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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3 Steps to Get God’s Peace {Printable & GiveAway}

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When life gets overwhelming, do you ever feel like you might suffocate under everything you need to do? 

Does worry ever weave it’s way into your heart and consume your thoughts with concern?

If I’m not careful, worry can wear me out and make me want to quit… just about everything!

In my Encouragement for Today devotion  today, I shared about one of my melting points from a few years ago. And how I took my husband’s advice to write down everything on my plate so I could ask God what needed to be cut back.

I listed my commitments and concerns, deadlines and dates on my calendar with every appointment, event, conference call and meeting I could think of for the next six months.

And I prayed: Please God, show me where I need to make changes.

I assumed the Holy Spirit would suggest adjustments in my schedule, but that’s not what happened. God didn’t tell me to make cut backs at work or in ministry. He didn’t show me our family had too many activities. He didn’t challenge me to take a sabbatical, although I was hoping He would.

Jesus showed me it was worry not my workload that was making me weary. 

You see, without realizing it I was spending as much time thinking and worrying about concerns, commitments, circumstances and deadlines as I did working on them.

It was not only how I spent my time, but how I spent my thoughts that left me depleted.

But it wasn’t until I brought it all to God, and wrote it all out, that I recognized what was happening. I wonder if that’s why Peter tells us: “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” 1 Peter 5:7 (NLT)

The apostle Paul tells us the same thing, and shows us how:

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and A him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7, NLT)

But it’s not easy. Honestly, our natural tendency is to take control. And we have an enemy who suggests we do. His whispers sound something like this:  “Don’t be calm about anything; instead worry about everything. Tell God what He should do. Then take control if He doesn’t listen. And your concerns will consume your heart, eroding your peace with worry and doubt!

But we don’t have to listen to the lies. Instead let’s listen to God’s promises, and take these 3 steps to get God’s peace:

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CLICK HERE to Download “3 Steps to Get God’s Peace”

 If you can’t see the image displayed, click here to go to view it on my website.

ENTER TO WIN
Click “Share Your Thoughts” and do just that on my blog today. Your comment will be your entry into my “Heart-and-Soul Spa” gift-pack GIVEAWAY that includes my A Confident Heart Devotional book, my favorite prayer journal from DaySpring and a $10 Bath & Body Works gift card! {If you are reading this via email, join us on my blog to enter to win!}

When My Sunday Heart Dreads the Monday Hurry {a promise & a prayer}

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.
Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.
Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.
His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:6-7, NLT

WhenWorryComes

As I look at the week ahead, Lord, my mind is crowded with thoughts and things.
Competing thoughts fight for my attention; cutting in front of each other to be first in line.
Too many things on my to-do list that feel urgent; tempting me to neglect what is most important.

Jesus, I want You to be first in line, leading my days and decisions.
When concerns consume me and worry comes, hel[ me pause and tell You what I need and
thank YOU for what You have already done. I long for Your peace to surpass my understanding,
and for Your promises to guard my heart and my mind as I live in {and follow after} You.
In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

{together} for Good

Have you ever wondered how God could work all things together for good in your life? Maybe you’re in a situation that feels impossible, a marriage that is unraveling, a job environment that is unhealthy and all you can see is HARD.

In my Proverbs 31 Ministries devotion today, I share how I wrestled with this in the midst of very difficult circumstances during and after our daughter’s adoption, and the ways God showed me HOW He was working things for “good” in unexpected ways.

If you hopped over from my devotion, I’m so glad you stopped by! As promised, here are a few photos that tell part of the story of us bringing our beautiful girl home. {And there’s special giveaway at the end of this post.}

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All I could see were the hard parts. Everything we would have to give up: sleep, money, comfort, familiarity, others’ approval. All the hard things we would have to navigate: huge expenses and significant changes.

What if our sons resented us for re-arranging their lives forever? What if our parents and extended family didn’t approve? What if we exhausted our time, emotions and money only to end up with broken hearts and an empty bank account? How could God work all that together for good?

I could not see how. I could only see “hard.” Yet we knew God was calling our family to adopt a severely malnourished baby girl from Ethiopia. And in October 2009 we brought Aster home.

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Was it hard? Yes. Even more than I imagined.

But as I trace God’s hand over the past five years since we brought Aster home, I see Him working countless things {together} for good. Most of all, I see a handwritten love letter sent to our little girl from her Heavenly Father, written on every page of our adoption story.

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I see God working the hard things together for good. Despite our inadequacy, sadness and fear of the unknown when Aster was diagnosed with a speech disorder, global developmental delays, low muscle tone and sensory processing disorder, I now see God working it all for good.

