When Fear Paralyzes Your Faith

 

SoughtTheLord

I crawled into bed and slipped under a blanket of fear. My husband was out of town for work, and I was afraid to go to sleep. Fear had become a constant companion during his nights away.

I knew I needed to trust God, but I didn’t.

Instead, I went through the motions of what good Christians do: I prayed, read Scripture and taped Bible verses on sticky notes to my lamp and bedside. But then I also put a phone under my pillow and a neighborhood directory beside my bed.

The next night, I took it a step further by putting toys on the stairs — to trip possible burglars. I brought my children into my room to sleep there as well, and moved the dresser in front of our bedroom door.

Although I thought I was controlling my circumstances, fear had taken control of me. Frustrated that I still couldn’t sleep, I opened the Bible and read a familiar passage:

“‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze’” (Isaiah 43:1b-2).

As I read each word slowly, God showed me something I’d never seen: My fears were like flames and my efforts to protect myself were like gasoline. Every attempt to ease my fears was like dousing fuel on the fire, and now it was consuming me.

Gently, the Holy Spirit reminded me that God had not given me a spirit of fear but a spirit “of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7b, NKJV).

Suddenly I knew the only way to overcome my fear was to walk in faith through what I feared the most. I had to put away the props in which I’d placed my faith and go to bed trusting God, realizing that even if my fears came true, He would be with me.

I crawled out of bed and put everything away. The dresser went back in place. My kids went back to their rooms and I went to sleep without my phone under my pillow. And that night, I slept better than I had in weeks!

Fear loses its power when we actively trust God more than what we fear. {Tweet}

Let’s ask the Lord to show us today what we’re afraid. What could be paralyzing your faith, and keeping you from living confidently in His peace and freedom? And let’s be brave enough to give God a chance to come though for us by taking one small step of faith in that area where we’re most afraid.

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Welcome Encouragement  for Today friends! I’m so glad you stopped by after reading my Proverbs 31 devotion.

ENTER TO WIN
What small step of faith could you take to walk away from or through one of your fears today? 

Share your thoughts below and ENTER TO WIN the audio version of A Confident HeartChristianAudio invited me to do the reading, so you’ll actually hear me telling the stories and sharing the teachings when you listen to it. And I’m so excited to give one to two of you that enter to win!

 

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The Day I Lost It

Conviction

Sometimes I wonder how I can go from being in such great place with God — feeling peaceful, patient, and kind – and all of a sudden something happens that sends me into an orbit of aggravation!

The other day I was working from home. Alone. The house was quiet, and I was feeling all kinds of productive. That afternoon marked the final stretch of a big project, and I was looking forward to family dinner and game night. Life was peachy.

Then my kids got home from Grandma’s, and one of them did something that was not-so-peachy!A few minutes later, another one did not do something I asked him to do.

And, I lost all my peace and patience right there in the middle of my kitchen.

Later that night, the soundtrack of my words replayed in my head as guilt tried to convince me I had permanently damaged my kids’ emotional well-being. Then shame shook its finger in my face and told me I was the worst mom on earth.

I was about to agree with both of them when I remembered something a pastor once taught about the difference between conviction and condemnation.

He explained that condemnation sweeps across our thoughts with generalized statements: You’re such a failure. You’re so hypocritical. You can never be counted on!

That is the accuser. His tone is condemning, questioning, and confusing. His accusations lead to guilt and shame.

In contrast, the Holy Spirit’s conviction will be specific….

CLICK HERE to read the rest of today’s post on the (in)Courage blog, where I’m sharing how we can know the difference between conviction and condemnation. I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

You Are Not Alone

I don’t know what you’re going through this week,
but I’m wondering if maybe you’re feeling a little beaten up by life?

Maybe you’ve gotten through a storm or two, yet as soon as you could dry off and breathe again, another one hits.

Deep disappointment, physical pain, broken relationships and
fractured hopes can take a toll on us, can’t they?

I don’t have all the answers, but I do know this:
You are NOT alone.

I’m right in the middle of overwhelmingly HARD with you.
Facing non-stop “impossible” circumstances, physical pain and heart-hurts that
are taking more time to heal than I feel like I have.

And maybe like me, you just need to know that you’re normal.
That crazy-hard stuff isn’t an indication that something is wrong with you.
Hard circumstances and hurts aren’t signs that we’re forgotten by God or
disqualified from His promise of protection. 

