Celebrations and resolutions. Goals and reflections.
For most, this is an exciting time of year. It’s a time to look back with satisfaction and look forward with eager expectation.
But for some, ushering in the New Year can bring an onslaught of anxiety. We seem to cast off comfort and familiarity, trading them for all things new and unfamiliar. Even things we look forward to—such as new goals, challenges, jobs, and upcoming family changes, the anticipation of forthcoming weddings, births, milestone birthdays, and other celebrations—can bring dreadful feelings of uncertainty, insecurity, and apprehension.
Moving toward unknown situations can spur a level of unease. Not only that but in the US, it’s also winter. That means less sunlight, fewer outdoor activities, and healthy farm-to-table food options which help us to naturally battle heightened fear and angst.
Finding the Right Focus
During any time of year, one significant way to calm anxiety is to fix our focus firmly on the Lord. It’s important to remember that when we feel anxious we’re allowing our circumstance to take a higher priority in our lives than the character God and our relationship and reliance on Him. The solution is to refocus and allow God’s truth to fill our hearts and minds.
Today we kick off a short blog series titled 7 Days toward Calming Anxiety. Each day in the upcoming week, we’ll examine a Bible verse in which the Holy Spirit points us toward the peace and calm we experience in the Lord’s presence.
Calm Anxiety with Today’s Verse
2 Timothy 1:7
For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment (HCSB).
In different Bible translations, the term fearfulness is expressed as fear, timidity, and even cowardice. It conveys a lack of bravery, courage, and confidence. The Lord did not give us such disposition. Instead, as this verse teaches, God provides us with a spirit of power, love, and sound judgment.
We do not find power in our own strength, but through the power of Jesus Christ that resides in us. This is the same power that raised our Lord from the dead (see Ephesians 1:19-20). It is capable of far more than we can imagine, giving us the strength to face all circumstances and accomplish all that we encounter.
God gives us love, which is the greatest of Christian qualities. It’s not fleshly, emotion-based love, rather it’s the perfect love of Christ, which as 1 Corinthians 13:7 states, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (HCSB). This love helps us withstand trails, difficulties, fears, and anxiety.
Lastly, God provides sound judgment, sometimes translated as self-control. This pertains to our thoughts as much as our actions. Because we have the mind of Christ, we have the divinely-given ability to see ourselves as Jesus does: powerful and able as we walk in His strength.
As your stay mindful today in calming anxiety, work toward memorizing 2 Timothy 1:7. Write it on a notecard or in your journal, then say it repeatedly until it begins to sink deep into not only your mind but your spirit. Let the truth of God wash over your anxiety and bring you His perfect peace.
Have a blessed, calm, and peaceful day as you allow the Word of the Lord to give you strength.
She swaddled her firstborn tightly then laid him in a manger. A manger of all things, since there was no room for them in the lodging place.
It was a time of gathering. Of scurrying from here to there to register for the census, each in his own town. While the well-known manger scene is portrayed as lonely and quiet, the town of Bethlehem was most certainly not. Jesus came as Immanuel—to dwell among people, and entered the world in a season of hustle and bustle.
For many, the birth of Christ went unnoticed. God, who had been silent for 400 years, seemed as absent on the day of Jesus’ birth as he had for the preceding centuries.
The Lord’s coming was foretold. His people believed. Some waited with eager expectation. Yet in the fulfillment of time, Jesus was just a blip on the days’ events.
And so it seems today.
When God Seems Absent
We know and believe that this sacred holiday season points us to the Lord. We learned as children that His name, Immanuel, means God with us. He came to dwell among us and gave his life so that He could live in our hearts. And yet, we fix our minds on earthly things.
Like our shopping list.
Or our circumstances.
We focus on our financial woes.
Or our mean boss who seemingly wants to harm us.
We quietly obsess over broken relationships.
Or our marital issues.
The biggest struggles seem to come when we recognize Who God is, yet endeavor to see His presence in our lives.
We quietly wonder, “Why does God seem so absent?”
We question, “Is He still for me?”
“Does He see what’s going on?”
“Why did He let ___ happen?”
“Has He released me from His grasp?”
