Hardships and Trials

How I Exposed the Sneaky Death Trap of Fear

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Fear is a sneaky prowler.

If you’ve been a Christian for a while, you may be able to recite 2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV): “God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control.” I, personally, have recalled and repeated this verse many times. Like when my little sister was diagnosed with brain cancer. Or when our home was going through a short sale and we had to move. We had nowhere to go and would be taking my daughter out of school in the middle the year.

2 Timothy 1:17

I recognized my need for God to help with my fear during these life-alternating events, when my future looked bleak, or dread paralyzed me. In those moments, I could confess my lack of faith that God was in the midst of my hardships alongside me and had a plan for my family’s future.

 

But fear is also a silent, creeping death trap. It’s like a slow breeze caressing your face that you don’t realize is there. Click To Tweet

Recently, the spirit of fear snuck into my life. I have a teenage daughter in middle school—some of you sent up a silent prayer for me just then—and a few weeks ago I had to help her navigate some heavy stuff. Think social media at its worst, and you’ll probably be close to imagining what we were battling. And in truth, she seemed to get through it smoothly, to snap out the sadness and hurt quickly. But what about me?

This incident wrecked me—made me physically sick. It felt as if the pit of my stomach was caving in on itself, and I could think of nothing else for days. I walked around in constant, nagging pain. I prayed over and over for God to move in this situation. I prayed for our kids, their friends, their influences, for protection over their lives. I wrote all of this off as a normal part of parenting, a part of the journey.

Then, I ran into a friend. I knew she’d been dealing with some tough situations pertaining to her teenager and asked her how she was doing. She said something along the lines of, “I’m doing okay. I had to release her to God. I can’t be fearful. I have to trust and have faith He’s working.”

In that moment, I realized all my symptoms—physical and emotional—were really fear, masked as what I thought was a standard part of being a mother. The enemy was causing havoc and keeping me bound like a slave. The devil had used my love for my daughter to weaken my faith in God, and that’s exactly what happened. I didn’t trust enough and believe enough that once I’d prayed about the situation, He would respond.I realized all my symptoms—physical and emotional—were really fear, masked as what I thought was a standard part of being a mother. The enemy was causing havoc and keeping me bound like a slave. Click To Tweet

Don’t allow the spirit of fear trap you in faithlessness. After I went to God with my pain and lack of wisdom over how to help my daughter, I should’ve trusted that He’d set into motion a plan. And then kept praying that I got out of the way to let Him do His thing and claimed victory over the situation.

We must be careful not to allow fear to control our minds. Recite 2 Timothy 1:7 often, not just in the big events and hardships of life, but in the day-to-day struggles as well. When you feel anxious, pray to God and release the fear to Him. He’s got an outcome, one way better than you could orchestrate for yourself. Continue to pray for faith, direction, and wisdom, but never allow fear to seep in. Claim it’s not allowed to live within you in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Let’s talk about this! When have you allowed fear to sneak up on you? How did you deal with removing it from your life?

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Cover for Anchored and Secure devotionalThanks to Christ’s death and resurrection, we don’t have to stress, strive, or perform. We simply need to rest in what Christ has already done. That is when we begin to come; to live as He intended. That’s when we discover true and lasting freedom.

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Hardships and Trials

When Reality Clashes With Our View of God

Quote from post with shimmery gradiant background

Sometimes our expectations lead to our greatest disappointments. They can hinder us from truly knowing one another.

Our expectations can hinder us from truly knowing God. Click To Tweet

Have you ever had someone grow attached to the person they thought you were? Not who you were but an individual they’d conjured in their mind? I have, and the situation didn’t end well.

I met Anna* at church. Though we had numerous mutual friends, children close in age, and had been part of the same faith community for years, we didn’t really know one another. But then, after having read material I wrote, she initiated a conversation. We soon developed a relationship and began to go on walks and talk over coffee. Our interactions, though brief and sporadic, were pleasant enough, until I ceased meeting the woman’s expectations.

She acted as if I had deceived and cheated her, and honestly, this hurt. It also left me momentarily confused. I had to pull back and process her perceptions in light of who I was—who God was calling me to be.

Have you ever experienced something similar?

Have you ever felt that way about God?