I guess I just want to tell you what I’ve needed to hear:
DON’T GIVE UP! No matter what, don’t let go of hope.
Don’t stop believing that God is a Redeemer, a Healer, a Restorer and
that nothing is too difficult for Him. 

Maybe we could pray these words together???

Jesus please use the hard circumstances in my life to make me stronger and
let my hurts draw me closer to You. Amen.

HardCircumstances


Ebook Sales ends tomorrow, July 30th!!

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Only Jesus

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Only Jesus

Sometimes I wonder if God gave us a longing for unconditional love
because He knew it could lead us back to Him?

Throughout high school and college, I struggled with an aching emptiness that eventually led to depression. I remember there was one afternoon I was thinking about my life, wondering why I felt so empty.

“I thought about my dreams of marrying my high school sweetheart. Dreams that crumbled because I expected him to be everything I needed and wanted.

I thought about my professors and friends whose approval I so desperately wanted.

I thought about how hard I’d worked to graduate with honors to prove my worth, and wondered why none of it was enough.

Then, all of the sudden, I sensed God whisper to my heart a thought I’d never had:

“All you’ve ever wanted is unconditional love, but you’ll never find the love you need in anyone but Me!”

All my life I’d been looking, and HE was there the whole time. Waiting for me to receive His unfailing and always-filling love.

A love I had looked and longed for; a love I couldn’t find in anyone or anything but Him.” from Chapter 6, A Confident Heart 

Only Jesus offers the unfailing and always-filling love we long for. 

CLICK TO TWEET? Only Jesus offers the unfailing and always-filling love we long for! @ReneeSwope ‪#AConfidentHeartBook http://ctt.ec/htmR5+

I’m Breaking Up With Perfect

Have you ever been in a relationship you knew was bad but didn’t know how to end it? Whether it is a friend who betrayed us, a boyfriend who ignored us, or a coworker who undermined us, unhealthy relationships are bad for the soul. But there is one relationship that steals potential from all of our ther relationships—including our relationship with ourselves and our relationship with God. It’s our relationship with Perfect.

Perfect is a bad friend. No matter what we do or say or give or take or create…it’s never enough. Perfect always demands more, but it’s never satisfied. Never.

My friend Amy Carroll has written a new book I just love!! And she’s on a mission to help us all break up once and for all with our unfaithful friend: Perfection! And today she stopped by to share her heart and her book with us on my blog – plus she’s giving away a copy too

AmyC“As I rummaged through the damaged store, I hurried toward a colorful decoration that caught my eye. A hurricane had ravaged the seaside store’s merchandise, but there were a few treasures left.

My prize that day was a papier-mâché figure of Santa Clause directing a band of animal musicians. Since my husband was a band director, seeing Jolly Old Saint Nick with his conductor’s baton poised made my heart sing even though it was a balmy North Carolina summer outside.

I carefully carried the figurines to the cash register and made them mine.

Nearly skipping with joy down the sidewalk, suddenly I tripped and dropped my fragile treasures. My face fell with dismay as I peeked inside the bag only to see pieces of Santa and his friends lying jagged and free-floating at the bottom.

When I got home, I gently removed the pieces and lay them out on a table. One by one, I drew a thin line of glue on the narrow edges and began to put them back together.

The results weren’t altogether terrible.

Santa’s pedestal is webbed with cracks and the beaver is missing a leg, but unless guests get too close, they’ll never know the trauma Kris Kringle endured. He’s broken but still beautiful, and a smile stretches across my face each Christmas as I unpack him from his protective box.

Why do I struggle to believe that others could see me the same way?

All of us have a level of brokenness from our own sin nature or from sin leveled against us. We all have cracks of insecurity, shards of sin, and flaws of failure, but for most of my life I’ve wanted to hide mine. I’ve wanted to glaze over my brokenness with a façade of perfection.

If I had found only a perfect Santa acceptable, I would have either tossed him after his fall, or I would have hidden him away in the box with the other outdated, worn-out ornaments.

That’s ok with an object, but we’d never do that to an imperfect person. We’re all in the same boat! So why are we afraid others will do it to us? That maybe God will too?

So we keep others at arm’s length, never allowing anyone to get too close, or we hide behind our walls of shame or false perfection. We try to earn acceptance and love with our just-right words and our thought-out actions, feeling more and more lonely all the time, when in truth…

Authenticity is the antidote for isolation.