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I see God working the overwhelming things together for good.  A year of sleepless nights brought out servant-hearted compassion in our teenage sons when they saw their dad struggling with depression caused by sleep-deprivation. I’ll never forget the night they decided to take turns sleeping on a mattress in their sister’s room to relieve her anxiety and give us back our desperately needed sleep.

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I see God working even the embarrassing things together for good. Like the day I had a meltdown in my car and a stranger tapped on my window to see if I was okay. And that same afternoon, I ran out of gas on my way to get my youngest son at basketball which mean my oldest son, who had a new cast on his broken foot, had to push our car off the road. I see awesome stories for them to tell their children about me one day.

When my reality doesn’t look or feel like “good” to me, I ask God to help me see how. How he is keeping his promise that “in all things [He] works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Roman 8:28).

What I’ve discovered is this: God is always working things together for good, but not just for our good. Sometimes we are part of His working things together for someone else’s good. 

You see, I believe Jesus heard a mother in Africa praying for her baby. A mother who was living in the middle of “hard” like I’d never imagined. A mother who couldn’t see how she could give her little girl the nurture and nutrition she needed.

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Hagere: Aster’s birth-mother feeding her during our visit.

Aster 5.1.09And when God heard that mama’s prayers, He tapped on the heart of a family in North Carolina who loved Him and were called according to His purpose. I also believe God saw an orphanage in Ethiopia searching for a forever family to provide unconditional love and medical care for a 6-month old, 8 pound baby with pneumonia.

So Jesus went back to that family in North Carolina who had been asking God to reveal Himself to them and through them, knowing this little girl would be an answer to that prayer.

And that’s when God started working the hard, impossible, and overwhelming things {together} for good.

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Is there a relationship or situation in your life where all you see is hard? Have you asked God how He can work some part of it together for good?

I don’t know about you, but some days I need a tangible reminder that He can. A visual that prompts me to pray and helps me remember how He does, like the beautiful bead necklace I’m wearing below made from repurposed bullets found in the rubble of Ethiopian soil.

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Each time I look at it, I remember how God answered a desperate mother’s prayers for her baby and filled my family’s longing to experience more of Him. Only He could know how much we needed the gift of a little girl to light up our world, and to remind us that He indeed can work even the hardest things {together} for good.

FBTB EarringsENTER TO WIN To celebrate how Jesus takes the hard and heart-breaking realities of life and works them together for good, Proverbs 31 Ministries is partnering with Fashion & Compassion to create a beautiful jewelry line from repurposed bullets found in the rubble of Ethiopian soil. “SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS” under this post and you’ll be entered to win. 

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The From Bullets to Blessings Collection is handcrafted from Ethiopian bullets, dug out of rubble, and assembled by vulnerable and rescued women throughout Mexico and Charlotte, NC. CLICK HERE to find out more about the collection and the women who create these pieces. It’s a beautiful picture of God working the hard things together for good in their lives through Fashion & Compassion.

He works {all things} together for good?

“I need extra praying power. I had a biopsy Thursday, and now I’m waiting for results. Having a tough time, both because of the pain and the unknowns.” 

As I read Michele’s text, my heart ached. Why God? Why now? Why this? Why Michele? Hasn’t she been through so much already this year? 

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Michele’s reaction has been a  lot more mature and faith-filled than mine. She is determined to trust God’s promise to make {all things} work together for good.

And even in this place of not-knowing how He will keep His promise, she’s courageously sharing her story on her blog. Holding out the same hope she is holding onto – Michele wants God to use her not-knowing to help others who may be wondering how He’ll keep His {all things} promise to them.

From Michele’ s blog:

“I did everything I could to prevent it. But, in the end, it didn’t matter.

It was time for my regular check-up with my cancer surgeon. The one who did my surgery in 2010. The one I’ve seen every two months since. As of December, I’ve been cancer-free for three years.

Which is why I never again wanted hear these words: “Michele, I think we need to do another biopsy.”

My heart sunk when she told me. It’s what I feared; what I’d tried so hard to avoid.

But no amount of wishing and wanting changed the reality of what was.

So now, I wait. Life hovers.

This not-knowing place is all too familiar. It’s a place with which every survivor is well-acquainted. A space between suspicions and answers, between illness and wholeness.

I know I’m not alone here. We all have our unknowns. Those God-awful not-knowing spaces that shred us with worry and steal our peace.

The adult child who left home without looking back.

The marriage on the brink of a dissolution.

The church that might close its doors.

The struggling child who may never be “whole.”

The once-precious friendship that flounders.

The financial predicament without a solution.

The mental illness that scares you to death.

I’ve lost count of my not-knowing spaces. These are the places I most dread, when I have neither answers nor control. A painful limbo, a long stretching between what is and what will be.

But life doesn’t have to end in the middle of not-knowing. 

