Tag Archive | protection

Vulnerability

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A few years back, I heard a song titled Arms Wide Open. The song talks about how Jesus loves. He loves with arms wide open, bleeding. He’s naked and nailed to a cross. He is completely exposed. Unprotected. And while many of our pictures of the cross show Him raised well above the crowd, it’s more likely that He was just off the ground, eye level with everyone who walked by.

A few years before that, I participated in a Beth Moore study on Daniel. At some point  during our 12 weeks, I realized that if I was going to speak about Jesus, my faith, or God’s desired changes in our lives, I was also going to speak about my messy past. Getting real with people about who I was and what I  had been would be part of the process. If Jesus has come to set us free, to set me free, what did He set me free from? And that was going to take some real vulnerability.

Fast forward to a few weekends ago at church, our Youth Director gave the first message in a series called Be Brave. The title of his message: Bare it all!

Vulnerability requires great bravery.

I have blogged about my past battles with anxiety and depression, neither of which were really an issue until I became a Christian. And while that may seem strange to some, the reality is that it was easier to protect myself before my relationship with Jesus. If I didn’t want to talk to someone, I just didn’t. I could be mad, walk away, talk about them, and puff myself up all for the sake of protecting myself.

But once I became a Christian, I was going to be exposed. I had to willingly admit my sin. That’s repentance. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven as come near.” (Matthew 4:17) Jesus commands it. But not only do I confess and repent to Jesus, I need to be willing to share my story of faith with others. If I can now see, what was I once blind to? If I’ve been found, where did I go and what did I do when I was lost? Why did I even need to be found?

And, most importantly, I needed to be willing to talk about Jesus with people who don’t know Him and maybe don’t agree. It’s great to talk to people who do agree! It’s encouraging and inspiring and comforting to know I am not alone. We lift each other up and move forward together.

At the same time, others need to know Jesus. There are people who are blind and lost, and they have no idea. It’s not a matter of being wrong so much as it’s a matter of not understanding. There came a point in my seeking God that He asked me to make a decision. What did I make of Jesus? Who did I really think He was? And how would that decision change my understanding of my faith, my sin, and where I would go next in my relationship with God?

As I sat in a church service 13 years ago, I recognized Jesus as the Messiah, God himself. And He made it clear that things would change. Over time, anxiety grew as I recognized the ways Jesus was calling me to step out in faith. I was continuing to look to myself and others to protect me. One day, Jesus made it very clear that I was not trusting Him to protect me. That day, as I repented of my lack of trust, everything changed. There are still times when I’m tempted to give into anxiety, but I recognize it as an opportunity to pray and be honest about what’s going on in my heart and mind. To be honest about our feelings, cares, concerns or whatever is causing us to pull back from God or others is to be completely vulnerable. Not everyone will be gentle and compassionate. Some will take the opportunity to stomp all over you, emotionally, mentally, potentially physically. Some will shut down the conversation, maybe even the relationship. Not everyone will be vulnerable in return, but without it we have superficial rather than authentic relationships.

I’m still in the learning process. I assume I always will be as God calls me deeper into my relationship with Him and calls me out into real relationships with others.

Something to Consider…

What risk are you willing to take to grow in vulnerability and be brave for God? What fear keeps you from moving forward in the ways God is calling and wanting to grow your faith and trust in Him?

If you experience anxiety or depression, seek help. There is no shame in admitting your struggles and you do not need to go into the battle alone. God calls us to bring into the light what we want to keep hidden in the dark. It’s where we are truly set free to love with arms wide open.

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Fight or Flight…or Do (The unexpected part 5)

“Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.” Philippians 4:13 (The Message)

Last fall, I wrote a four-part blog explaining the process of understanding my anxiety and letting God take control.

It wasn’t long before I realized I had settled into a state of depression. I was dumbfounded. How on earth could I have just come through this battle with anxiety finally feeling like I was set free, only to find myself sad, lonely and hopeless?

Helpless.

And that’s when God once again spoke truth to me in a very loving way.

“You’ve given up control, but you’ve given up too much.”

What, too much? You, God, have all control and I’m in control of nothing. Isn’t that the way it works?

“There are things you can’t control, that aren’t yours to control. But there are things you can control and should control. You have work to do and you need to grab hold and move. Don’t wait for permission or approval. Get up and go!”

God won’t do it all for me. There are things I need to do myself. My “doing”, my moving forward in His purpose for me is how I take control of what I can. My ability to confidently make decisions and carry out the actions required by those decisions makes me anything but helpless.

These decisions and actions are based on and affect both the external situations around me, as well as, the internal condition of my heart, mind and soul. If I’m not focused on Jesus, someone or something else will influence my decisions and my actions. I “do” because He did. I start because He finished; He did all that needed to be done.

“Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) Jesus commanded Peter, ‘Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?’” John 18:9-10 (NIV)

“In addition to all this (the full armor of God), take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” Ephesians 6:16 (NIV)

As I said in my previous posts, anxiety and anger were my ways of protecting myself. Depression has been as well. Anxiety and anger came when I stepped into a situation thinking I had to be my own protection. Depression came when I stopped stepping into any situations at all thinking I had no protection. But when I trust that Jesus is my protection, I can do all things He calls me to do. He’s been showing me that I can put down my sword, drop my guard and pick up His shield of faith. In doing so, I pick up, lay hold of, take control of what’s within my reach and I trust Him with what isn’t.

I understand there are times when medication and professional help is necessary when dealing with anxiety and depression. Both were essential for me in my ability to make progress. But Jesus is the only reason I have clarity around any of this. He’s the one who saved me and continues to show me the way.

Something to Consider…

If you have a sense of helplessness, there is something you can do. You can choose to put your trust in Jesus. Ask Him to come into your life and be the Lord of your life. Invite His Spirit to come in and help you lead the life you desire. Find a local Bible-based church and speak with someone about this decision.

If you already have Jesus in your life, choose to believe and hold tight to the faith you already have. It seems obvious, but there’s a chance doubt or unbelief has entered your heart and you are unable to fully trust Him. Ask Him to show you anything that may be hindering your walk with Him. Ask Him to reveal where in your life doubt or unbelief has taken root.

Choose to put down your sword, let Him be Lord and Savior, and have faith.