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

 

 

 

Sharing God’s Love in the Face of Fear

verse image of 1 John 4:18

Fear is a destructive, enslaving emotion that, when fed, pushes us farther from the life God desires for us. The more we give in to it, the uglier and more selfish our behavior becomes until we bear little resemblance to our generous and loving Savior Jesus Christ.

We all remember the Great Recession of 2008 that leveled countless Americans. Banks collapsed, over 2.6 million lost their jobs, and almost four million saw their homes in foreclosure.

We were living in Kansas City at the time, and though our neighborhood hadn’t been hit as hard as those in Los Angeles, Detroit, or Orlando, the devastation was obvious. Piles of furniture and other belongings littered the sidewalks and red foreclosure or for sale by auction signs stood in numerous lawns—evidence of loss, financial ruin, and deeply hurting families.

Fear dominated. People worried the economy might never bounce back and began to fill their pantries and basements with canned foods and dry goods. Anxiety and survivalism rose dramatically while charitable giving plummeted—at a time when millions of Americans desperately needed aid.

Maybe you were one of those desperate Americans, or maybe you joined in the stockpile craze.

As we’ve seen again and again, chaos and need can trigger fear, and fear can lead to hoarding and selfishness. To apathy and isolation.

But fear can also be a catalyst to faith—an emotion that drives us not to ourselves but to our God as we seek His wisdom and power in our most chaotic situations. When we do that, what a testimony to grace we provide!

This was precisely what the ancient world witnessed in a group of beaten down and oppressed new believers living in Thessalonica. While experiencing “severe suffering” that scholars believe included economic persecution and property seizures, they excelled in faith (1 Thess. 1:7), in their evangelistic efforts (1 Thess. 1:8), and in generosity (2 Cor. 8:2). So much so that Paul used them as an example of faithfulness in his letter to the Corinthians:

“In the midst of a very severe trial,” Paul said, “their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing this service to the Lord’s people” (2 Cor. 8:2-4, NIV, emphasis mine).

Despite their “persecutions and hardships” (2 Thess. 1:4), they gave above and beyond, from a human perspective, what they were able.

What a statement this must have made to the watching world! It’s one thing to tell others about Jesus our Provider; it’s another matter to live as though He is. People might ignore our proclamations of God’s power and sovereignty, but when we behave as though we believe our words are true—that’s when questions arise, curiosity is stirred, and God-willing, our faith becomes contagious.

Sadly, there are times when I resemble the 2008 survivalists more than those world-changing ancient Christians. When that happens, it’s usually because I’ve lost focus. Somewhere between my struggle and my reactions, I forget my role and what’s at stake—that this world won’t last forever, and once their time on earth ends, my friends and neighbors will spend eternity in one of two places—experiencing the joy of God’s presence in heaven or forever separated from Him in the darkness of hell.

When I remember that, my desire to self-protect and sock-pile fade as God’s love for His broken and sin-ravished world take hold.

Let’s talk about this! When you feel afraid, does your fear normally drive you to Jesus? How might focusing on Him, His heart for you and the world, and the gospel, change your response in the middle of your greatest chaos? Share your examples, stories, and victories with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

If you struggle with fear (like, I believe, most of us do), I encourage you to come to our next Wholly Loved Bold and Brave event, hosted by Calvary Community Church in Lincoln. You can find out more and register HERE. (Or, contact me HERE to host your own Bold and Brave event.)

Before you go, make sure to sign up for Jennifer’s free quarterly newsletter (HERE)!

You’ll receive great content sent directly to your inbox (a short story, devotion, recipe, and more) cover image for study based on 1 Timothyalong with a free, 36-lesson study (ebook) based on 1 Timothy (sent separately via a clickable link in the follow-up welcome letter). Note: If you signed up for her newsletter but never received your free ebook, please contact me HERE.

Want Jennifer or one of her team members to come speak at your next women’s event? Contact her HERE. 

 

How an OCD Christian Grabs Hold of Peace

woman lying in bed

Image by MMPR on Unsplash

My obsessive, OCD mind tends to latch on to the frightening, the hard, the disappointing. The offensive or unkind. And the more I fuel negative thinking, the more miserable, anxious, and insecure I become.

How can I have the peace of God if I’m constantly stressing over what ifs or rehashing old hurts?

The night before He was to die, knowing the grief and terror His disciples would soon experience, Jesus gathered them together and made some horrific predictions:

I’m going to leave you.

The world’s going to hate you.

You’ll be imprisoned and expelled from your faith community.

