God’s Words of Comfort in Times of Fear – January 3, 2016

I wrote a little bit the other day about the news of my pregnancy that we found out right before New Year’s Eve, and about living by faith in this New Year.  I write this as much for me as for my readers, and hope that these words can offer encouragement to the both of us.

I’ve had a lot of fear and anxiety the past few days, as I await speaking with my doctor’s office tomorrow to schedule my first prenatal appointment, as well as some scary symptoms that I have experienced off and on that have at times made me wonder if everything is okay.  Baby seems fine for now, but I’ve been doing a lot of praying and trying to keep God’s Word in my mind as I hope for the best, but try  to mentally prepare for the “what if” of something going wrong.  Because of the miscarriage that we suffered last August, it’s an intensely joyful yet angst-filled pregnancy this time around.

I’m studying some Bible verses on fear, and I’m finding comfort in knowing and remembering that no matter what, His strength is there, and that I am not walking alone.  Let’s take a look at some of the ones I’ve found so far:

Psalm 23:4 “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me (NKJV).” – This one is a great encouragement because again, it lets me know that I’m not walking through the valley alone.  Our Shepherd watches over us with great care and leads us down the right path.

Psalm 115:11 “You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord; He is their help and their shield.” – Because of who God is, I can trust Him in the outcome.  He is my help and my shield.

John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” – Here Jesus is talking to the disciples to let them know that it’s getting close to time for Him to be crucified and resurrected.  He is letting them know that though He is going away shortly to prepare a place for His people in Heaven, He is leaving with them His peace.  This encourages me today because I know that I can call on Him and receive His peace also.

Psalm 56:3 “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.” -This verse reminds me again of the word trust.  I can trust that God is good and that He knows best.

Psalm 112 begins with the verse, “Praise the Lord!  Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who delights greatly in His commandments.”  Then it goes on to say in verse 7, “He will not be afraid of evil tidings; His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” – This tells me that I don’t have to be afraid of bad news because I can still trust that the Lord is good.

Zephaniah 3:17 “The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness.  He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” – This shows the loving character of God, our Heavenly Father, and reminds me of His tender mercy, and also of the way in which He has already saved me through the cross.

Are all of these verses easier said than done?  Absolutely, as least for me they are.  But it’s a great comfort to know that through His Word, He has given us many reassurances that He is there, shepherding His flock and walking us through whatever life may throw at us.

Yes, I am going to keep on praying for my child, and having faith that everything will be all right, but I will commit to trust in Him no matter what because I can trust that He is good.  I will no doubt have more times of anxiety the further along I get, but I can have faith in a God who sees me, knows me, loves me and cares about the things and the people in my life.  After all, if my precious child means so much to my husband and I, how much more does he/she mean to the Creator?

I hope this has perhaps brought a little encouragement to you today, as writing this down did for me.  We serve a mighty God who loved us so much His own Son came down to endure the agony of the cross so that He could bring His children home.  And He’ll walk with you and me every step of the way along this rough and bumpy road called life.

“Heavenly Father, I thank You that You are always there, in good times and in bad.  Please forgive me when I fail to trust You.  Help me to have faith that You are good even in difficult circumstances.  Be with this pregnancy, Lord, for You know what’s best.  I pray that if it is possible, our baby would be born healthy with no complications.  Please draw me closer to You during this time, and for anyone reading this, please draw them closer to You also.  Ease our fears, Lord, and reassure us through Y0ur Word and Your Holy Spirit that You are here right beside us, going before us, in whatever we are walking through.  I pray that this situation in my life will glorify You, Father, and I thank You for Your overwhelming love and grace that You’ve already given me time and time again.  Help us to be filled with Your perfect love that casts out fear, Father.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”

Overcoming Temptation – December 14, 2015

Do you ever have those times where it seems like it’s just one thing after another?  A sick child, the car breaks down, the roof begins to leak, a loved one is in the hospital, a deadline at work right before the holidays, or some other minor or major crisis at the least convenient time?  I have those days (and sometimes those weeks) too.

Here lately for me, it’s been a hectic time, with Christmas just around the corner, and I have a parent that has been struggling with a mental illness off and on for the past several years, but recently it’s become more debilitating, and we’ve looked into more doctors and more treatment solutions.  I sometimes just feel like my energy is zapped, and that it’s one thing after another.  Yet, I am reminded of God’s faithfulness.  He got us through a crisis late last year and early this year with our daughter’s depression, and I know He will help us navigate this too.

At those times, when we feel weak, or burned out or stressed out, is when we are most vulnerable to temptation.  The temptation to return to old habits or unhealthy coping mechanisms (in my case, for a long time it was drinking) or to try to handle things all on our own and neglect to pray and ask God for help, or to get so busy we neglect our family life– the enemy attacks us when he knows we’re at our weakest.

Today, I was reading about where Jesus was tempted in the wilderness right after He is baptized by John the Baptist and just after He heard the Father tell Him, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”  Jesus knew He had an important mission ahead – one that would bring about the redemption of you and me, and pay for the sins of mankind.  The devil wanted nothing more than to get Him to mess up and dishonor God so that He could discredit Jesus’ entire ministry and mission.

Beginning in Matthew 4, the Word says, “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry.  Now when the tempter came to Him, he said ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’

But He answered and said, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ” (Matthew 4:1-4 NKJV)

Boom.  Strike one.  The devil had already lost the first round.  Jesus wasn’t going to dishonor the Father by giving in to a temptation based on His physical need.

Do you ever feel like you’re in the wilderness of life?  Just kind of winging it, maybe living paycheck to paycheck, or having to improvise because things haven’t gone as planned?  It’s when we often find ourselves tempted.  Reading these verses brings a great deal of comfort in knowing that we have a Savior who was in the wilderness too, and was tempted just like we are.  And the greatest thing of all is that He overcame the temptation, and because He overcame, He gives us the strength to overcome also.

