Why should I be afraid?

Psalm 27

DSC_4924The Lord is my light and my salvation—
so why should I be afraid?
The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger,
so why should I tremble?
When evil people come to devour me,
when my enemies and foes attack me,
they will stumble and fall.
Though a mighty army surrounds me,
my heart will not be afraid.
Even if I am attacked,
I will remain confident.

The one thing I ask of the Lord—
the thing I seek most—
is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
delighting in the Lord’s perfections
and meditating in his Temple.
For he will conceal me there when troubles come;
he will hide me in his sanctuary.
He will place me out of reach on a high rock.
Then I will hold my head high
above my enemies who surround me.
At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy,
singing and praising the Lord with music.

Hear me as I pray, O Lord.
Be merciful and answer me!
My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”
Do not turn your back on me.
Do not reject your servant in anger.
You have always been my helper.
Don’t leave me now; don’t abandon me,
O God of my salvation!
Even if my father and mother abandon me,
the Lord will hold me close.

Teach me how to live, O Lord.
Lead me along the right path,
for my enemies are waiting for me.
Do not let me fall into their hands.
For they accuse me of things I’ve never done;
with every breath they threaten me with violence.
Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness
while I am here in the land of the living.

Wait patiently for the Lord.
Be brave and courageous.
Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.

Sometimes fear can keep you content

Life is overwhelming. Everyone seems to be struggling to keep their head above the waves with all the stuff that keeps coming at them, and not all of it is bad. Some of it is good. Some of it may even be great, but that’s the way life is. We rarely get life in small doses.

I’ve been fighting discouragement in the last few weeks, questioning the wisdom of my choices and the direction I’m going. It’s funny because even when you start out genuinely questioning what God has told you to do, it doesn’t take long before fear sets in.

Fear can be healthy sometimes, but I believe that’s a specific type of fear. There are different kinds of fear, you know. Sort of like there are different kinds of love. The fear you feel in a life-threatening situation can make you stronger, faster, sharper than you would be without it. I’d say that’s beneficial. But the fear you feel when you start questioning what God has told you to do is the absolute opposite of a good thing, and it certainly doesn’t come from God.

In Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel, Dune, there’s a famous statement about fear. He states: “Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

While it’s true that fear can sometimes spur us to greater achievements, in most instances, fear dulls us and urges us to settle for less because we’re too afraid to keep pushing for the best. So how do you conquer the fear that will stunt your growth? How do you manage your fear when you face those questions that have no answer?

FearToday’s verses are Psalm 27:1-3.

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
so why should I be afraid?
The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger,
so why should I tremble?
When evil people come to devour me,
when my enemies and foes attack me,
they will stumble and fall.
Though a mighty army surrounds me,
my heart will not be afraid.
Even if I am attacked,
I will remain confident.

How do you conquer your fear? Remember Who’s on your side.

It’s easy to forget Who set you on this path when the troubles and struggles of life start piling up around you. They look so big, so overwhelming, so impossible to figure out, but in those moments when we’re so afraid that we’re going to fail, we need to stop and remember what we’re doing and Who we’re doing it for.

The Bible says that God is our light, our salvation, and our fortress. Think about that. God is our light. As long as we’re following Him, we won’t be lost in the darkness. God is our salvation. There’s no challenge or difficulty we can face that can have the victory over us because God is stronger than any trouble we can encounter. God is our fortress. No matter what weapons our enemy forges against us, nothing can touch us when we’re taking refuge in God’s presence.

So why are we afraid? Sure, it’s intimidating to face unanswerable questions. Yeah, it’s frightening to start down a path you can’t see the end of. But who sent you? Who are you doing it for? Why are you going?

The fear that comes in those moments doesn’t come from God. The fear that makes you doubt God’s goodness isn’t from Him. The fear that makes you doubt that He will take care of you and love you and forgive you no matter what isn’t from Him. It’s a lie.

If you’re following God, if you’re living your life for Christ, if you’re seeking Him first in every choice you make, God will be right by your side. Don’t forget that.

Don’t let our enemy convince you to be afraid of the uncertainties. That’s what he wants, because if he can keep you scared, he can keep you content. God calls us to be fearless, to face the challenges of life with His strength, which He offers us freely.

So what are you afraid of? If God is for you (He is, by the way), who could ever stop you?

Don’t be afraid to share the real you

This is my last week at my job. It hasn’t really sunk in yet. I’m not sure when it will. I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m going to be a bawling mess on Friday, not necessarily because I’m sad to leave but because I’m going to miss the wonderful people who’ve played such a huge role in my professional life.

My cubicle was like Grand Central Station yesterday. So many people came by, just to chat, and it was great. I am usually tucked away in a corner somewhere quiet where I can compose articles and feature stories in relative quiet, so I don’t often see people. Everyone who came by wanted to know what was going on, where I was heading, why I was leaving, and I had decided that if people asked, I would tell them.

