Living with Fear? Break UP with Fear for Good

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Fear began stalking me a couple of years ago. I admit, I let it follow me at a distance for years.

But then I made one of the biggest mistake of my life.

I allowed Fear to move in, along with all its baggage. Once inside, Fear drudged up daily anxiety. Before I knew it, panic plagued my sleep. I even started grinding my teeth, breaking several in the process.

Fear took over my life, steered my every decision, and wringed joy clear out of my life. Fear held me hostage from writing for so many years.

Can I just confess something to you? I have MAJOR social media anxiety. My face flushes and my pulse rises before I hit “publish” on this blog, Facebook, and even Twitter for goodness sakes.

I’m afraid of snarky comments from Internet bullies. I’m scared of people laughing at me, or worse, thinking I love the limelight.

See the fear I’m up against?

For years, I’ve lived in a Fear-spun prison, but that ends today. This week, my writer friend Heather Creekmore challenged me to blog once a week “no matter what”—and to post to social media.

I’ve taken her up on the challenge, and I’ve learned a two huge things about Fear.

#1 If we want to break up with fear, we must defeat unbelief.

If you look closely, you’ll see that Fear’s ugly underbelly is unbelief.

We evict Fear from our lives the same way we kick an abusive boyfriend to the curb. And I’m not talking about getting a baseball bat—but calling in the authorities.

For years, I tried to rid myself of Fear, but it always came back. This time, though, I’ve taken my unbelief to God—the ultimate authority—and asked Him to help me kick Fear where it hurts.

I asked for faith—raw belief—the unshakable kind I can’t stir up on my own. All I can say is, it’s working.

#2 Fear looks scarier than it is.

Remember Scooby Doo? As a kid I lived for the big villain reveal at the end. Once Wilma or one of the others took off the villain’s mask, we saw the truth. Beneath the costume, a person appeared.

This reminds me of Fear. Fear wears a disguise, always duping us into believing the worst case scenario. Click To Tweet

But something wonderful happens when we muster the courage to face it. When we look under Fear’s mask, we will probably laugh at ourselves for being so afraid.

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Instead of a big, hairy monster, we see an ordinary problem that God’s already given us the grace to handle.

Do you need to sever your relationship with Fear? With God’s help you can put an end to that toxic relationship.

Will you join me the challenge to kick fear in the face? Leave a comment below about a fear you’re up against, and I would love to pray for you this week.

I’m looking forward to our discussions here every week.

Hide and Seek God

 

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**Author note: The following is from my work in progress—a book about overcoming worry. I couldn’t wait to share it. I hope you enjoy it.

I remember my oldest son’s toddler days when his soft curls would bounce as he paraded around the house. But one day his parade didn’t circle back to me as usual.

When his silence grew louder, I became suspicious. Sixty seconds of panic turned into two minutes of me yelling his name, opening and closing closet doors. I frantically checked outside in the yard.

Then I heard a rustle coming from the kitchen. I retrieved him, cheeky smile and all, from one of the lower cabinets. That day we graduated out of peek-a-boo into the era of hide-and-seek.

I always knew when the game was on. The sparkle in his eye spelled mischief. The he would flash a cheeky smile and dart away. His game usually left me searching for him in grocery aisles and check-out lanes.

Once, I spent a harrowing few minutes seeking him at the mall, only to find him hiding inside a circular clothing rack in a department store.

Like my son once did, Scripture speaks about God hiding himself so we will seek Him. “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings” (Prov. 25:2).

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Jesus furthers the analogy when he compares the Kingdom of Heaven to hidden treasure. When I read Matthew 13:44, I always picture the loot you might find on board a pirate ship.

Rubies, emeralds and gold coins spill out onto the soil. The prize of kings spills on the turf of the common farmer. And who is this God that would hide treasure in a place so common where anyone can find it?