In man’s misguided zeal for God, they’ll seek to execute you.

And perhaps the most difficult to hear of all: In your darkest hour, All of you will abandon Me.

But sandwiched in the middle of this frightful news, He said, in essence, “I’m leaving you with a gift—verse image John 14:27peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give you is a gift the world cannot give.” His next statement must have felt incredibly frustrating: “So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

As if it were that easy. As if one could simply decide, once and for all, to squelch their anxiety regarding a situation, and viola, all is well and joy follows.

My husband’s made countless similar statements:

Relax, Jen.

Let it go.

Chill.

If you’re female, you know precisely how effective such suggestions can be. And yet, Jesus isn’t my husband. He’s my Creator, my Savior, my Lord, so when He tells His followers, which includes us, to do something, we’d be wise to listen. He wasn’t the type to offer empty platitudes.

So was he speaking to men, then? When a man’s worried about something, they simply grab the remote, plop on the couch, and lose themselves in the football game, all concerns forgotten.

When we women grow concerned about something, watch out.

But … it doesn’t have to be that way. We don’t have to live enslaved to fear.

In Christ, we have everything we need to live—and think—victoriously, in a way that reveals His power within us. But that doesn’t mean it won’t take determined effort and practice as we learn to toss out negative thinking, whatever its root, and fix our thoughts on those things that are good, true, admirable, and worthy of respect.

I’ve found I can’t do both. I can’t simultaneously obsess on the hard or the frightening and the truths of Scripture. At each moment, we’re entertaining one or the other. The challenge, then, is to do all we can, intentionally, to starve one type of thinking while feeding the other until our thoughts consistently mirror Christ’s.

That, my friends, is when we begin to experience the peace that surpasses all understanding.

In the middle of our most anxious moments, we can stop whatever we’re doing to:

  • I’ve found it especially to praise God for all His attributes. “Lord, You’re all powerful, all loving, all knowing. You’re faithful and attentive.”
  • There’s something about praise music that stills my heart and calms my soul.
  • Recite truth. There’s power in God’s word. In fact, of all the spiritual weapons listed in Ephesians 6:10-18, Scripture is our only offensive weapon. All the other weapons are defensive.
  • Engage in something positive. Though my brain isn’t easy to distract, finding something active to do, like vacuuming, going for a walk, or purging the coat closet helps.

Let’s talk about this! When anxiety or fear hits, do you tend to obsess over that thing or turn to God? What are some tools you’ve found that help you move from fear to faith? Do you have any favorite Scriptures you rely on? Share your thoughts, examples, and suggestions with us in the comments below, because this is an area we all can grow stronger in!

I also encourage you to engage with Wholly Loved’s Facebook page as we’ve been talking about ways to break free from fear. And make sure to check out one of our upcoming Bold and Brave conferences where you’ll learn how to break free from the shackles of fear to live in freedom. Find out more HERE.

And before you go, make sure to sign up for my free quarterly newsletter to receive short stories, recipes, devotions, and more! You can sign up HERE.

Using Truth to Expel Fear

verse image Isaiah

We can cower to fear or stand firm on God’s truth.

I met today’s guest about a month ago at a writing conference, and we connected relatively quickly. Working on final edits for Dancing in the Rain, a novel with a blind main character attempting to navigate her way to independence (and being a woman, as grown as I am, who’s afraid of the dark, uncertainty, and change), I had recently begun to see my world differently, as the sight-impaired might. And I marveled at the strength one like Loni and Jena Fellers must have to not only survive in this busy, chaotic, rapid-paced world, but thrive and fully live for Jesus, no matter the challenges.

So, I asked Jena, a woman who’s done just that, if she’d share her thoughts on fear. I know you’ll be as encouraged as I was.

But first, I need to share a new law or requirement bloggers have encountered–one I’m still attempting to figure out. I imagine this is to counter spamming and intended to protect all of you. You can read more HERE, but if I understand correctly, I need to send all my subscribers a message re-inviting them to subscribe and letting them know precisely how their information will be used. (In other words, that by subscribing to my blog, you will receive blog posts–and your info will not be used for anything else.) My brain is still trying to process it all, but apparently, I must be in full compliance within 3 days. Prayers appreciated!

Now for today’s inspirational message:

How Truth Expels Fear

by Jena Fellers

“Mommy, there’s a monster in my closet!”

