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 actively 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. 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 and for the comfort and encouragement of others. My expectation that “it” all works out 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. “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 chose 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

Fear, the Evil & Corroding Thread

fear

When the past comes crashing, rudely interrupting the beauty of the present it is unnerving. This happened to me recently. I was driving nonchalantly going about my “to-do’s” when the past wrecked into my today. Nothing physically happened, but a reminder of things before, not so pleasant triggered an anxiety response. I really struggle with fear and anxiety. It grips my insides and won’t let go. It clouds my perception where I’m unable to discern reality from illusion. My emotions can take over and turn me inside out faster than I realize what’s happened. I hate it. I feel out of control, short of breath and frantic. Frozen yet reeling. Grasping for anything to hold onto & regain my sense of control. But this is where I habitually take a wrong turn. I try to control. I frantically take action hoping that changing some external stimuli will settle my soul. Frequently it’s a person. If I can get another human to act the way I’d like, I falsely believe my security will be found there.

“So woeful about the past and so worried about the future, we miss the wonder of God in the present.” – Beth Moore

Anxiety can sneak in. Uncertainty created within a circumstance. Some of my personal anxiety was born out of extremely stressful and traumatic life events. Yet those events shouldn’t be allowed to alter my perspective on life indefinitely. I have a decision to make. In whom or what will I place my trust & allow to shape my perception of reality? I’m not saying that I just have to “get over” things that may have happened. I’d never so callously suggest anyone else do so either. I’m in the midst of a battle to walk through the remnants of past destruction and cling to God as He restores what has for so long lay in ruins. Many recent life events are revealing an underlying brokenness I’ve accepted as normal MY ENTIRE LIFE. I even wrote “Faith in the Midst of Fear” several years ago. I cannot remember ever being absent of the dull ache of anxiety and need to control my surroundings to feel safe. The daily dread and insecurity shadowing each day has wrecked havoc in my life for years. That is one of the main problems of fear, anxiety, dread, worry….whatever term you prefer. Pick your poison, but they all have the same cage to offer. They steal from the freedom and beauty of the present. “Today” becomes pressed upon and shrouded by “yesterday” with a suffocating dread of “tomorrow”. Fear is ever-so taunting of the “could-be” or “once-was” refusing attendance to the “actually-is”.

Andy Mineo : Anxiety is fear mixed with control…. (click for song)

One way my anxiety is created is when my devotion to something is out of proportion. I naturally associate false gods and idols with tokens made of gold, however that is much too simplistic. I easily make relationships something I worship. If I value these relationships more than the Lord, anxiety can arise. Nothing was made to hold my security other than Christ. Even good things, like my husband and children, that are gifts from God create opportunities for anxiety when out of balance. God celebrates marriage, family, friendships, community, our aptitude’s and gifts but these things are all meant to point TO Him. They aren’t for my “glory” or comfort. Recently my son was hospitalized for breathing related issues. We’ve had some difficulties in the past but have always been able to manage at home with breathing treatments. This time it was different. As my mothering instincts to protect and nurture my child weren’t enough to “fix” him, I hit the wall of self-sufficiency. Do I trust God with it all? Do I trust Him with my children’s health? It’s a question I’ve continued asking myself since we’ve been released from the hospital. Security is reality only when centered on Jesus. It is not circumstantial, because very disagreeable things happen. Life happens. I must continually make a decision to live in this truth: my comfort comes from security in God alone. My feelings or positive outcome of situations are not a sufficient substitute but a temporary distraction from the source of anxiety that still remains.

Recently I heard a person share something so simple but it was huge for me. “Feelings are not always truth. They are just feelings.” I relate. This was a sudden realization of how much faith I place in feelings, my own and others. I’ve continued mulling over the powerful effect emotions can have on life. Feelings can easily become the active driver for decisions. This can be very dangerous when operating from a false basis, not living in truth. If I allow my emotions to shape my reality, I’m in for quite the ride. Cue the playback reel of my life! I mean really, think about it. Do people make major life decisions like divorce because someone isn’t helping with laundry, one spouse works too much or financial disagreements? Would it be more accurate to say divorce stems from the emotions evoked by each of these circumstances? Some of the same emotions can be created with each situation. Perceived betrayal. Abandonment. Fear. Insecurity. Anger. Loneliness. In no way am I dismissing the true absolute damage and destruction caused within abusive & unhealthy relationships, but is it not the feelings that bring us to a breaking point? A wall we can no longer push forward.