When we seek God through his Book, meditating on truth and his character, we can find him in mundane places. At the desk, or the shop or the kitchen sink, we can imagine him and see him in a thousand ways we haven’t before.

Jesus’ parable ends in the same way our quest to know God and overcome worry and anxiety begins. The excited man sells everything he has to buy the field where the treasure is hidden. He pays a small price for a fortune.

If the parable of the hidden treasure explains hiding, Jesus’ next story, about a merchant hunting for the best pearls, describes seeking. “When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it,” (Matt. 13:46 NIV).

We too must pay the price of focusing our minds on Christ. Union with Christ requires our total attention. We wield meditation as a tool of knowing Christ.

How to Scratch Out Joy On Your Worst Days

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While the dinner dishes sit in the sink, my body slumps into the sofa, mind and soul sagging.

Irritability sneaks into my voice. Or do my kids conspire against me to see how many times I will say “brush your teeth,” before I start yelling?

I know I need to stop for prayer. So, I resist the urge to conquer baths and bedtime routine for a much needed timeout.

If the timeout age rule—one minute for every year—applied to moms, I’d be in heaven. 31 minutes in the corner? Sure, sign me up. But I settle for five minutes, and the dialogue does a little like this.

“Help.”

Maybe toddler speak has stunted my vocabulary. Or maybe Anne Lamont is right, and “help,” “thanks,” and “wow,” are the most profound prayers of all.

Sometimes that’s all it takes—30 seconds of “Help me, God,” and Jesus resets the tripped breaker of my attitude. Other times, well, I’m in for a long night of rewiring.

Some days it’s a crank up-the-Hillsong-worship and come-to-Jesus-kind-of night.

Know what I mean?

There’s one guy in Scripture who really knew how to get alone with God. When life got REAL, David knew how to beckon joy.

We watch David grasp for gladness with this prayer. “May all who search for you be filled with joy and gladness IN you,” (Ps. 70:4).

He didn’t look inward at himself, outward at his circumstances, but upward at God. David’s prayer gets better.

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“Those who LOVE your salvation repeatedly shout, “God is great!” (Ps. 70:5). According to David we “love” our salvation by thinking about it “repeatedly” and turning our thanks into woops of praise.

Yeah, if it sounds like all sunshine and roses, it’s not. David wrote Psalm 70 running for his life, hiding in caves, afraid to sleep—afraid to wake up with spear to his throat.

No one has ever brandished a spear at me, but I can relate to his desperation in the next verse.

“But as for me, I am poor and needy; please hurry to my aid, O God,” (Ps. 70:6).

David knew how to scratch out impossible joy on the worst days of his life. Once, when His wives and children had been captured, his camp plundered, we catch a glimpse of his secret.

“He encouraged himself in the Lord,” (1 Sam. 30:6).

We, too, can learn this holy habit.

David wasn’t practicing positive self-talk. Instead he made a warrior’s decision to place his faith in God.

Next time you’re discouraged, take a cue from David. Don’t look inward or outward—but look toward the only One who can speak courage to your fears.

How to Kick the Worry Habit

Photo by Francesco via Creative Commons, Flickr

Photo by Francesco via Creative Commons, Flickr

I did something crazy last month—I decided to start my annual health kick one month early. Cutting sugar from my diet was my health decision du jour.

I passed up holiday cookie exchanges and even pumpkin cheesecake, a minor miracle in itself. I kicked my sweets habit pretty quickly. In a week or so the cravings vanished.

I lost a few pounds, but what I learned about worry and how it relates to sugar addiction proved more important.

A 2013 study showed Oreos more addictive than heroine or cocaine. I’ve never experimented with drugs, but I do have a 30-year sugar addiction.

Maybe I should blame Little Debbie snacks in my lunchbox, but I once lived for that sugary fix. It satisfied in the moment, but gut-punched me with a new craving once the sugar wore off.

