How I’m Overcoming My Panic Attacks With the Help of the Holy Spirit

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Breathe, breathe, and breathe again! My heart raced like I was running a marathon, but I wasn’t. I was dying, gasping for air. Panic swallowed me in a deep dark cloud. There was no one to call out to! I was in a place of anxiousness and fear. My brain chemistry had set off a red alarm that put my body in panic mode.

The first panic attack I can remember occurred at the age of 10. My experience with panic attacks continued as I grew up. I would hyperventilate so much that once when driving on the interstate with my mother sitting in the passenger’s seat, I had to pull over and get a grip. And I was only 17. The old English origin of the word “worry” is wyrgan, which means “to strangle,” and anxiety was choking me with worry.

We all have our reasons to be anxious — family, job, health, and money are enough, but it does not stop there. We have threats of terrorists lurking to attack in both large and small communities. In fact, it appears we cannot hide our anxiety. According to WebMD,  75-90% of doctors’ visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.

I began to be a frequent flyer to the emergency room at the age of 18. I was certain each time that I was breathing my last breath. The medical staff quickly determined the cause of my problem as anxiety and would hand me a paper bag and say, “Breathe, honey, and relax.” My shaking hands took the bag and began to breathe in and out trying to slow down my breathing. Good grief, it was embarrassing! My doctor just told me I didn’t need to take life so seriously, especially since I was so young. I found myself alone with my problem. I was literally standing outside the hospital with bag in hand.

Experiencing Anxiety as an Adult

Anxiety is a silent killer, because it robbed me of many blessings and kept me from living life the way God wanted me to live. It continued into my adulthood and impacted my body physically. During my stressful, anxious moments, I over-ate and would consume large bags of chips. Anxiety not only impacted my body with weight gain, but with racing heartbeat and trembling hands. My husband and parents stood by with helpful advice but really couldn’t understand what I was experiencing.

I hit rock bottom when I lost my first child. She was born premature and lived three days. I did like most and blamed myself. Grief sucked me up into a tornado of worry and fear. When would my attacks stop robbing me of peace? How was I going to ever live my life when I walked in fear? I was desperate to find relief. I believed in God but was not a devoted follower at the time, and church was not a part of my life. I was relying on just a smidgen of faith from my early childhood. However, when I lost my heart to a little girl, I was directed by her short existence to turn toward my Heavenly Father. Some run away with a broken heart from God, but I didn’t. I chose to turn toward him for comfort. When I turned to Him, my panic attacks became less dramatic and frequent. I wish I could say that those nasty panic attacks left completely, but no, they continued.

In looking back at this season after I lost my child, I realize I wasn’t the only young woman who struggled with panic attacks. In Neil T. Anderson and Rich Miller’s book Freedom From Fearthey state that about 75% of panic disorder sufferers (those who suffer from frequent panic attacks) are women. Most attacks are not caused by physical issues, but to make sure there is no physical cause it is important to see a doctor. I had no physical cause, and I realized that my worries focused around either my thoughts of yesterday’s failures or tomorrow’s expectations.

Some people find that they get panicked about their “today” because their schedule is packed and they can’t do it all. Others worry about tomorrow because tomorrow has a presentation due or deadline for a project, etc. Looking closely into my panic attacks helped me discover what was going on in my head. I realized there was a battle going on and those evil panic attacks were winning.

When those fearful anxious thoughts tried to push my anxiety button, I learned to looked to Scripture. Psalm 34:4-7 (MSG) says:

God met me more than halfway, he freed me from my anxious fears. Look at him; give him your warmest smile. Never hide your feelings from him. When I was desperate, I called out, and God got me out of a tight spot. God’s angel sets up a circle of protection around us while we pray.

As a young woman, and even now as a seasoned woman, I have realized that when I use the Scriptures, God’s knowledge is revealed so I can find the solutions to my daily problems. The words “fear not” (which are significant as I discovered fear is the root of my anxiety) are used 365 times in the Bible. God knew we would need to be told over and over again not to fear because His Word is full of reassurance. When we are under attack, He is the solution! I found that I was allowing the enemy to control my thoughts and my body’s response to those thoughts.

Learning About the Holy Spirit to Help My Anxiety

I didn’t understand that I had the power and authority through Christ to overcome those negative thoughts. Sure, I knew that Christ died on the cross to save me, and I had made a transaction at salvation to repent and turn away from my sins. But when I left the cross promising to live a life for Christ, I didn’t fully understand the power and authority through the Holy Spirit that Christ had given to me. I thought the Holy Spirit existed to prompt my conscience to make good choices so I could live a less sinful life or give me a warm feeling in church. And yes, He does do those things, but He does more. I began to want to know more about the gift of the Holy Spirit, so I prayed and read my Bible to find answers to my questions.

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And He said, ‘Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of His name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: “There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.” You are witnesses of all these things. ‘And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.’ (Luke 24:45-49, NLT)

In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit directed men such as Abraham, Moses, Noah, and many more, but the Spirit was not with them all the time because Christ had not died on the cross. The presence of God came in the wind, clouds, fire, and dreams.

After Jesus died to redeem and restore us back into a healed relationship with God, He ascended to heaven but left behind a resource that dwells within us upon conversion and helps us stay connected to God: the Holy Spirit. Think of it this way — the Holy Spirit is like a cell tower that is always on. He assists us in praying to God and receiving His guidance. You stay connected 24/7 to your friends, family, and the world by the use of a technology (cell phones) that most of us don’t fully understand but we use.

Some people excel in the use of it while others learn it at a slower pace. The understanding and the ministry of the Holy Spirit grows when we are willing to pursue God by spending time with Him and reading His Word. Doing these things and acting in obedience to Him produce a natural release of the Holy Spirit in our lives. My anxiety was getting to me even though I had asked God for help. I went back to the Scriptures and saw the same words which declared to me that once a believer I received the gift of the Holy Spirit. It truly takes some people longer to understand something, and I was one of those people. I came to comprehend that the Holy Spirit was a divine gift Christ gave to me in order to restore my life to the original design God created me for and help me live in the way Christ would want me to live.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (2 Corinthians 5:17, NASB)

It was like the lightbulb of truth came on! I was not made for panic attacks and brown bag breathing. Finally I understood it was as the Scriptures declared for my mind was opened to understand His power and authority. In Mike Riches’ book Living Free, he states, “As believing followers of Jesus Christ, we will discover that to be whom we are meant to be, to live the way we are meant to live, and to do what we are meant to do require God’s supernatural power in our lives.”

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere — in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8, NLT)

And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. (Luke 9:1, NASB)

Controlling My Attacks With Holy Spirit Power

I discovered I could control my attacks. God didn’t create me to walk around with a paper bag in my hand and to have endless days of sleepless nights. My solution was so simple but complex at the same time. I had to believe it — really believe — that with the Holy Spirit I could win the war in my mind. I started by taking captive every thought (2 Corinthians 10:5). Each time an anxious thought would come, I asked myself, “Would this be a thought from my Heavenly Father or would Jesus say this?”

When I felt my heart racing, I would begin to sing the simple song, “Jesus Loves Me.” I turned my thoughts toward my Creator, and He would calm me down. Many of my attacks came at 3:00 a.m. while I was sleeping, causing me to wake up gasping for air. So I began to use the time to dial up my Heavenly Father in prayer and talk to Him. I would listen for his voice, and I would hear it reminding me how much He loved me. During the day when I would feel a wave of panic, I would sing a praise song or say the name of Jesus out loud, and peace would come. When I was tempted to check on my children after I had already looked in on them, I would pray and peace would come. When I stood before a crowd as a principal of a school, I would smile and pray as I moved forward to speak.

