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

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Here’s a short but profitable list of reads discovered this week:

Can We Really Be Free From Fear? HT to nikkipolani. “The secret to our emancipation from enslavement to our excessive fears is a fear transfer. We need to stop fearing other things more than Jesus.” “For the Christian, every storm serves the Lord Jesus and demonstrates some aspect of his sovereign power.”

Domestic Abuse: A Victim’s Story. This is far more common than realized, in homes where you’d least expect it. If you need help or know someone who does, or suspect someone does, please read this.

Seven Lies We Tell Unmarried Women, HT to True Woman.

Speak Life: How to Deal When Your Children Fight.

Royalty-free images and copyright violations. This was from a Facebook post about a blogger who had gotten in trouble for using a photo she found on the Internet without permission. This article was linked and gives clear definitions about the different kinds of licenses, sources for free photos, etc.

5 Kid-friendly Ways to Celebrate Memorial Day, HT to The Story Warren.

Speaking of Memorial Day, Laura shared some great ways to celebrate as well and included this helpful graphic:

Happy Saturday!

 

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Book Review: What Are You Afraid Of: Facing Down Your Fears With Faith

What Are You Afraid OfI finished What Are You Afraid Of: Facing Down Your Fears With Faith by David Jeremiah a few days ago, and in order to try not to lose the good points I read there, I started outlining the book. Now I have so much of it I would like to share that it’s hard to know where to start.

His introduction is obviously the best place, where he discusses the universality of fear, the different forms it can take, and the Bible’s many references to it. Believers know that God is good, loving, all-powerful, wise, and omnipotent, yet we still wrestle with fear. So how do we deal with it?

Biblical heroes were regular people who had to learn the same things you and I have to learn–to drive out fear by increasing their knowledge of God, to shift their focus from their present fear to the eternal God, to replace what they didn’t know about the future with what they did know about Him.

Dr. Jeremiah takes a different chapter to discuss in detail nine common fears: disaster, disease, debt, defeat (failure), disconnection (being alone), disapproval/rejection, danger, depression, and death. His tenth chapter is an in-depth look at the fear of God.

Each chapter follows a fairly similar arc. The particular fear is explored, Biblical truths are brought to bear to change our thinking about it, a more in-depth study of one person in the Bible is discussed with truth being brought out about that person’s situation, those truths are also brought out or applied to people in more recent times, and tips are shared to help deal with the situation. For instance, the chapter on debt, or financial collapse, primarily studies Psalm 37, with other Scriptures discussed as well. Then the author shares details about the life of Anna Warner, whose family lost everything in the Panic of 1837. The only thing Anna and her sister knew to do to help was to write, and they ended up writing over a hundred books. In one of them, Anna included a poem she has written: “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know,”which has blessed an untold number of people in the years since.

The chapter on disease mentions several people in the Bible who faced illness, but focuses mainly on Hezekiah, his prayer, God’s answer, his praise – and then his fall as his “heart is lifted up with pride” afterward. “His miraculous recovery caused him to lose his near-death humility.” There are things worse than illness. Here the author includes Practical Encouragements When Facing Disease, greatly informed by his own bout with cancer.

Though each chapter focuses on one type of fear, there are truths that apply to them all. Christians are not immune to any of these troubles. But God loves us, despite what the circumstances seem to indicate. He is all-knowing and all-powerful. He can take care of whatever the situation is. He is with His children in everything they do. He has a reason for allowing various trials and will somehow work it for good. He wants us to trust Him, and He wants us to focus on eternal values. This world is just a temporary dwelling place, and we get way too caught up in it and less mindful than we should be about our eternal home. Paul said he learned to be content in whatever state he was in, whether full or hungry, whether having plenty or suffering need. That should be true of us with any of these needs, not just physical provision. For instance, God made us to need and interact with people, but sometimes He allows loneliness and wants to draw us closer to Himself. It’s not wrong to have material things, but sometimes He allows them to be taken away, and that reminds us to hold onto things in this life loosely (I’m not saying that’s the main reason why God allows loss, but loss does remind us that “we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (1 Timothy 6:7).

