Faith and Fear

Hi friends! This post is part of a 7-week series on overcoming fear in which a few friends will be dropping by as guest bloggers. Please visit their blogs, linked at the bottom of their posts here, if you’d like to hear more from them. Here’s to getting a little more free from fear together. – Bree

Faith and Fear by Connie Hellmuth

What scares you?  I am fearless in many ways.  I lived in Mexico for a year and I still drive in Juárez often, even at night, which many of my fellow El Pasoan’s consider lunacy.  I will eat street food in other countries.  I talk to strangers.  I have traveled internationally by myself and loved it.  But I have recently become aware of how fear has limited me in the past and I am trying to recognize when fear influences my decision making.  Fear can hold us back from what God is calling us to do.  In the Christmas story are two examples of people being called to do something, and their responses.   Let’s look first at the story of Zechariah in Luke Chapter 1, verses 12-20.  The angel says,

“Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.  He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” 

Wow—this is great news!  A long-desired and prayed for baby, and an angel telling you that this child will bring you joy and be used by God in mighty ways.  Zechariah’s response tells us a lot about his view of God and his faith. He was a priest, and he would know about Abraham and Sarah.  This wasn’t the first time God had sent a baby to a woman past child-bearing age.  Instead of receiving this news with joy, Zechariah asked the angel,

How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” 

For years I struggled with fear, just like Zechariah.  I struggled to believe that God loved me, that He was not disappointed in me.  I also struggled with the fear that I could not hear from God, that I would mess it up somehow.  For years I thought God might be calling me to get my master’s degree in Counseling.  I would inquire about what it took to apply, read the list of required classes, and then I would stop.  I didn’t know if I would be good at it, I was afraid to put all that work into a degree, spend all that money, only to find out I wasn’t good at it or I didn’t like it.  I finally identified that it was fear that was holding me back, and the only way to find out if I liked it, was to do it.  I absolutely loved the entire process.  Learning brought something to life inside me that had been long dormant.  It was life-giving to me.

As a young woman, I didn’t feel like God loved me.  I wanted to please Him and tried to follow all the rules to gain his approval.  I didn’t understand, at all, that there was nothing I could do to make Him love me more—or less.  When I finally came to understand God’s unconditional love for me, I was free from the fear that God was disappointed in me and that I couldn’t hear His voice.  God came into the world in humility as a baby, in the mess and muck of a stable, less than perfect conditions.  I don’t need to clean myself up before He loves me—He has always loved me, even before I surrendered my life to Him.  I came to understand as well that God’s ability to speak to His children was greater than Satan’s power to confuse us.  That understanding gave me a lot of peace.

When I was an early believer, someone told me that if I didn’t obey God, He would find someone else who would obey Him.  For years I lived with the fear that God would pass me over and abandon me because I didn’t respond to His call, or because I didn’t realize He was calling me.  Nothing could be farther from the truth!  The angel Gabriel sets Zechariah straight and gives him a consequence for not believing him, but I think it’s beautiful to notice that the angel’s message was true, and it did come to pass.  Elizabeth did conceive a boy and he was a prophet of God.  Zechariah’s doubt did not cause this important event to be canceled or transferred to another, more believing couple.  This story is a beautiful illustration of how God works with our frailties.  He knows us and our weaknesses and doesn’t leave us there.  He is always working for our good.

The next time in Luke that an angel is mentioned, it is with Mary.  Here is the passage from Luke 26-38.

“In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

                 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.   But the angel said to her,

            “Do not be afraid Mary; you have found favor with God.  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
                 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month.  For no word from God will ever fail.”
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

I believe Mary’s response was not one of doubt and was totally understandable.  She was a young woman, and she was not married.  Virgin birth had never happened before in the history of humankind, so she had reason to be confused.  But her response was based on her faith, not fear. Even though she might have felt afraid she chose to trust God rather than be led by fear.  Faith is the antidote to fear, and the more you exercise your faith, I’ve discovered, the greater it becomes. The more I know about God the more certain I am that He is worthy of my trust.  As I have obeyed Him, I have come to know Him better.  I might still be afraid, but when God is calling me to step out, I know He will go with me.   Mary believed God and His messenger and became the mother of the Messiah.  Fear comes between us and what God is calling us to do.  We miss opportunities that are life-giving when we give way to fear.  What are you afraid of?  What might God be calling you to do that scares you?  I will leave you with this poem an old friend posted on her Facebook wall.