I allowed God to take control of my life instead of the enemy. Satan’s plan was simple — to keep me distracted by my thoughts of fear and worry. Ironically, when I look back to all those moments of anxiety, I cannot tell you the specifics of many of them, so the things in my mind that got my heartbeat and breathing racing were not important and they were aging me! Matthew 6:26-27 says this about worry, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”

If you find yourself struggling with the demands of life’s distractions, don’t rush to grab the paper bag to breathe into but stop and breathe in the Holy Spirit that gives you the power and authority to overcome them.

What can you take away from my experience?

  1. First, believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior. He came to redeem and restore you to the life God created you for.
  2. Believe that Christ gave you a gift of the Holy Spirit — your lifeline to heaven, available 24/7.
  3. His Word is full of guidance and answers to all your life issues.
  4. He has given us the power and authority to stand against the enemy, who wants to make our life full of fear and anxiety.
  5. Taking captive every thought can set you free.

Related Resources:

Want to hear Sheila’s testimony? Tune in to the corresponding podcast on Soundcloud where we explore Sheila’s experience with panic attacks (in Part 1). You don’t want to miss next week where we continue with Sheila and talk about what she learned about tapping into the Holy Spirit’s power to overcome life’s challenges such as anxiety (in Part 2).

In Sheila’s article, she mentions Mike Riches’ book Living Free. Mike Riches is a pastor of a non-denominational church in Gig Harbor, Washington, and is head of the Sycamore Commission, a ministry committed to modeling Christian life and ministry after that of Jesus Christ. Living Free is one of several resources he has authored and is designed to help people know God’s original design when He created us, how Satan has attempted to thwart that design, and how to live “free” and healed — recovering areas of our lives (in terms of our emotions, health, relationships, etc.) that the enemy has stolen from us. If you are interested in learning more about how to live free of bondage and strongholds, click on the link to learn more!

Interested in salvation but want to read more? Check out our Know God page or contact us through the Contact page.

*Updated January 20, 2018.

 

Sheila Michael

Sheila Michael

Sheila is a retired elementary school principal and educator. She spent over thirty years in education and has a specialist degree in educational leadership. She is also a wife, mother of four grown children, and grandmother of 12 amazing kiddos. Sheila enjoys cooking and teaching her grandchildren how to cook. Family gatherings are essential to the Michael “herd,” as they gather to share life with each other. Residing in Georgia, Sheila calls herself a “Southern belle with a twist,” since her husband is from Iowa. Sheila’s personal journey with God has created in her a desire to write and share the “God moments” she has experienced in her life. She loves mentoring young women in their walk with Christ and encouraging families to serve and love the Lord and each other as they navigate through life’s challenges.

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2 Strategies for Fighting Against Anxiety

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People with anxiety have fear. They have worry. I think some people are born with anxiety. Like me. Stories of my childhood depict me as difficult, even as a baby. I even sort of felt disliked. Sometimes I still do.

Anxiety is also sometimes an inner conflict resulting from choice. When I make choices that go against the person I believe I should be and what I know is God’s best for me, the anxiety is a self-inflicted wound.

Anxiety crippled my decision-making ability in high school. How I wish I had known the Lord during that time, so that I might have lived a life that was a model to my friends. Instead, I am left to wonder if my friends made it safely into the Lord’s ways or if they were not able to turn away from the poor influence I provided. I can only hope that is giving myself too much credit.

Anxiety followed me into my marriage. It has hurt my boys. I was in my late 20s before I realized that I was living a life under constant condemnation. For me, with anxiety came suicidal thoughts. Even as a child, I didn’t have the will to truly live. Living, for me, was more like hiding.

I believe my anxiety was the root of my suicidal thoughts. Once when my oldest child was but a young child, maybe six or seven, he and my husband left our home for a simple visit to my in-laws. I remember being in the bathroom alone, running some water in the sink, and hearing, “Now is the perfect time. They have left you. They don’t need you, and they don’t want you.”

But that is one way anxiety consumes people when they are not suited up. It was a big moment for me.

Aloud, I said, “No!” It was my first real attempt at fighting evil and kneeling in surrender to God. I found my will to live in this endless moment, though it wasn’t really about me. It was about Him. Except that, to Him, it has always been about me. And about you.

Anxiety as a Christian

It is hard for those who suffer with anxiety to properly perceive how others react to them. At times, their thoughts are turned inward, and they don’t care about others. In certain scenarios, they can be paranoid with fear and worry, turning small things into rejections. If you have anxiety, your struggles may look like mine. They may not. But there is a common thread to anxiety and Satan’s other chief ploys and that is to keep us from God.

If anxiety is a reality for you, then it is time to enlist. You must train, and you must fight, not only for yourself but for those you love (and who love you whether you believe it or not).

For me and for many people I have worked with as a therapist, this battle with anxiety is a life-long one. Luckily, the armor of God is available to us all. These powerful verses are long, but stay with me. It is a part of God’s battle plan for believers. Ephesians 6:10-18 states:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

One morning at church a year or so ago, I must’ve looked bothered while I was waiting on my family to meet me. A man I have seen frequently greeting other people came up to check on me. He talked about worry. I was impacted by his concern, though nothing he said was new to me, until he said, “Well, you know what Bob Marley said.” I had not. He quoted Marley: “Worrying is worshipping the devil. “

I can’t say I have ever confirmed that Marley actually said that. Whether or not he said those words, even if they sound drastic, I see truth in the statement. God tells us not to worry. Therefore, worrying can’t really be worshipping Him, can it? I think of that saying often, and it propels me to fight back. To fight for the Lord instead.

How to Treat Anxiety

We can treat anxiety through teaching ourselves to think differently by the way we choose to perceive thoughts and events. This means we meditate not on anxious thoughts or what might happen, but instead focus on what is good and positive in the moment.

While the word “meditate” is often associated with Buddhist or New Age practices, it simply means to contemplate something or clear one’s mind, and is a spiritual discipline found in Scripture.

Psalm 19:14 (ESV) states, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer” (emphasis mine). At my previous church, we said these lines at the conclusion of every service.

In focusing on what is good, we overcome our negative thoughts. Jesus redeems us, and His redeeming power extends to our thoughts about ourselves, our problems, and our world.

For instance, I could choose to remember that I was made fun of as an awkward 4th grade child with the wrong clothes. I was unpopular and shy. One day when my socks didn’t match my outfit, multiple peers laughed at me; it felt like the entire school was laughing. However, in meditating on the good from this experience, I can instead recall the kindness of Mrs. McSwain, a teacher that made me feel loved and unique in spite of my wardrobe inadequacies. It still hurt to be laughed at. But it also taught me how it feels to be ridiculed, so that I can now protect others from feeling that pain.

Again, in this situation and others — even reflecting back as an adult — I get to choose my attitude. An attitude focused on this world leads to anxiety. An attitude focused on God leads to peace.

Clearing your mind from negativity and focusing on what is real and good cannot be credited to Buddhism or any other false religion. A healthy attitude comes from God; it always has and that won’t change. Philippians 4:8 (NASB) says, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

Another way to combat anxiety is to focus on others. Anxiety can stem from internalizing your thoughts, even to the point of making everything about you. When I am focused on helping others, there is no place for anxiety because I am not thinking about myself, going over the long script in my head of everything I said and did that was wrong.

Conclusion: Being Free From Anxiety

In writing this, I am not trying to say that I don’t still have anxiety. I do. There are occasions when it is even quite severe. I have worked with some people who cannot leave their homes because of anxiety. They are too afraid. I can relate to an extent. Meditating on good rather than bad and focusing on others are two therapeutic avenues that can help.

The difference between myself now when I experience anxiety and the person I used to be is that I am aware of and utilize the armor provided by God. I fight to live the life God created me to live. Though I may fail me, He never will.

