Tag Archive | strength

I am (fill in the blank)

2015-03-01 NGChurch (80)2

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God –” John 1:12

I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety. I have some understanding of the issue, at least as it pertains to my circumstances. Everyone’s issues are different so what I’ve learned can’t necessarily apply to everyone, but it will apply to some. My hope is that for those “some”, they will find hope in what I have to say.

I recently read an article in which the author states, “I am depression,” over and over again.

What I’ve found through my experience is that in stating it this way, you take on the reality of it. It actually does become who you are. You’ve given it permission to be you and for you to be it.

For a long time I let myself be a worrier. I let myself be consumed with a negative view of the world, of people and of myself. But in Christ, there is no reason to worry because He is good, does good, gives good things and brings good of every situation for those who love Him.

Even though I suffered from depression, I am not depression. Rather, I am a child of God.

I am loved by the Creator of the universe and have at my disposal every blessing possible according to His will and who He is. When I look at myself, I can become depressed because I am flawed, at times I don’t measure up and I will always find someone else who is just a bit better than me at something. But when I turn to God and receive His love, I have reason to rejoice and be glad. I am who HE says I am. I am precious. I am loved. I am a delight. I am worthy of His love. I am able to do all that He has created me to do. I am protected by His grace and mercy. I am able to be loving, joyful, peaceful, patience, faithful, gentle, kind, good and exhibit self-control because this is who He is in me. I am free, healed, redeemed, restored, content, and new because this is what He came to do for me, and for you.

I am not depression. And for at least some of you, you don’t have to be either. You do get to choose. God lets you have that freedom.

Jesus came to heal you and set you free from the things that weigh you down. Will you choose to accept that freedom? The sad reality is that sometimes it’s easier to live as a prisoner. I’ve considered it. As a prisoner we’re free from responsibility and accountability. We’re able to excuse, justify and blame – we just can’t do anything about it. Freedom requires action. And the strength to step into that freedom and action, responsibility and accountability is part of the blessing we receive in Jesus.

Who will you choose to be? What will you choose to accept as your foundation in this uncertain world?

Today I choose to be who God says I am. Today I choose Jesus and the gift of freedom He offers.

Take Up Your Cross

© Depositphotos.com/ WDGPhoto

© Depositphotos.com/
WDGPhoto

“As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross.” Matthew 27:32 (NIV)

Take: to get into one’s hold or possession by voluntary action.

To take is voluntary.

Simon was forced to carry the cross with Jesus. He bore the weight that was too much for Jesus in His weakened physical condition. Simon did not have a choice to help Jesus; and yet, through the process of coming alongside Him in this barbaric situation, He grasped the weight and understanding of the cross. He didn’t simply walk away to never again consider the man who would be nailed to that cross. He took in the truth of Jesus on the cross and passed it along to His children. (Mark 15:21, Romans 16:13)

“And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:38 (KJV)

Taketh: to take or get a hold of; to receive.

To take is to get your hands on and receive what is offered.

The cross is a vile form of execution. The cross was so inhumane it was eventually outlawed as a means of capital punishment. And yet, Jesus says if you are unwilling to take up your cross and follow Him, you aren’t worthy to be His follower. What’s up with that? Why would He expect us to voluntarily take hold of a cross? Didn’t He die so we wouldn’t have to do that very thing?

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29 (NIV)

Take: To take up or away; to raise up or lift; to take upon oneself and carry what has been raised physically.

To take is to personally participate in the raising or lifting while carrying.

The truth is there’s a cross with your name on it. Because of sin in the life of each person, death is the penalty and judgment. Jesus also says that because He’s been hated and persecuted, as His follower, you will be as well. There will be plenty of people who will want to nail you to your cross. In the midst of struggles and persecution, will you take up your cross or walk away?