I have. My relationship with Christ has swung from one side of the pendulum to the other, finally resting back in center. Early on, I viewed Him as hard and exacting, the One with the power and authority to send me to hell and who would be quite justified in doing so. I knew Jesus as the Rule Setter but struggled to see Him as loving and compassionate God. Click To Tweet

Steadily, one sermon, Bible passage, and Christ-centered interaction at a time, He transformed my thinking so that I began to view Him as my Savior and Friend. And for sure, He is both of those, but somehow, in the softening, I lost sight of the fact that His merciful side doesn’t negate His awesome sovereignty as the One who formed and retains full ownership of all creation, myself included.

Christ's merciful side doesn’t negate His awesome sovereignty as the One who formed and retains full ownership of all creation, myself included. Click To Tweet

As a result, I began to expect blessings and abundance. Oh, I never would’ve said that, if asked. I understood, at least in theory, that life held no guarantees and often horrible things happen to really good, God-loving people. I had read the book of Job, after all. But when that somebody was me, I grew sulky, frustrated, and at times, downright angry. I accused God of holding out on me, of not caring, and of not listening.

But really the problem lay with me. I allowed my self-created ideas of who I thought He was hinder my intimacy with the God who is and always will be:

Always good, faithful, loving, and true.

One day, when our daughter was young, I asked her to help me unload groceries from the car. She huffed and said, “If you really loved me, you wouldn’t make me do this.”

I’m not sure if she really believed that or was simply trying to talk her way out of what she clearly deemed to be a rather torturous event. I suspect the latter. But she was so melodramatic about the whole thing, it was all I could do to keep from laughing. Once certain I could respond with appropriate sternness, I replied, “It is because I love you that I must insist you unload them all.” Then, pocketing my keys, I left her to it, adding, “I’m raising you to have a servant’s, not serve-me, heart.”

Then I went inside.

I wonder how many times God whispered similar words to my huffing and hemming heart over the years. “I know you want that promotion. I know you feel I’m being unfair withholding it from you, but I would rather raise a daughter who trusts in Me more than her paycheck.”

“I know you don’t enjoy having a chronic illness. I know it hurts and is hard. But I want you to quote pulled from post with gold backgroundexperience My strength made perfect in your weakness.”

Or perhaps most challenging, “I know you don’t like to see your daughter struggle in this way. I know it breaks your heart, and it does Mine as well. But you must entrust her to Me. I’m growing her, patiently and faithfully, just as I have you all these years.”

Having seen enough of His heart, of His faithfulness, I’ve come to realize how very good and faithful and attentive our God is. I’ve come to trust Him, to see Him as Father and Savior and Friend and King. I still have areas of deception He’s working to rectify with truth, areas of misconception His grace will expel. But for now, I’m resting in this:

God is good. He is loving. He is faithful, and He is enough. We often discover just how true these truths are when life hits hard and disappointments side-swipe us. Click To TweetI can trust God with my life and deepest desires and hurts, regardless of what my fickle feelings or faulty perceptions might tempt me to believe. And perhaps that’s the most glorious lesson He’s taught me—to question everything else but Him. To say, like the apostle Paul did in his letter to the Romans, “Let God be true though every one were a liar” (Romans 3:4, ESV).

When our view of God clashes with reality, it’s an invitation to get to know Him better. Click To Tweet

*Name changed for privacy purposes

Let’s talk about this! When have circumstances challenged your view of God? How did you respond? Did your understanding of Him deepen through that event?

We also invite you to join our private online Facebook community where women can share their struggles, prayer requests, doubts, and celebrations. Find our community HERE.

If you’re struggling with a fear of weakness, or maybe you simply feel weak and need some extra encouragement, check out Jennifer’s Faith Over Fear Podcast: Courage to Live With a Limp. You can find that HERE.

If this devotion encouraged you, make sure to check out our Bible reading plan available now on the YouVersion app! You can find it HERE! And make sure to grab a copy of Drawing Near: 90-Day Devotional:

Cover image for Bible study devotionalEach day, God beckons us to Himself, calling us to rest in His love and grace. As we do, He heals our hurts, overpowers our fears with love, and restores us to the women He created us to be. This 90-day devotional, written by women who are learning themselves to live anchored in God’s grace, will help you deepen your faith and grow your relationship with Christ.