Our journey may be different. Some paths may be similar. However one thing I’m learning – feelings cannot be the tool for navigation. There must be a higher truth that I rest in. A consistent basis to gauge life instead of the broken lens of my perception ever clouded and smudged by my emotion of the moment. I’ve accepted the truth that I’m dealing with spiritual warfare. I’ve noticed the subtle emotional manipulation within my life and surroundings. I’ve suddenly become attune to this pervasive cloud and realized I’ve accepted its presence far too long.

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,”

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 ESV

I’m meditating on the above passage as a direct approach to remove the enemy’s influence over my reality. I’m refusing to accept these all too familiar feelings of fear and anxiety. I’m beginning to see how they are a stronghold in my life. A stronghold can be a safe place offering protection from outside forces. However when I use strongholds of self-sufficiency, I’ve walled myself in from the true source of help. Fear has been my safe place. My false argument against discomfort. Fear has been a place of complacency. A place to hide & escape reality. An excuse to push others away and a desperate attempt to control people who get too close. The stronghold of fear has served as a way to refuse accountability avoiding the responsibility and charge to make changes within myself. I’m ready to take some action. I want there to be a revolutionary change , cause I ain’t done.

Change is a process. It’s not an overnight thing. Once the battle for change begins it becomes a daily grind to press on and not settle back into habits of the familiar. It’s much too easy to react in fear because that’s what I’ve always done. A different approach is to actively take my thoughts captive and ask God to show me a different way. To plead for His truth to become louder than my anxiety which may be deafening. Although my thoughts and emotions may continually default to fear-based, anxious and self-protecting norms, with God’s guidance I battle to change the status quo. I’ve begun this process over the past few months and continue to pray for awareness in the many ways I attempt to fight with the limited arsenal waging war by the flesh. One way God brings clarity is through writing and being vulnerable sharing my struggles with others. I believe this fear, anxiety and the resulting depression is something weighing down so many of us. Let us take up our weapons which have divine power and begin to demolish strongholds offering false security. Let us together wage war using the truths of scripture as our swords. I plan to continue sharing my struggle with fear and would be honored if you’d reach out to me and share yours.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.”

Ephesians 6:10-20 ESV

 

*The reference of fear as “an evil and corroding thread” is a reference from pg 67 of Alcoholics Anonymous**

Lessons (being) Learned

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” Romans 15:4

I’ve gone back and forth on writing this. I struggle sharing things so publicly that bring attention, positive or negative. My struggle with pride has been the story of my life. I pray and consider my motives because selfishness is something that plagues me. Yet, what do we have but a story to share with others. Our triumphs, failures….the story of this journey called life.

Today is a significant day. It marks 4 years clean & sober, by the grace of God alone.  I was overcome with emotion this morning thinking about the life I have today and remembering the life I had. Weeping over the blessings I would’ve missed. Ya’ll, addiction and alcoholism is the name of one of my strongholds and has been for over half my life. This underlying “dis-ease” of self….the idea and belief that I can satisfy myself, my own way…it’s such a lie. An un-truth I’ve chased for many seasons.

“Take it away, I beg you, take it all away

The pain it causes, it makes me wish I could fade away

If they knew what you knew, they'd probably shun me

I'm surprised you know it all and you love me

I know I break your heart”

Cry for You - Lecrae

It’s so easy not to talk about the elephant in the room, yet don’t we all have our own mammoths? We’d like the world to think they’re extinct. We (only) fool ourselves. The struggle doesn’t have to be public for it to be reality. It can be an internal angst that causes just as much damage. We aren’t called to go through this life alone. Why do we exert so much needless energy putting on a front? I’m calling my elephant out today and hoping it encourages someone to call theirs out too. It doesn’t require that your elephant shares the same name as mine for us to relate and support one another. Let’s be authentic and embolden the next person placed in our path to continue trudging on. This life is rough enough without throwing stones of judgment at those we perceive as different….for what to make ourselves feel better?