While driving one morning, I saw the similarity between sugar addiction and the destructive habit of worry. If I give in to the temptation to fret in one area of my life, it’s not long before fretting becomes an hourly fixation.

I wondered if I could stop the cycle of worry the same way I had broken the sugar cycle?

While my car engine idled at a stoplight, I imagined Jesus sitting in the passenger seat. Somehow the holiday hustle that prods the joy right out of my heart began to cease.

Backseat arguments over toys couldn’t invade my peace. In that moment, I shared exhaustion with him. I somehow knew Jesus sat beside me sharing in my anxieties and daily frustrations.

He sat with me. Or maybe better said, I sat with him, united with him.

This picture of him wanting to be with me during all my unlovely moments changed my mood and allowed his love to flow through me.

I’ve enjoyed Brother-Lawrence style prayer before. Practicing the presence of God while peeling potatoes or cleaning my house has never been difficult.

The real challenge is dwelling with the Lord during the chaos.

How do I unite my worried mind to Peace in the middle of toddler tantrums? These days, friends, I don’t have Brother Lawrence’s solitude or a quiet monastery to hide away in seeking God.

But I do have Someone to run to. Or better said, I have Someone who runs to me.

When I stopped consuming sugar this month, I marveled at how much better food tasted. Vegetables opened on my palate in a new way. Sweet red peppers tasted like candy.

New flavors and nuances in coffee and wine popped on my taste buds. I couldn’t believe what I had missed.

The same rings true when we stop the cycle of worry. Life opens up as a feast for us to enjoy. When fear addles our minds, we miss the opportunity to see God everywhere.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s words sum up the reality of abiding in Christ.

“Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes – The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.”

As the new year begins, would you consider joining me to break the cycle of fear and worry in your life? Would you consider focusing your attention in a new way upon Christ and his finished work?

I’m looking forward to posting more about this journey. I hope you join me as we “turn our eyes upon Jesus.” And if I could sing on key, I would belt the rest of that old song to you.

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.”

When Self-Hate Threatens Another Beat Down

Photo by Rachel Cramer via Creative Commons

Photo by Rachel Cramer via Creative Commons

 

I had a holy moment today. Not quite a take-off-your-shoes-you’re-on-holy-ground moment, but almost.

You’ve probably had your own God-epiphanies.

The word revelation comes to mind because my heart instantly understood what my head has always known.

God loves me.

I did what I always do in these God-thick moments, and I cried.

I realized how void my life is of His Love. I saw how often I run from this love because I don’t feel worthy.

I test and measure myself and always come up short. Jesus never measures me this way.

He is love. He is forgiveness. Redemption. Peace.

So, why do I struggle sometimes—and I mean truly wrestle with condemnation, fear and all-hands-on-deck self-hate? Not to mention my daily tug-o-war with anxiety.

My history of legalism, no doubt, has contributed. And without God’s love in the center of our lives, won’t we always teeter on the edge of legalism?

When love doesn’t motivate us, how can we experience a relationship with Christ that doesn’t end in an authoritarian relationship based in fear?

I’ve also had many run-ins with those who speak in God’s name but don’t espouse His very nature of love.

Church has taught me to be wary of loving myself, to care little for myself.

I’m learning there’s a difference in loving yourself and making an idol of self.

God’s teaching me how to love myself because He first loved me. If I can take a peek through His eyes, I won’t swim in self-defeat. I won’t even stick in my toe if I can daily catch a glimpse of this all-satisfying love.

We like to believe we’re carving out time for God when we pray or read our Bibles.

But isn’t it really time to position ourselves before the God of love because somehow a holy transaction takes place and this God-type love rubs off on us?

When we experience God’s love at our core, we love ourselves. Self-hate and God’s love can’t coincide. We love ourselves as a byproduct of God’s love working in us.

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39 ESV).

Will you posture yourself to receive His love today? In a nanosecond, He can reveal His love to you and buoy you out of a swamp of condemnation and fear.

Will you let Him?

 

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