If you have anxiety, decide to fight. This might mean making an appointment with a pastor or counselor or setting aside time each day to give it to God and rest in His peace. It might mean getting out of the house, even if the first step is simply onto the front porch. You simply have to be a willing vessel God can use to gain the victory.

2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV) says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” You don’t have to lose the battle to anxiety and fear. With God’s help, you can overcome.

Rebecca Lindsey

Rebecca Lindsey

After “retiring” from teaching in 2013, Rebecca is currently back at it as a high school Teacher on Assignment where she is able to help students identified as at-risk for not graduating on time. The in-between years, she worked as a therapist in private and public practice. Her interests are in helping others, hiking, kayaking, gardening, dancing, and reading. She loves exercise, nutrition, and natural healing. After completing her doctorate in organizational psychology, she plans to lead others to improve leadership, career, and personal life-skills and maybe even author a few works. In every role, she feels there is an opportunity to model the grace and redemption given to us by Jesus. Rebecca lives in Dallas, Georgia, with her husband and three boys (the middle child is a Weimeraner).

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When We Fear God’s Promises for Us Won’t Come True

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Years ago, when I served with my husband as volunteers on a church launch team, I heard about another church in the area that had made a call to the church office to make an inquiry about our new launch. Unlike the other churches in the area calling to congratulate us, this particular church asked questions with a competitive agenda. Clearly, they felt threatened by another church joining the community and drawing possible new members.

A sad but true reality is that competition and envy abound even in ministry settings. I can personally give many stories from my years serving in music ministry where ugly feelings of jealousy invaded my own heart. Times I watched other people get the solo I wanted or watched other people get promoted to places I wanted to go. I wondered in those moments if God had forgotten me. How could I celebrate with others when I felt jealous that God hadn’t elevated me in the same way?

In particular, recently I have been feeling some anxiety over the fact that I am waiting on a promise that hasn’t yet been fulfilled in my life. As I was reflecting on this, I opened up Facebook to a ministry site with a few words on believing God concerning His promises.

I don’t even follow this person’s ministry, but read this message on a sponsored post. Obviously, I know we must exercise caution in just opening up whatever it is — a blog post or Facebook feed — and attributing that to the Lord. However, I am quite sure this was from the Lord for me. I burst into tears and felt my heart buoyed up for the first time that day. You see, the antidote for competitiveness and jealousy is trust. Trust that God is going to do what He said. When we feel anxious about where God has us in relation to where He has others, we can repeat this over and over to ourselves: The plans God has for me will come to pass.

Abraham and Sarah: A Lesson in Trusting in Impossible Circumstances

A couple that tells us much about waiting on the promises of God is Abraham and Sarah. They had to wait so long for their miracle child. Sarah had already gone through menopause. Abraham was an old man. However, God had promised a child to them and not even Abraham’s age or the fact that Sarah’s body had already undergone changes that made it impossible for her to carry a child prevented God from giving them what He had promised.

One of my favorite passages of Scripture is when the Lord and two angels visit them and give them the heads-up that the promise is about to happen. Abraham runs to greet them and bring them a meal made from His finest flour and meat.

As they sit and eat, one of the men tells him that in a year’s time his wife will bear a child. Abraham listens quietly, but Sarah overhears from the tent, laughing to herself, saying, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure [of a child]?” (Genesis 18:12). The Lord, hearing this, says: “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son” (Genesis 18:13, 14).

While Abraham calmly accepts God’s words and claim that the child will come within the year, Sarah thinks about the fact that she is old and laughs in disbelief at the men’s words. The difference between Abraham and Sarah’s response is that Sarah looks at their impossible circumstances and Abraham just focuses on God.

But despite her unbelief, in one year’s time, she gives birth to a son and the promise comes true just as God had said. Can you imagine the incredible temptation that presented itself over those long stretch of years to give up, turn back, lose faith, or take offense at those in their lives that had been blessed with children when they had not?

How to Trust When We Fear the Promise Won’t Come True

Perhaps as you are reading this, you can think of a promise that hasn’t come true for you. Around 20 years ago, I received a prophetic word at a youth group meeting that God was going to use me in music. A man who had spoken to our youth group and had a strong prophetic gifting prayed for young people after his message. He walked up to me and asked me if I liked music. When he posed that query, the presence of God came on me so strong that I felt a burning sensation in my throat, and I could not speak in response. I simply nodded.

The man told me I had a craving for the stage, and that I had been given that desire by God. I accepted the word with joy, but life happened. I didn’t forget the word, but I felt led to go to college and get a degree in teaching. I went through a period where I began to doubt I would ever be used in music. Then, six years into my teaching career, God called me away to pursue that music dream He had given me so long before. Except, after I left, He led me on an unusual route to start a women’s ministry and tested me with painful hardships and trials – the most painful of all being is that He asked me to give up music for a season during that period.

The journey has been difficult and long. I have been out of music for more than three years. I have looked into a few opportunities, but each time God has said no. Though I have often found myself fretting about how God is going to open up an avenue, I have the assurance of what God told me before I left teaching and long before that at the youth group meeting. In addition, I can look to Abraham here in his impossible situation and note that “against all hope” Abraham believed and God “credited to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:18).

It’s in the wait when it’s far too easy to look at someone else and want what they have and let wrong attitudes fester that eventually become wrong actions. Remember how I mentioned earlier that trust is the antidote for envy — and we should speak God’s promises over ourselves? These statements actually have a biblical basis. James 4:1-3, 7 says:

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures … Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

In this passage, James gives a practical look at what it means to fight against the desires that war inside us and trust God instead: we submit to God’s plan and resist the devil’s schemes. The word “submit” in the passage in the Greek is “hupotassó” and means to be “under God’s arrangement” (HELPS Word-studies). Essentially, there can be no submission without trust. When we submit to God’s plan, we don’t have to make up our own plan and resort to fleshly strategies (like turning on others) to try to get even or make happen what God has said.

In addition, the word “resist” in this passage in the Greek is “anthistémi.” This word was actually a military term used in classical Greek that meant to “strongly resist an opponent” or hold one’s ground (HELPS Word-studies). When the enemy whispers lies in our ear or stirs up fears about the promises God has given us, speaking aloud to others and ourselves the truth that God will do as He said is taking a firm position against the fear and lies of the enemy!

Circumstances and hardship may try to dictate to us what our calling is, but God has the final say in the matter. What He said is eternal. It will happen. He decided it long ago. Our work is simply to trust when envy threatens to steal our hope and joy. We demonstrate our trust in God’s promises when we submit to His plan and resist the enemy, even when the way looks dark. These actions put us back on the right pathway and out of the grip of fear and jealousy.

What promise in your life is as “good as dead” at the moment? Share with us in the comments and let us pray for you!

Related Resources:

Want to listen to co-hosts Carol Whitaker and Suzy Lolley talk through and explain the points in more of our latest posts? Subscribe on Soundcloud and receive all of our latest episodes!

Interested in salvation but want to read more? Check out our Know God page or contact us through the Contact page.

*Updated January 17, 2017

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Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Overcoming Fear in Doing the Will of God

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As believers, we’re called to serve God and offer ourselves as “living sacrifices for His glory” (Romans 12:1). However, there are real obstacles that threaten us in the midst of being faithful in living out His will for us. One of the major obstacles Christians face is fear.

As I explained in a previous post, Matthew 14:28-32 gives us a good illustration of what it looks like to falter in our walk of faith. In the passage we see that Peter goes on a faith walk towards Jesus but then begins to sink when he looks at the obstacles around him — the wind and the waves — and becomes afraid. Jesus pulls him up and chastises him for his lack of faith, but Jesus does not leave him in his failure. He tells him why he was sinking, and the two are able to climb back in the boat together and get to their destination.

