God has this amazing little habit of speaking to me in themes and "coincidences" and yesterday, He hit me with a big one.
I wrote at my friend Ginny's blog Joy from Grace last week about Fear. It fit in nicely with this series I've begun on Anxiety.
To recap, in Joshua 1:9, God 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."
I wrote about how that is not just God telling us to not fear for our own sake, but also because it's frustrating to God when we doubt Him. It interrupts His plan and keeps us from thinking logically and fulfilling what He has for us.
Whether or not we like to admit it, fearing is doubting God. Whether it's doubting His honesty that He will protect us or doubting His ability to protect us, or doubting if He will protect us in the way that we want...it's still doubt. We're wavering.
My pastor drove it home yesterday in church when he shared with us verses from Isaiah 48:17-18. And he said something that stuck with me as he was reading those verses. He said, "You can almost hear God lamenting with His people."
Please read these verses. I am one who often skims over scripture in posts because they are familiar, but these verses are what sent me reeling.
"This is what the Lord says--
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
'I am the LORD your God,
who teaches you what is best for you,
who directs you in the way you should go.
If only you had paid attention to my
commands,your peace would have been like a river,
your righteousness like the waves of the sea.
Your descendants would have been like sand,
your children like its numberless grains;
their name would never be cut off
nor destroyed from before me.' " (emphasis mine)
Did you see that?
God says in Joshua that He commanded us to not worry.
Then in Isaiah, he reminds us that because we did not follow His command, we have no peace.
This has been, by far, the hardest Truth for me to grasp: my anxiety, my fear is a direct result of my doubt, my faithlessness (or wavering faith.)
I find myself uttering the same words the man in Mark 9:24 did when he said said, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"
I'm there! I'm constantly crying out that prayer to God. I am double-minded and it drives me crazy.
And after yesterday and reading Isaiah 48, I realize it drives God crazy too.
Please don't misunderstand what I am saying. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, proclaiming that all you have to do is "believe" and everything is perfect. I realize there are different levels of anxiety and different triggers. Many people require medical attention. Many require therapy and intervention.
I do believe that God can do anything and heal anyone of any affliction. And while He most certainly can and has used miraculous, supernatural, immediate methods by which to do so, I also believe that sometimes He does that using ordinary, everyday people like doctors and therapists. Maybe to bring about a revival in someone else or to make His strength perfect in someone else's weakness.
Also...I think it could be easy to read this and take away that if you are a "better Christian" you will not have anxiety.
That is not what I am saying and could not be further from the truth.
The Bible is very clear that we cannot do anything to achieve perfection (Romans 3:23). Or even come close. If that were the case, Christ would not have had to die on the cross (John 3:16, 2 Corinthians 5:21).
We are flawed human beings. And we are all flawed in unique ways. But one way I am seeing in common with many is in being anxious.
I am anxious when I fear for my children's safety. I am anxious because I don't want them to experience pain. And if I'm being truthful here, because I don't want to experience pain.
Most people don't.
But...a very, very ugly and hard truth is that we are not on this planet to be shielded from pain. We are not guaranteed a painless life. God does promise us in Jeremiah 29:11 that He has plans to prosper us and not to harm us, and He says that to our children as well, but I don't believe that He always means that in earthly terms. Sometimes we will experience things that are allowed in order to fulfill His purpose and/or to refine us. Or to refine our children.
Here's where I go back to not always understanding God's purpose. And I want to fight Him tooth and nail.
We are called to take up our cross. Matthew 16:24 shows Jesus telling His disciples "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."
And when I really think about these words, I realize that Jesus said these things knowing what He was going to face. He knew that He was literally going to take up a cross and be beaten, and suffer and be humiliated.
He isn't asking us to take a walk in the park with Him..He's asking us to be willing to go through everything He did.
And then, as I fret and worry about whether or not something is going to happen to my children, and I beg God to spare them, the verses, also from Matthew, echo in my mind,
"For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it."
Of note? He says whoever wants to save his life will lose it.
He doesn't say whoever wants to lose his life...
We don't have to want to suffer and we don't have to like it.
But we do have to be willing to follow Jesus at any cost.
And not in our own strength.
God tells us He's got this. He is the One who will get us through.
2 Corinthians 12:9: "But he said to me, " 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me."
This isn't going to happen easily and it may not happen overnight.
And the thing is...as I struggle with letting go, I have told myself something that I don't know to be true. I have convinced myself that if I say to God, "Okay, God...whatever it takes! Use me! Not my will but Yours be done!"
That He will take my kids.
While I don't know that to be true, I also don't know it to not be true.
But I do know that God wants me to trust Him--to trust that He has me in His hand even when things are ugly and that some day, even with tragedy, it will be okay and I'll understand.
And He wants me to stop focusing my energy on something that may never come to be and grieving something that has not happened.
We all have weaknesses, some more difficult than others.
Anxiety happens to be one of mine and it's a doozy!
But Christ is refining me in this. My feet are being held to the fire and I am being pushed deeper into the Word for understanding and peace.
I pray for all of us that we can continue to put one foot in front of the other and walk next to God as He handles the real heavy stuff. As He tells us to trust Him and to Believe Him--even if it doesn't all make sense and even when it may not be what we would choose.
Father, please, please wrap Your arms around all of us who suffer with anxiety and worry and fear. You know we aren't perfect and You know that as flawed people, we fall short so often. But please help us overcome this often debilitating infliction. Please grant us Your peace and please fill our hearts with trust and faith. Please help us to meditate on the verses that tell us how much You love us and that You have our good in mind. Please release us from this fear that keeps us from focusing on whole-heartedly serving You. I pray that You will be with every single person who reads this post, that they will feel Your presence, that they will seek You to calm their anxious thoughts, and that they will lean on You when they feel hopeless, panicked and fearful. In Jesus name, Amen.