The Strength of My Faith

When I faced surgery two years ago, I also faced a major battle with anxiety. First, with any medical procedure, they have to tell you everything that could possibly go wrong. Even though the things they describe aren’t likely to happen, there is some possibility they could happen. Some people probably are able to dwell in the “not likely” aspect of it, but some of us have trouble getting out of the “Yeah, but what if….” side of things. On top of that, though I am not diabetic or hypoglycemic, I do have low blood sugar issues sometimes. I usually can’t go past 9 or 10 a.m. without getting dizzy, shaky, and lightheaded, and the surgery wasn’t scheduled until 1 p.m., with nothing to eat or drink after midnight the night before. On top of that, I have irritable bowel syndrome, which can get into a vicious cycle with anxiety. It’s one more thing to get anxious about, and anxiety about it increases the likelihood of it being a problem, which increases the anxiety, and so on. I asked just about everyone I knew to pray about it, and God marvelously answered. The anxiety came to a peak two days before the surgery, but the morning of, God truly gave me “peace that passes understanding.”

Some of you who have read here for a while may remember that that procedure was not able to be completed. They thought I had one type of rhythm problem with my heart, but once they tried to treat it, they discovered I didn’t have that after all. I had a different kind, which was a totally different (and riskier, I was told at the time) procedure.

So two years later, which was this last August, that procedure was scheduled. The battle with anxiety was not as intense, I think due both to the fact that I had learned some things about dealing with it, and God had gotten me through all this before. But it was still a factor.

I had the notion that in order to keep the anxiety at bay, to avoid all these possible problems, and, most of all, to have a victorious experience spiritually, I had to maintain a certain level of faith. I saw anxiety as a failure of faith, and if I did experience any problems with blood sugar, IBS, etc., it would mean I had failed.

One can get rather weary feeling the weight of all that. A few days before the surgery, while once again several of these issues were going through my mind, a line from an old hymn by Ada Ruth Habershon revived in recent years came to mind:

When I fear my faith will fail, Christ will hold me fast.

It’s not the strength, size, intensity, or maintenance of my faith that makes the difference. It’s the One I have faith in.

This is not a new truth to me. I was brought to this focus way back when I was first saved, and it’s something I have to be reminded of from time to time.

The fact that God knew the depths of my heart and my struggles and ministered to me so personally and tenderly touched my heart so deeply, and this became one of the most special moments of my life. This is the first time I’ve mentioned it to anyone else.

I share it not only to glorify God, but to encourage you. A former pastor’s wife, an older lady who had walked with the Lord for decades, used to often say, when she was speaking or counseling, “Look away to Jesus.” Whatever you’re going through, look away to Him.

There is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. Surely, shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength. Isaiah 45:21b-24b, KJV

Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways. Psalm 119:37, ESV.

For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:40, ESV

But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness,  the Lord will be a light to me. Micah 7:7-8, ESV

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. Psalm 63:1-3, ESV

I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him  and saved him out of all his troubles. Psalm 34:4-6, ESV

And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. Matthew 17:8. ESV

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. Hebrews 12:1-3, ESV

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Glimpses, Tell His Story), Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Coffee for Your Heart, Porch Stories, Faith on Fire)

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Laudable Linkage

I found quite a bit of good reading the last couple of weeks. Hope something here piques your interest:

Grace Incognito. “What if the point isn’t sprinting across the finish line in record time, but knowing God in every halting, baby step along the way?”

Grace-paced Living in a Burnout Culture. The “Mrs. Grace” illustrations were probably the best I’ve seen showing what life lived with an overflow of God’s grace to us is looks like.

What Should Be One of My Chief Aims at Church?

3 Ways Understanding Jesus’s Cultural Context Helps Me.

Here’s How I’m Fighting the Lies of Self-pity.

19 Spurgeon Quotes for Coping With Stress and Anxiety.

When the Doctor Says to Terminate.

Children and Sleep-overs: What Parents Need to Know.

Master Your Time: 5 Daily Scheduling Methods to Bring More Focus to Your Day, HT to Challies.

The Things All Women Do That You Don’t Know About, HT to Lisa. Sad, but true. (Warning: a bit of bad language).

Here’s What Goodwill Actually Does With Your Donated Clothing.

5 Reasons You Need Fiction, HT to Lisa.

Did you know they were making a new live-action version of Beauty and the Beast? With Dan Stevens (Matthew on Downton Abbey) as the Beast? Here are some photos from it, HT to Carrie. This is one of my favorite fairy tales and the Disney film one of my favorite Disney movies. I hope they do this well and don’t toss in anything objectionable. Looks good so far.

And finally, my oldest son posted this video called “Unsatisfying,” and right at first I thought it was frustrating, but before long I was laughing. Some of the little touches, like the squeaky windmill, are great and the soundtrack, though I love the piece (Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings), is perfect.