However, Peter had to get past his very real unbelief and fear he felt in the moment, and Jesus addresses it. Similarly, many of us are desiring to be obedient to God, but we are dealing with crushing fear or another obstacle. How do we get past our fear when we are attempting to follow the will of God?

Not too long ago, I asked God this very question as I had been dealing with my own fear. Sometimes God answers me right away, and other times He waits for a season to respond. This time His answer came just a day or so after I had posed the query. I was looking for a calendar in a desk drawer, and a sheet of notes I had taken on Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life caught my eye. I’ve read this book from cover to cover on a few different occasions, but I have no recollection of taking these notes and can’t remember why I wrote down these ideas.

However, when I glanced over the scribbled words, God gave me an answer. Yet, as He often does, God didn’t respond in the way I thought He would. He gave me an entirely different response that I want to share with you.

Lessons from Rick Warren that we can apply to overcome our fear:

1. We have to understand what it means to rely on God and operate in His power.

While we may think of relying on God as a passive endeavor — one where we do absolutely nothing and He does everything — that is not the case. As Warren stresses, reliance on God doesn’t mean we don’t do anything. Trust in God means that we are co-workers with God. A few of the ideas I jotted down from Warren’s book:

  • Christ-likeness is not produced by imitation, but by inhabitation. We allow Christ to live through us.
  • We choose to do the right thing and trust God’s Spirit to give us His power, love, faith, and wisdom to do that.
  • The Holy Spirit releases His power the moment you take a step of faith.
  • Obedience unlocks God’s power.
  • God wants you to act first — move ahead in your weakness, doing the right thing in spite of your fears. That’s how you cooperate with the Holy Spirit.
  • Effort has nothing to do with your salvation, but it has much to do with your spiritual growth. At least eight times in the New Testament we are told to “make every effort” in our growth toward becoming like Jesus.

We need to pause for just a minute and let these wise words sink in. When we follow in God’s way, we won’t necessarily feel an absence of fear. However, God’s power meets us when we act in obedience. Psalm 63:8 says, “I cling to you; your right hand upholds me.” The King James 2000 Bible version says, “My soul follows hard after you: your right hand upholds me.” Some of us are waiting to not feel fear before we act or waiting for our feelings to line up with what God would have us to do. However, it is in taking the steps ordained for us by God that we are met by the Holy Spirit’s power.

Similarly, another place in Scripture where this concept of walking in trust and God’s power is illustrated is John 6:28, 29. In this passage, a crowd asks Jesus what they should do to do the work of God. Jesus responds by saying, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (v. 29). The word “believe” that is used can be translated in the Greek as “pisteuó,” which means to “believe, entrust.” According to Helps Word-Studies, this means “not only to be persuaded of something, but means to be persuaded by the Lord: it is belief that leads to/proceeds from God’s inbirthing of faith.”

The word “pisteuó” is a verb. So, not only does it mean what we believe in our thoughts — it refers to a giving up of oneself to God. This kind of entrusting leads to action in our lives as we follow His lead. According to the Encyclopedia of the Bible, faith is “that which responds to and is sustained by God’s faithfulness.”

A few years ago, I went through a hard season where God had me go back to my previous place of employment. He was walking me through healing from an addiction to others’ approval, and one of the hard tasks He had me do in walking out of my people-pleasing behavior was do the thing I fear the most: face people and reveal the ways that I had fallen short.

I had been a former high school teacher, and I had spent years cultivating the worship of my students. As a young teacher, I was flirtatious and had a male fan club in every class. Though my actions were not those that constituted an inappropriate relationship or illegal activity, I knew that I had not been a Christian role model for my students. God nudged me to make some hard contacts with my former classes and administration and apologize for not being a Godly role model and state that I was making a turn in my Christian walk.

This was difficult for me in many ways. You might think that I had great courage that enabled me to do this, but that isn’t the case. I knew I had no choice. I was terribly afraid, and it was not an easy task. I knew that that was the way God was pointing and for me to continue to walk with Him, I was going to have to obey Him. I did those actions in fear — but God enabled me in the process as I did what He asked, and He gave me grace as I was speaking to people.

2. Spiritual transformation is a process.

Saying spiritual growth doesn’t happen instantly is not a cop-out. Certainly, it says nowhere in the Bible that we should sin because it really does not matter. In fact, the Bible tells us the opposite. It tells us that if we know the right thing to do and don’t do it, for us it is sin (James 4:17). However, we need to know that spiritual maturity is a process that does take time. God gives us opportunities to learn and grow and become more like Him.

Warren emphasizes that God uses His Word, people, and circumstances to shape us. Therefore, our transformation away from fearfulness to courage — the kind Christ had — is not automatic. It will be gradual. In fact, God puts us in particular situations so that we can practice Christlikeness (Warren).

If we are having an issue with fear, He is going to put us in circumstances where we can practice breaking through this barrier to do His will. We may literally be shaking as we type up the email to send, tell our testimony to someone, or step away from a safe comfort zone (perhaps a stable job or living situation) to answer God’s call on our life. However, as we encounter more and more situations like this, we will become less fearful and more like Christ.

Salvation is worked out in each of our lives with the help of the Holy Spirit. In other words, God is always working in us to know and do His will (Philippians 2:12, 13). Warren explains a few things about this:

  • There are two parts to spiritual growth: work out and work in.
  • “Work out” is your responsibility. You don’t work for your salvation because you can’t add anything to Jesus’ work. You work out to develop the body, not get the body. We should make every effort to grow spiritually.
  • “Work in” is God’s role — as we make efforts to grow spiritually, God makes us more like His Son.

Again, we have here the idea, just as we discussed in the previous point, that overcoming our fear is a collaborative effort with God. It doesn’t happen right away. Whatever obstacles are hindering us from answering His call are those that we can overcome with His help when we believe that His power is enough. But He gives us lots of opportunities to work on making gains against whatever is holding us back.

Conclusion:

Fear will often prevent us from doing what we know to do in the moment of following God. However, we are not left alone in our fear. God promises us in His Word that when we step out in obedience into what feels like thin air, we will feel a solid rock under our feet. He will uphold those who put their trust in Him and follow Him when it feels hard, it feels scary, and we don’t know what to do.

The more we adopt this philosophy of believing that God will meet us in our weakness and stepping out even when our own strength is small, the more victory we will have in breaking past the obstacles that prevent us from being obedient and following Him. This isn’t a willpower thing — this is “I can do all things through Christ” kind of thing (Philippians 4:13).

Let’s pray: Dear God, help us in those times when we want to follow you but are afraid. Help us believe in your promises in the Bible and trust in Your power that You have made available to us as Christ followers. Forgive us for the times we have fallen short of Your perfect will. Help us be more bold in the future as we follow You. Amen.

How about you? Do you struggle with fear? Share with us in the comments!

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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2 Strategies for Combatting Fear

2 Strategies for Combatting Fear

Recently, I read an article written by a mother coping with the grief of her teenage son’s death. The article was a poignant account of how she was having difficulty going in her son’s room now that he was gone and the last moments of his life as a heroin-addicted drug user.

The article included a picture of her handsome son in his hockey uniform. Nothing about his demeanor or face suggested he was anything but a happy, healthy adolescent — yet, the last moments of his life were spent vomiting while his mother screamed helplessly as EMT’s worked to stabilize him. The mother’s words literally bled from the page as she shared her honest struggle navigating life without her boy.

