalms, which often seem to echo the cries of my heart. When it feels as if my circumstances are unjust and perhaps others have betrayed me, I know “the Lord reigns forever, executing judgment from His throne” (Ps. 9:7). When I feel exposed and helpless, I know where to turn for “the Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble” (Ps. 9:9).

“Those who know Your name,” the Psalmist says, “trust in You.”

Or to put it another way: If we truly grasp the fullness of Christ—His love, power, and attentive faithfulness toward all His children quote from post with blue and green background—we realize we have no cause for concern and every reason to trust. We can attempt to fight our fears countless ways, but nothing soothes and strengthens the heart quite like growing closer to Christ. He is the only One with the power to save. When all our attempts to control and salvage our situation fail, we discover we truly have all we need in Him. He alone stands firm, immovable, at our side, and He always will.

Let’s talk about this! What characteristics of Christ do you find most comforting when you’re afraid? How do those characteristics speak to your current fear? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments.

For those of you waiting for the Faith Over Fear Podcast, Salem’s target release date is mid to late month. I’ll keep you posted if this changes.

My correlating Bible reading plan is currently available. You can find it HERE.

Connect with Jennifer Slattery on Facebook and Instagram and contact her HERE to book her for your next women’s event.

Find her latest articles on ibelieve:

3 Commonly Quotes Bible Contradictions And How to Explain Their Truths to Agnostics

A Prayer of Hope for a Broken Home

What Would Jesus Say About the Church Today

Watch some of Jennifer’s Faith Over Fear video devotions:

Fighting Fear by Living Loved

How Anxiety Dulls Our Spiritual Hearing

 

 

Other people’s sin, our lives, and God’s Sovereignty

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Where does man’s choice, most specifically, man’s sin, and God’s sovereignty, intersect? I suspect we’ve all wrestled with that question at some point. We understand that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, faithful, and true. We believe the One who formed the stars from nothing and set our world into motion can easily orchestrate the details of our lives.

But what about human choice? What about when our boss makes a foolish decision and the company goes bankrupt, or one person’s sin drastically impacts the life of another? We all watch the news, and if we’re honest, we wonder, Lord, where were You when that parent began abusing that child, or that shooter purchased that gun, or that drunk driver got behind the wheel of his car?

Though admittedly, the answers to such questions are much more complicated than my temporal, short-sighted mind quote pulled from text with sunset backgroundcould ever understand, I’m comforted with this: Today isn’t the end, and one day God will indeed turn all things to good.

Scripture reveals this again and again. Consider Sarai, later called Sarah, Abraham’s wife. Her story is told in Genesis chapters 12-23. God called her and her husband out of a pagan city-state and led them to what scholars refer to as the Promised Land. They followed,  obediently it seemed, until Abraham became scared—twice—and betrayed his wife—twice. She soon found herself in a helpless, terrifying situation.

But God came through. He saw her, He rescued her, and He ultimately penned a beautiful story through her.

Then there was the young Hebrew named Joseph, born three generations later. God called him out from among his brothers for an amazing God-ordained purpose—the saving of many lives. Only shortly after that call, the immature teen bragged about a series of dreams God gave him. His siblings became enraged, beat him, and sold him into slavery. And that wasn’t the worst he experienced. Later, while serving faithfully in a foreign land, his master’s wife hit on him, numerous times. Driven by integrity, he rebuffed her. She became incensed, accused him of assault, and had him thrown into prison.

But again, God came through. Not immediately, not even quickly, but in His perfect timing. At just the right time, actually. He orchestrated Joseph’s release and placed him in a position of leadership, just as Joseph’s dreams had predicted, decade’s prior.

I could go on, and perhaps you could too. Maybe like me, you could even share examples from your life—of times when others attempted to harm you but God ultimately turned the situation to good, like Romans 8:28 promised. That verse states, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (NIV)

Notice Scripture didn’t say, “God will only allow that which is good.” Rather, it says, “He will turn to good …”

In other words, yes, God may very well let us experience some of our worst fears. But when we do, we can trust that those terrifying moments won’t last forever and that God will one day use them for good.

Quote pulled from post with sunrise backgroundThat is where our confidence rests—not in the circumstances of today but rather the promises of tomorrow when God will make all things right. This means we can trust, though life might hurt now, heaven is coming, and I believe when we’re standing on the other side of eternity, experiencing life as God intended it, we’ll deem every momentary struggle endured today not only worth it but insignificant in comparison to the paradise God held secure for us.

Let’s talk about this! Where do you place your confidence? Do you trust that God indeed holds your tomorrow? And if so, how does that trust impact your today? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

Also, I realized a bit ago, I never gave a “deadline” for the book bundle giveaway! I will close the contest to new entries pictures of bookson Nov. 16th. Y’all can “vote” on your favorite entry between from Nov. 21st through Nov. 30th. I’ll announce the winner the first week of December–that way whomever wins can use the books as Christmas gifts, should they choose.

For more information or to enter, go HERE.