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

Before I get to another installment of my bimonthly roundup of recent noteworthy reads on the Web, I wanted to mention Write31Days. The idea is to choose a topic that you can blog about for the 31 days of October. I’ve participated the last few years with 31 Days of Missionary Stories, 31 Days of Inspirational Biographies, and 31 Days With Elisabeth Elliot. I’m still undecided about this year – and October 1 is only a week away! It is a lot of work, and I’m a little afraid of over-burdening readers with so many posts. But I enjoyed and benefited from it before and received positive feedback. So I am still praying about it. One topic foremost in my mind was one I was actually thinking about compiling into a book, and I thought doing it for Write31Days might be a good precursor for that. Then I thought – why would anyone buy a book if the info. is here already. 🙂 So I am still thinking and praying. At any rate, I wanted to let you all know about it in case you might want to participate as well. This year’s Write31Days page gives you the guidelines, a list of categories, links back to previous topics, etc.

On to this week’s links:

Is the Bible Foundation to Christianity? (Short answer: Yes! But here are good reasons why.)

Understanding your Bible—The Big Picture View.

What God Does With Your Sin.

Find a Friend to Wound You.

The Beginner’s Guide to Conflict Resolution.

A Secret to Parenting that No One Tells You: The Strength is in the Struggle.

5 Practical Guidelines for Reading the Old Testament Laws. This is probably the hardest section of the Bible to read – maybe after the genealogies – but these help put them in perspective.

Some Things That Have Helped Me in My Struggle With Anxiety.

Feed My Sheep. I wish I had thought more like this when my mother-in-law was in assisted living and a nursing home.

Christians, Cribs, and Co-Sleeping. I’m linking to this not for the discussion about where babies should sleep, but for how she applies truths here to others areas of parenting and faith and practice. There are fundamentals and then there are secondary issues, and on the latter we need to give each other grace to be different.

Beautiful Books and A Beautiful Book List.

And a couple of videos to give you a smile: an adorable three year old and her dad singing “At Last I See the Light” from Tangled.

And this:

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

Here are some interesting reads rounded up from the last couple of weeks:

Dr. George H. Guthrie has been publishing a series dealing with Bible translations that I have found very helpful, especially these (HT to Challies):

6 Reasons We Shouldn’t Freak Out over Word Variations in our Modern Translations

6 Surprising Ideas the KJV Translators Had about Other Bible Translations. The preface to the KJV is pretty fascinating if your Bible contains it and if you can read it. A couple of the fascinating ideas: they used and endorsed other translations and never claimed that theirs was the only one that should be used.

4 Interesting Facts about the Production of the King James Translation

Some Things You Should Know About Christians Who Struggle With Anxiety.

What the Pro-Choice and Pro-Life Miss About Simone Biles

Top 10 things I Wish Worship Leaders Would Stop Saying and Top 10 Things I Love That Worship Leaders Do

With Love, Your Single Daughter

10 Things to DO Instead of Asking, “What Can I Do to Help?

A couple about writing:

Avoid These Sneaky (But Deadly) Point of View Mistakes.

A Quick Lesson in the Writing Process.

And finally, this is just adorable:

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

Here are a few interesting reads discovered in the last week or so:

33 Verses for Battling Fear and Anxiety.

The Presence of Greatness. “What the world calls damaged, deficient, broken, Jesus names beloved, beautiful, redeemed. What the world would throw away as useless, He honors and exalts, making the least into teachers of compassion, possessors of radiant faith, living parables of His truth. What the world considers great, isn’t. Not in the eternal scheme of things.”

Not Just For Kids — Adults Need It Too {Scripture Memory}. Lisa is starting a 31-day series on Tools to Memorize a Bible Chapter

Blood Moons and Biblical Discernment.

Winning the Heart of Your Wife.

5 Ways to Read a Blog Post Without Getting Your Jimmies Rustled.

Some Thoughts on the Reading of Books.

3 Steps to Publication…Guaranteed! is the title, but this is actually about good and bad ways to begin a novel.

Our Sunday School teacher showed us this last Sunday – a video of the true scale of the solar system. Pretty cool!

Short list this time, since it has only been a week since the last one, but hopefully a little easier to navigate.

Happy Saturday!

Book Review: Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest

Running ScaredEdward T. Welch aims Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest primarily at himself as a “fear specialist,” but thankfully he lets us in on what he has learned. He notes that “Fear not” is the most often repeated command in the Bible and can be taken either as “a judicial warning, which has a threatening overtone” or as a “parental encouragement, which aims to comfort.” He says, “Luke places the accent on parental encouragement,” and Welch does as well. The thirty meditations are not an outline or in linear form — there’s a bit of overlap — but reading  a chapter a day is doable and helps build on the principles he discusses.

The first couple of chapters set the scene, and, if you didn’t think you were fearful or had anything to worry about, these will convince you! One problem with dealing with fears in a conventional way is that they don’t usually submit to logic, and some techniques for dealing with them are only temporary and don’t get to the heart of the matter.

The heart of the matter, Welch asserts, is that our fears and worries reveal something to us about ourselves. Most of them focus on not getting something we think we need, or fearing something that might happen. Both involve a fear of not being in control and reveal what we value. So he encourages us to “Rather than minimize your fears, find more of them. Expose them to the light of day because the more you find, the more blessed you will be when you hear words of peace and comfort.”