The mother’s words stayed with me in a haunting way after I put her article down. After reading her account, I couldn’t help but think of my own children, and I felt a sense of fear myself. I began to think about how fragile life is. I began to irrationally worry for them. They were heading out for an outing at the swimming pool with my husband, and I could feel a frenzy of anxious thoughts stir. I was worried for their safety in the water that day. For their safety in the van while they were en route to the pool. For their safety every day.

Just as my emotions threatened to reach a fever-pitch, I realized I needed to cleanse these anxious thoughts from my mind. I got alone with God, and I whispered these words: “I am afraid. Help me. I am afraid.”

I told Him what I was tied up in knots about. I prayed for my children and asked Him to help me re-focus my thoughts. I immediately felt a sense of peace wash over me. Later in the day, I opened up a devotional and read these words by author and in(courage) contributor Lisa-Jo Baker: “The older I get the more I battle fear. And I know it’s because the older I get the more scary things I see in the world.”

I exhaled a little more and let the truth of her statement wash over me.

We live in a world where things go terribly wrong. People get hurt. Parents lose children. Relationships get broken. Being a mother, I feel a tremendous sense of love for my children. And with that love comes fear — because I know I can’t protect them from everything.

Scriptural Advice for Combatting Fear

In 2 Timothy 1:7, we see a young minister of the Gospel struggling with timidity not in his role as a parent, but in his role as a minister. Paul exhorts him with these words: “We have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (NKJV).

Though these words were given by Paul to strengthen and encourage Timothy in his ministry, as commentator Charles Ellicott states, these words can be taken in a more general sense, as applicable to all Christians.

The verse assures us that we as Christians have been given the exact opposite of fear: “power … love and … a sound mind.” That is — we don’t have to accept fear when it comes because it is not from God, and we have the means with which to resist it and send it packing.

You may be reading this, thinking, “But you don’t understand how strong this fear is. I am literally paralyzed by it. I want it to go, but I am totally overwhelmed by it.”

I understand because I have been in similar positions, as in the scenario I described with the frightening article, and I continue to have bouts of fear. Quite frustratingly, I have dealt with more fear as I’ve pressed into God these past few years — not because God has sent it to me, but because as I’ve become a more potent weapon for his kingdom, the attack against me has become very strong and very real.

There are days when the fear has been so thick that it is palpable, and I feel immobilized.

But Paul assures Timothy and Christians that we don’t have to remain in that place of feeling overcome. The “power” mentioned in the verse that we have at our disposal is the power that rests in us because of the Holy Spirit. This power we are given helps us discern and identify when wrong thoughts or ideas come against us — whether this be through Satan trying to plant these thoughts directly or through Satan working through the actions or words of people.

The “love and sound mind” part of the verse suggests that this counsel we have is such that we can reprove others in love when they offer ideas that counter God’s Word and walk in peace and stability of thinking, not only for our own sake, but the sake of others.

On a practical level, then, here are two ways we can tap into the Holy Spirit’s power and take a stand against fear:

1) Pray.

We make ourselves easy prey when we don’t make time daily to pray and spend time in God’s presence. God assures us that His peace guards our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7). Sometimes, right in the moment when I pray I feel instantly at peace and my fear dissipates (as in this instance). Other times, when the fear is so strong, I will get a verse later through a friend or family member, a line in a sermon, or by some other means.

That verse will be one that I can cling to that acts as a stabilizing force for my mind. As believers, we should expect that God will come to our aid, and we can call out for this rescue during prayer (Psalm 31:2). In my most recent situation fretting over my children, before I prayed about it, I had this thought: “Praying isn’t going to do anything.” And that was a lie straight from the enemy!

I pressed through and prayed anyway and felt better. And it was just a little later in the day that I came across Baker’s devotional which further encouraged me and helped me get over the anxious thoughts I was having.

2). Take every thought captive.

The power of the Holy Spirit Paul speaks of helps us to take every thought captive that is not of God. We can know when a thought or idea is going to derail us; instead of accepting that idea, we can keep our mind clear and at rest by resisting wrong thoughts.

As 2 Corinthians 10:5 states: “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.”

I love how author and Proverbs 31 contributor Renee Swope describes this process of filtering thoughts in a recent devotional. Her son Andrew was apparently struggling with anxious thoughts about school. To help him, she explained 2 Corinthians 10:5 and advised him to “catch” each anxious thought he was having like a baseball and toss it back into “outfield.”

She concludes her devotion by emphasizing that there is nothing “more powerful than our hearts hearing our lips proclaim our trust in God’s truth” — truth that not only children but adults can find assurance in.

What do you believe about fear?

Both prayer and right thinking help us to meditate on God instead of the scary person or circumstance — but it also boils down to belief. We have to believe that God doesn’t want us to fear and trust that He will help us.

Unfortunately, some of us embrace fear and hold onto those worrisome thoughts that come our way because we don’t believe that there is the power available to us to overcome it. We accept it thinking there is no other choice, but Scripture indicates that God has a better way for us.

In addition, many of us beat ourselves up for having the fear at all. Rather than do any of those things, we must realize that God does not intend for us to cower down to fear or feel down that we are feeling so timid. Instead, He wants us to look to Him and know in the depths of our being that He is bigger than anything we face.

As Swope advocates in a different piece, “Fear goes away when we actively trust God more than what we fear.”

Join us for a live Blab chat Monday, April 11 @9 or watch the replay.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Letting Go of Fear When It Has Been a Familiar ‘Friend’

Letting Go of Fear When It Has Been a Familiar 'Friend'

I’ve been frozen for almost eleven months now. Frozen in fear. It’s debilitating and it’s crippling and it’s exhausting. But, as sick as I am of it, I’m stuck. Or at least it seems that way.

Almost a year ago, my daughter was born two months ahead of schedule. I had severe preeclampsia, and an emergency C-section was performed to save both of our lives. I visited my little girl in the NICU every day for the longest month of my life.

She was so tiny, and to me, so fragile. She had to learn how to eat and breathe on her own, and I wasn’t familiar with how to care for a full-term baby, let alone one weighing 3 1/2 pounds. Her nurses assured me that she was one of the strongest preemies they had ever seen and that I had nothing to worry about, but I am embarrassed to admit that most of the time I didn’t see her strength.

I saw her feeding tube. I saw her IV and her blood pressure cuff. I saw her heart and oxygen monitors and I heard the jarring alarms when her heart rate dropped too low. All of it terrified me.

I knew she was a miracle. I knew that we were watching God form her before our eyes. I knew deep down that we were all going to be OK, but the spirit of fear that had seized me wasn’t loosening its grip anytime soon. When the day I had been praying for finally came and our little baby got discharged, I remember asking her doctor, “Are you sure she’s ready? Should she stay longer?”

The doors of the NICU were at long last opened wide for us to leave, but I’d become so comfortable there, enclosed in that small wing of the hospital, that I was scared to do the thing we were meant to do, the thing I had longed for — go home as a family.

Home we went, and our daughter was and is perfectly fine. She has excelled in every way, and now is virtually indistinguishable from a baby born at full-term. It’s me who’s not fine. I remember all too well the alarms, the monitors, the tubes and the lonely, sleepless nights without her.

I obsess about her health, my heart sinks when I hear her crying, and I fear getting the slightest thing “wrong” because if I screw up some awful thing might happen. Basically, I’m a mess, and when anyone asks me why, I point back to the NICU.

My paranoia understandably annoys those closest to me. Quite often, I find that I can’t enjoy time with or without my daughter because I’m too worried about her. This, naturally, creates tension for everyone around me. My family has been incredibly patient during my many meltdowns over the last year, but the thing about living in fear is that it not only paralyzes you, but everyone around you. My fear controls me, but my family experiences the bondage as well.

I’ll admit it — the traumatic events surrounding my daughter’s birth have become my go-to. The NICU has become my justification for agonizing over every detail of her life. It’s not right or healthy, and at some point I’m going to have to let it go, but I have no idea how to do that.

