Fear and loathing…

fear-eyesI can’t count how many times I’ve been afraid in my life. It seems like being born a pessimist, it comes up much more often than I’d like. Fear is no fun.

It’s not that I’m a worrier, or that I’m afraid of small things. It’s more that in the back of my mind, I always fear something bad is going to come along and ruin the good thing I have going. Like the other shoe is going to drop at any time. Do you know this feeling?

I don’t have any reason to believe that anything is going to happen, but there it is; creeping its way into my thoughts. I was just talking about this today with a mentor of mine. We were discussing how good things are going in my life and with our newly launched church (Encounter Church), and I said, “All this talking about how great things are going is causing something inside of me to want to stop talking about it.” He asked why, and I told him because somewhere deep inside I felt like sharing the good things is almost inviting something bad to happen. Where does that come from? Why would I think that way?

eeyore-cloudcare-bears-grumpy-bearIt can’t just be my personality. Yes, when I was a child my parents bought me a Grumpy Care-Bear because it reflected my personality. Yes, as I grew up, everyone jokingly called me Eeyore (from Winnie the Pooh) because I generally had a negative take on life situations. But this idea that celebrating goodness will somehow invite crisis into my life is deeper. It’s rooted in fear. It’s borderline superstition, and it isn’t right.

You know what else it does? It controls you. Fear takes your happy circumstances and ruins your ability to enjoy them. This happens because you’re always looking for something wrong and can’t focus on the good things in your life. If it happens enough, you can begin to loathe your existence. Stick with me here. Have you ever uttered the words, “Why does this always happen to me?” or “I should have known that the extra money I made would need to go to a car repair?” Speaking like that is a symptom of a greater problem; the disease of fear taking root in your life. Fear that when good things happen, inevitably something will come along to ruin it, or at least diminish it.

I don’t believe that God wants us to live in fear, or even to pass over it like it’s normal. I don’t believe that we are meant to be shackled by the shadow of a thing that may be to come, but more likely will not. I have had to learn that fear does not come from my Creator and that it is not part of His plan for my life. I have discovered that when I look past fear and live in trust that I feel peace and security. Yes, difficulties come, but they also go. After I told my mentor about my fear, he asked me to look back over my life and examine whether what I was asserting was true. Did bad things happen every time something good did? When I thought about it, I actually couldn’t think of a specific situation when a negative scenario took place immediately following a positive one. In fact, there definitely wasn’t any correlation between them in any circumstance I could think of. So, what I was thinking and feeling actually wasn’t true at all. What was happening was life.

Life is a series of experiences that we walk through. Some of them we ride upward with positive emotion, and others feel like a downward tilt of uncertainty and frustration.stock-market-graph But just like the stock market graphs we see, up and down is part of reality. It’s not superstition or bad luck. We live in a world where good things happen and so do the bad. That is part of the curse we all live under because of sin. However, that does not mean we have to be controlled by it, even when difficult situations do come along.

I take my cue here from Scripture, and in 2 Timothy 1:7 it says,

“For God did not give us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self discipline.”

So if I know that fear does not come from God, and that His way is filled with power (the ability to overcome situations), shouldn’t that change the way I perceive my life? Fear will always be present because the ones who bring it are trying to destroy us. I believe that God wants good things for us. Jesus said in John 10:10 that He came to bring life to the fullest. That doesn’t sound like a God who wants us constantly worrying that things will turn ugly as soon as I let up and enjoy myself. In reality, it’s our choice how we respond to fear. When it comes, we can either allow it to control us and ruin our present circumstances or we can stand on the truth of Scripture that says:

“So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?'” (Hebrews 13:6)

Knowing that God is with us does not mean that difficult situations will not come. It simply means that whatever does come should not cause us fear because with God being for us, “who can stand against us?” (Romans 8:31)

I encourage you, just as I encourage myself, to enjoy the life that God has given you. If you find yourself in pleasant circumstances, enjoy them. Be thankful for what is happening and the good things that God has brought you. Do not be afraid of what might be to come one day. God is with you, and if we stand on His word, He promises to bring us through stronger. If you find yourself in a difficult situation, know that the truth is still truth. God is with you. He is working on your behalf to bring you through. A new season is on the way.

How does fear control you? How have you overcome it in your life?

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Before they call, I will answer.

Forwards. I usually don’t read them. To be honest, when one shows up in my email inbox, a sense of disdain crops up. I feel like I get them all the time. The stories are usually cheesy and predictable, and most of them are probably not true. But they serve a purpose, and for some they are what’s needed in a frustrating spot in their lives. Today, not knowing it, I must have been one of those individuals.

package

Below, is the forward I received today. My father sent it to me, and I have to tell you that it truly blessed my heart and encouraged me. I encourage you to read it, and I pray that through it God will encourage you as well!

The email starts now:

THIS WILL TRULY LIFT YOU UP SPIRITUALLY.
Enjoy and Believe

Isaiah 65:24

This is a story written by a doctor who worked in Africa. 

One night I had worked hard to help a mother in the labor ward; but in spite of all we could do, she died, leaving us with a tiny, premature baby and a crying two-year-old daughter. We would have difficulty keeping the baby alive; as we had no incubator (we had no electricity to run an incubator).
We also had no special feeding facilities.
Although we lived on the equator, nights were often chilly with treacherous drafts. One student midwife went for the box we had for such babies and the cotton wool that the baby would be wrapped in.
Another went to stoke up the fire and fill a hot water bottle. She came back shortly in distress to tell me that in filling the bottle, it had burst (rubber perishes easily in tropical climates)..
‘And it is our last hot water bottle!’ she exclaimed. As in the West, it is no good crying over spilled milk, so in  Central Africa
it might be considered no good crying over burst water bottles.
They do not grow on trees, and there are no drugstores down forest pathways.

