Growing in Grace

My life has been in upheaval quite a bit so far this summer. (And it’s only nearing the end of June!) My goal has been to just go with it and keep taking the next step. And it’s worked. I’m actually starting to thrive off the busier, all-over-the-place-ness that is my schedule. It seems like God is teaching me a million things right now, but a big one is being willing to step out and into what He wants for me. That often means leaving my anxiety behind/ acting in spite of it. One of the ways my anxiety manifests itself is in relation to other people. I tend to keep my distance and not engage because of that. If people come to me, that is usually okay because I actually genuinely love people a lot.

Sharing the love of Jesus is hard when fear keeps you from striking up conversations  with your co-workers or walking across the room to a group of people. Unlike other times in my life, right now, this is a battle worth fighting. I know so many people who are great at reaching out to people and making them feel accepted. I’ve benefited from this on many, many occasions. It is one of the best feelings- to be drawn out and have someone be interested in you and your life! I want to offer that gift to the people I come into contact with. (Er, the ones I could be coming into contact with…)

Walls must come down; having open hands is necessary. As a Christian, I have received love, grace, and forgiveness, and still do receive them daily. Why would I feel the need to protect myself when I belong to God? Letting what had been given to me flow freely to others is the only way to actually experience the freedom those gifts were meant to give.

As the person who likes to stand back and observe, this all means I need to step forward and be the one who speaks, pursues relationships, and acts kindly toward others. It means I stop worrying about what someone will think of me if I say or do something. It means that I start acting more and observing a little less. It means that I look beyond myself in action taken and words spoken.

Yet, I cannot count how many times I have done the opposite when the opportunity arose. I have been glued to the ground, unable to open my mouth, left conversations unfinished, and far too often have not even been able to make eye contact with people. All because of my anxiety. It’s so frustrating and heaps shame on me. In those moments, I have to accept the grace to not engage just as readily as I would need to accept the grace to overcome and engage. I have to take to heart God’s power and love in a whole new way just so I don’t drown in guilt. Second, third, and hundreth chances are the way God rolls, though, because He’s not keeping track. Thank goodness!

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Peace to You

It’s Christmas time once more! Despite the many almost car accidents that happen this time of year, it still holds a little more joy and peace. Honestly, that’s probably because I haven’t been consistent in preaching the Gospel to myself. This time of year, though, my mind is brought over and over to the wonder of God coming all the way from heaven to walk among us. It’s truly an amazing thing.

Believing in, and contemplating, that action gives me greater confidence that I can trust God. If Jesus went so far to fulfill promises from the Old Testament to restore relationship with us, than I can . Even when circumstances around me would make me question God’s goodness,  I can look at the Gospel feel confident of His love. There’s nothing like the Gospel to give, or restore, faith. And along with this faith comes peace.

Abraham was the man in the Old Testament who is accredited for having great faith.

“No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he promised.” – Romans 4:20-21

Faith gives peace because we are sure that God will provide, guide, and protect as we follow Him. The interesting thing is that Paul says that Abraham’s faith grew stronger as he gave glory to God. It makes a lot of sense that when we’re focusing on who God is and what He’s done that we would rest easier in His present and future sustaining grace.

In comparison to Abraham’s faith, I’ve noticed that the people in the Old Testament who did not have faith were afraid and made terrible decisions out of that fear. (1 Chronicles 19-20) So trusting is incredibly important if we want to make wise choices.

The is post has gone a little off the topic of the birth of Jesus… But can we really appreciate Jesus coming without a heart of faith?

“By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.” – 1 John 4:9

45. 7 Ways I Deal With Anxiety Attacks

Disclaimer: These tips and tricks should not take the place of a doctor/ psychiatrist/ psychologist/ counselor’s direction or prescription. They are simply a few helpful techniques I’ve found to minimize the grip of anxiety.

Dealing with anxiety and depression can be compared to fighting a battle, except that it’s all in the mind. Anxiety comes in many different forms, though all of them can reek havoc. There are multiple techniques for dealing with anxiety, but for this post I’ll be explaining how I’ve learned to deal with a specific type of anxiety I call an anxiety attack.