If somebody asks me why I’m leaving, I’m going to tell them it’s because I believe God is calling me to something bigger. That’s a great thing to tell someone of likeminded faith. Generally speaking, they’ll understand what you’re saying. They might even identify with it. But try telling that to someone who doesn’t necessarily believe the same way that you do. What do you think is going to happen?

Honestly–I didn’t know what would happen, because I’ve usually chickened out at the last moment and offered a more “rational” explanation for why I’m walking away from my job. Because I do have rational reasons. They just aren’t the reasons that drive me.

And I’ve been afraid to tell people the real reason why I’m leaving. Well, I decided yesterday to stop being afraid and just be real with people. And you know what happened?

People cried.

Has that ever happened to you? You tell someone your dream or what God is doing in your life, and they start crying because they’re so happy for you? Or they’re so touched? Or they’re so excited?

I’m not sure that’s ever happened to me. But it happened yesterday. A lot. And that stunned me.

I’m an introvert–a true ISFJ if you’re into Meyers-Briggs personalities. I don’t share my personal feelings or thoughts with many people, mostly because I don’t think anyone will value them enough to care. That’s not a judgment against other people. That’s just the way I see my own feelings. I don’t understand what difference my feelings or thoughts will make to anyone else. But I re-learned an important lesson yesterday: My story isn’t about me.

Today’s verse is 1 Samuel 16:7.

AuthenticityHoax_AFBut the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

When you present yourself to people, what do you think they’re looking at? They’re looking at your hair and your clothes probably. They’re making judgment calls about how put together you are (or how not put together you are). Face it, in the corporate world, your presentation leaves an impression. Your handshake tells a lot about your personality. Your ability to maintain eye contact tells a lot about your communication skills.

Ultimately, none of that really tells who you are. You can be dressed in the shaggiest, dirtiest, worst clothes in the world and be a millionaire, but nobody would know because people are only capable of seeing what’s on the outside. How wonderful is it that God sees our hearts and knows who we are in private?

I say it’s wonderful. Maybe it’s not so wonderful for you. I think that’s what bothers people about God, because He knows all our secrets, all the things we do in the dark that we think nobody will ever find out about.

God knows.

And let me tell you something, friend. God made you who you are. With all your foibles and quirks and idiosyncrasies, God crafted you to be uniquely you. There’s nobody else on Earth like you, so you should never ever be ashamed of God’s handiwork. And what’s more, if you’re redeemed–if you’ve trusted Jesus’ sacrifice to pay for your sins–you have a relationship with God Himself. Maybe the world is broken, but if you follow Jesus, you aren’t.

So why are you hiding? Why are you afraid to tell your story? Why are you afraid to share with others about what God has done in your life?

I can tell you why I’m afraid. I don’t like conflict. I don’t like confrontation. I’ve been scared that people will get upset at me or get up in my face and tell me I’m stupid. But I really believe that’s a fear planted in my heart by our enemy. Maybe people are that way in bigger cities, but nobody in Wichita has ever raked me over the coals for my faith. The times that I’ve spoken about it, people have always been very respectful and interested. And maybe that’s because I’ve made an effort to be respectful and interested about them first.

God has given me my story to live, and part of living my story is sharing what God is doing in my life. It doesn’t matter if people listen or not. It’s my responsibility to tell the story. That doesn’t mean I get to go around shouting at the top of my lungs to make sure everybody knows, but that also doesn’t give me a free pass to stay silent because I’m feeling uncomfortable.

So no more hiding. God’s given me a story to tell. It’s the story about how He saved me and set me on the path to achieving my heart’s greatest desire, and I’ll tell anyone who wants to listen. Doesn’t matter if they hear it or not. I will have done my part.

And maybe–just maybe–God can take my little story and use it to help change someone’s heart. Maybe I could be the little weight that tips the scales in convincing someone else to take a leap of faith for God.

God sees my heart. He knows who I am. And it’s time I start sharing that person with the people around me.

A full orange moon setting at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Facing the demon in the storm window

I got home from the Realm Makers conference in Philadelphia on Sunday around 3pm. Both my roomie and I were both exhausted, so instead of being productive like we probably should have been, we decided to watch some Firefly.

So we did–and that’s when we heard it.

*thump-thump*

Like someone walking around upstairs.

Nobody else should have been in the house. At first, I thought I’d imagined it, but we heard it again. So we both crept upstairs, me carrying a flyswatter (stop laughing; a flyswatter is a perfectly legitimate weapon). We did a quick search of the first floor.

Nothing.

We went back downstairs and resumed our watching.

*thump-thump*

Again. Like someone dropping shoes on the wood floor. Or like something banging on the outside of the house.

We repeated this process about four times, growing more and more unsettled with each suspicious thump-thump until we ended up standing outside trying to find out what on earth could be making the sound. And that’s when we saw motion in the storm window.

