Soul-Care Articles: Christ-centered, Spirit-led, Biblically-based, Clinically-sound, Truth-oriented

Posts tagged ‘Worry’

FEAR & PANIC: DO’S AND DON’TS for Family and Friends

SOURCE:  June Hunt

To support a loved one who is struggling with fear, learn what to do and what not to do. You can very well be that person’s answer to prayer.

“There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)

• Don’t become impatient when you don’t understand their fear.
Do understand that what fearful people feel is real.
“A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.” (Proverbs 14:29)

• Don’t think they are doing this for attention.
Do realize they are embarrassed and want to change.
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7:15)

• Don’t be critical or use demeaning statements.
Do be gentle and supportive, and build up their self-confidence.
“Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

• Don’t assume you know what is best.
Do ask how you can help.
“We urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14)

• Don’t make them face a threatening situation without planning.
Do give them instruction in positive self-talk and relaxation exercises.
“Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.” (Proverbs 4:13)

• Don’t make them face the situation alone.
Do be there and assure them of your support.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9–10)

• Don’t begin with difficult situations.
Do help them to begin facing their fear in small increments.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” (James 1:2–3)

• Don’t constantly ask, “How are you feeling?”
Do help them see the value of having other interests.
“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)

• Don’t show disappointment and displeasure if they fail.
Do encourage them and compliment their efforts to conquer their fear.
“Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.” (Proverbs 3:27)

• Don’t say, “Don’t be absurd; there’s nothing for you to fear!”
Do say, “No matter how you feel, tell yourself the truth, ‘I will take one step at a time.’”
“The wise in heart are called discerning, and pleasant words promote instruction.” (Proverbs 16:21)

• Don’t say, “Don’t be a coward; you have to do this!”
Do say, “I know this is difficult for you, but it’s not dangerous. You have the courage to do this.”
“A wise man’s heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction.” (Proverbs 16:23)

• Don’t say, “Quit living in the past; this is not that bad.”
Do say, “Remember to stay in the present and remind yourself, ‘That was then, and this is now.’”
“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” (Proverbs 16:24)

—————————————————————————-
Hunt, J. (2013). Fear (june hunt hope for the heart). Torrance, CA: Aspire Press.

When Anxiety Collides With Faith: Rough Waters Result

SOURCE:  From a blog post by Dr.Laura Hendrickson

Rats! Yesterday I had a chest x-ray, ordered by my doctor to follow-up last month’s pneumonia. Pneumonia in a breast cancer survivor can be the first sign of recurrence in the lung, so it’s important to check it out. I hated waiting for that second x-ray!

My Plan For My Life

I was counting on a negative result, so I could just forget about it, but there’s an anomaly in my right lung, just beneath the place where my breast cancer was. It’s probably nothing, but it could be serious. This means I need a CT scan, which involves waiting to have it and then waiting to be informed of the results.

My plan for my life included crossing the possibility of recurrent cancer off my anxiety list. God’s plan for my life is not yet clear, but it surely includes continuing to challenge me on this issue for a while. I don’t like it!

Amy Carmichael saw the story of Paul’s shipwreck in Acts 27 as a metaphor for the conflict between God’s will and our own hopes.

I can’t even get through on the phone to schedule it, which means I don’t even know how long I’ll have to wait. For that matter, more tests may be recommended by the results from this one or, even worse, the dreaded “re-test in six months to see if it’s changed.”

But striking the place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the prow stuck fast and was immovable, but the stern was being broken up by the violence of the waves (Acts 27:41 NKJV).

Here’s what she said about it:

Where the will of God and the will of the flesh are in conflict there will be rough water, and if the flesh does not yield to the Spirit there must follow the painful breaking up of hopes and expectations, even as the timbers of that ship were broken up by the violence of the waves.

Exactly! I’m experiencing this discomfort because I haven’t let go and trusted God to do the best thing for me. Even though I recently blogged about this, saying that my anxieties are my friends because they drive me to God in prayer, here I am again.

 My Rough Water

I struggled for a while this morning after I got the call from my doctor. I went to the web to see what the anomaly might mean. I begged God to give me the outcome I wanted. I searched his Word for evidence that I’d get what I hoped for.

Finally, I went to an older Bible to look at a note written during an earlier struggle with uncertainty over my health. Instead, I found an old prayer, written many, many years ago.

Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes, all my own desires and hopes, and accept thy will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all to thee to be thine forever. Fill me and seal me with thy Holy Spirit. Use me as thou wilt, send me where thou wilt, work out thy whole will in my life at any cost, now and forever.

I prayed this 34 years ago, as a new Christian. God confronted me with it this morning.

Did I really mean it? Do I still?

God’s Peace

I acknowledged that I do, and the peace came. I don’t want to live with anxiety over my health, but God wants me to. This should be enough for me, because I know that he always brings good from the painful things he ordains for my life (Romans 8:28).

I’m sure that the anxiety will come back. As I mentioned the other day, that’s a good thing, because it drives me to prayer.

How about you? Any “rough water” in your life? Have you talked to God about it yet?

Why God Gives Us More Than We Can Handle

SOURCE:  Jon Bloom/Desiring God

The next time someone says that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, point them to Judges 7. God’s instructing Gideon to take on over 100,000 enemy soldiers with just 300 fits in the “more than you can handle” category. Imagine how Gideon and his servant, Purah, must have felt trying to come to grips with a humanly impossible assignment.

Standing on the side of Mount Gilboa, Gideon gazed over the Valley of Jezreel, which sprawled beneath him northward toward the hill of Moreh. The valley was a sea of tents, teeming with more than 100,000 Midian warriors.

That morning, the Lord had judged Israel’s army of 32,000 too big to face Midian’s. Israel would think more highly of himself than he ought to think when God gave him victory. So Gideon had sent home whoever was afraid. When 22,000 hit the road, Gideon had to quiet his own fear. Now Israel was outnumbered ten-to-one. But God was with them and armies had overcome such odds before.

Oddly, the Lord considered these odds still too much in Israel’s favor. So in obedience to the Lord’s instruction, Gideon brought his small, thirsty army down to the spring of Harod. And he gave his servant, Purah, the strangest command of his brief military career: “Observe all the men as they drink. Have every man who laps his water like a dog stand off to the side.”

Gideon supervised the selection, but when so few were being chosen, he just let Purah finish the count and he climbed back up Gilboa to pray and survey.

It wasn’t long before Purah emerged from the trees. “So what’s the total?”

“Three hundred, sir,” said Purah.

Gideon chuckled to himself. “Three hundred.” He looked back toward the human hoard in the valley and was quiet for a moment. “That’s less than I expected.”

“Yes, sir,” said Purah. “But thankfully, three hundred doesn’t reduce our strength much.”

Gideon breathed deeply. “No, Purah. The three hundred are not the reductions. They’re the army. The others are the reductions.”

Purah stood dazed for a moment, staring at Gideon. “The three hundred are the army?”

Gideon nodded slowly, still looking into the Midian-infested Jezreel.

“But that’s not an army! That’s how many should be guarding an army’s baggage!”

Purah stepped up beside Gideon. Together they watched smoke columns rising from ten times more cooking fires than they now had warriors. Purah shook his head and said, “Even if we were all like the mighty men of old, three hundred could not overcome 100,000.” He paused. “And we aren’t mighty men.” Another pause. “And there’s more than a 100,000 down there.”

Both were silent for a while. In the quiet, the Lord spoke to Gideon, “With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home.

Then Gideon said to Purah, “During the exodus, how many mighty men did it take to destroy Egypt and its army or part the Red Sea?”

Purah thought briefly. “None.”

“How many did it take to tear down Jericho’s walls?”

“None.”

“How many did it take to feed two million of our people in the wilderness every day for forty years?”

“None. I get your point.”

“The mightiest are those who trust in the Lord and obey him, no matter how impossible things appear.”

“In our people’s history, the mightiest have not been the strong warriors,” Gideon said. “The mightiest have been those who trusted in the Lord and obeyed him, no matter how impossible things appeared. He has promised us that Midian will be defeated. He has chosen only three hundred of us. We will obey; he will act. And when Midian falls, it will be clear to everyone who felled him.” Then he looked at Purah and smiled. “Maybe the Lord just needs us to guard his baggage!”

Purah didn’t laugh. He only replied, “Should we dismiss the others?” Gideon nodded.

Later that night, in the tiny camp, Gideon lay praying. Every plan to mobilize 300 against 100,000 seemed ludicrous.

Suddenly, he was aware of the Presence. He sat up, his heart beating fast.

The Lord said, “Arise, go down against the camp, for I have given it into your hand. But if you are afraid to go down, go down to the camp with Purah your servant. And you shall hear what they say, and afterward your hands shall be strengthened to go down against the camp.

Purah woke to Gideon’s nudge and whispered words, “Let’s go.”

“Where are we going?” Purah whispered back, getting up quickly.

“To the Midian camp, just you and me. The Lord has something he wants to show us.”

They quietly crept toward the nearest Midian outpost, veiled by the clouded sky, and saw two inattentive guards talking. Just as they got within earshot, one said, “I had a strange dream before being woken for duty tonight.”

“Tell me,” the other said.

“This cake of barley came tumbling into our camp, crashed into the tent, turned it over, and flattened it.”

The other guard looked at him alarmed and said, “I know what that means! The cake can be none other than Gideon, the son of Joash! God has given us all into his hand!”

Gideon and Purah looked at one another with the same stunned expression.

Cast Your Cares

With renewed faith, Gideon and Purah roused their mini army and launched a night attack. This threw the Midians into a panic and they slaughtered each other in confusion. It was a rout. Not one of Gideon’s three hundred perished in the battle. God gave them more than they could handle to force them to rely wholly on him.

“God gives us more than we can handle to force us to rely wholly on him.”

When we’re confronted with an impossible situation or trial, Gideon’s three hundred preach to us that “salvation . . . is from the Lord” (Psalm 37:39) and “if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). These are no domesticated platitudes. God really intends for us to cast our all on these massive truths and for them to give us more-than-conquerors confidence and peace (Romans 8:37), no matter what we face.

It is not hyperbole to say that the defeat of our sin that Jesus accomplished on the cross dwarfs Gideon’s victory. Compared to overcoming God’s wrath against our sin, defeating 100,000 Midianites was very small. And if God “did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things” (Romans 8:32)?

God certainly does give us more than we can handle. And he does it “to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:9). If you’re facing some overwhelming adversary or adversity and you wonder how God could possibly deliver and work it for your good (Romans 8:28), then take heart. He is granting you the joy of experiencing the reality of Judges 7, Romans 8, and 2 Corinthians 1.

Anxiety: How to stop catastrophizing – an expert’s guide

SOURCE:  Linda Blair/Clinical Psychologist

A clinical psychologist suggests a three-pronged plan for tackling anxiety and approaching each day logically and positively

Let us start by considering why some people catastrophize – that is, on hearing uncertain news, they imagine the worst possible outcome. After all, it is not uncommon and those who catastrophize seem to do it a lot.

Catastrophizers tend to be fairly anxious people. Whether this characteristic is principally genetic or more the result of learning is unknown. High levels of anxiety are extremely unpleasant, so we look for ways to discharge those unpleasant feelings as quickly as possible. If a catastrophizer is told something inconclusive – for example, if they go to a GP and are asked to have tests – they look for a way to feel in control again immediately. They learn to choose the worst possible outcome because it allows for the greatest sense of relief when they are reassured.

Considering all possibilities is not a bad strategy if you examine them logically. However, unable to bear their distress, catastrophisers rush to external sources to calm themselves down: checking whether anyone else has “come through” the same problem; matching symptoms online to obtain a diagnosis and treatment options; asking a professional to tell them that they will survive. Once they are reassured, they feel better – in psychological jargon, they have “rewarded” this seeking behaviour. The next time they feel uncertain or threatened, they will ratchet up their anxiety with a catastrophic thought, then look outwards for reassurance even faster than before. In this way, catastrophising soon becomes a well-entrenched habit. The greatest problem with seeking others to alleviate anxiety is that it offers only temporary relief. There is always another source to check or another opinion to be had; as a result, catastrophisers feel anxious again increasingly quickly. The only way to break this cycle is to tame anxiety. After this, you can still seek advice. So, if you are a catastrophiser and you would rather not be, how do you go about making changes?

Accept yourself. Anxiety is energy: if you are an anxious person, celebrate! However, why waste that energy feeling uncomfortable and preparing yourself for circumstances that will almost certainly never occur? Look for enjoyable ways to challenge yourself and use your energy more positively: taking regular aerobic exercise; learning something new; taking up a creative passion.

Take control. Establish a regular “worry time”. Start by setting aside half an hour every day. Write down all your concerns in specific terms. For example: “I felt nauseated this morning. Do I have stomach cancer?” Assign a score on a scale of 0 to 100% to estimate how distressed this possibility makes you feel. Next, list all the possible explanations for your concern, then rank each one according to how likely it is to be correct. Make use of external sources if necessary, but stick with reputable websites and professionals. Finally, score your worry for the level of distress it is causing you now. Gradually, you will be able to reduce the amount and frequency of worry time.

Use the “best friend test”. Ask yourself what you would advise your best friend to do about each concern, and take that action.

