Letting Go & Embracing Gratitude

Last night around 1 am as I was on my way to bed, much too late, I had what you could call a moment of clarity. You could call it a light bulb turning on, but really it was the culmination of months and years of prayer. If you’ve read any of my blogs, you know I struggle with fear and anxiety. It’s a lifelong battle of my emotions in conflict with what I know to be truth. However as I went about my usual routine, taking my supplements & drinking water I was struck with a sudden realization…an overwhelming sense of gratitude that dispelled all fear.

I realized that if I woke in the morning and life was turned on its head I could remain in a state of gratitude because I do not deserve the life I have today. It is not mine to cling to. God alone is to whom I must cleave as if my very life depends on it, because it does. In this single moment I felt release from the bondage of fear in a way I’ve never experienced as the true source of my anxiety was revealed.

If I went to sleep and didn’t wake up, I would know I lived my life to the fullest. I’m so grateful for the live I have and the life I have lived. I truly wouldn’t change a thing. Each and every moment has occurred only because God has allowed it all to be. He has redeemed each decision that I selfishly made for His greater good. His righteousness has covered me like a shield. I’ve taken risks and endured great hardship, but He never let me go. He has made much of each downfall & brought purpose from pain. All of the things I grasp so tightly are not mine but by His hand alone have I been so blessed. In this moment I embraced the truth deep in my soul that I have risked much & watched Him graciously bestow blessing beyond measure. I would’ve missed out on the greatest treasures of life had I always played it safe & lived a life of self protection.

And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Hebrews 6:11-12 ESV

You see, so often my prayers convey my will. My desires. I pray in a way that says Lord you are my King but in my heart my greatest desire is a self-satisfying security. Basically God, what are you going to do for me? Praying in a way that seeks to convince Him that my prayers are within His will, so He must grant them, right? This posture of heart attacks the reality of God being enough. These are the chains preventing me from living freely as they are so intricately woven around what God meant for blessing.

So let me speak more directly and specifically. I hope you can apply this in the area you are experiencing the most fear, even if the situation is different. Maybe for you it is work or health related, financial, your dreams or aspirations. I’m going to do my best to explain the truths that moved from my head to my heart relating to this struggle, but its difficult to put into words. My family is the most important thing in this life. My husband and children are constantly revealed as idols when I allow myself to be completely honest. Times where I feel vulnerable and worry it typically has to do with the safety and security of these precious people making up #vinespartyofsix. My anxiety stems from this misplaced trust as I mistakenly believe my life cannot go on without them.

Here’s what I’m not saying. I’m not saying my husband & children shouldn’t be at the top of the list. I’m not saying my love for them is wrong. I’m not saying that if something happened to them I would go on as if nothing happened. I would be wrecked. But I am saying if their priority ranking is above God, everything becomes skewed. During recent world events we’ve spent tons of time together at home. In the evenings we watch movies & have almost finished Star Wars in chronological order. One of the quotes in the movie grabbed my attention & almost brought me to tears. Weird I know.

Yoda: “Rejoice for those around us who transform into the Force. Mourn them, do not. Miss them, do not. Attachment leads to jealousy, the shadow of greed, that is.”

Anakin: “What must I do, Master Yoda?”

Yoda: “Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.”

Read that again. Attachment leads to jealousy, the shadow of greed….train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose. Ouch. What a revealing statement highlighting the problem with my fears. When I make the false assumption that my husband and my children are mine I assume ownership in a way that negates my first identity. I am a child of God. He is my loving Father. I trust Him. My family members are blessings He has bestowed for me to steward well…not to grasp onto in fear. The greed that arises forgets they are His children too.

I realized that without God’s grace, none of my children would be here. More poignantly the boys existence is a miracle. Chaney & I almost divorced in 2014 but instead God had other plans. Without His redemptive healing our marriage wouldn’t exist. Our family unit being intact today is a miracle. The last several years have been grueling. If I sit in fear of losing what isn’t mine in the first place, I am living in delusion. True reality is found in a perspective embracing each day as a gift, not as something expected or owed. Sometimes it takes extreme circumstances to chip away and reveal truth at our core. What I can control is my level of surrender & obedience to play the role God assigns, that’s it. Nothing is mine that wasn’t His to begin with. If I truly believe He is good, just and loving then regardless of what happens in this world, my life can continue. This world is only temporary. We all have an invitation to an eternal home. So I pray He can continue training me to let go of what I fear to lose. In this paradoxical lesson I believe I will live & experience a much fuller life this side of heaven.

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.

Colossians 2:6-7 NLT

I guess last night was a lesson in learning to let go of everything I fear to lose and re-framing my perspective in the truth that those dearest to me aren’t mine anyway. I will risk it all to be a godly wife and mother. I will risk it all to live out His plan for my life & continue putting my experience into words hoping it can help another. I will continue to pray that no matter what heartache life holds I can live audaciously for His glory. I pray He will shower us all with His favor so we may endure all situations with His prevailing strength. I pray we may face life courageously #onedayatatime. I pray we never lose sight of His abounding grace and hope.

Breaking Free from Fear

The last post I made was entitled “Fear the Evil and Corroding Thread” which describes the imagery of fear perfectly. It’s a thread at the end of a woven sweater. If you tug on it and keep pulling, before you know it you’ll be short an arm. Eventually if you don’t cut it off, you’ll be left standing with a handful of unraveled wool and an exposed torso. The remnants of a once beautiful item but a memory, just because we refused to let go.

I continue to wage war and fight this battle to let go. I refuse to blindly accept my thoughts and emotions as truth. When my feelings are clearly in conflict with God’s word I must consciously choose to live in active faith instead of dwelling in fear.