“In a very real sense, we’re all nomads — pilgrims bound for an eternal world who are just passing through this physical one. This world is not our home, and when we leave it, any possessions that outlast us will be owned by someone else. The impermanence of this world and all that is in it is actually good news for those of us who have faith in God. It means we’re moving on to better things.” “When we allow the tangible but transient to block our perception of the invisible but imperishable, we’ve lost our perspective on true value.”

“The one great loss we need is the loss of the illusion that we’re in any way self-sufficient. We need the Rock that is higher than we are, higher than this world…at the end of our vain hope lies the beginning of the knowledge of God and His grace.”

“We need to understand that faith in God does not immunize us from financial failure. As long as we live in this fallen world, there will be no such thing as complete financial security. There is no ultimate security in anything but the grace of God. To be human means that loss, including heartbreaking loss, is always possible. As tough as times are, they can and may become much worse. But faith in God assures us that He holds our lives in His powerful, loving hands, which means no collapses, no losses, no fears can truly harm us. As the Lord of this universe, He is, indeed, too big to fail.”

Here are a few of the many quotes that stood out to me:

“Set a clear focus in your life, and fear will be crowded out. The more you fix your eyes on God’s purpose for you, the more you will overcome your fear.”

“Sometimes the majority gets it wrong. The wisdom of God is often found on the narrow path that few travel rather than in the easy and popular choice. Leadership is a great deal more that gauging which way the wind is blowing. It often requires standing firm as the current tries to bend you in another direction.”

“Faith is the act of hanging on to that truth [Heb. 13:5] even when we don’t feel His presence.”

Fear drains us, while love empowers us. We cannot fear people and love people at the same time. We cannot sacrificially and unconditionally love others if all our energy is directed toward protecting ourselves. When we love others (including those who can harm us), life is no longer about us, and fear of disapproval is driven away.”

“It is possible to be humanly afraid without succumbing to fear. It is possible to feel fear and faith at the same time without fear getting the upper hand.”

“We can find ourselves in the middle of God’s perfect will and in the middle of a storm at the same time.”

“Many people believe faith is some kind of insurance against high blood pressure and heartache. Trust God and you’ll have no worries. But a great paradox of Christianity is that trusting Christ doesn’t keep the storms away. In fact, sometimes it pushes us into deep and turbulent waters.”

“Storms are not punishment for lack of obedience; oftentimes they are the result of obedience!”

“The good news is that we need not understand the darkness to recover the light. Job never got the answers he asked for. The extent of the explanation he received was that God is God and Job was not. The mystery endured. Scripture isn’t concerned with solving mysteries but with aligning paths to lead to God.”

“Job wanted answers, Paul wanted relief. But God had the grace to give them what they truly needed – more of Himself.”

The last chapter on fearing God was especially good. Here are just a couple of quotes from it:

“We fear God by honoring, reverencing, and cherishing Him. His greatness and majesty reduce us to an overpowering sense of awe that is not focused only on His wrath and judgment but also on His transcendent glory, which is like nothing else we can confront in this world. It leaves us all but speechless.”

“When we truly fear God, our fear of other things and other people begins to wane. Big fears make little fears go away.”

“It is when other fears take precedence over God that we get into trouble.”

This book is an invaluable resource, one I will turn to time and again.

(Sharing at Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books)

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.)

Laudable Linkage

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

8 Evangelism Lessons From an Unlikely Convert.

Gospel-Centered Counsel For Moms. “So often, in our sincere desire to be gospel-centered, we skip over a biblical diagnosis and assume we know what the problem is.” Excellent post.

When Your Friend Is Paralyzed With Fear.

How Cancer Changed Me For Good.

When You’ve Lost Your Joy in the Midst of Marriage and Motherhood.

Help for the Blindsided, when a past sin blindsides you with shame and sorrow.

Sanctification In the Season of Singleness.

Bosses Don’t Give Gold Stars — and Other Career Advice.

DOMA and the Rock.

Hope you have a great weekend!