One of my favorite songs by Jason Gray says, “There’s no thief like fear.” And it’s true. Fear has stolen my joy, my peace, my sanity, my sleep, my health and my identity. Not only is fear a thief, but it’s deceiving. When you’re afraid for as long as I’ve been afraid, you swallow the lie that there is no other way to be. You cling to your fear. You justify it. You defend it.

I was in tears one afternoon at my parents’ house, trying to get up the nerve to leave my daughter with them for a while so that my husband and I could have some much needed alone time. I was listing all the reasons why I was scared to leave her, why I had no choice but to be afraid even though it was destroying my life.

My father, in growing frustration, was shooting down my pitiful excuses one by one. Finally, I said, “None of you … not one of you knows what it’s like to visit your baby in the hospital every single day for the first month of her life.”

My dad calmly said, “Well, you’re right. But it’s time to leave the hospital.”

It’s time to leave the hospital. My daughter had been given a clean bill of health and had been discharged for several months. And I had never left the hospital. Rather than allowing myself to experience the freedom we had waited for, I turned my nose up at the miracle in favor of the terror that something, anything might go wrong. That the other shoe would eventually drop.

I’m reminded of the story of Lazarus, which is found in the Gospel of John. You may be familiar with it, but the long and short of it is that Lazarus, a man Jesus loved, fell sick and died. In fact, Jesus knew he was going to die, and allowed it anyway, so that God would be glorified (John 11:4). Jesus knew the outcome; He knew that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, gaining all the glory from his suffering and that of his family.

And even though He knew the ending would be a happy one, Jesus still wept when He reached the gravesite, knowing and feeling the pain that His children experienced as part of God’s perfect plan. The Bible says that in a loud voice, Jesus called for Lazarus to come out of the grave, and out he came.

Here’s where I draw the comparison to my story. What if, when Jesus called for Lazarus to come out of the tomb, the man had refused?

No, Lord. I’m too afraid! You don’t know what it’s been like. You don’t know how sick I was. I could get sick again. I could get hurt. I could die all over again. I just can’t do it. I’m just going to stay here. It’s too scary out there.

It’s more than a little ridiculous. But haven’t I done just that? The Lord had miraculously delivered me, in the nick of time, from a potentially fatal illness. He had gloriously rescued my daughter from my failing womb. And when she was strong enough and His timing was right, He had called her out of that hospital and home with us.

Only I had stayed behind. Physically, I’ve been home with her and my husband nearly 11 months now. In my mind, gripped by fear, I’ve been in that little rocking chair in the NICU, staring into that isolette at a baby much too small.

The reality is that God’s plan all along was perfect. My daughter was born early by our calendar, but not God’s. He saw, ahead of time, the sickness and the suffering, and He knew the purpose of it all. He allowed the pain and planned the miracle, knowing He would take the glory. And I, in so many ways, have refused the miracle in favor of the pain.

My dad’s words to me ring in my ears almost every day. It’s time to leave the hospital. Just like it was time for Lazarus to leave the tomb. Who am I to say no, to continue to live imprisoned when freedom Himself calls to me?

It’s time for me to do what I should have done a long time ago, and that is to obey the voice of Jesus rather than the voice of fear. The voice calling me to “Come out!” instead of the voice telling me it’s safer in the dark. So much has been waiting for me on the outside.

My little preemie, almost at her first year birthday, is about to take her first steps, and so am I.

Sharon Early

With a bachelor’s degree in English, Sharon Early did not actually put her English background to use right away. She began a job as an animal trainer out of college and then moved on to become a marketing writer. Her latest role is now stay-at-home mom to her infant daughter, Mellie Christine. Married for almost 3 years to her pilot-husband, Sharon has lost 3 babies to miscarriage and is currently pregnant with a brother or sister for Mellie. A Lord of the Rings fan, Sharon once tried to learn Elvish, and dreams of visiting New Zealand where the movies were filmed. She also loves musicals, particularly Phantom of the Opera. Over the course of her life, Sharon has struggled with depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicidal tendencies, and promiscuity before coming to Jesus at the age of 23. Because she still struggles with many of these things, Sharon believes that the worst thing she can do as a Christian woman is pretend like these issues do not exist. Because she has been the recipient of judgment and criticism from other Christians for battling these demons, Sharon is passionate about letting other Christian women know it’s okay to not be okay, and that it’s only when we admit we are not okay that we can begin to fully rely on God’s grace. Sharon firmly believes that we defeat the lies of the enemy by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony (Revelation 12:11).

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Overcoming Anxiety With One Simple Question

overcoming anxiety

At the beginning of the summer, we put our house on the market.

To get the house ready, we painted, scraped, re-grouted, and deep-cleaned. I was a little tense and snappy with my family during those weeks as I struggled to work on the house and care for my small children at the same time. I felt a little stressed at a few intervals; however, we finished the work to the best of our ability and got the house listed.

After that, I felt some of that tension go away. Of course, the pressure didn’t completely subside. My perfectionistic tendencies were tough to keep at bay as I worked to keep the house looking picture-perfect for the stream of would-be buyers coming through.

About two months into our house listing, we got the promise of an offer. Not only did we get news of one offer coming in, we found out shortly after that that we had a second more generous offer coming in. We were ecstatic. However, our feelings of elation soon tanked after the potential buyers retracted their offer after the inspection and our other interested buyer decided that he no longer wanted the house.

In the week following the broken contract, I started having difficulty sleeping at night. My heart was racing uncontrollably during the day, and I was struggling to control my runaway thoughts. Recognizing the symptoms that had plagued me at other key points of my life, I knew I was suffering from an anxiety attack.

I tried prayer. Quiet time meditating on Scripture. Calming thoughts. But the anxiety just seemed to worsen.

A History of Anxiety

Because I’ve experienced anxiety at other intervals of my life, I know anxiety tends to hit when I am faced with one of the following scenarios: I’m in a season of new when I am faced with a lot of change; I am given a task that I don’t feel adequate to meet; or I sense that someone else doesn’t like me and I perceive (rightly or wrongly) purposeful rejection.

What I learned a long time ago about my anxiety is that it is caused by fear. I generally get anxious when I feel ill-prepared, inadequate or unworthy. These feelings tap into my biggest fears as a person. Therefore, getting a handle on my anxiety in the past has meant being able to identify the underlying fear I am experiencing and asking Jesus to help me with that fear.

For instance, the first anxiety episode I can recall occurred in my college days. My anxiety affected not only my emotional well-being but my physical well-being. I was rail thin. I had digestive problems that had never been diagnosed, but I believe would have been diagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome. I felt jumpy and nervous all the time — and, if you have ever had IBS, you know that it makes your stomach emit weird grumbling sounds at extremely inopportune times. I found this problem could be helped with exercise, but it still made it very awkward for me to sit in quiet lecture halls and classrooms.

In one pivotal spiritual moment one day at church, God told me why I was having the problems with anxiety that I was: I had a fear of failure. When I got this revelation, I knew at the core of me that I was really afraid that I wouldn’t pass my college courses. I didn’t think I was smart enough. I had a high grade point average, but that wasn’t enough to convince me that I wasn’t going to miserably fail at some point.

And I realized something else: I could trust Jesus with my college courses. I could stop worrying about failure and just do my best. And for whatever reason just knowing what fear I was dealing with and the cause of my anxiety in that scenario helped it go away. Once I addressed the anxiety, the digestive problems went away as well.

Anxiety cropped up in small ways again when I moved on into a career in teaching, but I could usually identify the fear behind my emotions and get calm again. And when I later left teaching and had a major episode of anxiety that included a panic attack on a stage — the answer explaining that became fairly clear right after the fact.