Rarely would we verbalize such thoughts, yet they linger in our minds, stirring doubt and insecurity. We thought we knew the truth about God and that we trust Him fully, but in the chaos of life, we question whether He remains active in our lives.
In this season, especially, we ask, “If Jesus is Immanuel, where is He?”
Searching for Immanuel
I received encouragement through a recent article in The Joyful Life Magazine. Author Ashley Mesa’s words touched my heart. When I experience dry and dusty seasons in my faith, I must dig a little deeper, through the stony, clay-like soil of my heart to discover God’s nearness. Such seasons require intense worship, focused prayer, intentional time in His Word, and deliberate communion with Him.
When things like grief and doubt and insecurity and anger and loneliness set in, I know I have a choice to make. I can continue to flounder, allowing what I can see to influence my level of faith. Or, I can press into God, abide in Him through my trials, and re-discover His immoveable and constant presence.
Time is a precious commodity in the holiday rush so for me, digging deeper means meeting with Him before sunrise when necessary. Over a cup of hot coffee, I let worship music blast through my earbuds and concentrate on praising Him for His character as each song reveals.
A focused period of prayer follows, where I pour out my heart to Him. I lay it all out—my hurt, frustrations, and confusion—and ask that He turn my heart toward His goodness so that I’m less focused on my circumstance. I specifically ask that He remind me of His nearness throughout the day.
Next, I pour over a short section of Scripture, writing down each word that speaks to my heart. Meditating on His truth sets a foundation for communing with Him through prayer and random (mostly silent) conversations throughout the day.
I discover that my God hasn’t moved an inch. He is right where He said He’d be—with me through every trial and circumstance. At my side through every celebration and victory. Leading me through every change and unforeseen event. Indeed, He is Immanuel. He is here. And He always has been.
“I’ve tried so hard to forgive her, but I can’t forget what’s happened.”
“If I forgive him, it’s like saying I’m okay with what happened—and I’m not!”
“I just can’t trust her, so I guess I can never truly forgive her.”
Have your thoughts regularly taken you to these misconceptions?
I struggled for years as I tried to forgive someone who had harmed my children. When unforgiveness lingers, the burden feels nearly unbearable. God’s commands and instruction seem impossible to carry out because we believe things about forgiveness that are simply untrue.
Most of us want to forgive others, unload the weighty burden, untangle the mess in our hearts and embrace the Lord’s blessing. But we’ve adopted some misconceptions about forgiveness. We’ve allowed the world’s perception about forgiveness to taint our view of what it really is.
We all have a lot to forgive, don’t we? We’ve been hurt, embarrassed, and treated inappropriately. At the same time, we’ve hurt others and sometimes struggle to forgive ourselves.
Discovering the Truth
If you desire to abide in God’s freedom and victory that accompanies it but feel hindered by lingering unforgiveness in your life, you’ll want to come and discover several myths about forgiveness. By realizing how God views forgiveness and how He equips us to walk with Him through the process, we can begin to embrace the goodness and divine purposes He has for our lives.
Today I’ve written a post for my friend, Kelly R. Baker and hope that you’ll stop by as I shine some light on lies the enemy uses to keep us in bondage. He deceives us into believing they’re true, but the Lord shows us the truth in His Word and through His example.
Come along, my friend, and take a step toward freedom in Walking With God to Untangle the Mess of Forgiveness. I look forward to meeting you there!
Read the Post here.
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Have you ever pushed through fear to do something that terrified you?
Queen Esther did. The people of her heritage, the Jews, faced tremendous persecution by an evil leader who had the power to annihilate them. Esther was Queen with a divinely-inspired level of influence. She alone could do something to stop the coming madness.
But fear gripped her.
The king of Persia hadn’t called for her in many days— and to approach him without permission could lead to her execution. Esther lived in a long-ago era where women were deemed property and their intuition and acumen were disregarded. She had much to say but hadn’t received an invitation to say it.
Esther wrestled with the decision to get involved. She counted the cost and knew that her decision could lead to dire consequences. Offering surrender was the bravest thing possible: She presented her offering to God, surrendering to the Lord’s will, and uttered one of the most piercing declarations in Scripture:
“If I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16)
After convincing persuasion by her uncle, Esther refused to let her people face destruction without stepping into action. She weighed the cost of her involvement then made the decision to entrust her life to God himself. He alone could protect her.