My first semester of college, I experienced constant anxiety which peaked in panic attacks fairly regularly. During that time, I trusted the fear. Since then, I’ve learned to address the anxiety as my sworn enemy instead. What I call an anxiety attack usually comes over me when I’m isolated, and includes debilitating lies ruminating in my head. Sometimes it’s all I can do to walk out into a public place, where at least I’m not trapped. Even in public it doesn’t go away, though, and it can require the bravest acting to appear normal and not run away to hide.

So here are seven steps I integrate to take back control of my mind:

1. Address the anxiety as my enemy. It wants to ruin my life- isolate me from people and prevent me from living the life I want to live.

2. Take deep, slow breaths. This helps reset the body and mind and counting how long I breath in, hold, and breath out gives me something else to think about.

3. Focus on the surroundings. The goal is to bring myself out of my head and away from the negative thoughts. It can help to study the texture, color, and shapes around me (especially because of my background in drawing).

4. Pray for truth and freedom to win. Because that is what this fight is about. Without God fighting for me, I know I’ll be defeated.

5. Quote scripture. Whether it be, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6), or a verse that specifically applies to the root of the anxiety.

6. Tell myself out loud, “It’s all going to be okay. It’s all going to be okay…” If there is anyone within earshot, this one gets skipped. The truth is that life will go on, if not here on earth than in the presence of God. There is a seal of salvation on me, whether or not I’m struggling with anxiety.

7. Engage with a person or project. This helps to pull thoughts away from the anxiety and toward something productive.

Something to remember is that any time anxiety takes hold of your mind, your body responds. That means that hormones and sugar are released into your bloodstream to help you either fight, or run away from, the “danger.” While taking away the power and control of the anxiety is my goal in implementing the above actions, the symptoms from the anxiety attack will not magically disappear. Despite this fact, there are a few things you can do to help your body return to a resting environment. Deep breathing helps the body turn off the emergency response, eating a snack can give your body energy to replenish what it just used up, and exercising gives an outlet for all the pent-up “fight.”

I believe that God is ultimately the one who can control and prevent anxiety. Next week I’ll look into some of the guardrails God has set up to help us be a people without anxiety.

20. Give Me Faith

Lately, I have been attending a group called Encounters at my church. We are working through the book of John to answer the questions “Who is this man Jesus?” and “What does He want from me?” My main take-away right now is in reference to fear and anxiety. Yes, these things could be attributed so many other things, like genetics, but if there is a large manifestation, a lack of faith is most likely at the root. A year ago I would not have made this statement but it has been shown true in my life. In situations where I consciously trusted God, the grip of fear and anxiety loosened. (Truly awesome!!)

Faith was defined at the last Bible study as, “taking Jesus at His word.” First off, this means applying Bible verses to life. There are so many amazing promises in the Bible!! They speak to our specific root needs and to our fears.
BUT before this will do any good, you must accept that Jesus has taken your past sin, and will continue to take your sin (because nobody is perfect- that is simply not possible!). If I ever viewed Jesus as simply a man, teacher, or prophet, it was too long ago for me to remember. I believe Him to be God and the Savior of the world; my mind simply cannot comprehend Him being otherwise. A place of faith that I need to understand not everyone is at. Yet I still have far to go in that I do not understand exactly what it means for Jesus to be Savior day-by-day. Well, here I circle back to faith and the Bible.

Secondly, taking Jesus at His word means that when you ask for direction and then He gives it, you say, “Yes, Lord.” This is one place in which my desires, logic, and lack of belief that God is sovereign, good, and loving have completely wrecked. Life is messy, and sometimes the direction God is leading you in seems cruel. This is where we can put the promises from the Bible to work, though, and have faith! (Only one aspect of Jesus being Savior.)

Recently, I have felt that I have very little faith, so I love what Matthew 17:20 says: “For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.'”

Health problems have been following me for a few months now, and each time that I get more information on what is going on, I spend a day in hopelessness and fear. That is not what God wants for me, and it is not what I want, either. I pray that God will bring me to the place of trusting Him no matter what; that He would take my tiny bit of faith and make it my rock. (Well, technically, God is my Rock but without the belief in Him, He cannot speak into the situation in the same way.)