And if you haven’t done so, make sure to check out Wholly Loved’s latest Bible reading plan, 20 Days of Relational Health! You can find it HERE.

Our hearts crave deep, lasting connections–to know we are loved and belong. This Bible reading plan will help you Image for Wholly Loved's Relational Health Bible Reading Plangrow in your relationships as you learn to love others well, speak and live in truth, and set the healthy boundaries that will allow your relationships to thrive.

Connect with Jennifer Slattery on Facebook and Instragram. Check out her blog on Crosswalk HERE.

When Hard Times Cause You To Question Your Faith — Guest Post

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Everyone has moments of doubts. Some of us have years and even decades of wrestling with deep truths and what we’ve learned about God. But as I often say, doubts don’t so much cause the cracks in our faith as they reveal them. They show us false beliefs, misconceptions, and lightly held truths. In other words, our doubts, when presented honestly to God, when we seek Him and His answers, can pave the way to certainty. Read more from my guest today, Marla Bautista, to see what I mean.

When Hard Times Cause You to Doubt Your Faith

By Marla Bautista

I’ve doubted God, a lot. When my life was at its lowest, I had nothing. I was homeless, broke, and without support from family or friends. I didn’t understand why God allowed me to suffer and wouldn’t alleviate my pain. I was sure He’d left me alone in the world. I spent many nights on the streets, searching for who I was supposed to be, for hope, and ultimately, for peace. I stopped going to church and reading my Bible because I felt abandoned.

Have you ever felt this way?

Yet God promises to remain with us, to help us, and to strengthen us. Isaiah 41:10 reads,: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (ESV).

My life hasn’t been easy. Both my parents passed away before I turned ten years old. I was left with an abusive stepfather. I experienced sexual, emotional, and mental abuse throughout my childhood. I ran away from home many times. Taking my younger brother and sister, I sought refuge from someone, somewhere, to no avail. At the age of 18, I became homeless. I was confused, alone, and scared. I constantly asked myself what I did to deserve the life I received. When I went to church, I was prayed over and ministered to, but I left; homeless, still hungry, and still hurting.

While on the streets, I saw and did things that were far from God’s desire. I was lost. I attempted to restore myself. I struggled. Some days, I didn’t have a place to sleep, others, I slept in a jail cell. Many nights I cried out to God, begging for forgiveness, safety from harm, and most of all, mercy. But I lacked faith that God truly cared for me or wanted to restore me.

Over time, I fell into despair. I no longer believed God heard my prayers. Yet, along my journey, there were signs that He did. I was walking down a street one day, hungry, and in tears. I prayed, “God please, I’m hungry. If You can hear me please help me.” As I walked hopelessly for miles, I felt defeated. Later that day, something told me to reach into my pocket. I did and pulled out two dollars. Initially, I felt scared. I’d had those Jeans on for three days. If there was any money in the pockets, I would have known. Jesus, thank You, I said as tears rolled down my cheeks.

In that moment, God began to restore some of my trust in Him.

Having doubt doesn’t mean you don’t believe in God. It means you’re uncertain about your faith. When things occur that we don’t understand, we question them. Our faith is no exception. If you’re in a period of spiritual wrestling, take it as an invitation to get to know God through Scripture.

Throughout the Bible, it speaks about the restoration of faith through prayer, fasting, and obedience. God invites us to seek Him, then to hold tight to His response when He gives it. James 1:6 reads:

“But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by Wind-tossed waves and text from James 1:6the wind” (NIV).

I saw this truth played out in my life.

God revealed that He was always with me. He kept a hedge of protection over my life, even in the worst of times. I’m here today only because of His love. He continues to restore me and has equipped me to use my testimony to prove his undying love, and unfathomable mercy toward His children. He will do the same for you.

Are you experiencing a season of doubt? If so, I challenge you to submerge yourself in prayer for seven days. Ask God to reveal Himself and His purpose for you. Study Scripture, take your doubts to God in prayer, and most importantly, obey what He reveals when you read the Bible.

Let’s talk about this! Can you share a time when God met you in the middle of your doubts? What are some ways God has shown Himself real to you? Or maybe you’re struggling right now. What do you most need to hear from God?

Get to know Marla!

Marla Bautista a Military Spouse and mother of three children. She is also the published author of My Thoughts Abandoned, released in 2017. As a freelance writer and blogger, she has written for many publications. Her passion is giving back to people in need. Marla is the Founder of The Bautista Project, a custom décor and apparel company, which uses its profits to provide for homeless communities. The Bautista Project has provided food and basic living essentials to hundreds of people in need.

Visit her online at her website, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on Instagram.

If you’re going through a difficult time, especially if you’re in a period of waiting, you may find this video, taken from the Becoming His Princess Study, helpful.

I also invite you to check out Wholly Loved’s Bible app, 30-Days to Emotional Health, available on YouVersion. Find it HERE. And make sure to join our online community by clicking the button below. Oh, and almost forgot: Only five days to release day! Keep an eye out for my next novel, Hometown Healing, releasing in Walmarts and B&Ns near you on the 20th! Woot!

 

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