I will not die an unlived life,
I will not live in fear
of failing or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise

by Dawana Markova

Connie Hellmuth is a Jesus follower who lives in El Paso, Texas with her husband of 38 years where they serve with Youth With a Mission El Paso/Juárez.  She is also a Licensed Professional Counseling Intern, loves kittens and puppies but has zero pets, and loves what she does.  She has seven children, ten grandchildren and loves to read, workout, and learn new things. 

Fear

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Overcoming fear. Freedom from the idol of addiction.

When I first started penning this post in my head, I knew I wanted to write about a time that I overcame fear. I wanted to share with you the tools I used to help me overcome my greatest physical, emotional, and spiritual battle. I heard a song recently called Clear The Stage by Jimmy Needham. The lyrics are so true to what I had to do to survive quitting my 20 year addiction to opiates. You can listen to the song here: https://youtu.be/6smGew7dGto

I’ve overcome many fearful situations in my life. Specifically, in the past 2 years, I’ve overcome the fear of leaving a decade long abusive relationship and marriage, the fear of leaving a good job, the fear of leaving my home, my husband, my dog, my town, and the fear of moving home (again) and telling my family the truth about how I had been living.

I also recently overcame the shock of being verbally abused and pushed out of my home church by pastors I love and respect. To be fair, they didn’t tell me I had to stop coming to the church. They did, however, call me names and treat me inappropriately, and so I chose to leave. Praise God that I never had much fear about telling my family why I wasn’t going to that church anymore. I actually had a great peace about it. That peace came from God and from knowing my family loved me so very much. I’ve heard horror stories of families and friends disowning and turning on loved ones because of their sexuality. But I had no fear about that with my family. After all, with everything I’d been through, the least of their worries was who I chose to love… as long as it was a healthy, loving relationship. There was some fear about telling certain friends; friends in the church, my friend who is a pastor’s wife, my friend who is a pastor’s daughter, my mentors and women I consider spiritual mamas, and my friends at work who didn’t know much about me. I am so blessed that in each of these instances I’ve been met with nothing but kindness and love. In fact, all of the above was fairly easy compared to the fear of quitting my addiction.

Absolutely the scariest thing I’ve ever done is quit my 20-year addiction to opiates. Quitting was a decision I had to make. It was hard. I knew what was ahead of me once I quit using the drug that prevented my withdrawals. I was under a doctor’s care and being prescribed a medication to prevent withdrawals. It was a band aid medication. I wasn’t abusing painkillers anymore, but I was now addicted to this anti-opiate medication. What a lot of people don’t realize is that stopping that medication would bring on the same sort of physical and mental withdrawal symptoms as quitting heroin. I knew what that meant because I had tried to quit many times before on my own. I knew the weeks and months of physical pain and sickness and emotional turmoil quitting a 20-year addiction would take. I had tried to quit dozens of times before. I knew the fire I was walking into. I also knew that going through the fire was the only way to get sober. It would burn me inside and out. But it would also refine me and heal me, burning out the old and replacing it with the new. And I wasn’t going into that fire alone; this time I had Jesus and my loving family.

The first line of Jimmy Needham’s song says “Clear the stage and set the sound and lights ablaze. If that’s the measure you must take to crush the idols.”

That is what I had to do. My addiction had become an idol. I had come to know Jesus years before I quit. I was going to church, doing Bible studies, listening to worship music, going on Christian retreats, reading my Bible and praying daily… all while being medicated everyday just to maintain “normal”. But as the lyrics go “you can sing all you want to and still get it wrong; worship is more than a song“. I had to clear the stage, clear my life of all the stuff that was preventing me from quitting drugs. I had to leave my co-dependent abusive relationship. I had to quit my job where being high was the only way I could function. I had to set ablaze all the things I thought I wanted, and set them at the foot of the cross, entrusting myself to Jesus. I had to humble myself before my family and Jesus. I needed help and I couldn’t do it alone.