Learn to self-soothe. Whenever you are overwhelmed by anxiety and feel you must seek reassurance, give yourself permission to do so – but not straight away. Establish an interval before you are allowed to act. Even two minutes is enough at first, because you are still exerting self-control. Breathing slowly in through your nose and out through your mouth, or taking some gentle exercise, will help. Gradually, you will find you can wait longer. When you get to the point where you can wait more than 20 minutes, most people find they no longer need to be reassured by others.

This three-pronged approach – using your “worry energy” to carry out new and enjoyable challenges, approaching your tendency to catastrophize logically and systematically, and learning to wait through discomfort – takes time. But if you invest the necessary time, you will start looking forward to each day knowing you can deal with uncertainty in a more positive, balanced way.

Give God Your Worries

SOURCE:  Chuck Swindoll

What qualifies as a worry?

  • Anything that drains your tank of joy—something you cannot change,
  • something you are not responsible for,
  • something you are unable to control,
  • something (or someone) that frightens and torments you, agitates you, keeps you awake when you should be asleep.

All of that now needs to be switched from your worry list to your prayer list. Give each worry—one by one—to God . . . .

Tell Him you will no longer keep your anxiety to yourself . . . .

The more you practice giving your mental burdens to the Lord, the more exciting it gets to see how God will handle the things that are impossible for you to do anything about.

Turn your worry list into your prayer list.

Give each worry—one by one—to God.

————————————————————————————————————————————


Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Wisdom for the Way

Waiting: Out of the Shadows

SOURCE:  Charles Swindoll

Some of you who read these words today could use a little extra hope, especially if you find yourself in a waiting mode.

You were once engaged in the action, doing top-priority work on the front lines. No longer. All that has changed. Now, for some reason, you’re on the shelf. It’s tough to stay encouraged perched on a shelf. Your mind starts playing tricks on you.

Though you are well-educated, experienced, and fairly gifted in your particular field, you are now waiting. You’re wondering, and maybe you’re getting worried, that this waiting period might be permanent. Admittedly, your response may not be all that great. You can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. It just doesn’t seem fair. After all, you’ve trained hard, you’ve jumped through hoops, and you’ve even made the necessary sacrifices. Discouragement crouches at the door, ready to pounce on any thought or hope, so you sit wondering why God has chosen to pass you by.

I want to offer you some encouragement, but I need to start with a realistic comment: it may be a long time before God moves you into a place of significant impact. He may choose not to reveal His plan for weeks, maybe months.

Are you ready for this?

It could be years.

I have found that one of God’s favorite methods of preparing us for something great is to send us into the shadows to wait.

But that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to terminal darkness. Take heart from the words of British author James Stalker who wrote, “Waiting is a common instrument of providential discipline for those to whom exceptional work has been appointed.”

Pause and let that sink in. Read the statement again, slower this time.

Waiting is one of God’s preferred methods of preparing special people for significant projects. The Bible makes that principle plain from cover to cover.

As Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the LORD.”

God often prepares us for something great by sending us into the shadows to wait.

No Surprises

SOURCE:  Charles Swindoll

For more than three decades, Saul controlled his own life. His record in Judaism ranked second to none. On his way to make an even greater name for himself, the laser of God’s presence stopped him in his tracks, striking him blind. Like that group of shepherds faithfully watching their sheep years earlier on another significant night outside Jerusalem, Saul and his companions fell to the ground, stunned.

That’s what still happens today when calamity strikes.

You get the news in the middle of the night on the telephone, and you can’t move. As the policeman describes the head-on collision, you stand frozen in disbelief. After hearing the word “cancer,” you’re so shocked you can hardly walk out the doctor’s office doors. A friend once admitted to me that, after hearing his dreaded diagnosis, he stumbled to the men’s room, vomited, dropped to his knees, and sobbed uncontrollably.

Life’s unexpected jolts grip us with such fear we can scarcely go on.

For the first time in his proud, self-sustained life, Saul found himself a desperate dependent. Not only was he pinned to the ground, he was blind. His other senses were on alert and, to his amazement, he heard a voice from heaven say, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4). Saul was convinced he had been persecuting people—cultic followers of a false Messiah. Instead, he discovered that the true object of his vile brutality was Christ Himself.

We live in a culture that regularly confuses humanity with deity. The lines get blurred. It’s the kind of sloppy theology that suggests God sits on the edge of heaven thinking, Wonder what they’ll do next. How absurd! God is omniscient—all-knowing. This implies, clearly, that God never learns anything, our sinful decisions and evil deeds notwithstanding. Nothing ever surprises Him. From the moment we’re conceived to the moment we die, we remain safely within the frame of His watchful gaze and His sovereign plan for us.

God never learns anything new He didn’t know about us. Nothing surprises Him.

— Charles R. Swindoll

When Life Doesn’t Turn out Like It’s ‘Supposed to’

SOURCE:  relevantmagazine.com/Ashley Eure

How to not worry about meeting other people’s expectations.

I’m a single female in my late twenties. So I’m in that stage of life where I literally cannot open Facebook without seeing another couple engaged or pregnant. I’ll be honest, there are days where it irks me so much I have to get off social media.

It’s because of “the list.”

That’s right, society has a list.

It’s a checklist of: “you are this far along in life, therefore you should have achieved these things.” For the post-grad the list is: an immediate steady job that can be transitioned into a long-term career, if possible in a cool hipster city. For young marrieds it’s a baby and a cute home. It seems that for a single woman my age it’s a husband, a steady boyfriend… or at least some exciting dating life worth bragging about. If you don’t have these things, you are woefully behind in life and worthy of pity or shame.

It can be paralyzing. And demoralizing. The more you look at “the list” the more boxes seem to be unchecked in your own life. Everyone’s great life news is suddenly eclipsed by the feeling of being left behind and left out.

I know I’m not alone in this. When I graduated college and grad school it seemed as if the majority of people I knew went through some sort of disillusioned frustration that termed the “quarter-life crisis.”

We all felt that if we jumped through all the college hoops and played our cards right, we were entitled to check the life boxes of “stable job” and “clear career decision” off our life lists immediately upon graduation. The reality was that it rarely works like that, and as a result many felt like society (or even God) had sold us a bill of goods.

The truth is, “the list” is a lie.

Society claims that these achievements—relationship status, careers, income, location—are the benchmarks of success and meaning and self-worth. That’s simply not true. Our worth is in who Jesus says we are—and He says we were worth dying for.

There was a time in my life where I felt like God stripped away all the things I tend to place my identity in besides Him. It was like He unchecked every box, and then looked at me and said, “If I tell you now—with none of these achievements to your name—that I love you and that you are worthwhile and important, will you believe me?” That question was difficult to answer. I had to fill my head with the truth of what the Bible says in order to undo the damage all the world’s lies had done to my self-worth.

Here are just a few of the other things the Bible says we are:

• A dearly loved child of God (Col. 3:12)
• A co-heir with Christ (Romans 8:17)
• A conqueror (Romans 8:37)
• God’s workmanship, created for good works (Eph. 2:10)
• Chosen (Eph. 1:4)
• Fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14)

The list goes on and on. If you are also feeling plagued by “the list” you are not alone. I know how holidays and time-markers like the start of a new year can amplify the unchecked boxes.

Let’s fill ourselves with the truth of who God says we are, what He says are the important check marks in life (hint: they don’t include a white picket fence and 2.5 kids). Let’s do our best for Him moment by moment and leave our worth for him to determine.

And when we start to look to the list, let’s fill each other up with truth again.

LET GOD CHANGE YOUR MIND

SOURCE:  Amy Simpson/InTouch Ministries

When it comes to worry, yes it’s all in your head and there’s something you can do about it.

There was a time I was nearly powerless against my own emotions.

Growing up in a household made confusing by my mother’s schizophrenia, I learned to mask my feelings well—the only way I knew how to handle them. When bad things happened or I got negative feedback, I’d quickly plummet into discouragement, depression, and sometimes self-pity. It was amazing how quickly I could drop from fine to really, really not fine.

Things have changed. I’ve changed.

A Christian counselor helped me understand the power of my “cognitive distortions”—negative and false messages I was habitually sending myself. I used to say, You’re a loser. You always screw up. You’re  worthless. Sometimes I didn’t even put these messages into words; I just directed hatred toward myself. I didn’t realize I was mistreating my own  soul. And because I sent myself these messages  so often, my spirit believed they were true.

Now my spirit believes something different.

I started sending myself messages grounded in biblical truth. I also started reading the Bible more, taking risks in Christian fellowship, and reaching out to develop supportive friendships. I can see those old messages are false, and when they do come to mind, I recognize them and tell myself what is true: I have purpose. I’m a beloved child of God. My God is much more capable than I am, and He loves me.

Fear and anxiety are normal, healthy, and productive capabilities given by God—but they’re not meant to be permanent states of being.

This change in self-talk affected more than my mind. It made a difference in my entire life. I’m less prone to depression, I’m more peaceful, and I have more love to offer others. I’ve noticed another change: I don’t worry as much as I used to. When I start to worry, I remind myself that God has transformed me into a new person by changing my mind.

Romans 12:2 is a commonly quoted verse, but we often focus only on not being shaped by the world but utterly transformed. We haven’t given enough attention to this transformation happening through a renewal of our minds. It’s not merely a soul or heart change. As the New Living Translation says, it’s a matter of letting God “transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”

Science is only now catching up to Scripture, which teaches us what is possible through Jesus Christ.

Our Changeable Brains

My story is one of many that demonstrate the effectiveness of cognitive-behavioral therapy. According to the National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists, this form of counseling “is based on the idea that our feelings and behaviors are caused by our thoughts, not external things like people, situations, and events. The benefit of this fact is that we can change the way we think to feel/act better even if the situation does not change.” Rather than live at the mercy of outside forces, we have a choice. And the most effective way to modify our habitual behaviors and emotional patterns is to let God change the way we think.

Strong, if emerging, physical science also supports this.  Research has transformed our understanding of the brain’s capacity for change through neuroplasticity. It turns out that our brains are moldable long past childhood; they can and do change throughout our lives.

“Brain plasticity is a physical process,” says Dr. Michael Merzenich, noted neuroscientist and expert in brain plasticity. “Gray matter can actually shrink or thicken, neural connections can be forged and refined or (conversely) weakened and severed. Changes in the physical brain manifest as changes in our abilities. Often, people think of childhood and young adulthood as a time of brain growth … but what recent research has shown is that under the right circumstances, the older brain can grow, too.”

Thanks to neuroplasticity, changing our thoughts (as well as our behaviors and experiences) causes us to form new synaptic connections, strengthen existing ones, and weaken others. These new and altered connections result in changes in our behavior. In his book Soft-Wired, Dr. Merzenich writes, “As a skill is developed (such as whistling, or doing a pirouette, or identifying bird calls), the specific neural routes that account for successfully performing this new skill become stronger, faster, more reliable, and much more specific to—specialized for—the task  at hand.”

This is as true for habitual worry as for anything else.

Worry Is a Problem

Many of us need this kind of change. In a 2010 survey by the American Psychological Association, 40 percent of respondents said that in the previous month, stress had caused them to overeat or eat unhealthy foods. Nearly one-third said they had skipped a meal because of stress, and more than 25 percent said they had been unable to sleep. Another survey found that more than 60 percent of American workers worry they will lose their jobs, with 32 percent saying they worry about this “a lot.” Parents commonly worry about their kids, and big worries start when children are small. Worry is not only common in our society; it’s also woven into our cultural fabric—an expectation of responsible people, a fashionable accessory whose absence seems suspicious.

We often confuse worry with two other states of mind: fear and anxiety. The three tend to be used interchangeably, but they’re different. Fear and anxiety are normal, healthy, and productive capabilities given by God—but they’re not meant to be permanent states of being.

Our culture provides plenty of opportunities to worry. But followers of Christ are called to live and think differently from the worried world around us.

Fear is a response to an immediate (real or perceived) threat. Anxiety usually appears in anticipation of what will or might happen.

Unlike normal anxiety, worry is not an involuntary physical response but a pattern we choose.

Coming from within ourselves, it’s a decision we make to stay in that place of anxiety, which was designed to protect us from immediate danger, not to see us through everyday life. For some, staying in a state of anxiety isn’t a choice but, rather, a disorder that happens when the body’s healthy, helpful biological process works overtime. An anxiety disorder is, essentially, too much of a good thing, afflicting 29 percent of us at some point in our life. It’s very different from voluntary engagement in worry and requires treatment with medication, counseling, or both.

For anyone tempted to worry (and who isn’t?), our culture provides plenty of opportunities. But followers of Christ are called to live and think differently from the worried world around us. Voluntary worry directly contradicts the way God commands His people to live. If we’re not careful, it can lead to sinful behavior. Hence Jesus’ words: “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt. 6:34). This same message holds through the Bible, affirming a countercultural lifestyle of faith and trust from Genesis to Revelation.

Worry can injure our bodies and minds. It can cause shortness  of breath; heart palpitations; pain and damage in the back, neck, and shoulders; muscle tension; nausea; headaches; and other physical problems. In his book The God-Shaped Brain, Christian psychiatrist Timothy R. Jennings describes how the effects of ongoing worry look in our brains. As we spend more of our lives in a state of anxiety, fear, and worry, our neurons don’t function as well as they should, and we don’t produce as many healthy new ones.