Her husband was a fickle king, ruled by his own emotions and acting as his moods determined. As Esther prepared to meet her destiny, she didn’t go alone. She encouraged the Jews to support her by fasting for three days. And when the fullness of time came, she respectfully, yet boldly faced her fears and approached the king.
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Blessings of Offering Surrender
Sharing her news took several tries, but Esther accomplished her task. She revealed the evil plot to the king who made provision for the Jews to protect themselves against attack. Her people were empowered to gain victory in an overwhelming battle.
But what if Esther held her tongue? What if she let anxiety and fear stop her from stepping into service? What if she’d chosen her personal comfort and safety over the protection of her people?
Esther’s uncle, Mordecai shared his great wisdom when he said,
“Don’t think that you will escape the fate of all the Jews because you are in the king’s palace. If you keep silent at this time, liberation and deliverance will come to the Jewish people from another place, but you and your father’s house will be destroyed. Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this” (Esther 4:13-14 HCSB).
It’s true. Had Esther forsaken her calling, the Lord would have protected the Jews another way. But because Esther stepped into service, she experienced the manifold blessings of surrender to God. She witnessed miracle after miracle as God revealed His power and presence.
Through Esther’s story of courage and surrender, we continue to revel in God’s provision over the Jews in Persia today. Through God’s Word, we see . . .
- unexpected, favorable outcome from Esther’s bold step
- our God, Who, even while deafeningly quiet, remains active and present
- God’s orchestration of all things for the good of His people
- good that overcomes evil
- how God uses fully surrendered hearts for His glory
God could have rescued the Jews in countless other ways, but he chose to use His beloved child, Esther—an orphaned woman in an oppressive culture—to accomplish His purpose. He gave Esther a kingdom assignment and she found the courage to accept the challenge.
Personally Offering Surrender
God gives each of us a kingdom assignment. Some seem weighty and are completed in the public eye. Most, however, present themselves as typical, daily tasks accomplished in mundane settings. Each type of call is equally as significant. Every Kingdom assignment is God’s way of using our fully surrendered heart for His glory.
How does the Lord want to use you? (If you don’t know, ask Him!)
What’s holding you back from obedience?
In what ways is God prompting you to surrender to His will?
How will you prepare to step into action for your Kingdom assignment?
May God’s Word strengthen you today,
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I don’t believe Moses ever considered himself brave.
Yes, throughout his long lifetime, the Lord developed him into a strong and mighty leader. But a personality profile might have identified him as cautious. Skeptical. Guarded. Apprehensive. He might have been labeled as fearful—especially during the time he spent as a shepherd in Midian.
God’s Word reveals that there were periods when Moses was afraid. He fled. He hesitated. He resisted. But eventually, even amid his fear and apprehension, Moses obeyed the Lord’s instruction. And the rest is beloved history.
We’d do well to follow suit: to obey the Lord despite nerves or frightened trembling. God calls us to submission and surrender to His will, even during times when we don’t seem to have the support of our loved ones, or the means to follow a new course.
Moses stepped into service while feeling everything inside of him shrink in the opposite direction. I admire his offering of obedience as a holy sacrifice to the Lord, mustering the courage to “do it scared”. As a result, Moses and the people he led received blessings far beyond any earthly treasure.
The Cost of Offering Obedience
Offering obedience sometimes seems easy: as the next logical and right course to take. Conversely, there are times when obedience brings a high cost, such as physical effort, pushing beyond natural abilities, and losing some of the things (and people) we hold dear.
Offering obedience to God sometimes means doing the exact opposite of what our friends would advise. It requires trusting God with every outcome.
Not all that long ago, I was walking along a path that I believe the Lord had prepared before me. Suddenly, He stopped me in my tracks, shining a bright light on a fork in the road. My friends, resources, and support systems were on the main path, but I clearly discerned that the Lord was leading me to turn. I weighed the cost.