Four years ago today wasn’t some earth shattering horrible experience. That self-imposed chaos had been occurring for years, on and off. Who would’ve thought so many shipwrecks could occur in the middle of the West Texas desert. My story isn’t about some monumental event that woke me up. Yet, four years ago today I made a decision to ask for help and a decision to surrender to God’s guidance in an area I’d tried to take care of myself. That’s what I’d consider monumental. I love Jesus, I always have….yet I wouldn’t give Him this one thing. I’d had periods of sobriety, but when things didn’t go the way I wanted, I’d trip up and be caught back up in the cycle of destruction.

 

“I promised I would die a thousand deaths 'fore I cause them any pain

But somehow I end up killing everything

I cry for you

If you feel a dark, twisted, heart-wrenching, hate-to-see-your-own-reflection

Praying for an intervention, feeling guilt and feeling shame

I just call on Jesus name

Praying daily, can you take away this pain?

Take the thorn away

Still, it remains, I

Feel the same, I

Know that I'm here, but

Still feel insane

Satan would love to see me give up and throw up my hands

He say I'm guilty but You say I'm clean”

Cry for You - Lecrae

God presented an opportunity to change the trajectory of my life and that of my family’s. To create a legacy for our children, and at the time we only had two! I cannot imagine what life would be like today had I chosen to be stubborn and selfishly held onto my anger, hurt, pride and perceived protection of myself. I wouldn’t have the beautiful family I have today, including the addition of two precious boys. I wouldn’t have the husband who struggles alongside me in this journey. By saying “yes” we have had the opportunity to break generational strongholds and begin writing a new chapter, instead of closing the book to write a new one.

Redemption is a beautiful thing. It’s raw. It’s messy. It digs up the past and makes you face it in the present. So many fears arise and scream, “YOU CAN’T DO THIS.” But Redemption prevails. One day at a time, with God’s help, He reminds me I’m not alone. He has called me blessed. I can face the past remembering who I am today, by His grace alone. He re-writes the past and allows it to be used for good. The destruction that would never dare voice a public word has become one of the strongest testaments of the miracle of freedom ONLY Jesus can bring. It doesn’t mean life is perfect, but it gives the gift of peace in the midst of pain. It provides hope and comfort propelling me continue on knowing it’s worth it. Redemption gives to life what was thought impossible. It is a intimate whisper that proclaims, “I love you.” An assurance that I was not forgotten, even for a moment. Redemption is a glimpse of His faithfulness and purpose even in the most broken pictures.

“…as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed,who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.” Romans 4:17b

I struggle with self…daily. It manifests itself in various ways. I’m grateful for this struggle because it helps me stay willing to ask for His help. My alcoholism wasn’t about the alcohol; it was about my attempt to fix an internal spiritual condition by myself. In all truth it’s a battle I’ll face for the rest of my life, not necessarily with a substance, but a lesson of surrender. Do I really believe God has the best plan for me? The solution didn’t come from my willpower. I really wanted to stop multiple times. If you know someone who battles addiction of any kind you’ve seen effects of addiction. You’ve seen the struggle. Rough doesn’t describe it. There isn’t a word that fully encompasses the destruction & despair. I’ve lived on both sides of it. Loving someone in the midst of addiction is impossible without God’s help. But truly loving anyone is impossible without His help. It is a struggle that requires surrender, just like any other struggle that happens to go by a different name.

“But grace is sufficient to start my mission

I'm so far from perfect, can't believe they listen

But hear a broken man tell you healing happens

And hear a liar tell you truth to bring you gladness

I could never boast in my accomplishments

I can only hope in God with confidence”

Cry for You - Lecrae

 

Addiction isn’t a special thing. I’m not “terminally unique” as is a term used within recovery circles, basically poking at the level of pride and ego the disease carries. I’m a run of the mill human being who struggles with selfishness and have found the solution of a relationship with God, through the 12 Steps, mentorship and the Word of God. I needed something simple and He provided it. If you want to know more about the 12 Steps please feel free to let me know. I’d love to have a real conversation over coffee, face to face.

I hope if you made it to the end of the post, whatever your silent battle is, you realize you’re not alone. I pray that if you have a loved one struggling through a stronghold you don’t cease to hope and seek support from others enduring the same. I hope if you’re on the other side of your battle that you will be encouraged and empowered to speak. Don’t let the enemy silence or convince you otherwise. The power of the gospel is alive in the stories of God doing the impossible. What was dead has come alive. What was hopeless has been redeemed. What was lost has been found. Only through Jesus….what does your story look like in this season? Speak.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings,  so also you share in our comfort.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4,7