The damage isn’t limited to our bodies. It injures our relationships with other people. And like all sinful patterns, worry forms a barrier in our relationship with God. It keeps us focused on ourselves, our agendas, and our own problems. It keeps us peering into the future, which is God’s domain, and clinging to people and possessions that belong to Him. That’s why addressing worry must include spiritual transformation. Voluntary worry ultimately cannot be overcome by sheer willpower—its solution is rooted entirely in who God is.

Solution: Faith

In their book How God Changes Your Brain, Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman used neuroscience to establish this startling concept: Belief in God—and religious activity itself—physically changes our brains. “Faith tempers our anxiety and fears, and it may even temper one’s belief in an angry God,” they write. “The beauty of Job’s story is that it reminds the suffering believer that God  is ultimately compassionate. And from the perspective of medicine and neuroscience, compassion can heal the body as well as the soul.”

Changing worry means changing what we believe about God and ourselves.

The discovery of neuroplasticity is a startling affirmation of Christian belief in allowing God to transform us through the renewing of our minds. It affirms the power of cognitive change as well. “Watch over your heart with all diligence,” Proverbs tells us, “for from it flow the springs of life” (Prov. 4:23). Jesus Himself spoke of the true source of our behavior: “Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man” (Matt. 15:17-20).

Likewise, Paul told the Roman church, “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace” (Rom. 8:5-6).

No therapeutic technique can transform us as the Holy Spirit can.

Acknowledging that neurological changes happen with a change in belief doesn’t diminish the mystery or power of God’s work in us. But we do have a choice—we can welcome this transformational work or resist it. God graciously gives us the freedom to believe.

Changing worry means changing what we believe about God and ourselves. If we don’t believe God is any bigger or better than us, we have reason to fret. But if we believe He’s all-powerful, trustworthy, righteous, and good, it makes sense not to waste our lives in worry, but instead to believe and embrace what we know to be true about God and who we are as His children.

The Benefits of Worry: NONE

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

Stress Management: Don’t Worry!

“Don’t worry about anything.” (Philippians 4:6 NLT)

The number one source of stress in your life is not work.  It’s worry.

Work doesn’t keep you up at night; worry does.

God is very clear in the Bible what he thinks about worry. Philippians 4:6 says, “Don’t worry about anything” (NLT).

Why do you need to let go of your worry?

Worry is unreasonable for a couple of reasons.

First, worry exaggerates the problem. Have you noticed if somebody says something bad about you, the more you think about it, the bigger it gets? Second, worry doesn’t work. To worry about something you can’t change is useless. And to worry about something you can change is stupid. Just go change it!

Worry is unnatural.

There are no born worriers. You might think you are, but you’re not. Worry is something you learned. Since worry is unnatural, it’s also unhealthy. Your body wasn’t designed to handle worry. When people say, “I’m worried sick,” they’re telling the truth. Doctors say a lot of people could leave the hospital today if they knew how to get rid of guilt, resentment, and worry. Proverbs 14:30 says, “A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body” (NLT).

Worry is unhelpful.

Worry cannot change the past, and worry cannot control the future. All it does is mess up today. The only thing that worry changes is you. It makes you miserable! It’s never solved a problem. It’s unhelpful.

Worry is unnecessary.

God made you, he created you, he saved you, and he put his Spirit in you. Don’t you think he’s going to take care of your needs? There’s no need to worry.

The first step in stress management is to refuse to worry about anything. Why? Because it’s unreasonable, unnatural, unhelpful, and unnecessary.

The Bible says in 1 Peter 5:7, “You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon him, for you are his personal concern” (AMP).

God personally cares about you and for your needs. You know all those things you’re stressing, anxious, and worried about?  Let it go. Give it to God.

The LORD, The LORD — OR — The Problem, The Problem?

SOURCE:  Max Lucado/Family Life

Your Best Thoughts Are God-Thoughts

When troubles come our way, we can be stressed and upset, or we can trust God.

You’ll never have a problem-free life. Ever.

You’ll never drift off to sleep on the wings of this thought: My, today came and went with no problems in the world. This headline will never appear in the paper: “We have only good news to report.”

You might be elected as president of Russia. You might discover a way to e-mail pizza and become a billionaire. You might be called out of the stands to pinch-hit when your team is down to its final out of the World Series, hit a home run, and have your face appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Pigs might fly.

A kangaroo might swim.

Men might surrender the remote control.

Women might quit buying purses.

It’s not likely. But it’s possible.

But a problem-free, no hassle, blue-sky existence of smooth sailing?

Don’t hold your breath.

Problems happen. They happen to rich people, sexy people, educated people, and sophisticated people. They happen to retired people, single people, spiritual people, and secular people.

All people have problems.

But not all people see problems the same way. Some people are overcome by problems. Others overcome problems. Some people are left bitter. Others are left better. Some people face their challenges with fear. Others with faith.

Caleb did.

In the wilderness
His story from the Old Testament stands out because his faith did. Forty five years earlier when Moses sent the 12 spies into Canaan, Caleb was among them. He and Joshua believed the land could be taken. But since the other 10 spies disagreed, the children of Israel ended up in the wilderness.

God, however, took note of Caleb’s courage. The man’s convictions were so striking that God paid him a compliment that would make a saint blush. “My servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly” (Numbers 14:24 NIV).  How would you like to have those words on your resume? What type of spirit catches the eye of God? What qualifies as a “different spirit?

Answers begin to emerge during the distribution of the lands west of the Jordan.

Then the children of Judah came to Joshua in Gilgal (Joshua 14:6). Every Hebrew tribe was represented. All the priests, soldiers, and people gathered near the tabernacle. Eleazar, the priest, had two urns, one containing the tribal names, the other with lists of land parcels. Yet before the people received their inheritance, a promise needed to be fulfilled.

I’m seeing a sturdy man with sinewy muscle. Caleb, gray headed and great hearted, steps forward. He has a spring in his step, a sparkle in his eye, and a promise to collect. “Joshua, remember what Moses told you and me at Kadesh Barnea?

Kadesh Barnea. The name stirred a 45-five-year-old memory in Joshua. It was from this camp that Moses heard two distinct reports.

All 12 men agreed on the value of the land. It flowed with milk and honey. All 12 agreed on the description of the people and the cities. Large and fortified. But only Joshua and Caleb believed the land could be overtaken.

Read carefully the words that Caleb spoke to Joshua at the end of the military campaign (Joshua 14:6-12). See if you can spot what was different about Caleb’s spirit.

Caleb … said to [Joshua]: “You know the word which the LORD said to Moses the man of God concerning you and me in Kadesh Barnea. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh Barnea to spy out the land, and I brought back word to him as it was in my heart. Nevertheless my brethren who went up with me made the heart of the people melt, but I wholly followed the LORD my God. So Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land where your foot has trodden shall be your inheritance and your children’s forever, because you have wholly followed the LORD my God.’ And now, behold the LORD has kept me alive, as He said, these forty-five years, ever since the LORD spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old. As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in. Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the LORD spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the LORD will be with me; and I shall be able to drive them out as the LORD said.

What name appears and reappears in Caleb’s words? The Lord. The Lord. The Lord. The Lord. The Lord. The Lord. The Lord. The Lord. The Lord. Nine references to the Lord! Who was on Caleb’s mind? Who was in Caleb’s heart? What caused him to have a different spirit? He centered his mind on the Lord.

What about you? What emphasis would a transcript of your thoughts reveal? The Lord? Or the problem, the problem, the problem, the problem? The economy, the economy? The jerk, the jerk?

Promised Land people do not deny the presence of problems. Canaan is fraught with giants and Jerichos. It does no good to pretend it is not. Servants like Caleb aren’t naïve, but they immerse their minds in God-thoughts.

Good water and battery acid
Imagine two cooking bowls. One contains fresh, clean water. The second contains battery acid. Take an apple and cut it in half. Place one half of the apple in the bowl of clean water. Place the other half in the bowl of battery acid. Leave each in its respective bowl for five minutes, and then pull out the two halves. Which one will you want to eat?

Your mind is the apple. God is good water. Problems are battery acid. If you marinate your mind in your problems, they will eventually corrode and corrupt your thoughts. But thoughts of God will preserve and refresh your attitudes. Caleb was different because he soaked his mind in God.

The psalmist showed us how to do this. He asked, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? (Psalm 42:5). He was sad and discouraged. The struggles of life threatened to pull him under and take another victim. But at just the right time, the writer made this decision: “Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him … I will remember You from the land of the Jordan, and from the heights of Hermon, from the Hill Mizar (verses 5-6).

There is a resolve in those words. “I shall yet … I will remember You. The writer made a deliberate decision to treat his downcast soul with thoughts of God. Everywhere I go, I will remember you—from Jordan to Hermon to Mizar.

In your case the verse would read, “From the ICU to the cemetery, to the unemployment line, to the courtroom, I will remember you.

There is nothing easy about this. Troubles pounce on us like rain in a thunderstorm. Finding God amid the billows will demand every bit of discipline you can muster. But the result is worth the strain. Besides, do you really want to meditate on your misery? Will reciting your problems turn you into a better person? No. But changing your mind-set will.

Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed (John 14:27, AMP).  Instead, immerse your mind in God-thoughts.

When troubles come our way, we can be stressed and upset, or we can trust God. Caleb could have cursed God. He didn’t deserve the wilderness. He had to put his dreams on hold for four decades. Still he didn’t complain or grow sour. When the time came for him to inherit his property, he stepped forward with a God-drenched mind to receive it.

Set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things) (Col.  3:2 AMP). When giants are in the land, when doubts swarm your mind, turn your thoughts to God. Your best thoughts are God-thoughts.

————————————————————————————–

Taken from Glory Days by Max Lucado, copyright © 2015 by Max Lucado.

 

Dealing With Doubt

SOURCE:  Randy Alcorn/Ligonier Ministries

In times of doubt, difficulty, and trials, our fundamental beliefs about God and our faith are revealed.

So how can Christians find faith in the midst of doubt?

How can they trust God’s plan when their lives seem out of His control, and prayers seem to go unanswered or, as it sometimes feels, even unheard?

If you or someone you love has been there, these questions may be far more personal than theoretical. You might ask questions like these: Is God good? Is He sovereign? Does He care?

When we’re assailed by trials, we need perspective for our minds and relief for our hearts. It’s essential that we realign our worldview by God’s inspired Word: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).

The Foundation of Our Faith

The sovereignty of God is a solid foundation for our faith. God’s sovereignty is the biblical teaching that all things remain under God’s rule and nothing happens without either His direction or permission. God works in all things for the good of His children (see Rom. 8:28), including evil and suffering. He doesn’t commit moral evil, but He can use any evil for good purposes.

Paul wrote, “In [Christ] we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11). “Everything” is comprehensive—no exceptions. God works even in those things done against His moral will, to bring about His purpose and plan. We can follow Scripture’s lead and embrace the belief that a sovereign God is accomplishing eternal purposes in the midst of painful and even tragic events.

The Testing of Our Faith

Suffering and life’s difficulties either push us away from God or pull us toward him. Though he did not believe in Jesus as the Messiah, Auschwitz survivor Viktor Frankl wrote in The Unconscious God, “Just as the small fire is extinguished by the storm whereas a large fire is enhanced by it, likewise a weak faith is weakened by predicaments and catastrophes whereas a strong faith is strengthened by them.”

Only when you jettison ungrounded and untrue faith can you replace it with valid faith in the one, true, sovereign God—faith that can pass, and even find strength in, life’s formidable tests.

The devastation of tragedy is certainly real for people whose faith endures suffering. But because they do not place their hope for health, abundance, and secure relationships in this life, but in an eternal life to come, their hope remains firm regardless of what happens.

Faith means believing that God is good and that even if we can’t see it today, one day we will look back and see clearly His sovereignty, goodness, and kindness.

The Nurturing of Our Faith

In our times of doubt, God promises never to leave us. Paul Tournier said, “Where there is no longer any opportunity for doubt, there is no longer any opportunity for faith.”

Trusting God is a matter of faith. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). We must immerse ourselves in God’s Word. As a solar panel stores energy from sunlight, faith is established only by regular exposure to the truth and application of that truth to the events we confront in our lives. This is why it’s essential that we attend a church that teaches God’s Word and that we study it daily ourselves. When our beliefs are established on the truth, we are more likely to stand during times when doubts assail us.

The Hope of Our Faith

We should ask God to deliver us from Satan’s attacks of unbelief and discouragement. We should learn to resist them in the power of Christ (see James 4:7). Trusting God for the grace to endure adversity is as much an act of faith as trusting Him for deliverance from it.

God promises in Hebrews 13:5 (NIV), “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” This unusual Greek sentence contains five negatives. Kenneth Wuest translates it: “I will not, I will not cease to sustain and uphold you. I will not, I will not, I will not let you down.” When we languish in the deepest pit and wonder if God even exists, God reminds us that He remains there with us.

We can trust that God is refining us through our trials—and that one day He will bring us into His glorious presence.

The Lord says to us, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you…. When you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you” (Isa. 43:2).

God’s presence remains with His children whether we recognize it or not. In periods of darkness, God calls us to trust Him until the light returns. “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold” (Job 23:10).

In this world of suffering, I have a profound and abiding hope, and faith for the future. Not because I’ve followed a set of religious rules, but because for forty-some years, I’ve known a real person, and continue to know Him better. Through inconceivable self-sacrifice, He has touched me deeply, given me a new heart, and utterly transformed my life. To Jesus be the glory, now and forever.

