Theme Song: “You Make Me Brave”

All my life I’ve dealt with fear. I doubt I’m alone in that. Sometimes the fear is a whisper I can ignore. Sometimes it’s a little more loud and insistent. Those are the times I might make excuses to not do something that I should, or I can pray through the feeling and take the step I need to. Other times, the fear becomes paralyzing. To the point that it has shaped certain parts of my life, sad as it is to admit it.

Example:  Deep down, I crave exploration and adventure, but I’m terrified of driving unknown roads. I frequently have nightmares of becoming lost in traffic, on strange twisting overpasses as night. I’m always the one driving, and I have no idea how to get to my destination. There are probably all kinds of psychoanalyses that can be gleaned from that, but it translates into a real terror in the waking world. It has prevented me from embarking on so many explorations of writing groups, art gatherings, and other things that might enrich my life. But more importantly, how am I to broaden my mission-field from behind a closed door?

This fearfulness has come up many times during my adult life, mainly because it doesn’t just affect me. And last week it reared its head again. Not in any dramatic fashion, but in a way that caused me to feel inadequate, even in the most basic, practical things of living life. That’s when I realized how silent and pervasive and evil this spirit of fear is. At the heart of it, this spirit of fear shows me where my faith is weakest.

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

2 Timothy 1:7

So, while I hate the fear living inside me, it also drives me to rely on God. Sometimes the fear is so near the surface that I cannot leave my house without first giving that fear to him and fiercely claiming this promise for myself. Then I climb into my car, turn on the radio, and hear songs like “You Make Me Brave” by Bethel Music:

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Verse of Encouragement: Healthy Thoughts

My thought-life can get me down. It can cause me to despair over humanity. It can induce terror that has no foundation except in the rare possibility that disaster will strike. I mean, I’m a writer. I have an outstanding imagination. I can see the disaster in minute detail and feel the pain, fear, and loss involved in whatever that disaster might be. Example: I have to fly in an airplane this weekend. My imagination wants to go down the terrifying path of explosions and nose-dives and all the other horribleness of that potential reality. Another example: I read the headlines and conclude the humanity is largely short-sighted, violent, and perverse–and I know it’s going to get worse, because God said it will.

God gave human beings their amazing capacity to imagine, to empathize, to look ahead beyond the now. And he who knows my every thought, knows that this amazing capacity can be dangerous to my health, my attitude, and my outlook. I think that’s part of the reason why we are called to lead a different sort of thought-life.

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

2 Corinthians 10:5

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Philippians 4:6-8

Does this mean we are to hide our heads in the sand, wear blinders, turn a blind eye, and all the other cliched phrases for hiding from the facts? Not at all. We are called also to lift a hand when we see injustice, abuse, pain, suffering, sorrow. See it, act on it, but do not lose focus. Facts are facts, things are bad, that’s undeniable, but what is true is that God has everything in hand. We are to keep our focus on him for that very reason. He is the only lifeline that keeps me from sinking into panic and utter despair. And it’s so much easier to despair than to maintain the faith again and again and again. Having faith is hard. Questions still rise. “Why is this happening? How can you let this happen? Where is your hand in this?”

cloud-silverliningWhen I feel the terror, the anger, the despair rise, I am learning that it is better to face the future with a prayer in my mouth than to try to handle it by myself. “Every cloud has a silver lining.” I disagree. Some storms don’t have pretty edges. Some stories don’t have hopeful endings. Not that my feeble human mind can perceive, anyway. That’s when my thoughts have to turn to God. In every situation, pray and give thanks. Every situation. Not easy. But possible.

“Jesus, you are what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. I have peace only when my mind is settled on you. Thank you for blessing me more abundantly that I can ever think or imagine. You have given me friends and family who I can turn to in a crisis. You have given me a mission to keep me breathing. My body is healthy, my mind is sound, my heart can be light amid all this tragedy. And I can be your hands when a friend is hurting. Thank you for loving me, so I can love in return.”

 

Verse of Encouragement: Troubles

Sunrise view from our cabin above Twin Lakes, CO, 2014

Sunrise view from our cabin above Twin Lakes, CO, 2014

A road trip wonderfully interfered with routine, so I haven’t been in a place to read the next chapter of Becoming Myself or blog about it. Should get back into the swing of things next week. Until then, this poignant passage about God’s faithfulness and desire for restoration just sang to me.

Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the highest heavens.
You have done such wonderful things.
Who can compare with you, O God?
You have allowed me to suffer much hardship,
but you will restore me to life again
and lift me up from the depths of the earth.
You will restore me to even greater honor
and comfort me once again.

Psalm 71:19-21

I guess life’s troubles have often been compared to climbing mountains. It’s so apt a description that it’s even become a  cliche. But it was illustrated quite vividly last week when I attempted to climb Mt. Elbert, Colorado’s highest peak (its lower slope is visible on the right side of the photograph). Troubles definitely look intimidating from the ground, with all that progress still to go. Keep your head down, trudge on, one step at a time. Lungs burn, legs give out, the trail goes on and on, and there is still more mountain to climb.

Sometimes the mountains even win. For a while. But they can also cause us to realize our weaknesses, where we need God to intervene and help strengthen our faith, our character, our maturity. Then, we mount the slope again, again, again, until one day we can say, “I got this,” and suddenly the summit no longer looms overhead but lies beneath your feet.