It's Mandy here.
It's my turn to post and it isn't going to be about what I originally intended.
I originally wanted to talk to you about our world and how I think it's an awful, dangerous, quickly-becoming-godless place and how I believe that can be changed.
That is still very, very much on my heart, but today God has been reminding me of something else.
What is your stronghold?
What is it that makes you feel like you have plummeted 5 million feet below sea level, with a weight around your ankle and no air tank? What causes your heart to beat too fast and anxious thoughts to race through your mind? What grips you like a bully holding down your arms and spitting in your face?
For me, I struggle with a few things.
But the worst, by far, is fear.
There's an actual feeling I have associated with fear. It's an oppressive, smothering sensation when it is at its worst.
My fear surrounds harm coming to my kids or myself.
Not only do I stress about common scenarios like one of them falling off the monkey bars or getting hit with a rogue baseball, but I plan ahead with my worry. ;)
Driving sometimes is an exercise in deep breaths and reciting scripture because I wonder if "today" is the day we will be hit head on by an out-of-control semi or if a construction truck will have neglected to tie down its metal tubes and one will fly off and crash through our windshield. Or what if someone fails to stop at a red light and I'm T-boned? What if I don't see the train coming? What if the rusty supports on the bridge decide to give way right as I'm crossing? How will I possibly release all of the kids in time from their seat belts/car seats and swim them all to safety?
And when we make it home safely, I have other things that clutter my mind and take my breath away.
Like how Evangelical Christians are now being considered hate groups. I wonder if that verse in the Bible where Jesus says, "But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say." (Matthew 10:19, NIV) will become a reality in my lifetime.
Do you see?
It is exhausting being in my head.
Exhausting and unnecessary. And unproductive.
I used to think of Deuteronomy 31:6 ("Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.") as God shooshing me and rubbing my hair while he calmly whispers to me.
But then I read something that rocked my world.
And not in a mother-holding-her-sleeping-baby kind of "rocked."
No, this was in a meteor-the-size-of-Texas kind of way.
Joshua 1:9 says "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."
My eyes were opened. It's God asking, "Have I not COMMANDED you..." [emphasis mine].
This was God saying, "I am not asking you, nor am I suggesting to you, but I am DEMANDING that you not fear." (Mandy paraphrase)
Demanding with authority.
Look at those definitions: directing authoritatively, to demand or receive as one's due, to have or exercise direct authority, to dominate as if from an elevated place...
So, yeah....God isn't cooing in our ears, "Shhhh, darlin'. Everything's gonna be okay." (Said with a slight southern twang.)
No! He is pointing in that "Uncle Sam wants YOU!" manner and TELLING us we are not allowed to fear. Not Allowed. Not. Allowed.
We have been commanded to not fear.
So, no longer can I look at God's directive as merely for my own good, but as a direct order that I must comply with.
I learned some interesting things while reading Lysa TerKeurst's book Unglued. In it she explained how our bodies react physiologically to fear. Our fight or flight response kicks in and actually stimulates parts of our brain that focus on getting us out of whatever the situation is that is causing the fear or anxiety. That reaction actually keeps the brain from thinking logically. Therefore, we are not [as] able to think clearly or make wise decisions.
God certainly does not want us making poor decisions. And He certainly does want us thinking logically.
So if we allow fear to consume us, if we focus on that anxiety or those things that make us afraid, it interferes with making smart, wise decisions.
Look at 1 Peter 1:13: "Therefore, [a]prepare your minds for action, [b]keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace [c]to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." NASB.
That word 'prepare' in the beginning literally means to "gird".
What in blue blazes does "gird" mean?
I'm glad you asked. I looked it up. It means this:
1.to encircle or bind with a belt or band.
2.to surround; enclose; hem in.
3.to prepare (oneself) for action: He girded himself for the trial ahead.
4.to provide, equip, or invest, as with power or strength.
So......Peter was telling us to hem in or prepare our minds. How can I possibly prepare my mind or hem in my thoughts when I am allowing fear and anxiety to consume me? How can I expect to make wise choices in the face of frantic thinking?
The short answer is, I can't.
And neither can you.
And that is why God commands us to stop worrying. To stop being afraid. Does He love us and want to keep us from needlessly working ourselves into a lather?
Yes, of course.
BUT...I don't believe that is His main objective when He tells us over 300 times in His Word to not be afraid and to not worry. I believe it is also because we get in the way of His divine plan when we focus on ourselves and on the things we think we have to worry about
I liken it to my own experience with my kids. So often, my kids are afraid of something because they are unsure. Unsure of how it will really feel or how it will turn out, etc. I know that they have nothing to be afraid of, and I tell them that. While they trust me, they are still afraid because they don't want to experience something that is uncomfortable or painful. So, they expend all kinds of worrying, fretting, fearing, crying, snotting, tantrum-ing, and the like on something that has not happened or may never happen. As a parent, I get frustrated. I wish they would just TRUST ME!
I imagine God looking at me thinking the exact same thing.
He tells us to Trust Him. He's got this. No matter what it is...sickness, financial worries, relationship struggles, death of a loved one, job troubles, politics...He's got this.
Even the safety and well-being of my children.
Let's go back to 1 Peter 1:13 and look at something else: "keeping sober in spirit." Most of us associate being sober with not being intoxicated. But when I looked up the word 'sober' I found more than that:
not intoxicated or drunk. 2. habitually temperate, especially in the use of liquor. 3.quiet or sedate in
demeanor, as persons. 4. marked by seriousness, gravity, solemnity, etc., as of demeanor, speech,
etc.: a sober occasion. 5. subdued in tone, as color; not gay or showy, as clothes.
Do you see QUIET and SEDATE in demeanor???
I don't know about you, but when I am afraid of something, I am HARDLY quiet and sedate.
I think---*I think*---that my true fear comes from doubting that God really has this.
Did He create the world and everything in it in 6 actual days and rest on the 7th?
Did He form man and woman in His likeness?
Did He part the red sea?
Did He flood the entire earth and everyone on it, and save Noah and His family and 2 of every kind of animal?
Did He send His only Son to earth to die on a cross, allow Him to be beaten and crucified to save my sins and then raise Him again on the 3rd day?
Did He create me and know me intimately while I was still in my mother's womb? Does He know my every thought and the number of hairs on my head?
Will He be with me every step of the way and protect me and my children?
So while I believe my fear to be about harm coming to my children, I am beginning to realize it's really 1) my doubt in God's promise to be with me every step of the way, all of my life and 2) Satan's attempt to oppress me. He can't have my soul, but he certainly can try to oppress me and make my life miserable here on Earth. He can distract me from God's promise and derail my train of thought so that I am getting in the way of God's plan.
And when I realize both of those things it ticks me off.
I don't want to give Satan a foothold.
And I sure don't want to disobey a directive from God.
So I will recite Joshua 1:9 and 1 Peter 1:13. I will write them and post them around my house. I will save them as a screensaver to my phone.
And you are welcome to join me if you also struggle with fear. Let's pray for courage and wisdom. God gives abundantly to all who ask (James 1:5.)
And together we can combat this anxiety with God's Word.
Feel free to save this image to your computer and upload it as your screen saver and/or into your phone. May it be a constant reminder to all of us...