How to Help Your Anxious Child

SOURCE:  Kim Blackham

It is normal for children to have some anxieties throughout childhood.  Being afraid of the dark, worried about shots at the doctor’s office, fear of being left alone, or anxious about an upcoming test are common fears for many children.  But what do you do when the anxieties feel like they are taking over the child’s sense of well-being?

  1. Encourage them to see the worries and concerns as existing independent from them.

If they can separate themselves from the anxieties, it will be easier for them to understand and manage them.  You can do this, but helping them understand that worries and anxieties are normal – we all have them, but that we get to decide which worries and concerns we are going to allow.

  1.  Explain that while some people may think that worries and concerns only exist in our heads, they have a very real impact on us physically as well.

Ask them what happens for them physically when they are afraid.  Where do they feel it?  Sometime people feel it as a yucky ball in their stomach, other times people feel it as a tight knot in their chest, or feeling hot and sticky all over.  See if they can identify the physical response to those anxieties.

READ FURTHER ABOUT THIS TOPIC AT:  http://www.kimblackham.com/how-to-help-your-anxious-child/

 

Your Stress Is Harming Your Spiritual Life

SOURCE:  ANDREA LUCADO/Relevant Magazine

Overworking yourself takes a much deeper toll than you might realize.

I’ve noticed a theme since entering adulthood: it’s stressful.

Becoming a grown up means grown-up responsibilities. You go to work, where maybe you have a difficult boss, or strict deadlines, budgets to make and presentations to give. After work, you go home, where you’re trying to keep up with things like grocery shopping, bills and cleaning. And on top of keeping your work and home life in order, you are trying to maintain a decent social life, stay up-to-date on pop culture and follow the news.

It’s a lot. It’s stressful. And, pretty quickly, we grow accustomed to the stress.

We talk about being stressed out with our friends. We learn to go about our day with a constant weight on our shoulders, with neck pain and tension, with shortness of breath, or however it is your body manifests stress.

At some point, we just learn to live with it, get the occasional massage, and move on. But I wonder if we’re growing too comfortable with the amount of stress we have in our lives. I wonder if we realize what it is actually doing to us, not just physically, but spiritually.

I think stress, at its core, is feeling worried about things that aren’t going your way presently, didn’t go your way in the past, or might not go your way in the future. I went through an intensely stressful time recently in which I was worried about all three of these things at once. I felt myself spiraling. I got anxious and just held onto the anxiety. In the stress, I began to doubt God’s power, and I began to doubt His goodness. If God is good and cares about me, why do I feel this way? If He is all-powerful and all-knowing, why isn’t He improving my situation?

Simply put, I was not trusting God.

When we’re stressed, our reaction is to search for peace. But after this recent bout of anxiety, I wonder if what we should be looking for instead is trust. Consider Isaiah 26:3: “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” According to this verse, trusting God is the key to perfect peace. And how do we trust God, especially in the midst of a stressful time? By keeping our minds “stayed” on Him.

John MacArthur says, “Perfect peace comes when our focus is off the problem, off the trouble, and constantly on Christ.” Let’s be honest, keeping our minds constantly on Christ is a bit of a daunting task, but I think we can take steps in that direction by remembering who God is and what He has done for us. For it is when we forget these things that we begin to distrust, and it is when we distrust that we begin to stress.

Remembering Who God Is

Oswald Chambers says in order to find peace, “remember who you are and whose you are.” When we forget who God is, it becomes very easy to freak out. If God is not in control, then who is? If God is not good, will the bad things never stop happening? If God is not loving, then will I never get the things I so deeply desire?

When we forget the character of God, the troubles in our minds escalate quickly. But when we remind ourselves of who God is—He is good (Exodus 34:6), He is just (Nehemiah 9:32), He is merciful (Hebrews 4:16)—the pressure to solve our own issues and take care of own stress is off. It’s not up to us, and the person it is up to is good, just and merciful.

Remembering What He Has Done for Us

There is no shortage of scholarly evidence that gratitude leads to a less stressful and more “happy life,” as the experts call it. But gratitude for the Christian takes things to a deeper level. We’re not only thankful for what we have; we are able to thank the one who gave it to us.

 Paul tells the Philippians, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ” (Philippians 4:6-7). Thanksgiving is on the path toward peace.

I set a challenge for myself this year that you may want to consider if your stress level is high. I’m starting every day by writing down five things I am thankful for and five things I know to be true about God’s character. I’ve been doing this for a few weeks now, and though I can’t say my stress is completely gone and everything is roses, I have felt more aware of how good my life is and more aware of God’s presence in it. Reminding myself of these things has allowed me to be less skeptical of God and more trusting of Him. And in that trust, there has been peace.

A 100 percent stress-free life isn’t realistic, but I think we can, realistically, set a goal to stress less, fear less, and experience anxiety less often, one piece of gratitude and one piece of truth at a time.

When Fear Seizes You

SOURCE:  Desiring God/Stacy Reaoch

This past fall my husband had the privilege of going to Turkey to speak at a conference for Christian workers. Although I was excited for his opportunity, I was also feeling somewhat hesitant with the terrorist activity in nearby Syria. Thanks to modern technology, we planned to FaceTime every day to keep in close touch with each other.

One day during that week, our appointed time to connect went by with no contact from my husband. Maybe he’s just running late, I reasoned. I looked for text messages . . . negative. I checked to make sure my ringer was turned up loud enough . . . affirmative. Maybe he’s deep in conversation with someone. . . . But as the minutes turned into hours, fear began to seize me. Unfortunately I learned of terrorists near the Turkey border as I began watching world news reports.

As fear began to consume me, every worst possible situation was played out in my head. Had terrorists overcome the conference and taken captives? What would I do? My mind went through multiple scenarios: explaining to our children what had happened, looking for a job to support our family, and wondering whether to sell the house. By the time my husband was finally able to call I had already decided where to move and how much to sell the house for. Come to find out, he was just fine.

Fear Feeds Irrationality

When fear seizes you, all our ability to think rationally evaporates. Life becomes overwhelming and the promises of God are thrown out the window.

When Moses sent the spies into Canaan to gather information for the people of Israel, fear of the looming giants became much more visible than any of the blessings Canaan had to offer. Although they obediently gathered fruit from the land, their report focused on all the seemingly impossible obstacles they faced.

“We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey and this is its fruit. However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there” (Numbers 13:27–28). As the spies exaggerated and gave the worse report possible, they compared themselves to grasshoppers and claimed the land would devour them (Numbers 13:32–33).

This fearful exaggeration infected the Israelites who succumbed to crying and grumbling against Moses and Aaron, and it even led them to claim they wish they’d died in the wilderness (Numbers 14:2–3)!

It seems Israel forgot God’s promise to give them the land of Canaan, despite the obstacles that looked so intimidating. “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel” (Numbers 13:2). If the Israelites had truly trusted God’s promise, even their enemies in Canaan shouldn’t have been a threat to them. God was going to give Israel the Promised Land, just as he’d said to Abraham hundreds of years before.

And during our moments of fear and panic, God is whispering promises to us too.

Fighting Off Fear

When fear begins to creep in and all the “what-if” situations begin to consume your mind, here are seven things to remember:

1. God’s truth — Is what I’m thinking about really happening? Or is it just my imagination running wild? Paul reminds us to dwell on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8).

2. God’s presence — We can be comforted remembering that we are not alone. God is with us. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

3. God’s grace — God promises to provide us with his all-sufficient grace for every trial that comes our way. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Jesus told Paul. And therefore, with Paul, we can “boast all the more gladly of our weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon us” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

4. God’s sovereignty — God is in control over every situation in our lives. “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:34–35).

5. God listens — Pour out your heart to God in prayer. “I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1).

6. God’s trustworthiness — “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?” (Psalm 56:3–4).

7. God’s big picture plan — No matter how awful this trial may seem, God promises to use everything together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). We may not see the good in our situation at the time, but we can trust God has a hidden smile behind the dark cloud.

So when your child is diagnosed with cancer, or you just learned of a loved one in a car accident, or your husband comes home with news that he was let go from his job, prepare yourself for battle. Don’t allow the enemy of fear to seize you and take you captive. Fight him off with the promises of God’s word and his unchanging character.

Two Traps to Avoid: “If Only” and “What If?”

SOURCE:   Susan Yates/Family Life

In each season of my life, I’ve found myself falling into two mental traps which are not helpful.

One is the “If only” syndrome, and the other is the “What if?” syndrome.

Here’s how “If only” might express itself:

  • “If only I had a husband.”
  • “If only I had more money.”
  • “If only my husband would act like…”
  • “If only my husband (or I) had a good job.”
  • “If only we had a different house.”
  • “If only my parents (or his) understood.”
  • “If only my child would sleep through the night.”
  • “If only I had a really close friend.”
  • “If only I didn’t come from such a wounded past.”
  • “If only I wasn’t stuck in this place.”
  • “If only I was free of this disease.”
  • “If only I knew how to handle my teen.”
  • “If only I didn’t have to do this.”
  • “If only I didn’t struggle with this.”

Can you identify?

You can probably add to this list yourself. Over the years I’ve realized that these thoughts merely lead me into a real case of self-pity. At the core of what I’m expressing is: “Life is about me and my happiness.” I have a bucket that needs to be filled.

But the reality is that even if the desire for one “If only” is met, I’ll just have another one to add to the list. Too often I get myself into this mindset without even realizing it. And it sinks me into a bad mood or a feeling of being depressed. The focus is on me, and I need to confess this selfishness and ask God to forgive me and to enable me to focus on Him and on others. And I need to ask Him to give me a grateful heart.

The other trap is “What if?”:

  • “What if I can’t get pregnant?”
  • “What if my husband leaves me?”
  • “What if I don’t get this raise?”
  • “What if I can’t complete this project?”
  • “What if we lose the election?”
  • “What if the medical tests bring bad news?”
  • “What if my child doesn’t make the team?”
  • “What if I fail?”

This mindset leads to fear. I am afraid of what will happen if the “What if” comes true. And this can be a paralyzing fear.

The “What if” syndrome is especially hard for those of us with an overactive imagination—we are often visionaries; we are creative. We tend to have this weakness, however: We can create the worst-case scenario in our imagination in three seconds flat! It can be terrifying.

What’s at the core of this attitude? I fail to believe that God is in control. My “What if” has become bigger than my God. I have temporarily forgotten that He is loving, He is kind, He is present, He is good, and He will never, ever forsake me.

I can give Him my “What if”—He can handle it. He will sustain me.

Underlying the “If only” and “What if” syndromes is an expectation that our lives should be completely satisfying. We may recognize that’s not realistic, but too often we live with that expectation in our thought life without even realizing it.

We need to remember that, in this life, our bucket will always have holes. Life will not be perfect until we get to heaven. Eternal life in heaven will be a perfect bucket with no holes completely filled with the love of Christ and satisfaction—no wants or fears, just sweet fellowship with Jesus and those who have gone before us.

Today, what is your “If only…”?  What is your “What if”?

Recognize the subtle danger of these thoughts, which produce self-pity and fear. Make a conscious decision to dump them someplace (down the garbage disposal, in the trash, or fireplace).

Begin to say His traits out loud: “You are my Father, You go before me. You prepare a way for me. You protect me. You bless me. You understand me. You forgive me. You know me better than I know myself and you love me totally, completely, perfectly. No matter what happens You are still in charge. You will never forsake me.”

This puts your focus on God, where it belongs.

How To Stop Worrying So Much

SOURCE:  Relevant Magazine/TYLER EDWARDS

The art of casting all your cares on God.

Do you know what one the most commonly ignored commands in all of Scripture is?   “Don’t worry.”

Do you know what the most common command in Scripture is?   “Do not be afraid.”

The Bible tells us not to worry or be afraid, but you take one look at our culture, and you see how closely we hold onto those commandments.

It’s understandable, actually. Not worrying is easier said than done. We are all anxious about something: Relationships, finances, health, the future. We get stressed with work, with responsibilities, with decisions.

We might use different words for it, but it all boils down to one thing: fear.

We have lots of fears. We are afraid to make the wrong decision. We fear what we don’t know. We fear what we can’t change. When we run out of reasonable things to worry about, we start fabricating unreasonable ones. It’s like our minds are little worry factories manned by little worker elves that never sleep. We mass-produce anxiety 24/7.

Worrying Without Reason

So over and over, God tells us not to be afraid. He commands us not to worry. Jesus doesn’t say, “Don’t worry without good reason or don’t worry unless it makes you feel better.” He just says don’t.

To help us obey the command, God tells us how to stop worrying. In Luke, He says “Trust in me. For if I take care crass of birds, how much more will I take care you my children?” In 1 Peter He says to cast our worry onto Him. To give it over to Him.

For many of us, giving our anxiety over to God feels like an almost insurmountable task. Our issues with worry and anxiety are beyond our own ability to handle. We need to address these issues with friends, and perhaps seek professional counseling. There is nothing wrong with admitting you need others to help you with your worry. That is not battle you were ever meant to fight on your own, and the sooner you seek help, the sooner you can be free of it.

When you live a life free from worry, you’re living in the full truth of who God is. You’re living under the assumption that He is in control, He cares and He can do something about your circumstances.

The Response to Worry

In the church we talk about faith a lot.

Faith and doubt, it’s always those two together. But doubt isn’t the opposite of faith. Not really. The opposite of faith is fear. That’s why God commands us not to do it.