If I followed Him, I’d leave a lot behind. I’d give up comfort and ease, friendship, finances, and encouragement. To follow the Lord on the new path would mean facing new challenges—without my peers—and stepping into the unknown. Obedience would require courage, trust, and surrender. I didn’t feel equipped for the task, but timidly turned away from the familiar and followed God as He led me in a new direction.
When the Lord Reveals a New Path
Moses had a similar experience. Perhaps you have too.
God interrupted Moses’s comfortable routine and familiar work when he visited at the burning bush. The Lord revealed a new path to Moses, and the shepherd counted the cost. Scripture doesn’t reveal exactly what Moses was feeling but I can imagine a few of his reasons for not desiring to follow the Lord back to Egypt.
When the Lord steps into our lives and offers surprising instruction, we might offer similar excuses and explain to Him why we can’t follow right now:
- Moses’s life as a shepherd was comfortable. We, too, can get comfortable in our jobs, churches, and friendships.
- Moses had support, encouragement, and acceptance from his new Midian family. It’s not easy to think about leaving a supportive network, is it?
- Routines and surroundings for Moses felt familiar. Familiarity fits like a well-worn pair of blue jeans—the ones we’d put on every single day if we could.
- Moses felt unqualified. When the Lord calls us into service, we, too, can feel that we don’t have what it takes.
- I imagine that Moses’s wife shirked at the idea of leaving her family behind. We don’t enjoy imposing sadness onto our loved ones.
- Perhaps Moses had assigned duties to perform—who might step in to fulfill them? We often allow our current responsibilities keep us from following God’s lead.
What if Moses Had Stayed in Midian?
Moses had a choice to make. He could ignore the Lord’s direction and stay in Midian. Or he could follow the Lord Most High and engage with the Lord and His mighty purposes.
Reasons to follow God were many. As a Hebrew, Moses understood the Lord’s sovereignty. The supernatural experience of the burning bush paired with divine instruction must have seemed quite compelling. The Lord also promised to go with Moses, to help him, and even to work signs and miracles through him. The Almighty provided a familiar helper in Moses’ brother, Aaron, and revealed the weighty needs of the Hebrew people.
But what if Moses had stayed in Midian, choosing to remain where his life was routine, comfortable, and predictable? What if he’d stayed put when his loved ones didn’t want to lose him? What if he’d stayed to offer protection to his family and fulfill his duties as a shepherd?
We know God can do anything through whomever He chooses. He needed nothing from Moses but chose to use him as His servant. The Israelites would have still received deliverance but through the hands of a different faithful servant.
Moses would have felt the impacts of disobedience personally. God had prepared Moses from infancy, knitting his life experiences, his talents, and his connections together to fully prepare him for the lofty assignment of leading God’s people to deliverance. Had he stayed, I believe Moses would have faced a life of regret, wondering how God might have used him if he’d obeyed. His life would have remained comfortable but after such a powerful invitation, may have quickly grown to feel mundane, even boring. Moses may have experienced plaguing, unfulfilled longings as he remained a shepherd.
Give the gift of joy all year long! Click the photo to learn more.
Blessings of Obedience
Moses took a colossal leap of faith when he placed his wife and sons on a donkey, said farewell to friends and family, and followed hard after God. Through his obedience, Moses experienced the presence and glory of the Lord as no other person has had the opportunity. He talked with God face to face as with a friend. He witnessed the Lord’s supernatural involvement, protection, and provision as the Jewish nation moved from captivity to deliverance. Moses learned to lean on God for every need and faced consequences when he operated in his own power.
Moses could have stayed, but he made the choice to go. His decision blessed generations of people and still impacts us today.
On a much smaller scale, I believe the Lord prompts us to do something unexpected every day. How will we respond? Will we offer excuses and stand our ground? Or will we lay down our security and our pride and follow wholeheartedly after Him? As we count the cost, will we surrender to His ways, knowing they’re best for everyone involved? Will we sacrifice possessions, comfort, and as much as certain friendships to pursue God’s path?
Will we offer obedience?
May the Lord strengthen you through His word today –
a guest post by Lila Diller
I don’t think I’m the right person to try to teach others about joy. It’s one of the fruits of the Spirit that I have the hardest time with. Not that any of them are easy, but joy is one of the harder ones for me. It’s especially hard when financial struggles steal joy.