Without realizing it for much of my life I’ve had the expectation that “it” all works out, but my “it” has been an external focus. Truly the “it” that will get worked out is my spirit, the inner man. I’ve been promised that He who began a good work in me will carry it to completion. I’m assured my tests and trials have purpose to produce steadfastness, maturing faith for the comfort and encouragement of others. My natural & human expectation that “it” all works out the way I want hinges on a perspective originating from self, not the Lord. This view is so limited that I can wear blinders creating a tunnel vision effect and not even realize what I’m doing. I become narrowly focused on my desired outcome & miss where God is actively working. “It” has to work out and “it” will, but it’s going to be worked out INSIDE my spirit through the power of Jesus. My circumstance may not work out how I would like, wish or pray. That’s reality and where fear most often taunts and tethers.

When God says, “Fear not” He isn’t saying don’t be afraid because your life is going to be roses and butterflies. He wants me to trust Him even when it hurts. So many times God tells me not to fear but He’s not telling me there won’t be horrible, painful, heartbreaking trials and tragedies…no, He’s strongly suggesting I hold onto Him for dear life while everything inside screams in terror. He provides peace that surpasses all understanding in the midst of these situations, but I must choose to embrace it. He will keep me in perfect peace when my mind stays on Him because I trust Him. On my own I am not able or meant to withstand the tumultuous current of crashing waves on the shore of life. There are so many verses addressing fear because it is such a natural and common human response.

Well hold on, there are some legitimate things happening that I’m afraid of. Yeah, I understand, believe me. Some of my greatest fears have been realized, but I’m still breathing. I’m facing some seemingly insurmountable obstacles which have aroused fear. There is almost relief being on the other side, no longer in anticipation and apprehension because in my desperation I have no illusions I could go forward on my own. I must live one day at a time in reality and His grace is here with me.

 

thread of fear

 

I heard the coolest illustration this week describing faith and trust. Faith is going to a circus, seeing a funambulist about to perform and believing he will walk across the tight-rope safely arriving on the other side. Trust is an entirely different thing requiring action. Trust is climbing in a wheelbarrow and allowing the funambulist to push you safely across. I have to take action to fight for victory over fear, because simply saying I have faith isn’t enough. Victory requires effort by consistently submitting to the Lord trusting His Spirit in me to overcome obstacles arousing fear. Faith without works is dead.

 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened and do not be dismayed for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

God continually told the Israelites in the Old Testament not to fear, be frightened, live in dread or be terrified of the enemy because He would fight for them. Yet they continued to doubt Him and complain. Reading through the stories its almost unbelievable how soon they forget God’s provision for EVERY single need. But you know what, I do the very same thing. When I begin to doubt, demanding answers to questions beginning with “Why” finding no satisfactory explanation to reconcile the hurt inside of me, similarly I too forget His provision. God usually doesn’t fight for me the way I want Him to. I want Him to fix, adjust, bring justice or alter a circumstance based on my perspective and when that doesn’t happen I can slip into doubt. Does He see me? Does He care? Well of course He does, but I have to open my eyes to see how He is fighting for me. I have to surrender and take a look at my heart. This process isn’t easy, its a hashing out of emotions and tears. My friends, life can be really hard sometimes, excruciatingly painful and overwhelmingly unbearable, but God is constantly fighting for us. Some days we may just need to cry, but not with hopelessness. It’s ok to grieve what has been lost, but let us never doubt God will redeem every moment for His good. The hope is in moving forward. We must go forward to receive what God has waiting. He has gone before, because unlike you and I, He isn’t limited to today. He is the God who is, who was and who is to come.

 “And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” The Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward.”

Exodus 14:13-15

In the New Testament as Paul reminds us of the Spirit of power, love and self-control Jesus has gifted us, not one of fear. The word used for fear in this verse is “deilia” which is always used in a negative sense. It applies to a personality trait of cowardice and timidity often translated to fright or fearfulness. In my previous post I spoke of the spiritual oppression and the sense of dread that comes with fear. If my response is to do nothing and hide in comforts and habits, I’m acting out of the personality trait referenced here. We are reminded that Jesus wants us to live freely. He did not rescue us for us to live in slavery to fear. In Romans Paul offers the encouraging truth testifying we did not receive a spirit that makes us a slave to fear but God has adopted us as His own.

Fear is in direct conflict with the peace Jesus desires for us. However another word for fear “phobos” and “eulabeia” can be used speaking of deep respect and accountability to God, a reverential caution or apprehension. I think there are some things we should be cautious about. There have been moments in my life where my gut feeling, my spirit, my conscience…basically everything inside of me screamed that something was wrong. I’ve learned those are the times I must hit my knees and ask for wisdom. Lack of power is my dilemma, but only when I’m trying to do it on my own. God has gifted us with His Spirit, if we’ve accepted Jesus as the leader of our life. All power is available to us in submission to Him.

Here is what its coming down to for me. Is the object of my faith Jesus or what I believe He will DO for me? Is my hope set on Him or how I’ve interpreted His promises? Is my respect for God and desire to live accountable to Him greater than my need for success, affection, approval, relationships, prosperity, financial security, ad infinitum? Do I trust Him even when it hurts and the tears won’t stop flowing? Can I live my life today, one day at a time expectantly awaiting His provision? Perfect love casts out fear and God desires to perfect us with His love. It’s the only love that will do.

I cherish this passage and will end with this. Jesus gets it ya’ll. He lived in the flesh and experienced all these feelings just like us. He hurt and sacrificed all to offer us freedom in the midst of pain.

“While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God. Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him.”

Hebrews 5:7-9 NLT