The cross of Christ has already been lifted. Because of what Jesus has done, death is not the end of our story. It’s a step in the process rather than the end of the journey. We will face things from our past, things in opposition to our faith, but we don’t have to do it alone. When we are willing to acknowledge that truth, He offers His yoke as well. We can take hold of His yoke to help us carry our cross. He offers us what He’s already done. When we take up our cross, we can also show people what we’ve been set free from. The cross is the cost of our sin. We deserve death. Thank God, in Christ, we receive life.

I found this story of St. Patrick, someone who picked up his cross and followed hard after Jesus. We may not be called to minister to a country, but we each have a family, neighborhood or circle of friends God wants us to reach for Him.

Something to Consider…

Do you have a hard time grasping the truth of the cross, what Jesus did, and why He did it?

Do you have a difficult time acknowledging the truth of your own sin and the reality of the penalty for that sin?

Jesus invites you to follow Him. Where will He lead you? Straight to the cross. Let Him help you understand and grasp the truth of what He’s done for you. Let Him help you acknowledge the truth of your own sin and receive His grace and redemption so you can live free, willing to take up your cross and share His love with others.

The Rainy Days

Close up of hands holding seedling and soil growing in the rain“He will also send you rain for the seed you sow in the ground, and the food that comes from the land will be rich and plentiful.” Isaiah 30:23a

I love to plant small flowers. I don’t start with the full-grown basket in the spring, but rather purchase  the 8-pack of tiny flowers and create what will one day be a beautiful, lush bouquet. Why?

Why wait? Why look out for weeks at what at times, look like dying plants as the wet soil seems to consume the few tiny leaves and flowers?

Because the process is what makes the roots grow deep, the stems grown firm and the flowers more plentiful and vibrant. I enjoy the process of watching my flowers grow.

God enjoys watching us, His children, grow as well.

From where we sit, there are rainy days when all we see is soggy ground and mud puddles. It’s uncomfortable and even painful at times. We move in new ways, go to new places and deal with situations we’d rather not.

But God knows these are the things that will deepen our roots as we lean in and draw closer to Him. These are the things that will strengthen our resolve as we realize we have a purpose and place in His great plan. These are the things, that after the rain clears, will shine for His glory with vibrant beauty.

“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:10-11

The rainy days have purpose. What does God want to accomplish in you, through you or for you during this rainy season? Lean in, draw close and trust Him as He grows and strengthens you for the purpose in which you were created. Wait patiently because you know the rain will clear and you will have a story to share for His glory and it will be beautiful.

 

Anxiety, Depression…Anger

DSC06926“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” James 1:2-3 (NIV)

Anxiety was my response to the reality of having no control over or in certain situations. Depression was my response to the reality that I wasn’t taking control of what I could.

Anger is my response to the reality that I want control and don’t have it, can’t have it or, actually, don’t want it.

God has been doing an amazing work in me. The past 12-18 months have been some of the toughest in my life and yet I rejoice because I know God is at work in me, transforming me into the person He created me to be. It’s painful, but most good things are at some point.

It takes determination, perseverance, pain, struggle, and failure, along with focus and commitment to do anything that really matters. You will succeed only if you truly believe in what you are doing. Why suffer so much if it doesn’t really matter? (This is a post for another day…)

Because it does matter.

Last summer I posted about the process God had been moving me through, working out in me, to help rid me of anxiety and depression. My fight or flight response to problems was wreaking havoc in my life and the lives of others. In the first post, I stated:

Most attacks at the time began with anger. And not just a little anger. I would get really angry. At times, I felt uncontrollable rage in the situation. I told my husband once that it felt like it wasn’t really me.

So here I am, angry…again. Why?

I thought my anger would subside when my anxiety and depression were gone. I’d just be a happy, go-lucky person. But each layer God removes reveals more. It reveals something deeper, darker, more difficult to deal with.

Anxiety and depression are acceptable issues in society. It’s true. There are commercials touting the positive effects of medication to control anxiety and depression. There is a commercial that encourages people to ask about a person’s depression, ask them if they want to talk about it. They make it commonplace, acceptable and manageable.