We don’t need to be afraid because God loves us. He promised to take care of us. He never promises there will be no pain but He does promise to come back and to take that pain away.

How do we overcome worry? We need to equip ourselves with a proper understanding of God.

1. Equip yourself with the knowledge of who God is.

Is God good? Is God all-powerful? Does God love you? Will God take care of you? If you believe the answer to these are yes then our reasons to worry drop significantly It’s a trust issue.

2. Surrender.

We fear because we want to know, we want to be in control. God knows. God is in control. When we place our faith in Him. We can overcome our fears because we know He is good and He will take care of us. Lay your fears at His feet and leave them there. How do you bring your fears to God? Pray. When you were little and scared of monsters what did you do? You called out for daddy. It’s effective. When you are worried or concerned, pray.

3. Consider your witness.

Our relationship with God fundamentally changes our perception. Our worries about food, clothes, appearances and money become superfluous. We as Christians can meet the worries of the world with the confidence that God reigns over it all.

 4. Think about Jesus.

Consider what He endured for you. He was not guilty of sin but He paid the price for all sin. He suffered. He died on a cross. He carried the burden of our transgressions. If Jesus endured all that for you, do you really believe He would forsake you?

5. Know who you are.

You belong to God. You are His. When you have confidence and security in your identity as a child of God you will find that worry has hard time getting its hooks into you. Worry breeds in insecurity. Find your security in Jesus.

So give up on living of a life of “what if’s?” You can spend your whole life wondering about maybes and possibilities. All it will do is cripple you from dealing with things you can actually control.

Seek out friends and professionals who can help you deal with your inner turmoil. With their help, you are fighting a winnable battle.

Worry doesn’t prevent the sorrows of tomorrow. It destroys the joys of today.

Look at the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10. Mary sits at Jesus’s feet. Martha worries about many things. Jesus tells us not to worry because He wants us to be free from worry. He wants us to live life to the full. Worry and fear steal that away. We worry because we are focused on other things. We overcome our worry by focusing on Jesus. When we focus on Him the worries and troubles of this life fade into the background.

 

Are You Unexpectedly Pregnant?

SOURCE:  JoHannah Reardon

Are You Unexpectedly Pregnant?

Find courage in knowing this didn’t take God by surprise

Brandon and Aimee* were in crisis. The couple had met when Brandon was in the military and married during one of his furloughs. Now he was home and they were preparing for the future by pursuing their college degrees. These two people were motivated, and future success was written all over them. They felt that nothing could stand in their way until Aimee discovered she was pregnant.

Devastated, they met with me to discuss their options. Since they’d both grown up with limited funds, they were fiercely determined to change the trajectory of their lives. They did not want to be poor, and even more, they did not want a child of theirs to grow up poor. This pregnancy seemed to threaten all their dreams and even their future security. They couldn’t see any hope or reason for this radical blow to their plans.

As they told me their story, my mind drifted back to my own similar series of events.

When my husband was in his third year of seminary, we’d just about run out of funds. There was one week when we had absolutely no money left to buy groceries because of some unexpected expenses. I mean none—not even an extra dollar bill lying around the house. Just when I was starting to truly fret, I noticed a personal letter in our daily mail—a note of encouragement from an elderly woman I’d met only once before. She knew my husband was in seminary and things were tight, so along with the note, she enclosed a 20-dollar bill. It wasn’t a lot of money, but it was enough to tide us over until the next paycheck. With that small amount we were able to buy some staples—oats, rice, milk, canned goods, peanut butter, bread. It was a rather boring week of food, but it made meal preparation really easy!

That gives you some idea of what our circumstances were like in those days. We struggled to cover our expenditures, not wanting to go into debt, so we lived as frugally as possible. One of the ways we decided to save money was to get rid of maternity insurance, since that added a lot of expense and since we had no intentions of adding a baby to our already precarious situation.

Famous last words (or thoughts).

A few weeks after the no-money-for-groceries incident, I found out I was pregnant. In spite of taking precautions to prevent pregnancy, there was no denying the facts. Not only did the pregnancy test confirm it, but I was experiencing all the symptoms, including acute morning sickness. In fact, it was so bad, I had to quit my job because I simply couldn’t get out of bed. For an entire month, I was lucky to keep soda and crackers down (which helped our grocery bill stay low!).

But, of course, it was a financial crisis. Not only did we not have insurance to cover the pregnancy, but I was no longer bringing in any income. When I told my husband the news with tears, he bravely said, “I don’t understand why this is happening now. All I know is that God is good.” So we clung to that fact over the next nine months as we saw God provide for us. My husband graduated a few months after our beautiful daughter was born. And he graduated debt-free.

I shared these things with Brandon and Aimee, and I also want to share them with you. If you are facing a similar experience, know that God was not taken by surprise with this pregnancy. He planned this child in eternity past and has a plan for this child in eternity future. Your present troubles will be put in perspective as life unfolds. And as you journey forward, keep the following things in mind.

Embrace this child by faith

Psalm 127:3 says, “Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.” When we were unsure why we were experiencing this unplanned pregnancy, we clung to this verse. We understood that this child was a gift, even if she didn’t seem like it at the moment. So we accepted that fact by faith and waited for the understanding to dawn—which occurred far sooner than either of us would have expected. Once we embraced this child rather than fearing her, we began to experience all the joy felt by expectant parents who have planned their child.

Trust God’s timing

The timing seemed all wrong. We couldn’t understand why I would be pregnant at the worst possible time financially. But the extreme financial stress lasted only a few years. By the time our daughter was school age, we could afford her.

The whole experience also gave me compassion for others who were going through something similar. I began volunteering at a local pregnancy center, which was when Brandon and Aimee came to see me, wanting to abort, terrified that their child would grow up poor. I was able to tell them that their child wouldn’t know they were poor. They could continue their education and by the time their child was old enough to understand their economic situation, it would be greatly improved. No preschooler ever feels poor if he or she has enough to eat and is loved.

And even if they were poor, God would be faithful to meet their needs. The very act of trusting God for our daily needs is a powerful testimony to a child and can help them see how active God is in our lives. And that’s worth more than all the riches this world can hold.

Be assured that God knows more than you do

My husband and I are both planners. We both enjoy security and knowing that “all of our ducks are in a row.” It’s much more comfortable for us to see exactly where the money is coming from and to work out a budget. Neither of us is overly concerned if it’s a tight budget, but we both are a lot happier when the numbers line up. But God blew our budget out of the water so that it was unrecognizable, and there was nothing left but for us to trust him. That’s a great place to be.

With an unexpected pregnancy, we clung to the fact that God knew more than we did. Although it seemed like a disaster to us, we found courage in the fact that God chose to give us a baby, and that he chose to do that in the midst of our financial struggles. The message was long-lasting. God sees how things will turn out and superintends our circumstances. In our case, he overrode our attempts at preventing pregnancy, which made it all the more clear that this was a child he wanted in the world. Of course, we have no doubts about the wisdom of that now. Our daughter has been a delight and brought us more joy than we could possibly imagine. The days of struggle seem like a drop in the bucket compared to the years of happiness she has brought us.

*names changed

A Prayer Upon Receiving Troubling News

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. (John 14:1)

In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

Dear Lord Jesus….

Last evening’s troubling stories shape today’s morning prayer. I went to bed last night, wearied with woes of friends. I arise today hungry with hope in you, our great and gracious Savior.

Thank you for being honest with us about life this side of the new heaven and new earth. You’re not an on-demand panacea, promising the elimination hardships and heartaches. You’re not a miracle-computer, passively waiting to be programmed, as we exercise the right formula.

You’re so much more; so much better. You’re a very present help, pledging your presence in every circumstance and trial—committed to working in all things, for our good and your glory. Troubling news doesn’t have to cripple our hearts. Indeed, may it carry our hearts to you today, for you are ever so trustworthy, Lord Jesus.

For our friends stunned with breath-taking health news, we declare our trust in you, Jesus. How we long for the day when words like cancer, dementia and heart disease will no longer appear in our vocabulary. Until that Day, we unabashedly and earnestly pray for healing, and we trust you for all-surpassing peace and more-than-sufficient grace.

For friends saddened with heart-ripping issues with their children, we declare our trust in you, Jesus. Few reports carry more power to dishearten us than those related to our children.

Whether they’ve been vandalized by others’ darkness, or victimized by their own foolish choices, it hurts real bad and real deep. We appeal to your covenant faithfulness and your powerful reach: capture the hearts of our children, Jesus, and help us love them well in the chaos and the crisis.

For friends waking up to pink slips, financial burdens and no apparent options, we declare our trust in you, Lord Jesus. Things impossible with man are possible with you. We pray, not only for your provision, but also for our generosity with one another. May the law of love be fulfilled as we bear one another’s burdens—spiritually and emotionally, physically and fiscally.

Lord Jesus, we can “trust in you as we trust in God,” for you are God—the Son of God and God the Son. We can “take heart” because you took our sin, and have already overcome the world for us.

In the world we will have tribulation and broken stories, but in you we are given all the grace, peace, and hope we need.

So very Amen we pray in your kind and overcoming Name.

Fighting and Conquering Anxiety and Worry

SOURCE:  John Piper

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)

When I am anxious about my ministry being useless and empty, I fight unbelief with the promise of Isaiah 55:11. “So shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”

When I am anxious about being too weak to do my work, I battle unbelief with the promise of Christ, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

When I am anxious about decisions I have to make about the future, I battle unbelief with the promise, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you” (Psalm 32:8).

When I am anxious about facing opponents, I battle unbelief with the promise, “If God is for us, who is against us!” (Romans 8:31).

When I am anxious about the welfare of those I love, I battle unbelief with the promise that if I, being evil, know how to give good things to my children, how much more will the “Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11).

And I fight to maintain my spiritual equilibrium with the reminder that everyone who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for Christ’s sake “shall receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mark 10:29–30).

When I am anxious about being sick, I battle unbelief with the promise, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (Psalm 34:19).

And I take the promise with trembling: “Tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:3–5).

———————————————————————————————————————————–

~ John Piper, Future Grace, Multnomah Books (Colorado Springs, CO), pages 60–61

12 Verses to Battle Your Biggest Problems

SOURCE:   Sandra Clifton, D. Min.

Regardless of what you are going through, God is fully aware of it.

Not only that, He is also with you. He cares deeply about you right now, and His Word offers you hope for victory in every situation, trial and challenge you face.

If you want to see God’s powerful promises manifested in your life, you must seek the guidance of His Spirit through prayer.

His Word, His Spirit and His will are always aligned. Take hold of His promises and learn to walk with Him by faith for life-changing results.

Find victory over your problems in the following Scriptures:

  •  READ: Ps. 119:89; 2 Cor. 1:20; Heb. 10:23; James 4:7; 1 Pet. 5:7; 2 Pet. 1:3-4.

HEART ISSUE: Take time to dwell on God’s assurances for victorious outcomes in every area of your life. Choose to believe they are intended for you.

PRAYER FOCUS: Father, in the name of Jesus, I thank You for Your powerful promises. You always hear and answer me. Regardless of how things have gone in the past, or how they look today, I can overcome any obstacle because You are completely victorious in me. Amen.

  •  READ: Ps. 66:18; Jer. 1:12; Jer. 33:3; 2 Cor. 5:7; 2 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 6:12.

HEART ISSUE: Tell God all about your dreams and desires. Then take time to listen to Him and receive His direction.

PRAYER FOCUS: Father, in the name of Jesus, I thank You for hearing my prayers, spoken and unspoken. Thank You for answering every time and for giving me my heart’s desires. I give You all the glory. Amen.

Do You Ever Worry?

Source:  Christina Fox/Desiring God

A Prayer for the Worried Mom’s Heart

Do you ever worry?

I think we can all admit that we do. In fact, we probably worry more than we realize. As a mother, I find myself worrying about my children, about their health, their learning, and whether I can just make it to bedtime each day.

I also find myself worried about paying bills, about my husband’s travel for work, and about that message from my doctor needing to discuss test results with me. My to-do lists keep me awake at night because I fear I’ll forget to do something important. Questions like “what if?” and “should I have?” swirl around my mind, holding me hostage and keeping me chained to my worries and fears.

Worry is a kind of “acceptable sin.” By that I mean worry is one of those sins that everyone does so we don’t often address it. Like gossip, worry is something we all know we aren’t supposed to do, but we often gloss over it and call it something else — something like stress. Especially for women, worry can be expected and in some situations to not worry would seem strange.

But deep down, we want to be freed from the chronic feeling of doom and the expectation of something bad lurking just around the corner. We know that the Bible tells us not to worry, but “what if?” thoughts seem like such a part of us that we don’t know how to stop.

What can we do?

Remember and Pray

Like oil and water, trust and worry do not mix. To expel worry from our heart, we need to grow deeper roots of trust in God. Time and again in the Psalms, when the writer’s heart was heavy, he turned to look back at all that God had done for him. As the psalmist looked back at God’s faithfulness and his sovereign care for him, he was able to trust God even in the midst of troubling circumstances.

When we look back in our own lives at God’s faithfulness to us, it gives us confidence and hope in his future faithfulness. We look back to our own story of salvation. We see that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, that this is the demonstration of God’s love for us. When worries threaten to seize our heart, we need to remember and dwell on the truth of the gospel. Remembering the cross propels us in faith for what lies ahead.