I was very sick for weeks; weak, malnourished, depressed, not sleeping … all the typical opiate withdrawal symptoms. My memory was awful and my moods rollercoastered. I was a terror to live with and a sad sight. One very specific thing I remember is that at 39 years old I was too sick and weak to load a dishwasher. I knew that in time I would heal physically but that it would take even longer for my brain to heal. It can take the brain a year to begin healing from the type of addiction I had. And so I waited.

“Take a break from all the plans that you have made and sit at home alone and wait for God to whisper. Beg Him please to open up his mouth and speak, and pray for real upon your knees until they blister. Shine the light on every corner of your life until the pride and lust and lies are in the open.”

During that time of waiting, during the sickness and pain of withdrawal and healing, I turned to God. I put a battle plan in place. Sick as I was, I laid in bed for weeks reading the Bible. Weeks turned into months. Tired as I was, I wrote the Psalms (specifically 34, 116, 23, and 91) out on paper over and over and read them aloud over myself. This was a very good tip from a dear friend, and I recommend it to anyone dealing with a difficult situation. I still do this today when experiencing difficulties; it calms me and brings me peace. There is something about writing the Word out on paper, not typing, but slowly writing, paying attention to each Word and reading them aloud over yourself as if God wrote them just for you. I prayed and had trusted friends praying for me. I listened to worship music and praised Him even though I was hurting so bad.

“Then read the Word and put to test the things you’ve heard until your heart and soul are stirred and rocked and broken.”

It had been weeks, going on months of me lying around the house sick and weak. More times than I can remember, I thought for sure I would not survive, or didn’t want to. One day, as I lay sick in my bed, I opened my Bible to John 5:8 where Jesus tells the man to “pick up your mat and walk”. And so I did. I got out of bed and went for a walk outside. I had not been outside for so long. The sun felt good. I couldn’t do that every day. Some days I was too weak or too depressed. Some days the best I could do was go sit in a sunny patch of grass in the yard. It was springtime. The giant oak trees became my church, the flowers the stained glass, and the birds the choir. I just kept looking for God. I knew He was healing me.

“Then seek the Lord, and wait for what He has in store, and know that great is your reward, so just be hopeful.”

Then it happened. One day I was able to help my mom load the dishwasher without getting sick or too tired. Before I knew it I was able to unload the heavy dishes and stack them up in the cabinets. Who knew that doing the dishes would be one of the biggest memories and milestones of my healing? It meant I was getting stronger. It meant I could finally help my mom who had taken such good care of me even when it was extremely hard to do so. I was thrilled in that moment. Standing there over a sink of dishes in my mom’s kitchen I wept. I wept for joy knowing God had healed me. I was getting stronger and I knew I would continue to get stronger as weeks turned into months which turned into a year.

Today I am proud to say that I conquered my fear, crushing the idol of addiction, and I am 1 year and 7 months sober. The process drew me nearer to the Lord than I had ever been before. The tools I used, like writing out the Psalms, praying with friends, and leaning into the Lord through His Word and worship, are still tools I use to conquer fear today. I know I could not have gotten off drugs and remained sober for 19 months now without Jesus. I have not relapsed once. That in itself is a miracle. I was healed completely by God. It is my biggest testimony. Praise God; I am healed.

“We must not worship something that’s not even worth it. Clear the stage; make some space for the One who deserves it. Anything I put before my God is an idol. Anything I want with all my heart is an idol. Anything I can’t stop thinking of is an idol. Anything that I give all my love is an idol.”

(1st picture: 2016, 2nd picture 2018)

The Lord gives, and takes away.

Hi friends! This post is part of a 7-week series on overcoming fear in which a few friends will be dropping by as guest bloggers. Please visit their blogs, linked at the bottom of their posts here, if you’d like to hear more from them. Here’s to getting a little more free from fear together. – Bree

The Lord Gives, and Takes Away-  by Marisa Swann

“The Lord gives, and takes away, was my first thought when I saw my lifeless son lying on the guest bedroom floor.

Let me give you a little backstory. I was pregnant with our fifth child. We had a great midwife that had delivered number four at our home a year prior. (God truly does have a sense of humor.? )  We had sonograms and the appropriate prenatal appointments.   A few people had asked if we were having twins. Several close friends said that they hoped we were pregnant with twins. At our first sonogram appointment John asked the tech is it twins. He had a feeling.  She assured us that there was only one baby. “I’ll bet my job on it”.  John still wants to go back and tell her she was wrong.