Faith is very important because it allows us to have relationship with God. Slowly, Jesus is showing me that He is the key for the lock of fear. The blood Jesus shed on the cross extends forgiveness, but also freedom from things such as fear and anxiety.
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

– 2 Timothy 1:7

That verse actually implies that we are new; the Holy Spirit creates a new identity for us when He is invited in. John 4:14 says, “The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'” In that new Life, where does fear and anxiety fit? Faith will flow more and more, instead. So I would encourage you to ask God to give you faith and/or to strengthen the bit of faith you already contain.

15. Love vs. Fear

Fear is a twisted thing, until one thing is introduced, and truly believed. Why is it that when we are around certain people we feel safe? Because their love makes us feel secure. That security, or absence of fear, can exist in every moment, though.

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”

– 1 John 4:18

The main context of this verse is referencing the judgement that will come at the end of the world. Love is therefore an indicator that we are saved. I have found that it applies to the other fears I face in life, simply because I believe most things, if not everything, stem from the spiritual realm. That is not unusual, as it also cross-references many other verses about love being perfected in us.

The verses right before that verse say,

“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.”

– 1 John 4:16-17

Abide according the dictionary means, to “accept or act in accordance with.”

God is love and He is in the person who has heard, believed, and hoped.

In that hope, we are trusting in His love and looking with great expectation to the future in His presence.

“I can see it now, I can see the love in Your eyes, laying Yourself down, raising up the broken to life.” That is a song my church worship team has been singing quite a bit recently. The lyrics urge me get out of my very present life and look at Jesus.
When fear starts to take over my mind, it’s because I do not believe God truly loves me. My mind is focusing on the present, rather than what God has promised to bring to pass in the future, and even right now.

Making plans is Biblical, just as long as they aren’t inflexible! “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

It can be easy to become battered and frustrated if you do not believe that God is looking out for your best interest while bringing Himself glory through our lives.

I’ve been there, and fear took over.

Recently a woman I had coffee with said, “God is driving you away from destruction when He directs you.”
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)

At the end of the day, I should be ecstatic to revert to the plan God is laying out before me, because God and His love are what I can bank on.

God did not come to save perfect people. Therefore, He planned to sanctify us and make us more like Him by love, His perfect love. A direct result of that sanctification and love is that fear is given less and less of a hold on the heart!

The fear may not go away completely, especially when you first start attempting to shift your focus, but Jesus can take away the power it holds you captive by.

It’s not fear and you against God, but God and you against fear; God is on your side if you have been sealed with the Holy Spirit.

1. Why Fear?

Have you felt the paralysis? The blank of mind that causes even simple things like holding a conversation to seem foreign? The world seems to revolve around that one dreaded thing. Nothing seems possible.

Fear. It’s the perfect way to distract us from God’s will. How can we love others when we can’t even function due to this inner battle?

We are isolated.

Yet, God uses those moments of weakness to show His strength. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1) That verse is so true! God comes close and does not judge us for those feelings of fear. Instead He comforts, loves, protects, and is simply present. He wants us to live a life of freedom, and condemnation and judgment do not foster that. Truly, in those hard times God becomes all we need.

In my personal experience, the fact that God came close gave strength to press on, but there was still not a lot of enjoyment in life. God comes close and defends us in our weakness but we were made for relationship and without connection to the Body we cannot defeat fear. Fear’s strength is in making us feel isolated. Spending time with members of the Body of Christ who showed me love helped a whole lot. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18)

Accepting someone where they are in life is key to loving them. Each person is so much more than their battles, opinions, or accomplishments.

See, love lowers defenses and shatters facades. It brings us back to reality and reminds us of the grace we are under as Christ-followers. To someone who does not know Jesus as Savior and Lord, it would surely raise curiosity.

Lives are revived by love. All of a sudden we realize we are not alone.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)

God put safeguards into place for when we deal with fear. It is not an abnormal thing; you are not alone. The Enemy can use it as weapon to paralyze us. Everyone will experience fear in their lives to some extent because it is a normal emotion. At the end of the day, how we deal with that fear is what matters.