And as we remember, we need to turn to God in prayer. Hebrews says that because of Jesus, we can come to the throne of grace with confidence, to receive the help we need (Hebrews 4:16). Paul was referring to chronic worry when he wrote in Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” We are to give our worries to God in prayer, trusting him with all our burdens and cares. As a result, we will receive in return the peace we long for, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

You might even pray something like this. . . .

A Prayer for the Worried Heart

My Papa in Heaven,

I come to you with a heart heavy and full of so many worries and cares. I want to just curl up on your lap and find some peace from the chaos in my life. My worries fill my mind night and day. My stomach is in knots and I can hardly breathe. I feel like I am drained dry; the joy has been sucked right out of me.

But you said to come to you with all my burdens. You said that you will carry them. You tell us you are a rock, a shield, a fortress. I need a rock right now. I need a fortress to run into right now. I need you.

There are so many decisions to make. What if I make the wrong one? So many bad things loom on the horizon, what if I’m not prepared? Help me to focus my heart on you and not on the giants around me. I know that all these worries are keeping me from trusting you. Like Peter, instead of looking toward your face, I am looking around at the waves encircling me.

Forgive me for doubting and not living a life of trust. I believe, but please help my unbelief! I know that when I worry, I am believing a lie that says that I can control what happens in my life. Forgive me for trying to control something I never really had control of. Help me to trust in your word and not the lies.

You sent your Son to carry my greatest burden at the cross. I know that you can handle all that troubles me today. There is nothing too great for you, the earth is your footstool and the wind and rain come and go at your command. Free me of this worry today. Help me to trust the same grace that saved me at the cross to save me from all that weighs me down.

I know that you have a perfect plan for my life. Help me to walk by faith and not by sight. I want to trust in your plan and your love for me. I want to face the unknown future confident that you have it under control. Grant me the grace I need.

Thank you for Jesus and that because of him I can come to you in confidence. You accept me as I am, worries and all. I give them all to you now, in Jesus’s name, Amen.

Worry brings about a lot (except a solution).

SOURCE: Taken from an article by  Living Free

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

Worry.

Probably one of the most common traps we fall into. And one of the most useless and damaging. Worry has never solved a problem. But it has caused stress, ulcers, depression, despair, fear, anxiety, and much more.

[S]cripture tells us to replace worry with prayer. Instead of worrying, we are to tell God our needs, remember all he has done for us in the past, and thank him for his faithfulness. As we remember that faithfulness, our faith will grow to trust him now. Then we can experience peace so great that it is beyond our understanding!

And as we live in Christ Jesus and walk in obedience to him, God’s peace will guard our hearts and minds. Instead of worrying, we will be enveloped in his peace.

Are you worried about something? Finances … your job … a failing relationship … a rebellious child … health problems. The list of things we can worry about seems endless, but the answer is always the same.

Talk to God about the problem. Remember his faithfulness in the past. Spend time thinking about all he has done for you. Make a list! Then thank him … and determine to trust him in your current situation. Circumstances may have changed – but he hasn’t.

Father, I have been so worried about this situation. I see no solution… no way out. But I realize that I don’t have to see the answer. I need to trust you to work this out in your way and in your time. Thank you for your faithfulness and all you have done for me in the past. Help me to trust you now and to experience your peace that passes all understanding. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …


Knowing God My Father: Applying the Names of God to My Personal Life
 by Jimmy Ray Lee, D.Min.

Hanging Out With God Right Now

Source:  Jan Johnson

This Present Moment

Today – even this moment – may be the day “the Lord has made” (Ps 118:24), but a lot of us are living elsewhere. 

Jesus, who knew the psalms well, may have been thinking of that phrase when he said:  “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now.”  He seemed to know that we are tempted not to live in this present moment but in the future because he concluded with, “Don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes” (Matt 6:34,The Message).

Instead of living in this present moment, we inhabit:

  • The Future – tasks I need to do, whom I need to talk to, that difficult appointment tomorrow, expectations about events and people and wondering if these expectations will be met.
  • The Past – what was said to me that was hurtful or compliments that made me feel really good (sometimes too self-focused), words or actions or even purchases or decisions I could regret,  who or what disappointed me.
  • Fantasy – what I would like to say to someone but never will, what I’d like to see happen but there’s no concrete evidence that it will ever happen.

Living in these other moments do not help me abide in Christ. To find contentment in the present moment is to hang out with God right now, relish and adore the companion of my soul and not sweat the rest.  It’s to turn each of those future/past/fantasy thoughts into a prayer for someone. 

Living in the present moment is such a practical, down-to-earth, every day way to practice the presence of God. In Abide in Christ, Andrew Murray says that “the little word now is one of the deepest secrets of the life of faith…” Someone responded to Andrew by saying, “Whatever the surrounding circumstances might be, all I have to do is hold still, and rest and realize ‘Jesus saves me now,’ and for that moment I have what I need.” “Saves ” comes from sozo meaning healing, deliverance, wholeness.  You and I are invited into healing and wholeness in this moment.

Even more practically, God’s will for me in the present moment is to:

    • rejoice always
    • pray without ceasing
    • give thanks in all circumstances

(for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you, 1 Thess 5:16-18).

When I do these things in this present moment, the rest of God’s will isn’t quite so fuzzy. 

Maybe this “present moment” secret is why the command, “Behold!”, occurs so often in the Christmas text.  As Mary was told “Behold!” by the angel, she knew to stop, pause, slow down and look!  Look deeply and listen deeply!  Living in this present moment may have kept her from worrying about the future (I will always be shunned for becoming pregnant without being married) or glorying in the past (I must have done some cool things to be chosen for this!)  She got the idea, and answered the angel:  “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 2:31, 36, 38, KJV).

So all day long I can ask, What would it look like to love God in this present moment? What would it look like to love the person in front of me in this present moment?  Living this way is so much easier, so much more joyful.

Each moment is a gift of God to be with God.

——————————————————————————–

Jan Johnson is a writer, speaker and spiritual director in southern California

Thankfulness: An Overlooked Way to Fight Anxiety, Worry, and Sin

SOURCE:  Taken from  The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 86-87.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Phil. 4:6

Paul knew that we cannot just stop being anxious. Worried thoughts have a way of creeping back into our minds, no matter how hard we try to ignore them.

Therefore, he instructs us to replace worrying with ‘prayer and petition, with thanksgiving.’ When you are in a dispute, it is natural to dwell on your difficult circumstances or on the wrong things that the other person has done or may do to you. The best way to overcome this negative thinking is to replace it with more constructive thoughts, such as praising God for his grace through the gospel, thanking him for the many things he has already done for you in this and other situations, and praying for assistance in dealing with your current challenges (cf. Matt. 6:25-34).

When you remind yourself of God’s faithfulness in the past and ally yourself with him today, you will discover that your anxiety is being steadily replaced with confidence and trust (cf. Isa 26:3). In fact, recalling God’s faithfulness and thanking him for his deliverance in the past was one of the primary ways the Israelites overcame their fears when they faced overwhelming problems (e.g. Psalms 18, 46, 68, 77, 78, 105, 106, 107, 136; Neh. 9:5-37).

Thankfulness for what God has done for us is a very important–but often overlooked–key to overcoming sin in our lives.

Anxiety  is one common area of sin. In this case, thankfulness corrects our perspective, reminding us of God’s past faithfulness and his sure promise to care for us in the future.

The apostle Paul also prescribes thankfulness as the antidote for other sins with which we struggle. In Ephesians 4 and 5, Paul exhorts us to put off the sins of our flesh, replacing them with behaviors that reflect our new nature in Christ. He specifically mentions foolish talk, crude joking, sexual immorality, covetousness and debauchery as behaviors that the Christian is to replace with thanksgiving (Eph 5:3-4; 18-20).

So much sin is rooted in selfishness and pride; thankfulness loosens the grip that these sins have on our hearts.

Turning the Bad into Good

SOURCE:  Living Free

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28 NLT

Once we come to Christ in faith, we begin to walk with God on a daily basis. It is vital that we learn to trust him in every area of our lives—day in and day out.

We can trust him because we are assured that as we love God and commit our lives to him, he works everything—the good and the bad—together for good. We can trust him because he has demonstrated his great unconditional love for us.

We can commit our wayward child to him because we know he loves that child even more than we do.

We can commit our finances to him because we know that he will work all things for good as we follow him and trust him for wisdom.

We can trust our loved one’s health to him because of his mercy and love.

We can trust God to work his plan in our ministry—and his plan is perfect.

Is there an area of your life that you are clinging to—and worrying about—instead of trusting God?

God cares about everything that concerns you. Keep your eyes on him, love him and trust him. He will go before you … He will guide you … He will strengthen you … And he will work all things for good.

Lord, I have been worrying about this situation and trying to fix it myself. My way hasn’t worked. I commit this situation to you and trust you for the answer. No matter how things look now, I trust you to work all things together for good. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

 Insight Group: Discover the Path to Christian Character by Jimmy Ray Lee, D.Min.

Don’t Be So Jammed Up!

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian  Counselors

“He who breathes into our hearts the heavenly hope, will not deceive or fail us when we press forward to its realization.” -Anonymous

Economic unrest. Job loss. Illness. Wars. The deaths of precious lives.

Uncertainty of the future.

Panic. Fear. Anxiety. Worry.

These must have also been issues in Jesus’ day.

Five times in Matthew chapter 6 He uses the expression, “Take no thought”. (Matthew 6:25-34 KJV)

“No thought” for… our lives… for what we will eat… what we will drink.  Even about what we will wear.

The original Greek meaning behind this phrase does not mean mindless existence.  Proverbs 21:5 ESV teaches us that “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance…”

It’s important to plan. This phrase, “take no thought” would better be interpreted as do not be anxious or worried to the point of “fretting”.

Jesus then uses a simple and yet profound example. The “birds of the air”. They do not sow seeds. They don’t reap a harvest. Neither do they “store up” for the future. And yet, “your heavenly Father feeds them.” (Matthew 6:26 ESV)

So, what is Jesus really teaching us?

In Matthew 6:32 we are reminded that our heavenly Father knows that we have a need for food and clothing. Then He brings it all together in Matthew 6:33 ESV — “But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Rather than seeking our “day to day” needs out of a sense of desperation, Jesus is admonishing us to seek Godly attributes first and foremost.

In the early days of the Billy Graham crusades, Ethel Waters mesmerized thousands with her amazing alto voice as she sang, “I sing because I’m happy… I sing because I’m free. For His eye is on the sparrow — and I know, He watches, me…”

Relax.

Allow faith in your heavenly Father to replace fear and fretting.

No matter what, trust in His goodness.

Let Him calm your troubled spirit. Consider the birds of the air.

It just might turn your life around.

Warding Off Worry

SOURCE:  Discipleship Journal/Stacey Padrick

Learn to trust God when anxiety strikes.

“If you ever get caught in an avalanche, dig up!” Mom instructed me whenever I went skiing with my friends.

If I was packing my beach bag for a trip to the ocean, she would remind me, “If you get caught in a riptide, swim parallel to the shore!”

And when I went hiking, it was always, “If you see a mountain lion, wave your arms up and down so you look bigger than you are!”

Whether it was winter, spring, summer, or fall, whether my destination was the mall or the mountains, Mom—with her caring heart—worried about the worst possible thing that could happen to me.

In my family, worry was often an automatic response to whatever we faced—whether it was a new noise in the car engine or what we would serve our guests for dinner. Thus, I had always excused my own tendency to worry as hereditary. What could I do about my genes?

Nature, Nurture, or Sin?

Though I had always accepted my anxiety as a natural part of my makeup, God’s Word challenged me to see that worry has no place in the lives of His children. “Do not be anxious about anything” (Phil. 4:6). “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). “Do not fret” (Psalm 37:8). “Do not worry” (Matthew 6:25, 31, 34).

I began to see that God does not merely suggest we should not worry; He commands it. But are we as vigilant about not worrying as we are about other things He commands us not to do, such as stealing, getting drunk, or committing adultery? Though I wanted to justify worry as an issue of temperament, Scripture is clear that it’s an issue of obedience. Failure to obey His explicit commands is sin.

Calling worry a sin may sound harsh, but it actually brings great freedom. I no longer see my anxiety as a hereditary trait I cannot control. Rather, I see it as a sin I can choose to resist. Because sin does not have mastery over me (Romans 6:14), I can be set free from slavery to worry.

No Smoke without a Fire

Because my mind so easily gravitates toward worry, I’m not always aware when it begins to take over. A tense back and racing thoughts clearly indicate anxiety, but other signs are more subtle. A lack of joy and lightheartedness, impatience with myself and others, taking myself too seriously, forgetting to thank God for His blessings, difficulty praising Him—all of these signs point to the presence of smoldering coals of worry in my heart. Like a smoke detector warning of impending danger, they alert me to the asphyxiating smoke of worry.

Rather than trying to extinguish the individual fires of worry that encircle us, we must identify the source of the flame. Anxiety is most often sparked by unbelief or doubt in God’s character. When we worry, we’ve unthinkingly questioned His wisdom (that He knows what is best), His love and goodness (that He cares for us and wants what is best), and His sovereignty (that He is able to do what is best).

Worry reveals not only our distrustful thoughts about God but also an unrealistic view of ourselves: that we are ultimately in control; that we are responsible for other people’s happiness (our spouse, children, parents, boss, friends); that we can determine better than God what we or others need.