Fear seizes us at a young age. It first invaded mankind in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command  by eating fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. Their eyes were opened to good and, evil. . .raising a new awareness. Afraid of God, they hid. (Genesis 3)

Ever since, the devil has put many fears in man’s mind:

* loneliness and abandonment
* spiders, snakes, and mice
* darkness
* accidents,  and natural disasters
* failure, or success
* death, or losses
* inadequacies

Fears will come, but God gave us a tool to defeat it–His Word. With Scripture, fear can flee as fast as lightening bolts strike.

God’s Word worked for me back in college. I suffered from night blindness and tunnel vision, courtesy of Retinitis Pigmentosa. Knowing His protective power from reading the Bible comforted me. I could stroll alone after night classes without fearing muggers, sexual predators, or stray animals.

The funny thing is, nothing scared me, but it’s close relative, worry, consumed me. I felt anxious about:
* passing tests
* hiring assistants
* money
* accessibility  to courses
* housing

I learned worry is the opposite of faith and didn’t want to disappoint my Heavenly Father by not trusting Him. Proverbs 3 :5 tells us to trust in the Lord and lean not on our own understanding.Image of man reading his Bible

Phil. 4:6 boldly states “Do not be anxious in anything…” In other words, we shouldn’t worry or be afraid. Those emotions steal God’s peace.

Years later, after losing all sight, I put this concept of trusting deeply in God and His Word into practice. On a Sunday evening, a storm blew in from nowhere.

The sunlight peered through our country home  windows as the television announced a severe thunderstorm warning. My pastor husband chose to hold evening services since it should miss us.

Hail soon pounded our van. On the ride (over the phone), I attempted to calm family members who were afraid it was a tornado; not a thunderstorm. I was oblivious a rope-like tornado had started playing chicken with our van.

Realization dawned as Steve whipped in our church parking lot, told our daughter to run inside, grabbed me, and promptly laid me down next to the external wall. We prayed as his body covered mine, and the tornado struck the opposite side, spraying debris all around us.

I was amazed at the overwhelming peace I felt, especially learning the reason we stayed outside was because the wind had hurled a board directly at my head.

When praying, I focused on asking God for help, and peace. I concentrated on placing my complete verse image for 2 Tim 1:7trust in Him, regardless of the outcome. Trust is faith. It also helped knowing fear doesn’t come from God, but from satan. “For God gave us a  spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7, ESV).

We don’t have to live enslaved to fearful thinking. According to Romans 12:2, we can renew our mind, and Phil. 4:8 tells us how.

Next time fear’s symptoms arise (nausea, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, sweating, anger, or light-headedness), choose to stand on the truth of God’s Word. If you’re stubborn like me, then ask yourself whose report will you believe? You’re either believing a lie or God’s truth. Will you believe the lie trapped in your mind, or God’s Word?

We have the power to take every fearful thought captive, lock it up, and throw away the key. The choice is ours.

Let’s talk about this! What fears haunt you, and how do you fight it? What other verses are helpful

Get to Know Jena!

Jena Fellers walks by faith; not by sight. . . physically, and spiritually. Three adult children and four Author photo of Jena Fellersgrandchildren fill her with joy. Serving alongside her husband, they have pastored Trinity Worship
Center in Baxter Springs, Kansas for twenty years. Having little to no vision hasn’t stopped her. They founded Word in Action Ministries in 2009. It rebuilds lives through feeding and more.. This year marks their millionth meal served – all without knowing where money, or  help, would come. God truly provides.

Jena plays her flute on the praise and worship team, and teaches Children’s  Church and Sunday school. Thanks to an affordable screen reader, Jena now pursues writing. She loves to  excite, educate, and encourage others to follow Christ a little closer through speaking and blogging. Her first book, “Faith Footprints” is underway.

Visit her website HERE, follow her on Facebook HERE, and check out her ministry (cofounded) HERE.

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For those who are local, make sure to join us for Wholly Loved’s next Bold and Brave Conference on June 23rd in Lincoln, Nebraska. You can find out more and register HERE.

Before you go, if you haven’t signed up for my quarterly newsletter, I encourage you to do so.

Subscribers image of cover for study based on 1 Timothyreceive great content, like a short story, devotion, recipe, and more, sent directly to their inbox, and a thank you gift–a free 36-lesson study based on 1 Timothy (ebook, sent separately). You can sign up HERE.

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I also encourage you to sign up for Wholly Loved’s free quarterly newsletter, releasing at the end of this month.You can do that HERE 

Speaking of freedom, I also invite you to read my latest Crosswalk article on 10 prayers that can help transform your finances. You can read it HERE.

I also invite you to visit Wholly Loved’s website to read about those fears that creep up on us and how we can fight them. You can do that HERE.