Jesus doesn’t despise us in our brokenness, tossing us away or hiding the fact that He loves us. He gently takes our pieces and glues them back together with His grace, compassion, and forgiveness. If we’ll only lay down our masks of perfection and surrender to His perfecting work, Jesus lovingly sets us out for the world to see and claims us as His own.

I’ve been on a journey to break up with perfect, and I’m finding my relationships with others are deeper than ever when I’m real about my flaws. In the process, I’m able to point to Jesus as the Perfect One, our ultimate hero, and I’m resting in the lavish love I’m finding in Him.” ~ Amy Carroll, from her new boo: “Breaking Up With Perfect”

BUWP-CoverENTER TO WIN
To celebrate the release of her new book “Breaking Up with Perfect” Amy Carroll is giving a copy away!

ARE YOU READY to BREAK UP with PERFECT? If so, leave a comment below this post where entries will be gathered and a winner will be chosen. Please CLICK HERE if you’re reading via email. All comments must be shared on my blog to be entered. THANKS!!

 

Finding Spiritual Whitespace {guest post & book giveaway}

SWSpaceBanner

Do you ever wish you could just slow down and discover who you’d be if your life wasn’t filled with so much rush? 

The other day my friend told me she felt lost: lost in the hurry of carpool and kids, deadlines and dirty laundry… and she was tired, and I shared with her some things I’ve been learning through my friend Bonne Gray’s beautiful book Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest.

In, Bonnie shares how “underneath all of the stress and expectations we put on ourselves, and the ones that others put on us, our souls long for space to breathe.” Bonnie calls it “soul rest: a place where we can rest, not in what we could be or what we should be, but just as we are. Jesus invites us to come to Him when we’re struggling and carrying heavy loads, so He can give us rest.”

bonnie-grayToday I’ve invited, Bonnie to share a peek into her heart and inside the pages of her beautiful book, Finding Spiritual Whitespace.

“I once felt lost and tired.

Even though no one could tell.  By looking at my life from the outside.

But, deep inside, in my secret heart of hearts, I’ve always wanted something I could never quite keep a hold of — not long enough to make it my everyday home.  For my soul and for the me that wanted to be free.

I’ve always wanted to know who I really could be — if I was free to rest.

Do you ever wish life could be different? That somehow you could just rest?

Underneath all the stress, the expectations we put on ourselves and the ones others put on us, we all long for space.

Space to breathe.

Space to just be me.

Where we can be real.

To take care of our hearts, with the grace and kindness we often pour out to others.

LongToBreathe_SpiritualWhitespace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


We don’t want to be numb anymore.

Just doing.  Coping.  Surviving.

All the while, there is a part of us that longs to come alive.

The part of us who longs for beauty, even though the daily road feels rough.  Or even broken.

The part of us who remembers what it’s like to have desires is hungering for quiet. For rest.

Who wants to feel more intimately connected with God.

To our dreams.

To our stories.

To who we really are deep inside.

Who doesn’t want to hide.

Who longs to be known.

With others.

A Deeper Part

There’s a deeper part of us who longs to uncover the stories we’re living in our everyday lives — hidden — so that they can be shared.

We don’t want to journey alone.

We don’t have to.

What we all long for is deeper rest.

Refreshment.

Comfort.

Real conversation.

Encouragement.

Peace.

Beauty.

As is.

What we all long for is soul rest.

Soul rest is a kind of rest we can savor — not as we should be. Nor as we ought to be.

We can enjoy rest for our souls — as we are.

This ache for soul rest is something Jesus longs to touch.

It is an ache that Jesus himself must have also felt as He journeyed in-the-the-skin through the realities of daily life.

Jesus invites us to experience this rest — by offering us an invitation.

If we dare to take the journey.

“Are you tired? Worn out?

Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.

For I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Jesus’s invitation, Matthew 11:28-30

Will you dare to rest? Will you d
are to be real?

To whisper —

I am tired.

But, I still carry dreams. Desires. A story.

I want to be happy.

I miss the quiet.

I want to feel.

I want to let go of who I’ve been — so I can discover who I can be — when I take the time to rest.

I want to be present.

I want to love. And be loved.

You'reWorthIt_SpiritualWhitespace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus invites us on a new journey.

To pause.

To draw close.

To come into an intimate special space.

The rest we all long for really can be found.

Dare to take a new journey.

Create space in your life.

Feed your soul.

So you can care for what’s tender.

Because behind your most tired moments lie the deepest parts of who God made you — longing to be known and restored.

You’re loved.

You’re cherished.