But it’s not. Yes, it happens. Yes, we need to be able to be real about it. But God doesn’t want us living in anxiety and depression. I don’t think He really wants us expecting it to just be this way. He wants so much more for us. As I’ve said before, I do believe medication is necessary and helpful in some situations, but I also believe that if you are willing to let medication be your savior in this situation, you will miss the work of the true Savior in your life.

So I choose to let God do the painful work of exposing the deepest, darkest, most painful areas of my life and conditions of my heart so that I can be free of what the world says is acceptable and truly be free in the love of God.

Anger, on the other hand, is not acceptable. It shows no compassion, tolerance or acceptance. But, anger does have a place. Its purpose is to move us toward good, toward making things right, toward ridding ourselves of those things that hurt us and each other.

But anger can be misused. It has been my new form of protection. God is going deeper and showing me that I want control. I do, I want it…BAD! I want it so bad I’m angry about it. I get rude and ugly. It’s truly horrible. I hate it, while at the same time feel completely justified in it.

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” James 1:2-4 (The Message)

My true colors show that I’m not so sure how much I trust that God is really in control. I want God to move faster, if He’s even moving at all. My anger and desire to control shows that I think I can do it better, understand it better and want better than what God can do, knows and wants.

But I know that’s not true. God can do whatever He wants. He wants what is good, what is best. And He also knows exactly what it’s going to take to get to that outcome and He is always on the move. He not only wants this for those people and situations in my life, He wants it for me personally.

The NIV version puts James 1:4 this way: “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

To be or become mature and complete, not lacking anything, not only means I seek to gain wisdom, new thinking, and new attitudes, but that I give up the old foolishness and behaviors. This anger needs to go.

Lord, as I fix my eyes on You and Your goodness, I am thankful for your loving working my life. As You peel back each layer and fresh wounds are exposed, You are my Healer. As You reveal to me those things that keep me from loving You and loving others, You are my Wonderful Counselor. As you ask me to walk into difficult situations and conversations, You are my Strength and Refuge. You have never given up on me and it is my deepest desire that I not give up on You. I trust you with the people I love and the situations I don’t like or understand. Your love is pure and right. It is the best of all things. Help me recognize quickly when I am trying to take control; calm my heart, reassure me of your love, protection and provision and let me rest in You. Give me Your heart for others and peace in Your ways. Thank you, Jesus. In Your name, Amen.

 

 

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.

Even Though…

Lilacs“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a while.”     1 Peter 1:6 (NLT)

I slept so well last night. I didn’t wake up, I didn’t move, and I felt good when the alarm finally went off. This rarely happens. I tend to wake up a few times, toss and turn a bit trying to find a comfortable position and inevitably, even though I didn’t sleep well, I want to stay in bed rather than get up and get on with something different.

I have been trying very hard to settle into a comfortable position with God. I start reading my Bible and I get up, distracted, moving, tossing and turning, coming back, only to struggle again with trying so hard to hear what God has to say.

This morning, I thought I would try to get on with something different. I grabbed my cup of coffee, went out to our three-season porch and enjoyed the view of our lilac bushes which are in full bloom. It’s been a very rainy two months. Gloomy, cloudy and wet. Today, the sun is shining. The light is warm, the air is cool and it feels like we’ve finally arrived at what we’ve been hoping for: summer.

As I walked my dog this morning, I thought about the lilacs. They didn’t just appear today in a magical display. The sun didn’t just rise with a smile and the flowers burst forth.

The sun has been there every day, behind the clouds, waiting for them to complete their work watering the ground. It has been faithful even when we couldn’t see it.

And the flowers were growing, being nurtured along, being prepared for the full show of their glory. Every cloudy day, they were moving. Every gloomy day, they were being changed. Every drop of rain that fell was put to work in the growing and watering of the bush.