One morning as I fretted about an important decision in my life, I took a walk to clear my head and talk with God. Across a park lawn, I saw a beautiful golden retriever frolicking alongside his loving master. Oh, I mused, to be as carefree as that dog, to play and run freely, knowing that your master will provide for all your needs.

Even as I thought this, my words convicted me. I sensed God’s gentle voice respond to my heart. “Oh, My precious child, do you not know that I am your faithful Master? Don’t you believe that I care for you more than any earthly master could ever care for his dog? That you, too, can run free of worry? I am thegood Master. Trust in Me.”

Then I recalled a cowering stray dog a friend of mine had found. Even after she adopted it, the dog trembled each time someone reached to pet it. My friend believes the dog was probably abused by its former owner. Likewise, when I allow my heart to tremble in anxiety, what am I telling others about my Master? Most likely I’m communicating that He is uncaring and unfaithful.

Not only is God my Master, but He’s my heavenly Father as well. How much more than a good master does a loving father care for his precious children?

Matthew records Jesus saying:

Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

—Matthew 7:9–11

Just as a child’s carefree spirit is a testimony of caring parents, so a joyful, trusting attitude testifies to our loving Father.

Extinguishing Anxiety

God wants us to experience release from the grip of worry. He longs for us to rest in His wonderful care for us (Matthew 11:28–30). Here are some ways to douse the fire of worry and stoke the flame of trust.

Take stock of your thought life. Our feelings are often the fruit of the thoughts we sow. If you’re anxious, review what you’ve been thinking about. What thoughts have you been listening to? What have you believed about your circumstances and God’s ability to meet your needs?

When I was unexpectedly diagnosed with an illness, a wave of worries flooded my mind. What about all the plans I had? How could I ever support myself with these health limitations? What about my dreams for my future? My anxiety revealed my belief that this illness had somehow slipped by God’s watchful eye.

But the Father’s still, small voice addressed my fears, reminding me of His perspective: “Yes, this illness does change your plans, but not Mine. It in no way changes My will for you.” Though my health had changed, God’s sovereignty over my life had not.

Focus on the truth. After we’ve identified any distorted beliefs, we must respond to them by looking intently at the truth of Scripture. We’re engaged in a battle against a very crafty spiritual enemy who continually attempts to saturate our minds with doubts about the Father’s character. Satan knows worry distracts us from what God has for us, so he drives us to work things out our way and steals our joy in the Father. We must use the armor of God—especially the belt of truth, the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit (Ephes. 6:13–17)—to cut through the web of lies that can entangle our souls.

James wrote, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Repent of surrendering to worry, submit your mind to God, and resist any spirit of anxiety. Ask God to protect you from worry, to guard your heart and mind with His peace (Phil. 4:7). In faith, claim this promise Paul gave his youthful protégé Timothy: “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Tim. 1:7).

I have also found it helpful to “act in the opposite spirit” when anxiety threatens to overwhelm me. For example, if worry drives me to hurry, then I purposely slow down. If worry tempts me to complain, then I intentionally thank God for what He is doing.

When I was looking for an apartment in the tight San Francisco housing market, I gave in to complaining and fretting after weeks of viewing undersized, overpriced units. Recognizing my doubt, I started thanking God for the place He was preparing for me in His perfect timing. I now write from a wonderful home He handpicked for me.

Practice Scripture meditation. “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3). Keeping our mind steadfastly fixed upon God is critical when we’re tempted to worry. Meditate upon the passages of Scripture that describe God’s character: His loving-kindness, power, faithfulness, goodness. Meditate also upon verses about peace and rest.

Picture yourself putting your worries in a little gift box (or a big box, in my case!), tying it with a bow, and presenting it to God at the foot of the cross, an offering of faith to Him. Let these words of Jesus settle into your soul: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).

No matter how unceasingly worries may assail you, choose to listen to His Spirit of peace and not to a spirit of anxiety. Think of worry as a ringing phone—and don’t answer it. Allowing peace to rule instead of fear is a daily, sometimes hourly, choice we must make.

Dwell on what you know. Most worries revolve around dwelling on what we don’t know: “How will I have enough money to pay for car repairs? What will I do if I’m laid off? How will I find an affordable house in such a tight market?” Instead of fixating on anxiety-producing unknowns, we can use the same energy to focus on what we do know: “God will meet all [my] needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). “God is . . .[my] ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me” (Psalm 138:8). “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted [including all that I deem precious] to him for that day” (2 Tim. 1:12).

After the man I dated for four years ended our relationship, my mind whirled with fears of the unknown. I had to stop and remind myself what I knew about God.

Though I do not know if we will ever be reunited, though I do not know if I will ever be married, I do know that God is good. I do know that He is faithful. He knows the desires of my heart, and I know His plans are to give me a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).

Cast your cares on God. David wrote, “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall” (Psalm 55:22). Recently, when I faced a problem that tempted me to worry, an image flashed into my mind. I pictured myself sitting on one side of a perfectly balanced seesaw. As a load of worry came my way, I could receive it, allowing it to pin me to the ground. Or I could cast it on God, who sits on the other end of the seesaw. As I chose the latter, God took upon Himself the weight of my worry, and I was lifted up.

As I rest in my Father’s tender love for me, I can more readily cast my cares upon Him. If He is gracious and compassionate toward His children, if He knows when even a sparrow falls (Matthew 10:29), if His thoughts of me are as numerous as the grains of sand (Psalm 139:17–18), surely He cares for my concerns even more than I do! When I reflect upon how perfectly He loves me, His perfect love casts out my fears (1 John 4:18).

God wants us to live free of worry. He liberates us from worry as we entrust control to Him, consider His character, and choose to cast our cares upon Him (1 Peter 5:7).

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way” (2 Thes. 3:16).

Why Can’t I Quit Worrying?

SOURCE:   Mike Bechtle/Discipleship Journal

I felt defeated.

Worry took up a lot of my time, as job concerns, a mortgage, church demands, family issues—especially teenagers—all took their toll.

I had tried to quit worrying. I read articles, had conversations over coffee (worrying about whether my budget would allow a latté instead of a plain decaf), and determined to handle my concerns differently. Each time, my resolution worked—for a while. Soon, however, the old patterns reappeared, and my thoughts became more concerned with the situation than the solution. Like yo-yo dieting, I would stop worrying only to sink back deeper than before.

I worried even when there was nothing concrete to worry about. It had become a habit.

 Try, Try Again

My failure to conquer worry wasn’t from a lack of knowledge. I’d memorized Phil. 4:6–7 as a child and listened to countless sermons on the passage.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The passage was usually summarized like this:

  1. Worry is a choice (and we’re not supposed to choose it).
  2. We should bring everything to God in prayer.
  3. God will give us peace.

So when the tires on our family car were as thin as balloons, but we couldn’t yet afford to replace them, I decided to try the formula once again as a counter to my twin worries of finances and safety. Based on these admonitions, I chose not to worry about the car. I prayed about my concerns. I asked God for peace.

But peace didn’t come, and soon I began to worry again.

Why didn’t it work? If the instructions were true, I could only see two conclusions: Either I wasn’t doing my part (stop worrying, start praying), or God wasn’t doing His part (provide peace).

My theology told me God doesn’t lie, so I figured He would do His part. That left me. I must not have been trying hard enough. Now I really felt guilty. The worry was my fault, but I felt helpless.

Missing the Obvious

One summer afternoon, I reread Phil. 4:6–7 to see what I had missed. I looked at each word carefully, trying to discover what I was doing wrong. Then, by accident, my eyes wandered on to verses 8 and 9:

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Suddenly, the light came on.

Somehow, I had never seen the connection between these two sets of verses. Yet here was a logical progression of thought that finally made sense: Verses 6 and 7 tell me what not to do; verses 8 and 9 tell me what to do instead.

Worry took a lot of time and mental effort. My mind would be filled with concerns for hours at a time. When I tried to stop worrying, I had time available. Until I filled my mind with something different, new thoughts of worry just crowded in.

Weed Control

I found a helpful analogy right in my own front yard. In some parts of my lawn, the grass is thick and green. In other areas, it’s sparse and dry. There are even a few places where the grass is missing entirely.

When I mow the lawn, I notice that where the grass is healthy, there are no weeds. Where the lawn is sparse, there are a few. Where there is no grass, the weeds flourish.

Every time I notice the weedy spots, I think, “I really need to pull those things.” So I do, but within a few weeks they’re back—and I’m pulling them again. One day it hit me: I don’t have to pull weeds where the grass is thick. Instead of spending all my time pulling weeds, maybe I needed to invest time making the grass as healthy as possible. The more grass I had, the fewer weeds I’d have to pull.

The same applies to worry. Worry is like the weeds. God’s peace is the grass. Instead of just focusing on eliminating my worries, I needed to cultivate God’s peace.

Changing Your Mind

So I had a new challenge: to cultivate a mind characterized by peace. But how could I do that? I was an expert at growing worry, but I had a brown thumb when it came to growing peace.

Romans 12:2 held the key: “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” This verse didn’t tell me to behave differently; it said to think differently. My pattern was to focus on the negative, reviewing everything that could go wrong in a situation. I had to learn new ways of thinking.

When my son was little, we would occasionally bake a cake or cookies together. One time I said, “The recipe calls for two cups of sugar. Let’s put in two cups of salt instead.”

“No way,” he said. “The cake would taste awful.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. There’s no way the cake will taste good with that much salt in it.”

He knew the ingredients we put in would determine how the cake turned out. That applies to life as well. What we watch on television, listen to on the radio, or talk about are the ingredients for our attitudes. Our attitudes come from our thoughts. Our thoughts come from our inputs.

Just as I care for my lawn by providing water, nutrients, and insect control, I can care for my mind by providing the right thoughts. Reading Phil. 4:8–9 was like reading the ingredient list on a bag of grass seed. It told me exactly which thoughts to plant to grow a peaceful mind, thoughts that were

true: consistent with God and His Word

noble: worthy of respect

right: just and holy

pure: morally clean

lovely: pleasing and gracious

admirable: highly regarded

excellent: top quality

praiseworthy: deserving of high recognition.

But what if this didn’t work either? I was comforted to see that God’s instruction included a promise: God’s peace will stand guard—not only over our hearts, but over our minds. “The peace of God…will guard your hearts and your minds” (v. 7). Instead of listening to Satan’s lies, my job is to plant thoughts focusing on God’s truth. God’s job is to make them grow into peace.

Practicing, Not Perfect

Now came the test. How could I apply these verses to the areas that concerned me the most? I picked several problems that led me to worry, prayed about each, then selected an alternative to focus on.

I didn’t know where the money would come from for unexpected car repairs. I asked God to free me from worrying about it and asked Him to handle the situation. When my thoughts slipped back to worry, I consciously focused on what was true: God promised to supply all our needs and had been faithful to do so in the past.

I stewed about the impact of management decisions where I worked and realized that I often talked with coworkers who were the most negative about the organization. My worries were being fed by these conversations. My prayer was for God to handle the situation in His way and for me to trust Him for the results. When tempted to worry, I made the effort to focus on what was noble and admirable—and spent my time conversing with those who were more realistic about the situation.

I worried about my family members’ safety when they were out alone at night. So I asked God to protect them and focused on what was true and pure. God loved them more than I did and never left them alone. That allowed me to make good choices about things that were not true, such as changing the channel when my TV choices centered too much on violence and fear.

My thinking didn’t clear up immediately. Redoing a lawn takes some time and effort. Once it’s done, maintenance is a whole lot easier. When a weed invades a healthy lawn, it’s obvious. But if a weed appears in a larger patch of weeds, it just blends in with all the rest, and I’m overwhelmed with the task of dealing with them all. In the same way, a thought of worry is more obvious when my mind is filled with peace. As my thoughts became more peaceful, worry became a trigger that reminded me to analyze my thinking. Whenever I recognized anxiety, I filtered my thoughts through the grid of Phil. 4:8–9.

Do I still worry? Yes.

But now I’m sensitized to the fears that pop up in my mind, and I have practical, biblical tools for replacing those thoughts. When we fill our minds with what matters most, our minds are not at the mercy of what matters least. My job is to tend the garden of my mind. God is responsible for the harvest of peace.

God’s Assurance

He Himself has said . . . . So we may boldly say . . . —Hebrews 13:5-6

SOURCE:  Oswald Chambers

My assurance is to be built upon God’s assurance to me.

God says, “I will never leave you,” so that then I “may boldly say, ’The Lord is my helper; I will not fear’ ” (Hebrews 13:5-6).

In other words, I will not be obsessed with apprehension. This does not mean that I will not be tempted to fear, but I will remember God’s words of assurance. I will be full of courage, like a child who strives to reach the standard his father has set for him. The faith of many people begins to falter when apprehensions enter their thinking, and they forget the meaning of God’s assurance— they forget to take a deep spiritual breath. The only way to remove the fear from our lives is to listen to God’s assurance to us.

What are you fearing?

Whatever it may be, you are not a coward about it— you are determined to face it, yet you still have a feeling of fear. When it seems that there is nothing and no one to help you, say to yourself, “But ’The Lord is my helper’ this very moment, even in my present circumstance.” Are you learning to listen to God before you speak, or are you saying things and then trying to make God’s Word fit what you have said? Take hold of the Father’s assurance, and then say with strong courage, “I will not fear.” It does not matter what evil or wrong may be in our way, because “He Himself has said, ’I will never leave you . . . .’ “

Human frailty is another thing that gets between God’s words of assurance and our own words and thoughts. When we realize how feeble we are in facing difficulties, the difficulties become like giants, we become like grasshoppers, and God seems to be nonexistent. But remember God’s assurance to us— “I will never. . . forsake you.” Have we learned to sing after hearing God’s keynote?

