Well, just right off the bat, I have a confession: By nature, I’m not a fearful person. In fact, I’m probably as optimistic and worry free as they come. But soon after my husband died, fear took ahold of my life. My fears and my faith were in a daily, if not minute by minute, struggle. Have you ever felt that way?
I had daily fears of the future. I was constantly figuring (if on paper or in my head) how long my finances would last before I’m all out of money. I feared being old and not having funds needed for someone to take care of me. I feared having to sell all my possessions and live in an apartment. One minute I had a real fear of the future – figuring it all out and living it out by myself; and the next minute I had unwavering faith that God was going to show up and take care of things. It was a constant battle of the mind! In Episode #2, I talked about the power of the mind and our brain’s ability to correct dysfunctional patterns of thinking that lead to depression, anxiety, etc. Dysfunctional patterns of thinking create new neuropathways in the brain that begin to seem “normal”. They are not.
One thing I know to be true: fear is not of God, it’s the enemy’s handiwork. So then, of course, as I bowed to fear, the enemy got busy messing with my mind. I began to think: “I must deserve this. I must not be good enough, important enough, lovable enough to live in ease and comfortableness. I must be abandoned. I must be forgotten. I must be left alone. I must, because I deserve it. I’m not enough. Not worthy.”
Whoa, that’s heavy! Let’s stop here a second and apply some truth! Think about this…If you’re feeling unsure about your circumstances (no matter what the details may be) YOU get to choose whether you’re living there in a place of peace and calm (which is of God ) or living there in anxiety and fear – which is not of God. The game-changer, here, is WHO you are depending on as your source for what you need. Is that yourself? Another person? or is that God – the One “who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think?”
Listen, this is a good word I have to preach to myself all the time. Remember that what you believe determines your thinking, and your thinking influences your feelings. You act out of those feelings, which gives you a specific result.
In my stinkin’ thinkin’, I was believing the enemy’s lie that I was not loved by God…or by my husband. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have left me, and God, well, He wouldn’t have let him leave me. So then, I must’ve deserved it.
So with that belief then, I thought that God wasn’t going to provide for me those things I needed, because surely He didn’t find me worthy of His time or attention. Out of that thought I felt worthless, unlovable, I felt like I was alone, I was scared, and fearful of everything. I began to act in a way towards God that I had never acted before: I was incredulous of His promises, of His desire to love me like a Father. I held Him at arm’s length. The result? Our relationship changed. Not my belief in Him – for surely I knew He was still God – my God. But our relationship somehow shifted. I could feel it. It was so evident. Now, our relationship felt like walking on a tight rope - wobbly, for sure, and unpredictable, a little scary. I was now afraid of Him – and not in the reverence or awe sense of fear. But afraid because now I wasn’t sure how He acted, how I could trust Him. Afraid that now He was capricious.
So, the question for me became not “Do you believe in God,” but “Do you believe the God you believe in?” “Do you believe He will do what He says He will and can do?” Or do you believe He’s a capricious God, inconsistent, variable, fickle? Do you believe He is Omniscient, knowing all that you’re going through and need? Do you believe He’s Omnipotent, able to change, orchestrate, and create things to happen? Or is there some doubt in your mind?
Friend, what is it exactly that you believe? It’s a really important question, I think, to answer before you’re even challenged in what you believe. It starts with what you believe of God’s character. What have you been taught? What have you experienced of Him? The root of our unbelief is a lack of trust in God’s goodness. And we don’t trust His goodness because we don’t believe, ultimately, that He’s altogether good - one of His perfect & beautiful characteristics.
I’m reminded of the children in Narnia, coming into relationship with Aslan, the Great Lion in C.S. Lewis’ classic book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Mr. Beaver tells Susan, “Aslan (the King of the land) is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion." Susan replied by saying, "I thought he was a man. Is he quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.” End quote.
So, here’s the deal. What C.S. Lewis wants us to understand is that this Great Lion, Yahweh, the Great God, is untamable, for sure, but wholly good. He isn’t “safe” because we cannot control Him. But He is good in a way that cares deeply for His children and doesn’t want to see them suffer.