It’s possible to laugh, dance and celebrate all the goodness of this life, even knowing it could change tomorrow. Maybe especially then.

I’ve decided this: I will not put my joy on hold.

I will not wait for the phone to ring before I decide to laugh and dance. Not this time. It’s a cost I’m not willing to pay again. Instead, this time I choose to live.

So how do you keep living when your world has stopped?

Tell yourself the truth. Fear thrives on three lies: (1) I am alone, (2) I am powerless, (3) I am without hope. In the absence of answers, fear fills in the gaps. Instead, tell yourself the truth: You are never alone. God’s power thrives in impossible situations. And there is always, always hope.

Don’t get ahead of the calendar. This is a tough one for me. Somehow I think by worrying I can wield control. As if anticipating what might come next week or next year will help me cope with it once it happens. This is a lie. Worrying about tomorrow only serves to rob you of today. Instead, take each day as it comes. No less, no more.

Take stock of all the goodness. Even in the not-knowing, there is good to be found. The smile of a friend. The kindness of a family member. The warmth of the sun. The touch of a hand. The world may be collapsing around you, but beauty is hidden in the rubble. Reach for it, like treasure. Then, write it down. The person anchored in upheaval is the one determined to dig up the gold.

Allow yourself to be loved.  It’s okay to lean on someone else in your not-knowing place. It’s okay to say, “I’m weary,” “I’m scared,” or “I don’t know what to do.” Say it outloud. Write it down. Allow someone who loves you to hear the truth of your heart. Only then is the burden shared. Only then does the waiting place become a haven of relationship.

It’s been a week now. And Michele didn’t get the answer she (we) prayed and hoped for. Her biopsy results came in: the cancer is back. She’s cried and wished God’s plans were different. But she told me last night she has this Holy peace, almost like bubble-wrap, around her heart. A peace that could only come from knowing God is working {even this} together for good.

What messy not-knowing place are you in today? Which one of Michele’s four “ways to keep living” do you need most?

Roman8.28 CanvasENTER TO WIN
Slip a note with your thoughts or a prayer for Michele in the comments below. Each comment will be entered to win this gift from my sweet friend and amazing artist Emily Burger.

Emily is giving away a beautiful Romans 8:28 framed canvas print! It comes ready to hang, or it can be set on a desk for a great reminder of God’s promise in your life! The canvas  is 6 by 6 inches, and the frame around the outside makes this piece approximately 8 inches square. Emily is ALSO graciously offering us {ALL} a 10% discount this week!


Use the code RENEESWOPE at checkout on Emily’s site, and 10% will be taken off your total purchase. Find her beautiful {scripture art HERE} and {canvas prints} HERE.

This gracious discount is for your benefit only. I will not receive any proceeds from this offer.


Chosen – that’s what you are

Welcome Encouragement for Today friends! If you hopped over from my P31 devotion “He Cares About You,” Im so glad you’re here. I pray today’s post pours assurance into those places in your heart that just need to know you are not alone. You are deeply loved, pursued and cared for!  Also, you can find details about the $40 in FREE Confident Heart Resources at the bottom of this post!

Chosen…I love that word. I don’t know a heart that doesn’t long to be chosen. Yet the disappointments of life and the criticism of others can cause us to forget that we are – chosen, loved, valued and called! “You are a chosen [woman], a royal priesthood, a holy [daughter], a [woman] belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of HIM who has CALLED you out of darkness into His wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9, NIV I have a song for you today! Please take time to listen and let your heart respond to these truths. Let these words remind you that you are CHOSEN and CALLED – your heart is spoken for. Oh sweet friend, please let these words soak deep into your heart. Watch it again and again until your soul knows it’s true!! Our Word for the week: Chosen Download our word for the week in a PDF or in MSWord. Be sure to print it and post it all over your house or office so you can remember you are chosen and loved. Let’s live loved in His PROMISE for us this week“But you are a chosen [woman], a royal priesthood, a holy [daughter], God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9, NIV Let’s Connect: Is there anything about today’s song that your hearts needed to hear?  Click “share your thoughts”  below this post and do just that.

AConfidentHeart_FinalCover_smallerRECEIVE $40 in FREE Confident Heart Resources! When You Purchase A Confident Heart this month, you can receive over $40 in FREE RESOURCES and EXCLUSIVE downloads. CLICK HERE to find out more!

 

Running With Courage – Chasing God’s Plans

Today I want you to meet my sweet, funny, amazing cyber-friend, Rachel Wojnarowski. Her story is one of God’s redeeming grace and the choice she’s made to chase after His plans and hold onto His hope — with all that she has in her.