Are we continually filled with enough courage to say, “The Lord is my helper,” or are we yielding to fear?

What To Think During Difficult Times

SOURCE:  Living Free Ministry

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. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…”Isaiah 43:2-3 NIV

Thoughts for Today
Our inner peace and joy should not depend on the circumstances of our life. Instead, they should be based on what God has done for us … our relationship with him … his never-changing love for us … his all-encompassing grace … our sins replaced by the righteousness of Christ … our hope of eternity with him. No matter what challenges we face or tragedy we suffer, these things never change.

God promises to be with us in every circumstance. He promises that we will not be destroyed by the trials and circumstances of life. He is our Protector, our Deliverer, our loving Father.

Consider this … 
Are you experiencing a difficult time in your life right now? God did not promise us a problem-free life here on earth, but he did promise to be with us. To keep us. To comfort us and help us.

When we are suffering, it is so easy to slip into despair … fear … and turmoil. Instead, focus on Jesus and you will not be overwhelmed. You can do all things through Christ. (Philippians 4:13) You truly can experience peace amidst the storm.

Prayer
Father, thank you that no matter what problems I experience or circumstances I find myself in, you are with me. And you will not let the circumstances destroy me. Even during the storms of my life, help me to focus on you and to always experience your peace. In Jesus’ name …

The Secret To Dealing With Fear and Anxiety

SOURCE:  Dr. Ed Welch/CCEF

“Humble yourselves.” That’s the secret. It has been there all along, but we rarely use it.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)

Fear and anxiety sufferers like myself have tried on a number of Scripture passages over the years. We might start with Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life . . .” (Matthew 6:26). When we need something easier to memorize we move on to Philippians 4:6, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

These passages work very well as counters to low-level anxiety. But, in the face of an anxiety assault—they aren’t enough. At those times, they can sound like mantras that are devoid of power, which is actually a good thing. Anxious and fearful people can easily slip into taking Scripture as a pill. Take one passage twice a day for two weeks and your symptoms will be gone. When the pill doesn’t work we have two choices. We search for another treatment, or we confess that we are using Scripture as a self-help book for symptom relief, in which case it is time to get back to basics. If you choose to get back to biblical basics, Peter’s exhortation to humble ourselves is a great place to start.

I had an anxiety assault recently. I was facing perhaps the worst fear I could imagine, and there was nothing I could do about it. What a mercy that I was confronted with the call to be humbled before the Lord. It resulted in a simple prayer.

“Lord, you are God and King. I am your servant. I know you owe me nothing. For some reason you have given me everything in Jesus. I trust you. And please give me grace to trust you.”

A few minutes later, my prayer moved even closer to Scripture.

“Father, forgive me for always wanting things my way. By your mighty hand you have created all things. And by your mighty hand you have rescued your people. I want to live under your mighty hand. Please have mercy.”

It sounds very simple—and it is—but it changes everything. This is the secret to dealing with fears and anxiety. The words of God, and the comfort of the Spirit, become much more obvious when we are repentant and humble before him. No deals—“if you spare me from this suffering then I will . . .” Just simple trust. We trust him because he is God, not because he is going to immediately remove our anxieties or our fear-provoking situation.

This passage has been a secret because we have typically entered it at verse 7, “cast all your anxieties on him because he cares for you.” But to understand its meaning, you need to start with the preceding verse, “Humble yourselves.”

“Humble yourselves” is the only exhortation in the passage. This is what Peter wants us to hear (and obey). If we jump in at the middle—it makes no sense. We can’t cast our cares on him until we have recognized that he is God and we are his servants who have also been elevated to become his children. A paraphrase could read like this (and I highly recommend putting Scripture into your own words.)

Humble yourself before the Lord. This shouldn’t be too difficult. After all, he is God and King, Lord of all. He is the Creator. You belong to him. The creature is the possession of the Creator. Humble yourself before your King. And here is one way to express this new-found posture of humility: cast your cares on him. Did you catch that? When you come humbly before the King he reveals his unlimited love. Who would have thought? He actually wants you to cast your burden on him. You were never intended to carry those burdens alone. He is the mighty God who never leaves. You can trust him. And this casting is no mere act of your will. It comes as you know that he is God and you are not. Oh, and you can be sure that he will lift you up from your kneeling position and give you more than you ever expected.

A little wordy, in contrast to Peter’s more succinct version, but rambling and embellishment give us more time to meditate on the logic of the passage.

The secret is to
…pause before you head into your favorite passage on fear,
…consider the greatness of God,
…add some of your own confession and repentance as a way to drive the message of humility home, and then
…remember some of those sweet words of God to fearful people.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Edward T. Welch, M.Div., Ph.D., is a counselor and faculty member at CCEF and holds a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology with a neuro-psychology specialty from the University of Utah as well as a Master of Divinity degree from Biblical Theological Seminary. If you want to read more on fear, Ed has written two books on the subject: Running Scared andWhen I Am Afraid.

Be Anxious In Nothing

SOURCE:  John MacDuff – from Deejay O’Flaherty

Christian! the great and important matter is, to act our part well and faithfully in the present, leaving the disposal of the future entirely to God.

It is ours to be careful in discharging the duties of today–it will be His to impart strength for the contingencies of tomorrow. We cannot indeed expect to pass through life without our share of trouble, but we may at all times confidently rely on the assurance, “as your days, so shall your strength be.” And, the anxious apprehension about impending evils, can only have the effect of weakening our trust in God, and unfitting us for the discharge of present duty.

Surrounding ourselves with gloomy forebodings and anticipating evils which may never cross our path, we will become faint and disheartened, and our anxieties will but increase the more. Let us “cast all our care upon Him who cares for us,” confident that, let tomorrow bring what it may, He will sustain us in every difficulty–comfort and relieve us in every emergency, and “make His grace sufficient for us.” The interests of God’s people are His constant care–and by His most sure word He has undertaken to “supply all their need.” He will not, it is true, impart grace before it is needed–but neither will He fail to communicate it when it is actually needed.

If only we would look to the past, and reflect on God’s dealings with us, we will find that such has been His procedure. Oh! how often, in the day of sorrow and distress, has He given the very comfort we stood in need of–the measure of strength by which we were enabled to bear the trial! How often, in the time of sickness, has He relieved our pain when most severe–and mitigated our sufferings, when “vain was the help of man!” How often, too, have His gracious promises come to us in the very extremity of our need–and, “in the multitude of our thoughts within us, His comforts delighted our souls!”

May we not then say, “The Lord has been mindful of us, and He will bless us still?” “He who spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all,” will not withhold that daily care we need for our comfort. He who adopted us into His family–accepted us in the Beloved–and made us partakers of the promises which are in Christ Jesus–He who has loved us with an everlasting love, will watch over us in every hour of danger, and overrule and control all for our final good. We know not what the future may bring–but we know that it is His to order everything in heaven and in earth, and that, in every emergency, we may look to Him for support. Every need He can supply–every difficulty He can remove–every fear dispel, and, trusting to His guardianship–relying on His care, we may, regarding the unknown and inscrutable events of tomorrow unhesitatingly say, “The Lord will provide.”

Yes, Christian, many troubles may surround you–many dangers may threaten you–your hearth may become dreary and desolate, and every earthly comfort be removed–still, amid all these outward ills, anchor your soul on the sure word of promise–”I am with you aways, even to the end;” and let this be your prayer–-

“O Lord, give me Your heavenly grace, that I may cast all my care upon You, knowing that You care for me; and, by whatever path You lead me, oh! save me from all doubt of Your love, and bring me closer to Yourself.”

————————————————————————————————————————–
—John MacDuff – A SCOTTISH PREACHER (1818—1895)

A Prayer for Dealing with Hard News and a Hurting Heart

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Selah   Psalm 62:5-8

Heavenly Father, like me, many of your children begin this day sitting in hard news—news which makes our hearts hurt badly.

The stewardship of a hurting heart is even more important than the stewardship of the money you entrust to us, for from our hearts flow the springs of life (Prov. 4:23). The same spring can carry life and death—nutrients and contaminants. What is in our hearts will flow from our hearts… through our thoughts, words and choices.

A hurting heart will look for relief somewhere, so, we pour out our hearts to you, dear Father. For you are a haven of rest, the source of all hope, the rock of our salvation and a refuge of grace. We come to you right now, certain of your welcome and desperate for your care.

Father, in the coming hours, center and settle our hearts. The good news of the gospel must be more compelling than the painful news of the day. Hard news will either harden us before men or humble us before you. By faith, we choose to humble ourselves before you.

Help us to do much more gospel-ing today than gossiping; much more praying than presuming; much more weeping than wondering; much more loving than launching; much more care-giving than detail-seeking. In Christ, you have called us to be ambassadors of reconciliation. In our pain, don’t let us choose to be agents of division.

We pray for friends who are hurting. Bring the healing balm of the gospel. We pray for friends who are angry. Bring the calming power of your Spirit. We pray for friends who want to hurt those who have hurt others. May they revoke revenge and run to Jesus. We pray for friends who only see their sin and are filled with condemning guilt.  May they clearly see the cross and be filled with gospel hope.

Father, we pray for those who are more zealous to be right than Christ-like. Arrest them in their way, before they do more damage to others. We pray for those who need to come into the light. Free them from their darkness, before they do more damage to themselves.

Please, Father, for the glory of Jesus, write stories of redemption from the ink of this hard news. We have never longed more for the Day when Jesus returns to finish making all things new. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ merciful and mighty name.

Adult Children Gone Astray

We Raised Our Children To Love And Follow God. Now They Have Rebelled. What Did We Do Wrong?

SOURCE:  Jerry White/Discipleship Journal

“The righteous man leads a blameless life; blessed are his children after him” (Prov. 20:7).

We have all claimed verses like this for our children. But many of us have seen our children struggle and even turn away from God. For those who love God, there is no greater fear than the possibility that their children will rebel and fail to follow Him.

I know hundreds of committed Christians with teenagers and adult children whose difficulties run the gamut—drugs, rebellion, alcoholism, homosexuality, divorce, psychological disorders, immorality, children born outside of marriage, coldness of heart toward God.

These parents ask, “What did we do wrong?” assuming that the fault is theirs. Many godly parents around the world have done all they knew to do to nurture their children in the Lord— yet their children still face many problems. Even though today my wife and I thank God that our own children are walking with Him, we have been through our share of troubles.

When spiritual disaster strikes their children, some parents reason that they are no longer qualified to minister. Guilt, shame, discouragement, worry, and fear invade our hearts when our children rebel. All our biblical knowledge and teaching cannot erase pain that is real and deep.

Let me encourage you not to blame yourselves. As children mature, they make their own decisions, some of which are disastrous. They, too, are sinners, needing their own deep encounters with God. They choose their own actions. You did not make them do what they did. You brought them up to fear the Lord and allowed them to make their own decisions.

In today’s psychological climate of parent bashing, do not fall prey to unfounded accusations. Certainly you’ve made mistakes, for no parent is perfect. But you did not set out to harm your children. If there are areas where you have sinned, confess this to God and to your children. Ask for forgiveness and claim God’s grace Do not wallow in guilt.

If you are struggling with a difficult situation with your teen or young adult child, may I offer a few words of advice and encouragement?

• Realize you are not alone. Other parents have similar experiences. Most important, remember that God is with you (Is. 41:10, Is. 41:13).

• Find a few trusted friends to share your concerns and pain. Don’t put on an “everything is okay” front (Prov. 17:17).

• You are not obligated to explain your family situation to everyone. If curious people probe, merely ask them to pray (Prov. 10:19).

• If you know you have sinned against one of your children, confess to them and to God, asking their forgiveness (Prov. 28: 13).

• Hold your children accountable for their actions. God does (Prov. 20:11, Gal. 6:7).

• Refuse to feel guilty or ashamed. Don’t let your children lay guilt upon you when you know you served God and them with integrity.

• Love them deeply. Be there for them, but don’t always rescue.

• Wait and pray. God is a God of patience and hope. Wait for them to respond. In most cases there will be reconciliation (Ro. 5:3–5, Ro. 12:12).

• Keep ministering. You are still called by God. Satan often seeks to shake us from our calling by attacking our families (Prov. 24:10, Ro. 11:29).

• Submit yourself to God’s sovereignty, both in your life and in the lives of your children (Ro. 8:28–29).

What about outside counseling? It may be helpful, but only if the counselor operates from a biblical base, not just a secular, psychological one. In their book What Did I Do Wrong? What Can I Do Now? psychologist William Backus and his wife, Candace, comment on psychological theories:

Many parents who blame themselves for their child’s problems don’t realize that much of what they’re telling themselves is out-of-date psychological theory and not fact at all. Most are unaware that the theories, in fact, change regularly. It’s important, therefore, not to crucify yourself or anybody else on the basis of a psychological theory!

God’s children, too, rebelled: “Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth! for the Lord has spoken: ‘I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me'” (Is. 1:2). He cried in His pain for them to repent and return. Finally, He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die for their sin and rebellion.

Christ is our hope. He is committed to you and your children and has not given up on you or on them. In His time He will work in their lives.

Tag Cloud