It was early in the morning on February 9. I hadn’t slept well because I was great with child.  My contractions had begun and I was waiting for John to wake up.  Sure enough it was baby time. We called our midwife and John called the church he was pastoring at the time. I labored and delivered a healthy baby boy, whom we named Noah. We were celebrating and enjoying our newborn cuddles.  I stood and up and said “something isn’t right.” I didn’t recall that until months later.  Suddenly, I delivered another baby boy.  Honestly, it was more like he fell out feet first and my midwife caught him.  I saw him and was in disbelief.  “The Lord gives, and takes away.”  I told God in that moment, “I know he belongs to you. But I haven’t had the chance to say hello.  I’m not ready to say goodbye.  Please God don’t take him”.

EMS was called and we spent several hours in the local emergency room with our surprise blessing.  After that,  Isaiah was transferred to Cooks Children’s Hospital.  Our first day was a complete blur. It was filled with listening to beeps, watching different medical staff come in and out, and our doctor telling us this and that was now a new concern.  On day four we received his MRI results.  They were not promising. Isaiah’s little brain was completely black and grey.  In fact, we were told to do “comfort care” aka, hospice for babies.  Our team of doctors told us to take our time making a decision, but they thought it was for best. John and I agreed, nope, not happening, we were bringing our boys home together. We took day four in waves.  One minute we were talking about how we could set up our home to best serve Isaiah. We would have to change rooms and we would have to create easy access for the EMTs. The next minute we would be sitting there listening to the beeps.  We would just look at each and laugh and say, “WE HAVE TWINS”.

Our first week was a just wait and see.  Isaiah would make an improvement only to have four setbacks. Our nurses were so kind. Each day they would ask about Noah. They also told us they had a concerns for his health. Finally, we gave in on day seven. John took Noah to the emergency room downstairs.  Two hours later, the charge nurse came and informed me that they didn’t have a twin room available. Noah would be two rooms down. I remember telling her okay and thinking, “she’s crazy.” Noah didn’t need a room. That’s when my phone rang and John told me he would be up soon to explain and that Noah was being admitted. His blood was thick and his red cell count was extremely high. They were shocked that Noah hadn’t had a stroke.

So, there we were with our twins in two separate rooms, both facing death.  John and I prayed.  We reached out to everyone we knew asking them to pray for our boys.  We made daily posts keeping everyone updated on Isaiah’s progress and then on Noah’s.  We didn’t give all the details on Noah.  Only a few knew Noah was on the verge of death. We received so many messages of prayers and encouragement.  We had family and friends posting and sharing our story.  Each of them asked their friends to pray for our TWINS.  We had people all over the world praying for our boys.

1 day turned into 7 days. 7 days turned into 14 days. Each day brought either a new issue or a struggle that one of them overcame. Eventually, we were moved into a twin room. Then, Isaiah was breathing on his own. Something the doctors told us that he would never be able to do.

On day 16 Isaiah had another MRI. The following day the doctor came into our room. He looked bewildered.  He sat down and said “I can’t explain it. Isaiah’s MRI came back normal”. In complete disbelief I just sat there. John asked to see it and if we could get a copy of the MRI. We also asked when we could go home.  We had been without our four other children for 17 days. Thankfully, the doctor told us we could go home that afternoon.

For the first time in my life, I wasn’t in fear of what was to come next.  I knew I had to fully trust God. I knew He was the only one who could save our sons.  I knew now was not the time to be angry.  I knew now wasn’t the time to ask why. See the why didn’t matter. The why really never matters.  What mattered was that I knew God had a plan and I needed to trust Him. I knew I had to bring glory to God.  I knew God could perform miracles.

Noah and Isaiah are now healthy 4 years old, soon to be 5. I still say, “We HAVE TWINS,” in complete disbelief at least once a week. While Isaiah has challenges, but we don’t let those hold us back. We are still trusting God to do what He wants to in and through our sons.