It turned out to be a cottontail rabbit. A young one I think. It had gotten stuck in the storm window and was trying to jump out. Every time it jumped it would bang its stupid bunny head on the window.

Yes, I’m uncompassionate. It made me laugh. And then it made me think. What I would have done? Would I have been brave enough to stay in a house where there was a creepy ghosty noise banging away on the windows when I couldn’t explain it?

A full orange moon setting at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

A full orange moon setting at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse 2 Timothy 1:7.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

Fear is dangerous. Granted, not all fear is bad. Some fear is good. Fear is a natural response to stupidity–or at least it should be. But some kinds of fear are paralyzing and not in a good way.

We fear things that we can’t control, and because we can’t control them, we make no attempt to change them. Fears can become like shackles, binding us up and keeping us locked in a dark corner instead of living in the light like we were created to do. If we aren’t careful, our great big lives can be made teeny tiny by our fear.

And one thing I’ve noticed, especially among Christians, is that we fear the world. We fear the darkness in other people, in organizations, in countries. And darkness is certainly worthy of respect but not fear–fear and respect are totally different. The trouble with fearing darkness is that it’s easy to turn away from it. It’s easy to ignore it. It’s so much easier to pretend that it doesn’t exist because we can’t control what might happen if we face it.

At the Realm Makers 2014 conference, the keynote speaker, New York Times Best Selling author Tosca Lee, had this to say about the darkness of the world and the Christian’s response to it:

“Darkness is a fact of existence, as is light. If we cover our eyes in response to darkness, we are afraid of it. And we are commanded not to fear.”

The world is full of fears, but God has given us His Holy Spirit. And He who lives in us every day is bigger and stronger than any darkness we may face in the world, so why are we afraid? Why do we give into the fears our enemy whispers in our ears?

I’m not saying to accept the darkness or condone it. I’m saying we shouldn’t ignore it. I’m saying we shouldn’t change the subject or write it off like it doesn’t matter. Darkness does matter, and we who are armed with the Light have a responsibility to conquer it in the name of Christ.

I’d like to tell you I would have slept just fine without knowing about the Demon Bunny in the storm window, but I’m not sure what would have happened if I hadn’t found it. The point I’m getting to is that I went looking for an answer. I didn’t just ignore it. I didn’t just put it out of my mind. I ventured out of where I was comfortable to find the cause, and when I found it, I dealt with it.

If we can face the darkness of our world with that kind of fearlessness, I think our lives would be different. I know our faith would be stronger.

What are you afraid of today? What dark aspect of the world are you setting aside and refusing to face because it will make you or others uncomfortable?

Stop. When you’re afraid, remember that fear doesn’t come from God. If you have an opportunity to share Christ’s light with someone lost in darkness, fight the fear. With God on your side, your fears are nothing but a stupid bunny trapped in a storm window. All they do is make noise.

Blooming rose in the Rose Garden at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Let God be God

When you’re facing challenges in life, wouldn’t you like to know that you have someone on your side who has already prepared for every eventuality? Would it comfort you to know that someone has already gone ahead of you to prepare the way for you, like someone scouting a hiking trail before opening it to the public?

Wouldn’t it be nice if life worked that way? Where someone could walk ahead of you?

Well, what would you think if I told you life did work that way?

Blooming rose in the Rose Garden at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Blooming rose in the Rose Garden at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Deuteronomy 31:8.

Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.

This verse is Moses talking to Joshua about the battle that is getting ready to take place. Joshua was getting ready to take up the mantel of leadership for the nation of Israel, assuming responsibility for leading them into the land God had given them. Talk about a challenge! Joshua had grown up with these people, so he knew exactly how difficult they were to lead.

If I were him, I would have been terrified. So I think it’s interesting that our first experiences with Joshua are hearing God tell him directly not to be afraid–or speaking to him through others telling him not to be afraid.

What’s interesting to me is that God had already prepared all of the lands between Israel and the Promise Land to be captured and defeated. He had already been working in the background so that events could unfold the way He wanted. Joshua and the nation of Israel didn’t have to do anything except trust Him because He’d already worked everything out.

And that’s how our lives work too. We aren’t strong enough or smart enough or big enough to handle all of our life’s problems, but God is. And He’s been working in the background of your life and my life, setting up plans and getting everything ready for us to arrive.

We don’t have to do anything. We don’t have to make anything happen. We just have to show up and let God be God.

When God says He’s gone before us, that’s what He means. He’s walked ahead of us. He knows what’s coming, and He’s ready for it. We just have to stick with Him and He’ll work it out because that’s what He does.

What impossible challenge are you facing today? What do you need to accomplish that you can’t do on your own?

Don’t be afraid. Don’t give up. It’s not a surprise to God because He already knew it was coming and He’s already ready for it. Stop trying to fix everything and just go with it. God’s got it.