You’re worth it.

The real you.

If you dared to rest — to uncover the real you God made — what would you want more of? What would you want less of? What can feed your soul today?”

FindingWhitespace_alt3DHow many of us find ourselves running on empty with no time for rest, no time for ourselves, and no time for God?  Bonnie Gray knows what that’s like. On the brink of fulfilling a lifelong dream, she saw her plans shatter into a journey through painful memories and anxiety. In her search for answers, she made an important discovery: we all need spiritual whitespace

Infused with biblical encouragement and thought-provoking prompts, Finding Spiritual Whitespace shows us how to create space in the everyday for God, refreshment, and faithright in the midst of our stress-frayed lives. And it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time in my life personally. I’ve loved reading this book {more than once}, and I know you will too!
Order a copy here.

Enter to WIN:
What is one way you could carve out time for whitespace and rest this summer? Let’s take time this summer to let our souls be breathe. Click “share your thoughts” and leave a comment under this blog post to enter. Two winners will be selected and announced next week. {if you are reading this via email, please click here to participate in the giveaway on my blog!}

 

Bonnie-familyBonnie Gray is contributor at Crosswalk.com, Relevant Magazine, and DaySpring (in)courage. A UCLA graduate, Bonnie has been missionary, ministry entrepreneur and Silicon Valley high-tech professional. Bonnie blogs at FaithBarista.com in Northern California with her husband Eric and their two sons.

Fear Not For I am With You {FREE printable + giveaway}

FightCourageously

 

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God,
and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV)

My 8-year-old son walked into my room before school one morning and declared, “Mom, I don’t want to have any anxious thoughts today!”

“I don’t want to worry about you not being home when I get off the school bus. I don’t want to worry about my teacher not liking my science project. And I don’t want to worry about Dad getting in a car accident! I wish I could be like other kids because they never worry.”

Listening to him describe his fears made my stomach ache. Anxious thoughts had been a companion ever since I was a child, so I knew just how he felt.

However, I assumed my fears stemmed from hard things in my childhood during my parents’ divorce. My anxiety had solid reasoning behind it. My dad left before I was ever born. And by the time I was 2 years old, their divorce was final.

For as long as I could remember, I feared my mom would leave me too. Fear of rejection and abandonment followed me into every relationship I had for the rest of my life: with friends, boyfriends and even my husband.

Somewhere along the way, I accepted worry as a disability and settled into believing I didn’t get to decide how it impacted my life.

Now here I stood with my son who’d declared he wanted a day off from worry! And I was determined to help him get it. I wanted to rip those threads of fear out of his thoughts and make sure he knew what to do with them.

I couldn’t take my child’s fears away, but I could equip him with truth to face them courageously and fight them victoriously. I told Andrew, “You get to decide what to do with your worries.” And I shared three powerful truths to help him:

Truth #1: Other kids do worry; they just don’t talk about it on the playground.

Truth #2: Worry and fear must be a normal because God tells us not to, over 100 times in the Bible.

Truth #3: God doesn’t just tell us not to worry or fear, He tells us what to do when we do!

Then I read 2 Corinthians 10:5 to him, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” But a puzzled look on his face told me Andrew needed to know how to do that, so I described it in terms he could understand:

“Andrew, when you have a thought that makes you feel anxious, you can decide to catch it like a baseball and see if it’s worth keeping.” I then cupped my hand like I was holding a ball and told him to look at it and ask, “Is this something Jesus would say to me?”

If the answer is “no” — then throw your thought back into the outfield!

For instance, worry says: “Your mom isn’t going to be home when you get off the bus.”

“Would Jesus say that?” I asked.

“No,” he replied.

“Then it’s outta here!” I told him, as I threw the invisible ball across the room.

Worry says: “Your teacher isn’t going to like your science project!”

“Would Jesus say that?” I prompted.

Again, “No.”

“Throw that one away, too!”

We talked through each worry, processed his fears, and I helped him decide what to do. Then we prayed and asked God to replace each worry with a promise that would give him confident peace. Finally, we thanked God for ways He’d protected Andrew in the past, reminding him how good He is at being God.

After our collective “Amen” I looked up and Andrew had a big grin on his face. Then he said, “Thanks Mom!” as though all his worries were gone.

My sons are 17 and 20 now, and there have been many days I’ve wanted to take away their worries. I’ve been tempted to fix problems and sticky situations. But I’ve learned that doesn’t strengthen their faith or their ability to decide what to do when hard times come.