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Enduring Trials, Hardships and Trials, intentional living, living in grace, Resting in Christ, surrender, Video Devotion

Peace in the Stress, a Video Devotion

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Hardships and Trials, Resting in Christ, surrender

Peace in the Stress

By Jessica Brodie

I’m stressed—and I mean capital-S stressed. Do you feel me? Have you been there, too?

My to-do list overflows beyond anything I can comprehend. The days are blurring one into the next. I’m so frazzled. I can’t even remember what I need at the grocery store, let alone whether that event with my daughter is tonight or tomorrow (and I’ve checked my calendar four times today).

It’s enough to give anyone a nervous breakdown. (Oh, wait—maybe that’s what this is!) Kidding. Sort of.

I started out this year with one word in my heart: Peace. We’re not even halfway through February and I feel like a hypocrite. Who carries on about peace in one’s heart when they’re so stressed and busy they don’t even know what day of the week it is?

Is it even possible to have peace when we are stressed out?

Good news: we can have peace in the stress, in the crazy-busy, and even in the downright bad.

How? Because of Jesus.

We can have peace in the stress, in the crazy-busy, and even in the downright bad. How? Because of Jesus. Click To Tweet

This isn’t a platitude; it’s a perspective switch. I used to think I could weather storms by hanging on and “being strong.” Now I know there’s only one way I can make it through—by clinging to Jesus, who gives me true peace.

Every day we have a choice as to how we look at the world. Sometimes our view is near-sighted—all we can see are the details, the to-do list, the piddly (and not-so-piddly) concerns. Other times, we get a glimpse of the big picture, a “God’s eye” view. And that’s the key.

Even when we are caught up in the difficult daily details, such as a sick child or a looming deadline or a catastrophic phone call, Christians can trust there is a bigger plan at work—far bigger than what we are going through.

While my life might be out of control and stressful today, I choose to rest in an important truth: I am God’s daughter. I follow Jesus and have the Holy Spirit in my heart. That means His plan is my ultimate plan—even when I can’t see His plan.

Jesus tells us in the Gospel of Matthew, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29 ESV).

And in the Gospel of John, He says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV).

My daily life might be hard right now. But at the end of it all, it’s just a piece of God’s grand jigsaw puzzle. God’s master plan.

My daily life might be hard right now. But at the end of it all, it’s just a piece of God’s grand jigsaw puzzle. Click To Tweet

I can have peace even in the stress by reminding myself I am His. I serve a mighty, mighty God of heaven and earth and everything else in the universe. His way is the priority. When I can step outside myself and allow myself to know and trust this, I have true rest.

When I can step outside myself and trust I belong to Jesus, I have true rest. Click To Tweet

Do you have trouble coping with stress? How do you handle this?

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Hardships and Trials

When Disillusionment Steals Our Joy

 

It’s easy to allow discouragement to morph into disillusionment and for disillusionment to taint our heart, distancing us from God and blinding us to His hand. But, as my guest today shares, if we’re alert and prayerful, if we’re diligent to hold tight to truth and Christ, disillusionment can also lead to incredible growth and can provide a glorious redirection.

Quote image: God sees you

I Didn’t Think it Would be Like This.

By Donna Jones

We never saw it coming. I expected this kind of behavior from a non-believer, but from a Christian?

Never.

The gap between my expectations and my reality left my tender soul shredded into tiny little pieces, like the bits of paper you throw as confetti. Except this was no celebration. I wondered how a heart ripped to shreds could ever be whole again.

Enter disillusionment; the place where expectations and reality collide.

I remember thinking, How did this happen? Why did this happen?

I’ve heard the same sentiment echoed a thousand times by women in different circumstances: The wife whose husband walked out the door; the couple that followed God’s leading, only to be hurt by those they tried to help; the gal who battled health and financial crisis; the woman who stepped out in faith, and failed. And then there’s the mom of the toddler, the mom of the teenager, the mom of the prodigal, and the sweet gal who just wants to be a mom.

They all wrestle with the thought: I didn’t think it would be like this.

But it is.

So, what now?

 

Generally, disillusionment doesn’t happen overnight (although it can). Typically, disillusionment starts as disappointment, which leads to discouragement, which morphs into discontentment, which lands as disillusionment. Think of it like this:

Disappointment + Time = Discouragement

Discouragement + Time = Discontentment

Discontentment + Time = Disillusionment

How do you know if you’ve moved from disappointment to disillusionment?