Imagine how hungry Jesus must have been!  I can’t imagine fasting for four days, let alone forty!   The dirt on the ground must have looked good enough to eat at that point.  Not only that, but He had the power to turn those stones into bread and make Himself a sandwich right then and there!  Yet, He refused to dishonor His Father, and He loved us too much to give us on His mission, which was to rescue us from the enemy’s clutches.

After the bread incident it says, “Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down.  For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over You.’ and ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ‘

Jesus said to him, ‘It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’

Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.  And he said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You if you will fall down and worship me.’  Then Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan!  For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’

Then the devil left Him and behold, angels came and ministered to Him (vv 5-11).”

The devil tempted Jesus to give into pride and the desire for material things, but Jesus still refused.  When we feel that urge to just say, “You know what, I’m done trying to do the right thing, I might as well _____ (you can fill in the blank here, it’s usually related to one of our weaknesses),” we can know that that’s not of God, but the enemy tempting us to give up on what God would have for us to do, or maybe to even give up on following God altogether.

I love what Hebrews 4:14-16 says: “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Jesus wasn’t just tempted in the three points described in Matthew.  It says He was tempted in all points as we are.  This is a great comfort to know that whatever I am tempted with, our Savior was tempted also, and because He overcame, I can overcome also.  It says that we can come boldly to the throne of grace.  We don’t have to be shy, or ashamed, or afraid.  No, we can come boldly and find mercy and grace to help us in our time of need.  Isn’t that wonderful?

The first verse in Hebrews 4 above tells us to hold fast our confession (our faith in Christ) because He knows what it’s like, He’s been there, and He will not fail us.  He will always be there to provide the grace that we need to overcome.  Reading this really encouraged me today, and I hope it encourages you to know that He loves you too, and will help us in our every need.  We don’t have to listen to the lies of the enemy that tell us to give up or to go back to our old ways.  Instead we can hold fast to our Savior.

“Father, I thank You for your grace that is available in every situation, and most especially in our time of need.  The truth is, though, that we need You every day, every minute, and I’m glad You’re always there.  Help us to hold fast to Your truth and not give into the temptations of the enemy to turn away from You.  Let us instead draw closer to You in these times, and ask what You would have us to do or to learn from the situation.  I thank You that You are faithful, always and forever, and that You loved us enough to overcome and win the fight for us, enough to even die and lay down Your life so that we could be set free.  Help me to live my life to honor You, Lord, and use the trials in my life for Your glory.  I give You all the praise and the thanks and the glory.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Just As I Am – November 28, 2015

Just as I am, without one plea,

but that thy blood was shed for me

I love this old hymn.   When I hear it, I typically think about how Jesus calls us to come “just as we are” and surrender ourselves to Him. How we don’t have to try to clean ourselves up in order to accept Jesus’ free gift of salvation – we can come to Him warts and all. But in reading Ephesians chapter 1, this song took on a whole new meaning for me.

I accepted Christ into my heart when I was 14 years old, yet I often struggle with anxiety in social situations, afraid that I’ll say something stupid or I find myself feeling awkward and at a loss for words, which makes me seem like I am being standoffish or snobbish, when in fact it’s just me being nervous. Then I walk away thinking, “I hope they didn’t think I was being rude.”

I think too often as believers we accept the gift of salvation, but because we still struggle with insecurities and the failings of being human, we struggle with prayer because we’re afraid we’ll sound stupid, or telling others about Jesus because we’re afraid it’ll come out wrong. Or we struggle with legalism because we think we have to do everything “right” in order to be accepted by God. Or with service because we feel that we don’t have the gifts necessary to participate in ministry. I have at different times with all of the above. Thank God He gives me His Word to remind me that not only can I come to Him just as I am, I am permanently accepted and love just as I am also.

Beginning in verse 3 of Ephesians 1, the apostle Paul writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise and glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:3-6 NKJV).”

He’s telling us here that when we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, God sees us as sons and daughters and made us “accepted in the Beloved [Jesus]” “to the praise and glory of His grace.” That’s the awesome thing about grace. We didn’t do anything to earn or deserve it, and because of that fact, we can’t do anything to lose it either. There’s no points or merit system. It’s all because He loved us enough to pay the price so that we don’t ever have to worry about not being accepted or loved.

Verse 13 and 14 tell us that, “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”

This tells us that once we are saved, we are promised an inheritance in Heaven. Where the Word says, “you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,” I think of when my husband and I took our wedding vows. We made a promise to love and to cherish, in sickness and in health, etc. until death do us part. Even more glorious here, is that God not only promises that we are accepted in the here and now, He has promised us a permanent residence in the Promised Land in our life to come.

We know that the Lord always keeps His promises; that’s why this is such a comfort when we struggle with anxiety, or with insecurities, or when we simply have days where we feel clumsy and out-of-sorts. We don’t have to worry about making a fool out of ourselves or whether or not our prayers are grammatically correct- He loves and accepts us just as we are.

“Father, I thank You for your unconditional love and acceptance of me, warts and all. Where sometimes all I can see is where I need to improve, Your grace abounds and reminds me that You are my ever-present help. I have nothing to fear from what people think, because I know that I am perfectly loved by a perfect Father. Please help me to love others like You love me, and not to be afraid to dedicate my efforts to Your service, no matter how feeble I think they are. Help me to remember that You are the one capable of taking five loaves and two fishes and feeding five-thousand, or a widow’s mite and multiplying it for Your glory. I love and I thank You, Father. Help us to give You all of the praise, honor and glory and to relax and enjoy life as it comes, for You came to give us life abundantly. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”