“Worriers are visionaries without the optimism.” Most worriers would qualify as false prophets because our predictions don’t come true more often than not.

“The sheer number of times He speaks to your fears says that He cares much more than you know…The way He repeats Himself suggests that He understands how intractable fears and anxieties can be. He knows that a simple word will not banish our fears.”

“Search Scripture and find that our fears are not trivial to God. ‘Do not be afraid’ are not the words of a flesh-and-blood friend, a mere human like yourself. They are not the words of a fellow passenger on a sinking ship, who had no experience in shipwrecks, can’t swim, and has no plan. These words are more like those of  captain who says, ‘Don’t be afraid. I know what to do.’ When the right person speaks these words you might be comforted.”

There is so much that is helpful in this book and so many places I have highlighted that it’s hard to know which ones to share without quoting half the book here. I’ll try to just share some of the things that were most helpful to me.

One was the “manna principle,” lessons drawn from God’s providing Israel with manna in the wilderness. One lesson was that the Israelites weren’t really models of prayer in that instance. They were complaining. That doesn’t give us the right to complain, but it does highlight the fact that God answers because of His grace, not because of “the quality of our prayers.” Another I shared earlier is that the Israelites were to gather what they needed for each day. If they tried to hoard enough to last, the excess would rot. So for us, we depend on God’s grace for each day’s needs. Most worry is about what is going to happen in the future, but Jesus said, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34). That doesn’t mean we never plan ahead — there are Scripture verses about that, too — but we don’t worry or become anxious about them, trusting God will provide what is needed when the time comes. We won’t have grace for a future event because we don’t need it yet. Another was that the principle of Sabbath rest was built into their system and served, among other things, as a test of faith and a way to honor God and acknowledge His control. Just as they had to trust that the manna would be there every morning, they had to trust that when they gathered enough on Friday to last through the Sabbath, it wouldn’t rot like it usually did when they gathered extra. This is a principle largely lost on modern Christians. True, we’re not under the specific Sabbath restrictions that Israel was, but a Sabbath rest was exemplified by God in the first week of creation. Businesses feel they can’t afford to lose the business that they would if they were closed on Sundays, and individuals feel they can’t possibly get everything done they need to do if they take a day of rest. We don’t realize what we’re missing out on.

Another chapter, “The God of Suspense,” deals with the fact that sometimes God delivers before we even know we have a need, sometimes He seems to deliver at the last minute, and sometimes He delivers after the fact, “after hope dies,” as with the death of Lazarus and the widow’s son. In those cases. God had a greater purpose in mind: to show people that Christ had power over even death. He cites some cases in which the very thing someone feared came upon them (as Job said), and God didn’t deliver in the way hoped for, yet He did something greater in drawing the person closer to Himself and helping them know Him in ways they would not have otherwise. He cites many Biblical examples that God does not shield us from every hardship, but “If the difficulty you anticipate comes upon you, you will receive grace” to deal with it.

He talks a great deal about the Sermon on the Mount and being taken up with God’s kingdom:

Are you worried? Jesus says there is nothing to worry about. It isn’t our kingdom, it’s God’s. We take our cue from the King, and the King is not fretting over anything. He is in complete control.

When you know that the Kingdom is God’s alone (though He gives it to us), that is the only thing that can lead to peace and rest. Owners are the ones who do all the worrying; stewards simply listen to the owner’s desires and work to implement them. Owners are responsible for the outcome; stewards strive to be faithful.

A few more favorite quotes:

“Worry is focused inward. It prefers self-protection over trust…It can reveal that you love something more than Jesus. It crowds Jesus out of your life.” It can even “choke the word” of God in our lives (Mark 4:19), so it is nothing to be ignored or treated lightly. “Anxiety and worry are wake-up calls that must be handled by spiritual means.”

“Worry’s magnetic attraction can only be broken by a stronger attraction, and David is saying [in Psalm 27] we can only find that attraction in God Himself.”

“When you call out, you might feel like He isn’t present or easily found. That is the nature of pain. The worse it is, the more alone you feel. But this is a time when the words of God must override your feelings. There are times when we listen to our feelings and times when we don’t. This is a time when we don’t. Instead, whenever there is a clash between our sensory experience and the promises of God, the promises of God win. The one who says, ‘verily, verily’ can be trusted. Call out and He will be found when you need Him.”

Welch deals with not only the anxiety and worry over physical needs, like money and provision, but with personal needs like approval and love, fear of death and judgment. He discusses prayer and what it means to have died in Christ and what freedom that can bring us. He points to our need to find and focus on our calling from God, what God’s peace, or shalom, means, and His instructions to be peacemakers. In short, I think he pretty much covers every base he can think of that might be related to anxiety and worry and points us to Christ in each instance.

There were a few places I disagreed with him about some particular, but I don’t fell the need to delineate all of that here. Overall I found this one of the most helpful books I have ever read. I mentioned before that I had bought it as a Kindle sale and forgotten about it, then came across it about a month before my recent surgery and decided to read it in the days leading up to the procedure. Combined with the prayer of friends, it helped me keep my mind on God and off the “what ifs,” and I know I will return to it often in the future.

(This review will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)