And I wondered, “What work is God doing in me? In what way is He being faithful to grow and change me? This uncomfortable feeling, what beautiful thing will I think suddenly appeared only to realize it’s been there all along? In what way am I being prepared?”

“There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.” Philippians 1:6 (The Message)

On the darkest days of your life, know that God is faithful. He is always there working in your life. Every seemingly difficult experience is growing a beautiful work in you and one day the clouds will lift and you will see the beauty God has brought forth from your trials.

Never give up on the hope and joy you know is coming in Christ Jesus. Never stop believing that even in your waiting, God is changing you and growing you in ways you can’t fully see or understand. He is so gentle and loving through the trials of this life. In Him, we can truly be glad and have joy even though!

Something to Consider…

Does it feel like there is a cloud looming over you in this season of your life? Do you feel like God is absent? Do you avoid Him or run from Him? There is no where you can go that He isn’t. He is faithful and trustworthy even when we can’t see Him at work. Choose to trust Him despite the cloud.

Are you working really hard to fix yourself? Be the right kind of person, get it all together so then you can be all you were meant to be? God is loving, kind and gentle. He knows exactly who He made you to be so He knows exactly how to nurture your growth. Don’t wait to change before you come to Him. Let Him do the work and enjoy the process.

God’s Glory

“Ascribe to the Lord, O might ones, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.” Psalm 29:1-2 (NIV)

This past weekend, I was working on a Bible study for an upcoming women’s retreat. One of the questions is, “We are to experience God’s glory, Christ’s love and the Holy Spirit’s power in our lives. Which do want to experience in a greater way? Explain.”

I often spend time reflecting on what I write, asking God if it’s accurate, true, what He wants said, but I also ask myself the questions and reflect on my answers just like I ask others to do when participating in a study. So this morning, as I opened the blinds to see the sun rise, I considered God’s glory and what that really means. What does it mean to experience God’s glory?

I sat down to read, not sure of what I’d choose, I just opened my Bible to begin the search. I looked down to see where I was and there was Psalm 29.

“The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the mighty waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic.” Psalm 29:3-4 (NIV)

It goes on to describe the powerful force God is in nature and His glory that is revealed to us every day.

I am not one to worship at the throne of celebrity. I’ve never been into backstage passes, autograph signings or pictures with the stars. What they do is cool at some level and I enjoy it in some way but they are just people like me whose life just happens to be on display for all to see.

So I wonder: do I put God in this category as well? Do I just feel so comfortable with Him that I don’t give Him the glory and honor due? Do I ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name? Do I worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness? Sometimes, yes, but not nearly with the gratefulness or fullness that I should.

Bill Cosby use to tell a joke about his children and him telling one of them, “I brought you into this world, I can take you out.”

This is the God who can destroy everything at the mere sound of His voice. I think of this world and the bad things that happen and wonder why He doesn’t just wipe us out. We hurt each other regularly, some worse than others. If we don’t kill physically, we kill each other with our words emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

This God whose voice can shake the desserts and twist the oaks; instead of destroying, He gives strength to His people and blesses them with peace. We have done nothing to deserve such compassion and grace.

God in His glory decided to bring us into this world. He chose us as His own. He could take us out if He wanted, but He doesn’t. Instead, He brought His son into this world to take our place, to take upon Himself the weight of our transgressions and sins and iniquities, our infirmities and sorrows. All so we could be reconciled to God and live with Him forever. All so we could experience His strength and peace. What a mighty and great, loving and compassionate God we have.

“The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever. The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.” Psalm 29:10-11 (NIV)

Something to Consider…

Spend some time taking in all God has created, all of the beautiful and intricate detail He has put into everything He has made. Everything in nature fulfills its purpose for Him.

Consider the care He took in creating you, precious and unique in His eye. Do you use what He gave to fulfill His purpose for you? Do you bring Him honor and glory in what you do and how you speak to others? Can your voice, like His, destroy? Or do you speak with His strength and peace?