You’ve lost hope.

You’ve checked out.

You’re desperate to control.

You’re bitter

You’re cynical.

You’re mad at God.

You’re suspicious of others.

You’ve given up on your faith, yourself, or God.

May I whisper just a few words of hope to you? You. Are. Not. The. First.

In the Bible, the prophet Elijah dealt with disillusionment. So did Sarah, the matriarch to the Jewish nation revealed in Genesis, and Job, the ancient man whose intense suffering is revealed in the Bible book bearing His name. At some point, most of us travel through the dark tunnel of disillusionment. How we deal with disillusionment determines how we come out on the other side. Click To Tweet

So how can we handle disappointment so it doesn’t morph into disillusionment, and derail us?

  1. Acknowledge Loss

It’s OK to feel sad when things don’t turn out like we hoped. Part of navigating disappointment before it becomes disillusionment is to acknowledge our loss.

During difficult seasons David, ancient Israel’s second king, poured out his heart to God. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge” (Psalm 62:8 NIV).

1 Peter 5:7 tell us to “cast all your anxiety upon Him, for He cares for you.”

When we pour out our problems to God, God pours in His perspective to us.

If we bottle our burdens we may become convinced God doesn’t care, but if we cast our burdens we may be certain God does. Click To Tweet
  1. Examine Expectations

Disillusionment occurs when we feel something is not as good as we believed it to be. These beliefs are based on expectations.

Unexamined expectations are likely to be unrealistic expectations, and unrealistic expectations are likely to become unrealized expectations.

Unrealized expectations leave us disappointed, discouraged, discontent, and disillusioned.

When an expectation isn’t realistic, it’s easy to become disillusioned, so we must ask, “Is my expectation realistic?”

  1. Cling to Christ

When disappointment leaves us reeling, we have two choices: Run to God, or run from God. One choice brings closeness and comfort; the other choice brings distance and disillusionment.

Is it always easy to rely on God while enduring difficulty? No, it isn’t.

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But reliance on God during my storm brings redemption from God to my story. Click To Tweet

Joseph, the ancient Hebrew turned Egyptian slave, experienced this first hand, after his brothers’ betrayed him. Because Joseph clung to God through the heartache and hurt, he could look his brothers square in the eye and declare, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.(Genesis 50:20 NIV)

How do you handle disappointment from unmet expectations? What lessons have you learned by choosing to rely on God, even when it’s hard? 

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV) 

 

Get to know Donna! 

A pastor’s wife and national speaker, Donna Jones is a Bible teacher/explainer, who’s spoken in twenty-five states and on four continents, keynoting events of more than 1000. Donna is the author Seek: A Woman’s Guide to Meeting God, Raising Kids with Good Manners, and Taming Your Family Zoo, and is a contributing author to the 365-day devotional, A Moment to Breathe. She has been on numerous radio and television shows, including Focus on the Family and Good Day Dallas, and writes regularly for Crosswalk.com. 

Donna loves sipping a really good cup of coffee, and hanging with her pastor/hubby or one of their three young adult kids, who frequently sit on her kitchen counter just to chat. Donna would love to connect with you at www.donnajones.org or on Instagram at donnaajones.

Disillusionment hurts and can derail us or push us to draw us closer to Jesus. For those of you who’ve been doing our Becoming His Princess study, you’ll see, for Sarah, unmet longing appeared to follow the negative progression Donna warns us of in her post. As Donna shared, we all face this risk. When disillusionment hits, it can drive us closer to Jesus or distance us from Him. You can hear my thoughts on this, and how we can actively guard our hearts against this, in Becoming His Princess’s opening session, week three. Listen HERE.

If you’re just starting the study, you can watch week one’s opening session HERE and week two’s opening session HERE. (Video sessions will be uploaded as they’re completed.)

You can listen to session two HERE.

And you can pick up your own copy, free, HERE.

Cover image for studyIf you live local, you can still join us for live teaching each Tuesday night at Wildewood Christian, located in Papillion. You can also join us, starting in March, for live teaching on Tuesday mornings or evenings (two options) at Christ Community Church in Omaha. (Registration links will open soon.)

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