‘All right,’ I said, ‘put the baby as near the fire as you safely can, and sleep between the baby and the door to keep it free from drafts Your job is to keep the baby warm.’

The following noon, as I did most days, I went to have prayers with any of the orphanage children who chose to gather with me. I gave the youngsters various suggestions of things to pray about and told them about the tiny baby. I explained our problem about keeping the baby warm enough, mentioning the hot water bottle, and that the baby could so easily die if it got chills. I also told them of the two-year-old sister, crying because her mother had died.

During prayer time, one ten -year-old girl, Ruth, prayed with the usual blunt conciseness of our African children. ‘Please, God’ she prayed, ‘Send us a hot water bottle today It’ll be no good tomorrow, God, as the baby will be dead, so please send it this afternoon.’

While I gasped inwardly at the audacity of the prayer, she added, ‘And while You are about it, would You please send a dolly for the little girl so she’ll know You really love her?’

As often with children’s prayers, I was put on the spot. Could I honestly say ‘Amen?’ I just did not believe that God could do this.

Oh, yes, I know that He can do everything; the Bible says so. But there are limits, aren’t there? The only way God could answer this particular prayer would be by sending me a parcel from the homeland. I had been in  Africa   for almost four years at that time, and I had never, ever, received a parcel from home.

Anyway, if anyone did send me a parcel, who would put in a hot water bottle? I lived on the equator!

Halfway through the afternoon, while I was teaching in the nurses’ training school, a message was sent that there was a car at my front door. By the time I reached home, the car had gone, but there on the verandah was a large 22-pound parcel. I felt tears pricking my eyes. I could not open the parcel alone, so I sent for the orphanage children.. Together we pulled off the string, carefully undoing each knot. We folded the paper, taking care not to tear it unduly Excitement was mounting. Some thirty or forty pairs of eyes were focused on the large cardboard box. >From the top, I lifted out brightly-colored, knitted jerseys. Eyes sparkled as I gave them out. Then there were the knitted bandages for the leprosy patients, and the children looked a little bored.. Then came a box of mixed raisins and sultanas – that would make a batch of buns for the weekend.

Then, as I put my hand in again, I felt the…..could it really be?

I grasped it and pulled it out. Yes, a brand new, rubber hot water bottle. I cried.

I had not asked God to send it; I had not truly believed that He could.

Ruth was in the front row of the children. She rushed forward, crying out, ‘If God has sent the bottle, He must have sent the dolly, too!’

Rummaging down to the bottom of the box, she pulled out the small, beautifully-dressed dolly. Her eyes shone! She had never doubted!

Looking up at me, she asked, ‘Can I go over with you and give this dolly to that little girl, so she’ll know that Jesus really loves her?’

‘Of course,’ I replied!

That parcel had been on the way for five whole months, packed up by my former Sunday school class, whose leader had heard and obeyed God’s prompting to send a hot water bottle, even to the equator.

And one of the girls had put in a dolly for an African child – five months before, in answer to the believing prayer of a ten-year-old to bring it ‘that afternoon.’

‘Before they call, I will answer.’ (Isaiah 65:24)
When you receive this, say the prayer. That’s all I ask. No strings attached. Just send it on to whomever you want – but do send it on.

Prayer is one of the best free gifts we receive. There is no cost, but a lot of rewards. Let’s continue praying for one another.  This awesome prayer takes less than a minute.

Heavenly Father, I ask you to bless my friends reading this. I ask You to minister to their spirit. Where there is pain, give them Your peace and mercy. Where there is self doubting, release a renewed confidence to work through them Where there is tiredness or exhaustion, I ask You to give them understanding, guidance, and strength. Where there is fear, reveal Your love and release to them Your courage.. Bless their finances, give them greater vision, and raise up leaders and friends to support and encourage them.  I ask You to do these things in Jesus’ name. Amen

Love of Heaven

Do you know anyone who shows unfailing love? Most people will think of someone special in their life like a mother or father, a best friend, or Mother Theresa. But really, is that accurate?

Think of the word: unfailing. The very definition points to actions that have never missed the mark. As much as a caring mother or father, friend, pet, or even a Mother Theresa strive to love unconditionally, at some point they have all failed. We have all failed. Sometimes we act in our own interests instead of others, even when we love someone so deeply that we would never intentionally want to hurt them. Nevertheless, none of us can say we have loved unfailingly.

In the Psalms of the Bible, the writer David makes reference to God multiple times as exhibiting unfailing love. He connects God’s actions to intervene on Earth with the nature of His unfailing love for us. In the sixth Psalm the writer cries out in weakness:

“Return, O Lord, and rescue me.
Save me because of your unfailing love.”

When we are at our weakest and most dire point, God’s unfailing love for us causes Him to act! He will not ignore us. He will not fail to act. His love will never fail.

Now, this is not to say that He will always act in accordance to what we think should happen. His love may be unfailing, but his actions may not match our preferences. If we cry out to Heaven and ask for help, we are saying that we trust that God is big enough to know the right way to handle the situation. We have to think beyond what is right in front of us.

Our lives and fortunes can turn in an instant. We are frail and temporal. I was struck by this fact today. Anything we have and experience can be taken from us. Things change quickly. Fear begins to sets in. We never know what today or tomorrow may bring. But through it all, there is a God in Heaven who will rescue you because of his unfailing love…

…if you will only ask.