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?

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A giant wolf spider who took up residence in my bathroom cabinet, Haven, KS

Running from trouble gets you nowhere

My house is full of spiders. Granted, it’s not as bad this year as it’s been in previous years, but it’s still pretty bad. I snapped this cell phone shot of a wolf spider who was living in my bathroom cabinet.

Believe it or not, I almost left him alone because wolf spiders are the natural enemies of brown recluses, one of the most poisonous spiders ever. And my house is loaded with brown recluses. Seriously. I have a ton of them. But they are recluses for a reason and usually run away .

In any case, the wolf spider didn’t make it. But in case you’re wondering what this has to do with anything, I was sitting at the computer in my hotel in Bellevue, Washington, and a spider came crawling down the wall. And I’m pretty positive that it was a brown recluse. At least, it looked like one, and it behaved like one.

And I couldn’t help but laugh because the rainy, cold Pacific Northwest was the last place I thought I’d find another brown recluse. I usually only find them in the hot, dryness of summer in Kansas.

But it made me think about something. When I see a spider now, I squash them. Or I spray them. Or (in some rare cases) I leave them alone. But I made the decision years ago on how to handle them and have taught myself through years of experience how to deal with them. So whenever a see a spider, I know what to do.

Now what if I hadn’t done that? What if I hadn’t trained myself how to handle spiders? I’d go running and screaming every time I saw one, no matter where I went. So I’d run and scream at home, and I’d run and scream at my hotel in Seattle. The spiders aren’t going to change. There are spiders everywhere. But how I respond to them can.

It’s just like troubles in our lives. We all have them. They just look different. But when you run away from them, you’re just going to find the same problem farther down the road. You can’t escape them. You have to learn how to face them.

A giant wolf spider who took up residence in my bathroom cabinet, Haven, KS

A giant wolf spider who took up residence in my bathroom cabinet, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Lamentations 3:30.

Let them turn the other cheek to those who strike them
    and accept the insults of their enemies.

Dealing with people who don’t like you can be really difficult. And I’m not saying to fall down and allow people to beat you up. That’s not the point.

Sometimes, it’s better to be the one who backs off. Sometimes, it’s better to be humble. Sometimes, it’s better to be the one who takes it on the jaw.

As Christ-followers, we’re strong enough to take it. God gives us the strength to go through anything. And we need to remember that in this life, we’re going to have trouble. We aren’t going to find the perfect solution to living on this Earth because this isn’t our home. And if we keep packing up and moving on to every new situation that comes our way, we won’t learn the lesson God is trying to teach us through the struggles He has allowed into our path.

You’ve heard that the grass is always greener on the other side? It’s not. It’s the same grass. It’s just your perspective on it. Grass is grass wherever you go, and it’s subject to the same problems and difficulties everywhere.

So if you don’t learn how to handle the problems you’re facing today, you won’t know what do to when the same problems pop up a few miles down the road.

So stop running. Face your troubles head on. Let God help you, let Him make you strong, and let Him show you what you need to learn.

Spiders come in every shape and size, but they all squash the same. Learn how to deal with the small ones, and the big ones won’t be that scary.

Snow on the chicken fence - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Everyday courage

What is courage? I am hosting an event at my house for a bunch of awesome ladies, and we’re focusing on women of courage from the Bible. I may end up leading a devotional one day (if I can ever get my act together) so I’ve been trying to do some study on what makes somebody courageous.

I know that courage isn’t just blindly racing into danger without fear; that’s foolishness. Courage is action in spite of fear. But what does courage look like?

Is courage flashy? Is it those intense moments like when David fought Goliath? Is it those scary moments like on the battlefield? Is it the underdog going up against all odds? Is it bold action? Is it obvious?

Snow on the chicken fence - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Snow on the chicken fence – Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is 1 Samuel 30:6.

David was now in great danger because all his men were very bitter about losing their sons and daughters, and they began to talk of stoning him. But David found strength in the Lord his God.

No, not the verse you were probably expecting about courage. We usually think Joshua when we talk about courage in the church because that is the greatest verse about having courage. Joshua 1:9. Take courage! Don’t be afraid! Yes, it’s a great verse, but Joshua was a warrior facing a warrior’s goal.

David was also a warrior, and while this was definitely a time in David’s life when he had to do a lot of fighting, that’s not what was going on right here. See, David and his men were out, and while they were out, their enemies attacked their camp and carried off all their valuables, including their wives and children.

Not a good day.

His men were angry. Who wouldn’t have been? But they blamed him. They wanted to kill him. They were so angry about losing their families they wanted someone to take the fall, which is understandable, but could you imagine what would have happened if they’d killed David? Yeah. Glad that didn’t happen.

But my interest this morning is David’s reaction: David found strength in the Lord his God.

I don’t know David personally, but I’ve read enough of his writing to have something of an insight into his personality. David was a passionate, emotional person. He didn’t just devote part of his heart to any task. It was all or nothing. And up until this point in his life, David hadn’t really failed much. Yes, there were things he probably could have done better, but he’d never lost a step. Not like this.

And if his men were upset, I guarantee David was more upset. And I guarantee he blamed himself. That’s who David was. He loved people. He loved his men. He loved his family. So how do you think he felt when he realized that he had failed them?

Well, he probably would have let them stone him.

There have been points in my life where I feel like I have failed so miserably that it’s not worth getting up in the morning. There have been days when I have been so depressed and so discouraged that living–just making it from day-to-day–has taken more strength than I thought I had. And on those days, the prospect of life as usual is terrifying in a way that I can’t explain.