However, this particular time, in the case of my house sale, I didn’t know why I was anxious. I didn’t know why I couldn’t sleep and why it felt like I was running a marathon each day even though I wasn’t even jogging.

The Solution to My Problem

And, just like I have so many times before, because I didn’t know how to make the anxiety stop in this case, I took my question to Jesus, and I asked Him: “God, what am I afraid of?” (Oh, and by the way, Lord, can you make my anxiety stop?)

I didn’t get an answer after that prayer session or even the day after. In fact, a few days went by and then I did receive an answer in a way that I wasn’t really expecting.

My mom had been in frequent communication with me about the house since we had put it on the market. When we lost our buyers, and I told her I was having a tough time, she sent me a text a few days later with a Bible verse she had received from the Lord for me:

For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. (Habbakuk 2:3 –KJV)

After she sent me the verse, I had to meditate on those words. I even went so far as to read some commentary on the verse to help me shed light on its meaning for my circumstance. And it wasn’t until a few days later that what had been an extremely fuzzy situation began to clarify, and I realized something: I did have an underlying fear, and here’s what it was: I was afraid that what God had told me about moving wasn’t going to come true.

And if it didn’t come true, that was very bad for me because I had announced to everyone that this move was God-orchestrated. I had written an entire blog post about how God had directed this move as a deliverance for me out of my situation.

You see, if you look at the Habbakuk verse in context, the verse is written by the prophet Habbakuk for the nation of Israel to trust that God would bring down the powerful Chaldeans and not allow them to destroy Israel. He instructed them not to give up just because it hadn’t happened yet and to wait for God’s appointed time (Matthew Henry Commentary). And not only that, the words indicate a waiting not only for deliverance but God’s counsel, God’s direction.

I was feeling a little like the nation of Israel. I had been given a word of what was to come, but the circumstances with my house not selling speedily were making me doubt that it was going to happen.

Over and over, the phrase from the Habakkuk verse “though it tarry, wait for it” just became one that I began repeating over and over because the truth was, I hadn’t heard a single thing from God since the botched offers. I was worrying that maybe I had missed something. Maybe there was something I hadn’t done right. Worry just consumed me.

This simple phrase from Scripture helped me to stop and reassure myself that God had told us to move. He would have to worry about our house selling and every other detail. And for that moment — I wasn’t to worry or to fear — only wait.

Getting Rid of Anxiety With One Question

Everyone is different. Not everyone suffers anxiety for the same reasons as me. I get that. It may seem a little silly to have a “formula” of sorts for beating anxiety. But I believe that anxiety will be a problem for certain people like me again and again. We may get through one bout but another will come. And, although every time is unique, this situation with my house reminded me of what I had done at other key points when I was experiencing anxiety — the solution I had turned to again this time.

The moment I feel anxiety coming on, I need to do the following: Ask one question of one Person.

The question I need to ask is “What am I afraid of?” and the Person I need to ask it of is Jesus. You see, I couldn’t detect the reason for my anxiety in this most current instance just by asking the question alone. I am not saying that we can’t ever identify our fears or seek help from another wise person or counselor, but for me, I needed to just ask the question of the One who already knew.

I didn’t know initially because I didn’t ask God right away. I was asking the question, but I didn’t ask Him the question until a few days went by. I tried to figure it out by myself.

One passage of Scripture that has taken on new meaning for me this year is the Samaritan woman at the well passage. She said of her encounter with Jesus: “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did” (John 4:29).

I believe that not only did Jesus look into her soul and know her deeds without anyone telling him, I believe that He told her the why. That is why she got so excited. He gave Himself as her solution to her deepest soul problems.

The same is true for me and you. Christianity isn’t a dead, has-been religion with a god made by human hands. The Jesus of the Bible is as real and true today as He was for the Samaritan woman at the well. He is the only One who can look into me and see why I do the things I do.

Beulah girl dec jan (1)

And that why may be the key to overcoming problems in my life I don’t know how to deal with on my own.

Yes, even those making sleep leave my eyes and a tremble invade my heart.

Do you struggle with anxiety? What are some ways that you have been able to cope with fear in your life? Share in the comments below.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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How Past Wounds Turned Me Into a Fearful Control Freak

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I sit in the dim room with other women. As the video starts for the new Bible study, panic rises inside me like fast-moving mercury in a barometer on a hot July day. The speaker, Ann Voskamp, tells about the death of her sister. As she describes the delivery truck pulling up the drive, the screams of her mother, I grow uncomfortable. Tears surface, a softball-size lump forms in my throat. I rehearse in my mind, “Do not cry. Do not cry. Do not cry.”

I try to think of something funny. Like one of my daughter’s jokes that has no punchline. And it’s hilarious because she thinks it is. And she laughs like it is possibly the world’s best joke. When actually it may be the world’s worst one. Thinking about this helps me remain calm, though I am hysterical on the inside.

Why am I having such a hard time listening to Voskamp’s story? Why does it upset me so much that I want to leave the room?

It is not until a few months later that I realize why I had the reaction I did to Voskamp’s story. I reacted the way I did because I have control issues. I have been there in her story — crushed beneath delivery truck moments I didn’t see coming. And because of those occasions, I have had problems with trust and problems in relationships.

How I Became a Control Freak

I didn’t always have the need to anticipate things, the fear of the unexpected to the extent that I would try to micromanage my circumstances. But out of my childhood was birthed the need to be able to have a say, to be able to have some decision over the outcome.

I didn’t get to pick the fact that I lived in a house that I was ashamed of. I didn’t get to choose the fact that I didn’t have any clothes to wear in high school. I didn’t get to have a say when my father came home angry and yelled at us. Which happened a lot. I wasn’t asked when a person in a significant relationship chose to break up with me and leave me outside his house with nothing but a letter. So, I made the decision as a young woman to never let anyone hurt me again. (As if I could realistically manipulate every element in my environment.)

That choice probably didn’t appear pivotal, but it was. Because of that resolution, I put myself in the unrealistic position as one who can control what happens to me. And I really can’t. I can’t anticipate the actions of others and manipulate the people around me so that I can avoid feeling a certain way. But that’s what I’ve tried to do.

And although my struggles stemmed mainly from failed male relationships — my father who ignored me and the boyfriends who left me — this pain translated into destructive tendencies in all my relationships, particularly friendships with women. I asked God why this was, and He told me: I’ve been chasing after power. Because if you’ve ever felt voiceless, then you know that you never want to feel that way again.

When I Let Fear Turn Me into a Mean Girl

Underneath that need to control has been something larger: fear. When I find myself in situations where I don’t like how events are turning out, I get afraid. Afraid of getting hurt. And it’s in that place of fear that I act in ways I shouldn’t.

I circumvent circumstances or hurt people before they can hurt me.

Some time ago, after losing a baby, I felt like I had sufficiently healed from the wound. I felt that I was at peace with what had happened. There was another woman I knew who was pregnant at the same time as me. A woman whose belly kept expanding even as mine was shrinking. A woman who got to go through all the milestones that I would never get to go through with the baby I lost.

I was really struggling with the fact that we had gotten pregnant around the same time. I was angry that God would bless her and allow her to continue on with her pregnancy — and not me. But I knew I needed to do the right thing, so I called her up and told her that I was happy for her, and I wished her well with her pregnancy.

But weeks later, when we attended an event together, I struggled knowing she would be there — reminding me of a loss I didn’t want to be reminded of. Knowing that she would be looking very pregnant, I dressed in a form-fitting dress. If I couldn’t be pregnant, I wanted to out-do her in some way, knowing that she would be weary of her swollen ankles and protruding stomach.