I grew up in a wonderful Christian home with fabulous Christian parents.  We were faithful to church and I graduated from Christian school.  I went on to Christian college and completed the circle by teaching in a Christian school.  My future husband was a “preacher boy” and when we married, the plan was that he would take a youth pastor position wherever God led.  Only after we married, he had serious doubts about his calling and stopped attending church all together.

After two years of marriage, a precious daughter was born to us via emergency c-section.  She experienced oxygen deprivation and required resuscitation, but she lived.   Three years after Taylor’s birth, I discovered that her father had been having an affair essentially four of the five years we were married. In spite of that great protective environment I’d always known, and being faithful to God’s house, sin had erupted my “perfect” life and my marriage to this man didn’t withstand.    Bad choices were made by both parties and we divorced.

In spite of all the pain and loss of the “perfect” life, God brought a solid Christian man into my life and He has given us a wonderful story of grace and redemption.  But in the midst of Matt and I falling in love, my dearest mom fell severely ill, diagnosed with a rare type of anemia.  Two months later the diagnosis was changed to leukemia and she lived just six short months after that.  Mom was the strongest, most faithful Christian I’ve ever personally known; she was my best friend.

During my divorce and my mom’s death, the discovery process for Taylor’s developmental delays became more intense.  Doctors often blamed the delays on her lack of oxygen at birth.  But in my heart, I knew there was more to her issues.  Nine months after my mom’s death, the diagnosis for Taylor came through: MPSIIIB, a rare, genetic metabolic disorder which causes gradual neurological degeneration.  The average life span is 10-15 years and there is no cure, or even a treatment.

Upon receiving Taylor’s diagnosis, my walk with the Lord became intense.  I did just what Renee talked about this week in chapter four.   I asked all the why’s and the how’s.   I wanted God to spill out His plan for my life in one day.

But through His Word, God has taught me that faith is not only a one-time decision; it’s an everyday decision.

Trusting His plan for your everyday life is equally as important as trusting Him for your eternal life.

While God has richly blessed Matt and me with a beautiful family and more blessings than we can count, Taylor’s disease has not changed.  Every day is by faith, that God would have His will for her life and ours.

Each day we claim His promises and make the choice to run towards His plan.

Rachel, your story has changed me. The first time you shared it in an email, I got Holy goosebumps up my spine, down my arms and into my toes!  Your journey of choosing hope through your past and into the present brought tears to my eyes. I’m inspired by your faith and your surrendered life.  To be broken daily, like bread, held up (like loaves and fishes) as an offering of God’s of love and mercy. You my friend are beautiful – inside and out.

And here are some behind-the-scenes “only Jesus knew” details: I didn’t know Rachel’s story. When God prompted me to ask her to be a guest I wasn’t sure what part of my book she’d write about.  But HE did! How precious is our Jesus? He knew we needed to hear her story and be strengthened by the way she has chosen courage and one-day-at-a-time steps of faith. The way she is choosing to walk out hope gives us all a picture of what it looks like to live the message of chapter 4 with Jesus. Thank you, Rachel!!

Connecting in Community & Today’s Giveaway: What is God speaking to your heart through Rachel’s story? Also, is there anything from the questions He’s given us for the end of Chapter 4 you’d want to share? I’d love for us to connect here and talk about it.

Rachel has just released a new Ebook,  The Scent of Prayer and she is giving away 5 copies to 5 of you randomly drawn on Monday from the comments left below today’s post. Just click “share your thoughts” and do just that.

About Rachel: Rachel is originally a small town country girl who converted to a suburban mother of seven by way of life happening. She and her husband, Matt, enjoy caring for their busy family, whose ages span 9 months to 21 years and includes a special needs daughter.  Rachel leads community ladies’ Bible studies in central Ohio and serves as an event planner and speaker for special needs parenting groups.  She is a member of the Ohio Writers’ Guild and the National MPS Society; and loves to inspire others through her blog by sharing faith, family, and fun.  Wife, mom, reader, writer, speaker and dreamer, you can find Rachel on Twitter and Facebook.

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I am working on your behalf…

“I am working on your behalf.

Bring Me all your concerns, including your dreams.

Talk with Me about everything, letting the Light of My Presence shine on your hopes and plans. Spend time allowing My Light to infuse your dreams with life, gradually transforming them into reality. This is a very practical way of collaborating with Me. I, the Creator of the universe, have deigned to co-create with you.

Do not try to hurry this process. If you want to work with Me, you have to accept My time frame. Hurry is not in My nature. Abraham and Sarah had to wait many years for the fulfillment of My promise, a son. How their long wait intensified their enjoyment of this child!

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses.” Psalm 36:9; Genesis 21:1-7; Hebrews 11:1 (AMP)

~ Sarah Young, Jesus Calling

What does it do to your heart to imagine God looking into your eyes, knowing your dreams and concerns, and whispering with assurance, “I am working on your behalf”?