Have you ever been there? If you have, you know what I’m talking about. Life is dreary. Even though deep inside you know the world is still colorful and beautiful, but it’s like you’re viewing life in black and white.

On those days, to pick yourself up and push yourself forward takes courage. But it’s not the flashy battlefield kind of courage. It’s quiet courage, the kind of courage that keeps you moving forward when all you really want to do is give up. And that kind of courage often goes unnoticed. Or it’s mistaken for faith or perseverance, and that’s what it is to a certain extent. But if you’re going to endure through difficult times without being able to see what’s at the end of the road, you have to have courage. Maybe it’s everyday courage, but it’s still courage.

When David faced his men — his brothers in arms — knowing that they were angry with him for the loss of their families, the only way he could continue to lead was to take strength from God.

And that’s what we have to do. On those difficult days when the world seems gray and dreary, when life doesn’t feel worth living, when getting out of bed seems like more trouble than it’s worth, we need to remember that God is still working. He’s still got something for us to do, otherwise we wouldn’t still be here.

God has proven Himself over and over and over again throughout history, and when He offers to help us, we just need to take Him at His Word. We just need to get up. And we just need to keep going.

Remember that God isn’t going anywhere. He hasn’t left you. And He’s standing ready to help whenever you call.

If you read the rest of 1 Samuel 30, David and his men tracked down their enemies, took back their possessions, and didn’t lose a single person. God gave them victory from the ashes of defeat and blessed them more greatly than they could have achieved on their own.

So strengthen yourself today by remembering who God is and who you are to God. And be courageous. Maybe not battlefield courageous but everyday courageous, and God will give you victory. He has a long history of that sort of thing.

Are you afraid of the dark?

When was the last time you were afraid? And I don’t mean just concerned about something. I live in an old house that makes all sorts of fascinating noises that my imagination can run wild with, whether I’m imagining that there are strangers walking around downstairs or I’m imagining that my water heater has blown up and flooded the whole basement. I’m not really afraid of either of those things happening, but living where I live and how I live, it’s something that could happen.

But the last time I was really afraid?

I don’t really know. I honestly don’t scare very easily. Maybe it’s silly, but one of the times I remember being the most afraid was when I had been cast in a skit for church. It was a tiny, tiny part. All I had to do was talk on an I-phone and be snotty. It was a cute part. A funny part that made people laugh. It was short, and it was even something I wrote. But the idea of going out on stage in front of all those people absolutely petrified me. It scared me to the point of nausea.

The only other experience I can even compare it to is learning how to drive again after my wreck. Trying to remember how to handle a vehicle going 70 miles per hour on a road you can’t control. Even though it’s been years, if I get behind a truck or van that has a ladder strapped (or not strapped well enough) to it, I can’t get around it fast enough. Maybe that’s a rational reaction, but my getting around it is usually motivated more by fear than common sense.

This is what I thought about when I read the verse for today.

2 Timothy 1:7

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

Fear has nothing to do with God. At least, not this kind of fear. The kind of fear that this verse is talking about is the kind of fear I have experienced in many circumstances when I was afraid of what I couldn’t control. And that’s not of God.

When we become followers of Christ, God gives us power, whether it’s strength or patience or endurance or the ability to love people who don’t love us back. That’s what this verse says. He gives us all those things, but He does not give us a reason to be afraid.

So why do we still fear?

Well, we’re human. So I guess that’s the biggest reason why most of us still live small lives in terror of the unknown. And I guess there’s nothing wrong with that if we want to live that way. But is it really what God has called us to?

That’s the danger with fear. It paralyzes you. It keeps you from doing the things God has asked–sometimes even commanded–us to do.

I haven’t got it figured out yet, and I still struggle with this. But I can tell you that fear really used to control me in the two situations I mentioned above. The driving thing I have mostly gotten over. There are still times when I see something in the road or see a truck driving with too much stuff in it that I remember the sound of crunching metal and the feel of the world jarring to a halt or the burst of white with the airbags inflating. But most of the time, I’m good.

What definitely controlled me without question was my stagefright. And looking back now, I know it was a pride issue, because I wanted to control my performance and be absolutely perfect and never make mistakes and I always felt I could never be good enough. But I let that fear force me to turn down a lot of roles because I didn’t want to get up in front of people. I still don’t like getting up in front of people, but I made a decision after that first role with the I-phone. I decided that I was going to let go and stop worrying about what I looked like onstage and what I sounded like onstage or whether or not I delivered my lines with mechanical precision, and I was just going to do my best and let God take care of it. So the next role I ended up playing was quite a good deal larger than the second role, and it was a much more powerful script, and it was a pretty difficult part (I had to play a blind person). But the really funny thing was that even though I was nervous (I wanted to do a good job), I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t really afraid. And every time I started feeling afraid, I told myself to stop it, I asked God to help me not be afraid anymore, and then I went out and did what I was supposed to do. And I guess it went all right. I know God used it, and that was all I really cared about.

I think a lot of times we expect fear to go away just because we face it.

Well, that’s not always the case. Sometimes that fear will pop it’s ugly head back up and we’ll have to face it all over again. But that’s what real courage is — action in spite of fear. And that is the sort of power that God has given us because we have confidence that He will do what He has said He’ll do.

So the next time you’re afraid of something irrational (not something you really should be afraid of, mind you; fear of some things can be healthy), try to look at it from God’s perspective and see how small it really is. Then make your decision on whether to act or not.

What are you afraid of? And how is that stopping you from doing what God has called you to do? If God is big enough to create the universe, to create everything we can see and everything we can’t see, don’t you think He’s big enough to help you when you need Him? It’s something I forget all the time, but I know, for me, it’s time that I remembered. How about you?