After the event, I knew I had acted in the wrong way. I felt like God wanted me to admit to her that I was having a hard time with the fact that she had her baby, and I couldn’t have mine. So I apologized to her.

Flaunting my skinny body in front of her was about trying to get the upper hand in a situation where I felt helpless. My problem really wasn’t with her. It was about fighting with everything I had against the perceived injustice of a situation.

You see, that “harmless” vow I made as a young person to never allow a person to hurt me made me feel I had to manipulate that situation.

Giving up Fear and My Need to Control

Jesus knew a few women in His time who had difficulties with relationships. A few women who probably felt like me — that life handed them circumstances they didn’t ask for.

In John 4:4, Jesus initiates a conversation with one such woman at a well. She had had five marriages and was living with a man she wasn’t married to, though we aren’t told whether her previous marriages ended because she had committed adultery or her husbands sent her away. Whatever the case, she had no husband when Jesus found her. Maybe she had decided that she had had enough of marriage and had decided to live outside the boundaries of matrimony to preserve her heart.

Maybe like me, she felt that if she could just control x, y and z, she could prevent another heartbreak. Another catastrophe.

Jesus does two really important things when He talks to her. He tells her that He knows all about her past string of husbands and the man she is living with now — establishing Himself as the one who knows her secrets. And then, He gives her a solution when He brings up a conversation with her about “living water” (v. 10).

The solution He offers the woman at the well and offers to you and me is Himself. The ultimate power source. She doesn’t have to hope for a better situation or figure out how to make that happen, Jesus shows a better way — which is not to try to change those around her, but be changed herself. To allow His eternal wellspring of life to live in her.

When we recognize Him as the one in control, we don’t have to be in control. We don’t have to exhaust ourselves “drawing water” from our own wells that will eventually run dry. We have in Him a never ending source of contentment, peace, satisfaction and belonging that fills all those places of neediness where we were never loved or noticed by the people we counted on the most.

The woman at the well drops her water jar and runs to tell the village about Jesus, saying, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did” (v. 29). By leaving her jar behind, we see that she is leaving behind her old methods of satisfying her thirst and embracing Jesus.

As commentator Alexander McLaren notes, the interesting thing about this exchange between Jesus and the woman is that she has no idea who He really is at first, and the truth gradually dawns on her. So it is when we walk with Jesus. We don’t really understand Him or His ways until we get to know Him better.

Not only does the truth of who He is dawn on her, the truth about herself dawns on her as well.

My need to control has not really been a problem with control — it’s been about a problem with trust. I didn’t know that I could trust God in my situation with the pregnant woman. Even though it would appear that I was acting out against her, I was shaking my fist at a God who I felt didn’t notice or care.

But I don’t have to be Carol control freak. Carol walking around with past wounds. He says, “Come to me. I have all you have been looking for. You will find it nowhere else but in me. And your desire for stability, knowing what outcomes in situations will be — I know it all. I can help you better than anyone because I know the end before you know the beginning.”

Those delivery truck moments — we can’t avoid them. They will come. We can’t waste time worrying and trying to avoid pain. We need to rest in the knowledge that Jesus will walk us through those trials.

What I can learn from Jesus’ interaction with the woman at the well is that instead of controlling out of fear, I can trust.

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Not Being Brave

Danee DeKonty

True confession time: I’m not brave. At least I don’t feel like it a lot of the time. That may shock some people who know bits and pieces of my story because I am someone who will pack up my life in a couple suitcases, sell my car, and move halfway around the world without much thought. But staying put is something you have to force yourself to do. Because when you stay put, people learn how to read you over time. When you stay put, you risk hurting people who you actually care about, or worse — disappointing them. When you stay put, you either live behind a protective wall with a safe, boring life or choose vulnerability and risk the pain but live a grand adventure.

I’m also the person who quit my job with benefits when I felt God was telling me it was time to go. It wasn’t scary. It was actually easy. I knew He’d bring another job — or more correctly, I knew I could get another job. I’m hard working and have loads of common sense. What I lack in skills, I can usually make up for in creativity and determination. But when God asked me not to look for a job, but to trust Him to show me one when it was time, that was hard. Common sense says I can work way more than the part-time I’m doing.

Faith for me says writing and finishing my dream is the right work for me, right here and right now.

Yes, to many people who know me but don’t know the secret places of my heart, I am brave. But to those who see me, I mean really see me, they know I am just wired differently. The things that scare other people don’t even cause me to sweat, but the things that terrify me are no-brainers for most of the people in my life.

Do it Afraid.

I heard that years ago when I was watching Joyce Meyer, and it stuck with me.

I may fail…

I may not be good enough…

I may not be enough…

I may miss God… again…

What is it that terrifies you? Is it quitting your job? Is it asking someone out? Is it going back to school? Is it downsizing your car to get something less fabulous so you won’t have payments? Is it stepping out to what God has told you? Is it stepping back to wait for God to show you the next step? Is it joining a small group? Is it leading a small group? Is it staying in your small group?

What scares you? What do you want to give up on?

To be honest, most, if not all of my fears boil down to not wanting to miss God. Did I really hear from Him?

When I was younger in my faith, God honored where I was at and filled my life with miraculous confirmations: the stranger in a store speaking comfort to me, the sermon that said what I needed to hear, friends sharing encouragement when they didn’t even know I was struggling. There were also the times of prayer where it felt like acquaintances had read my journal because their words spoke so deeply to my soul.

Then over time those became less of a necessity because I fell in love with the Bible. I didn’t need writing on the wall because I knew what the wise choice was. I still had wise counsel speaking into my life, but I had learned how to discern the voice of God. Something, by the way, no one can really teach you. From my experience, it comes over time from reading His Word, praying, listening, and just chatting with Him through the day.

Then He asks you to do something that scares you, and you’re so close to the finish line, but still it feels impossible. That’s when I start to ask for the confirmation. I now want the writing on the wall.

Did I really hear from You? Is this REALLY where You’re leading me? And in His grace, God confirms through someone giving you encouragement about your talent and using you in the way you know you were made for, and you again know deep in your knower that you have heard from God.

And that lasts for a bit before fear creeps in again.

And it’s in times like this that I look to what Paul said about maturity and realize that stepping out in faith is part of the process, and that means there are no guarantees. My job is to sit with Him, to be reminded of His love and His leading, and then go in His strength.

When fear gets to be too much, I have found that I’ve often forgotten to lean on Him and am trying to do it in my own strength. When fear throws its best at me, instead of white-knuckling my way through it, I sit with The One Who Loves Me Most and am reminded that He kicks fear in the butt every time.

When I know He is the One leading me, I can do it afraid because even if it doesn’t turn out the way I’m hoping it will, when God leads me in something, it is the best of all options.

Related Bible Verses:

Daniel 5:5 (NLT): “Suddenly, they saw the fingers of a human hand writing on the plaster wall of the king’s palace, near the lampstand. The king himself saw the hand as it wrote, and his face turned pale with fright.”

1 Cor. 13:11 (NLT): “When I was a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”

Romans 8:28 (NLT): “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose.”

Interested in reading more of Danee’s thoughts about her faith? Get more of her spiritual musings by stopping by her blog. Post adapted from original version published January 16.

 

 

 

Danee DeKonty

Danee DeKonty

Danee DeKonty currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia. Over the years she has been able to travel and live in Eastern Europe, attend Bible school in Barbados and travel to several other countries. She is currently a nanny and is in the process of writing her first book "Scorpions, Scones and Solo Cups." Danee gets her fashion sense from Rosie the Riveter and Lucille Ball. She likes spending time outdoors -- taking random drives in her favorite possession, a beat-up, old jeep. Danee grew up in the church and is passionate about helping other people discover their worth and value in God.

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