So, then I see the picture of myself walking on the tightrope again that represents my relationship with God, and I realize the tightrope is only 6” to 8” off the ground!
Wow! I realize that God is both – an untamable, unpredictable mystery, and a solid, firm foundation. Job 36:26 says, “Behold, God is great and we know Him not.”
So I must go back to those initial questions: “Do you believe the God you believe in?” “Do you believe He will do what He says He will and can do? Do you believe He is Omniscient, knowing all that you’re going through and need? Do you believe He’s Omnipotent, able to change, orchestrate, and create things to happen? ….Yes.
Perhaps you do, but do you believe He will do this for you?
I’ve been reading a book called Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret. If you’re not familiar with who Hudson Taylor is, it’s worth the look-up. But in short, Hudson Taylor at 21 years old, was one of the first great missionaries to China in the 1800s. He willingly sacrificed all his personal comforts to care for the poor and the spiritually lost. Sometimes he gave away all that he had, to his own poverty, trusting that would God show up and provide for him again. Yet, even he felt the self-preservation of the flesh override his belief from time to time, not believing God would show up like He promised He would.
Let me read a quote from him:
“Seeing more and more the wondrous supply of grace laid up in Jesus, the fullness of our precious Savior, my guilt and helplessness seemed to increase. Sins committed appeared but as trifle compared with the sin of unbelief, which could not or would not take God at His word, but rather made Him a liar! Unbelief was, I felt, the damning sin of the world; yet, I indulged in it.”
When I read this quote from Hudson Taylor, I immediately had a sick feeling in my stomach. “Sin of unbelief” “Made Him a liar” I can hardly take it. Quickly, I confess: “I am guilty. Father, forgive my doubt and unbelief that I’ve walked in that makes You out as a liar. Forgive me, please.”
I’ve come to realize, the way to combat unbelief is to be unswervingly confident in the fullness of the character of God. He acts out of His character. The more quickly we come to know and understand His character, the more we are able to experience His character. And the more we experience His character, the more we believe He acts out of His character.
He is a loving perfect Father. Because He is perfect and His love is perfect, then the way He Fathers is perfect – it’s done perfectly. Sometimes we have a tendency to project what we know about our earthly fathers onto our heavenly Father. The problem there is that our earthly fathers are not/were not perfect, and therefore, may have done or said things that were hurtful, damaging, left us not trusting. So if our earthly father couldn’t be trusted to care for us or come through for us, many times we project that onto God and feel like He won’t care or come through for us either. But God is a perfect loving Father. All that He does as the Father is pure and loving…and perfect.
He is also good, as we said earlier. Everything God does is an expression of His goodness and designed to benefit His people.
God is holy and righteous – meaning there is no evil in Him at all. He exists in a state of moral perfection and therefore can do no wrong. Listen, if we just understood this characteristic of God, we could learn to trust Him with our lives. Right?
He is compassionate, gracious, merciful, kind, faithful.
He is long-suffering – meaning He’s patient with us in our humanness. He’s slow to anger and quick to forgive.
Perhaps all we need to do is go through this list (that’s not exhaustive, by the way) and apply each one to our fear, doubt, and unbelief. The light of the truth exposes the lies. When the light is on, the darkness is dispelled. Woo, I love this – we’re going to talk about this more in depth in another episode. Be sure to check it out. It’ll be titled, Love smothers fear.
So, as you can tell, this episode focuses on our mind restoration. The Bible tells us to “transform the way we think by renewing our minds” in Romans 12 - the New Living Translation says, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” I love that! Because it’s reassurance that the way that we think can be changed. It’s going to take some effort and action on our part. But if you’re like me and you find yourself being manipulated by stinkin’ thinkin’ and you’re sick and tired of living such a self-defeatist life, then you’ll do whatever it takes to get that thinking straight and in-line with what God says, who God is, and what He thinks about you. Start there, friend, if you find yourself in the same mess. Ask God what He thinks. Ask Him to show you who He is. And then see if, just by letting Him, He doesn’t change the way you think, and thus, change…well, everything!