The vast majority of my life has been under financial stress. When I was young, I didn’t realize it until I started wanting things that all my friends had. My parents couldn’t just buy me the video game console or nice clothes I wanted. I soon realized those weren’t necessities. But I always saw our lack.
Then I went to college and worked my butt off to help pay my way through. My parents also worked as much overtime as they could to help. We all worked long and hard. And I graduated debt-free. I also graduated dirt-broke.
When Financial Struggles Steal Joy
I got married the next year. After only three months, my husband lost his job. As soon as I got pregnant, I stayed home with my babies. I don’t regret that decision. But it sure hasn’t helped us build any nest egg. We experience periods that range from “just enough” to struggling through poverty again.
God has always provided. I know that. I’ve seen Him do it time and again.
But every time we lose income, I fall right back into that habit of worrying. My mom is a classic worrier, and I learned from the best. It’s still my fault, though. I know better. But knowing I shouldn’t worry and actually not worrying are two very different things.
To me, worry is not necessarily a lack of trust. It’s usually a fear of the future. I know God will provide what we need. But I know what I think I need may classify as a want. I don’t know if our real needs are enough for me.
I’m scared that He’ll ask me to give up our house. I fear He’ll ask me to give up my choice of foods. Fearing I’ll have to give up my entire routine and everything I enjoy doing seems natural. I’m scared He’ll ask us to give everything up. I am not sure I could handle that.
This is what steals my joy.
Content in All Circumstances
How right was King Solomon when he wrote: “Don’t be rich or poor; a happy medium is the best” (Lila’s version).
“…give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God” (Proverbs 30:8b-9, ESV).
Boy, I know why being poor is not desired. It’s hard to think of anything else and really easy to blame it on God. Even when I’m trying to trust in Him, every grocery store visit is a test in self-control, math prowess (which I’ve never claimed to), and trust that it will last another week.
I’ve never known what it feels like to be rich. At least, that’s how I think when I look around at people in my country, even in my church. But when I force myself to look around at the world, I see that I’m rich compared to them. “Rich” and “poor” are relative terms. It all depends on who you’re comparing yourself to.
I must remind myself to compare myself to Paul. He said he had learned contentment with all circumstances, whether living in abundance or living in need, whether full or hungry (Phil. 4:12). I guess I’ve never faced true hunger. We always at least have another peanut butter & jelly sandwich, even if that’s what we had the day before. But we have always eaten three meals a day.
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Thinking of those less fortunate than I really does make me thankful for what I do have. So we don’t have central air and the temperature in the main room gets up to 92ºF in the hottest part of the summer. At least we have electricity for fans and window units in our bedrooms.
So we don’t have the latest models of appliances or the newest cars. We have enough to get the jobs done and get where we’re going.
So our bathrooms have water damage and we can’t afford to repair it. At least we still have indoor plumbing and sanitation.
So we can’t afford to go out to eat every day. At least we have food on the table.
So we don’t have the latest smartphones and gadgets. Our ancient knockoffs are better than nothing at all.
So our boys don’t have the latest video consoles or nicest bikes or coolest toys. They’re still imaginative and innovative.
I actually have a lot to be grateful for. I just need to remember them. I need to focus not on my lack but on my abundance.
And I have been given so much. Even if I had nothing, I would still be “blessed… in Christ with every spiritual blessing” (Eph. 1:3, ESV).
You are rich, too.
Embrace Today’s Joy One Day at a Time
I still worry sometimes. And I’m sure you do, too. Let’s not let fear steal our joy. Let’s give thanks for what we already have and not worry about what we don’t.
Jesus told us: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things [food and clothes] will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt. 6:33-34, NIV).
The only way we can let go of our fear of the future and embrace today’s joy is to focus on one day at a time.
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Lila is an author of Christian Romance novels, blogger, and homeschool mom. She loves sushi and Mexican food, Hallmark movies, anything dark chocolate, the color purple, and reading in her pajamas. Lila, outnumbered by a houseful of males, lives with her supportive husband Chris, two energetic boys, and a hyper dog in Statesville, NC. She loves to help readers create romance in their marriages and in their spiritual walks with Jesus and can be found at liladiller.com.