Instead, what our kids need most is for us to be there: to talk through their struggles, listen to their stories, pray through their worries and be willing to share God’s truths that have helped us decide how to face ours.

There is nothing more powerful than our hearts hearing our lips proclaim our trust in God’s truth. Again and again. So I created a FREE printable to help us do just that! I pray it will lead your anxious thoughts to Jesus as you hold those worries in your hands and ask: Is this what Jesus would say to me? If the the answer is no, YOU GET TO DECDE that it doesn’t get to stay!

ReneeSwope.FearNot-Printable_Small.CLICK HERE to download my “Fear Not For I am With You” FREE printable.
If you can’t see the image displayed, click here to go to view it on my website.

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Confident Heart Devotional GIVEAWAY
Enter to win a gift-pack that includes my A Confident Heart Devotional book and my favorite prayer journal from DaySpring.  Perfect for summer and life on the go – my Confident Heart Devotional book is filled with powerful stories, practical life-lessons and biblical insights to help you and your loved ones overcome fear and worry through the power of God’s truth each day!

ENTER TO WIN:
How much doesfear or worry impact your daily decisions and joy (or your child’s)? Click “Share Your Thoughts” below this post on my blog, and do just that. Your comment will be your entry to win!

***If you are reading this via email, please click here to enter the giveaway on my blog.***
ALL entries must be entered on my blog. Thanks! 

When I am afraid {FREE printable & giveaway}

Welcome Encouragement  for Today friends! I am so glad you are here! In my devotion today I shared one of the many ways I have learned to process my worries and fear, and how God used my own struggles to help my son overcome his.

And I also wanted to share a printable to download and keep for those days when you and your loved ones feel afraid.

ReneeSwope.FearNot-Printable_Small.
CLICK HERE to download my “Fear Not For I am With You” FREE printable.

These verses have been woven into countless conversations I’ve had with Jesus about my fears and worries, and my kids’ too. I love these scriptures because the first one includes God’s words speaking to me, and the second one is phrased as my declaration and prayer back to Him.

There is nothing more powerful than our hearts hearing our lips proclaim our trust in God’s truth. Again and again.

I pray this printable is a blessing today as you let it lead your anxious thoughts to Jesus!! Hold those worries in your hands and ask: Is this what Jesus would say to me? 

If fear is saying something to your heart that Jesus would not say to you – then the answer is NO! And YOU GET TO DECDE that it doesn’t get to stay! I’m praying for each of you who stop by today!

ENTER TO WIN: A Confident Heart Devotional GIVEAWAY
ConfidentHeartDevotionalEnter to win my A Confident Heart Devotional book and my favorite prayer journal from DaySpring. Perfect for summer and life on the go – my Confident Heart Devotional book is filled with powerful stories, practical life-lessons and biblical insights to help you and your loved ones overcome fear and worry through the power of God’s truth each day!

How much does fear or worry impact your daily decisions and joy (or your child’s)?  Click “Share Your Thoughts” below and do just that. Your comment will be your entry to win!

Do You Ever Wonder How “She” Does It All?

How do some women have time for exercise, prayer, Bible reading, family, work and ministry every single day – and I’m just hanging on by a thread?

There are days when I feel like I can barely get my family fed, send kinds off to school in clean clothes, and get myself to work on time (barely).

My friend, Crystal Paine  {also known as Money Saving Mom} is one of those women who is super smart, super down-to-earth and super productive with her time, but she’s also really invested in her relationships. For years I was convinced Crystal had a secret formula for finding 36 hours within the same 24-hour period we both got each day. And I wanted to know her secret, so I asked her!

Over the past few years, she’s shared so many tips and tools that have really helped me!! But I’m not the only one who has asked Crystal.

But I’m not the only one who has asked Crystal how she does it all. She gets asked that A.LOT. So, Crystal decided to create a 14-day course around the tried-and-true habits she has used as part of her own morning routine FOR YEARS!! And it’s now available for a super-low launch day SALE price!!

This course is not a one-size-fits all! Crystal knows every single woman’s life and roles are unique to her. Instead, Crystal walks you through powerful principles and practical tools and shows you how to apply them to YOUR life, YOUR situation, YOUR family, so that YOU can make over YOUR mornings!

I just signed up, and can’t wait to start the course. Want to join me? It’s only $13 through midnight {less than $1/day}! But that price ends at midnight! So hop on over and get in on the low price for this amazing course today!