Saturday, October 26, 2013

Freedom from Fear

“When I am afraid, I will trust in you”
 (Psalm 56:3).

Fall is here, and along with fall we see signs of Halloween.  In American culture Halloween  is commonly associated with being scared, but regardless of what season it is or where, fear is something most people struggle with at some point.

Fear seems to be a hot topic lately.  This world is a scary place.  Natural disasters, government problems, financial instability, terrorism, and other issues are all contributing to world chaos, to say nothing of the increasingly anti-Christian world views.

Those of us with health problems are no strangers to fear.  Unexplained pain, worsening symptoms, side effects of medications,  loss of abilities, and fear of future illnesses can all cause us to panic.

In David Jeremiahs’ new book, What Are You Afraid Of?, he mentions Biblical ways to handle our fears, including committing our fears to God and memorizing Scriptures relevant to them.  We can be honest in confessing our fears to the Lord.  He understands our humanness.  But we also need to remember that fear is a lack of faith and confess that as sin.  Although the Bible may not include the specific names of our illnesses, there are many verses which can apply to our struggles.  Dr. Jeremiah says, “The command to not fear occurs nearly 60 times in Scripture, and some form of the word fear is mentioned more than 425 times”.  God understands fear.

In Edward Welch’s book, Running Scared Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest, he mentions  God’s future grace - a huge comfort to me.  Future grace means that when the time comes, whatever we are called to endure, God will give us the grace we need.  How He will do that and what it will look like we don’t know, but we will receive what we need.  We do not need to fear. 

This world is a scary place.  Our pains and problems can be frightening.  But we can be free from fear.  God is in control of it all.  His grace is more than sufficient, and His Word confirms it.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, You are in control of this world and my life.  Please help me trust You for my future and speak Your words of truth into each one of my fears.  Amen.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Perceiving Perseverance as Positive

“Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4).

My initial response to the word perseverance is usually not a positive one.  Yes, I know it’s an important character quality and we are called to persevere as Christians, but part of me wants to groan and sigh when I hear the word.
One definition of perseverance surprised me because it had a positive connotation.  It was defined as cheerful or hopeful endurance.  I can’t say that many of my experiences with perseverance have been cheerful, but then I thought about the mindset I have had during those times – I wasn’t seeing it as something positive.
James connects perseverance with maturity, completion, blessing, and rewards. What Christian doesn’t want to reach those goals?  God is continually using everything in this life – pleasant as well as painful – to conform us to His image, so that we can attain those goals and be prepared for eternity with Him.
Perseverance is also defined in conjunction with endurance to win in the end.  We certainly want to win the crown of life that God has for us in heaven.  Hope and faith are positive concepts associated with perseverance as well, both of which we possess as believers in Christ.  And the more faith and hope we have, the stronger they become.
Viewing perseverance as something positive would help me handle my trials differently.  Instead of dreading them and feeling that I can’t or don’t even want to endure, I can rejoice that I am growing in maturity, knowing that each new trial brings me closer to perfection and eternity.
Life is hard.  Pain and problems are hard.  But God’s perspective of my trials is quite different from mine, and in His kingdom perseverance is positive and brings blessings. Viewing perseverance as positive may not ease my pain, but it can encourage me to keep going.  I want to win, and the sooner I mature the better.
Prayer:  Heavenly Father, please change my view of perseverance so that I see my trials as positive opportunities to grow and mature.  I praise You that no matter how weak I feel, I know that Your Spirit within me will give me the power to endure and win.  Amen.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Best GPS for Navigating the Roads of Pain and Illness

“As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless”
(Psalm 18:30).

I recently took a trip with my mother and we used our GPS.  We also took a map, but neither my mother nor I read it.

We totally relied on the GPS, which was fine until we were in a large city and lost all satellite reception. Without the GPS we were lost.  Thankfully the Lord guided us to helpful people and we made it to our destinations safely, but I learned an important lesson.  A GPS is great but I need to have a map as well – and read it!

Chronic health problems are a hard road to travel and it is easy to get lost.  A new pain or problem, the unknowns of future health, decisions about treatments, or making commitments can all leave me wandering around trying to find my way.

During those times I want answers from God, preferably through a voice or sign.  Sometimes He does that through advice from doctors, family, or friends, information from the internet, book, or magazine, or a prompting from the Holy Spirit - all of which are wonderful aids in guiding me when I’m lost.

But my one constant referral source should be the “map” of Scripture.  The Bible may not mention my problems by name, but if I examine the root of my concerns, they are all issues that God addresses in His word.  I need freedom from fear and anxiety.  I need wisdom to make right choices.  I need strength to fight against despair or hopelessness.  None of those are roads down which I want to travel.  They all lead to lostness.  The map of Scripture will keep me on the right road if I follow God’s routes.

A GPS is a huge help but nothing replaces a good map.  Likewise, we can appreciate and make use of the various tools God brings into our lives to help us navigate the roads of suffering, but His Word is the best positioning system.  Praise God that Word is always accurate and available, and the only way we will lose reception is if we choose not to read it. 

Prayer:  O Lord, Your Word is the best source of direction for traveling the difficult roads of this life.  Help me be faithful to read and follow it at all times.  Amen.