Marisa Swann is a wife and mother who is coffee and essential-oil obsessed. She currently lives in Cypress, TX with her husband, 6 children, and a the start of a domesticated zoo. Her passions include cooking and sending starter kits for The Loved Bible Project. She also enjoys sleeping in, fine dining, and trips to Hawaii…or at least she thinks she would if she ever got the chance to do any of them.

Fear

Categories God

When God Gives You What You Need Instead of What You Asked For

Hi friends! This post is part of a 7-week series on overcoming fear in which a few friends will be dropping by as guest bloggers. Please visit their blogs, linked at the bottom of their posts here, if you’d like to hear more from them. Here’s to getting a little more free from fear together. – Bree

When God Gives You What You Need Instead of What You Asked For by Lesley Islas

I spent the first 36 years of my life merely surviving, trying to muster up enough will to live, to get out of bed, and to try and be a decent person. The manipulation, untruths, and trauma of my childhood had me tangled in a web of shame, co-dependency, loneliness, and despair. I walked around attempting to mask my fear of so many things – mostly people and all the ways they could break my heart.

That kind of heaviness weighs on a person – for me the weight was both emotional and physical. From the age of five until just recently, I steadily gained weight in both capacities. The pounds on my body became a protective barrier from the kind of people who frightened me and the emotional baggage became an excuse to retaliate, run, and burn bridges at the first sign of rejection.

The thing is… that’s not a very fun way to live. That kind of life doesn’t embrace the abundance Jesus died to offer us. I knew that. I felt that truth in my bones. I knew the life I was living didn’t line up with who God said He was or who He said I was, but I couldn’t see any other way. Fear had paralyzed me. Fear had convinced me that the life I was given was not worth living.

On a Sunday afternoon in September 2017, I found myself in the middle of a medical emergency. My blood pressure was well over twice the numbers considered normal – stroke range. In the midst of this physical ordeal,  I was begging, pleading, bargaining, and crying out to God to take my life. This was His chance. I was done. Done fighting. Done pretending to be okay when I wasn’t. Done feeling broken and inadequate. I could not live in fear any longer. My solution was death. God’s solution was life.

Something shifted in me that day. God didn’t give in to my desire to give up, instead He revealed Himself to me in a new and different way. I walked out of the hospital with a new perspective. If I was broken, unworthy, unlovable, a burden, a charity case – all those things I had previously believed about myself – then why would God spare my life? He wouldn’t. If God is a loving Father and I was better off dead then He would not have let me live. But he did.

Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  This scripture can sting when your in a place where you’re not sure if you believe God is always good. But when you decide to trust that God is FOR you, that He is sovereign – these words bring so much hope.

I decided that day last September that if I was going to be highly encouraged by God to keep this life I had been given then I was NOT going to live it in fear. I decided to live truly surrendered to God – to trust His goodness, to trust His ability to protect me, and to trust His plans for me. That surrender has led to immeasurably more than I could have hoped for or imagined. (Ephesians 3:20)

Today I am starting the pre-op diet for my upcoming gastric bypass surgery that will take place on December 10th, 2018. Several people will be waiting and praying at the hospital while I am in surgery. After I am released from the hospital, I will be going to stay with a couple who have taken me into their lives and overwhelmingly shown me what love really looks like. They asked me to come stay with them after surgery so they could care for me and be with me as I recover – not because I needed them too but because they wanted to.

These friends, and all the others God has placed in my life, are not perfect. They are very much still humans who sometimes cause me to hold my breath in anticipation of rejection. Occasionally, I still expect the worst. But I have learned to stop and take a moment, to not react out of my feelings, and to check in with a trusted mentor when I get too anxious about a particular situation.  I am learning to let God into the moments where fear tries to creep in and to let His peace that is beyond my understanding (Philippians 4:7) be a comfort and a protection.

In Psalm 34:4 the psalmist writes “I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.” The same is true for me. He didn’t answer the way I wanted Him to, but He answered the way I needed. And, I am SO grateful.

Lesley Islas is an Early Childhood Educator who loves living life in sweet Wimberley, Texas. Her favorite things include: holding sleeping babies, genuine laughter, honest tears, and holding hands. She writes honestly and vulnerably out of her own experience. Find past blog posts at: https://lesleyislas.blogspot.com.

Fear

Categories God