Anxiety. It’s like this heart crushing phenomenon that happens to me every-once-in-awhile. Like today. You see, I’m leading the last worship set at our church this Sunday before we go to two worship services the following week. We haven’t even had practice for it yet and I am a bundle of nerves… I’m even nervous about the practice tonight! My heart is pounding, and I get big red blotches on my neck as anxiety overwhelms me. I just can’t seem to RELAX.
Yesterday I came home from Grace and instead of working out with a friend and then going to a barbecue I instead huddled under some blankets and prayed for God to give me peace. I called a friend from long ago who could totally relate to what I was going through and I shared my anxieties with her. She prayed for me. I loved her for it.
I opened up my Bible… the one that has actual paper and a cheap bonded leather cover, not my iPhone, and I turned to Psalm 23. I read it out loud and then stopped when I got to, “even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me”, this peace came over me. I asked for more of it. More of it came. Unbelievably, after a whole day of fighting fear and anxiety I was actually able to fall asleep about a quarter to ten.
But then I woke up at 4:15. 4:15 is early for me. It’s like I would rather die than get out of bed at 4:15. But I woke up anyway and as soon as I opened my eyes the anxiety was palpitating. I scurried from my bed and turned one of my favorite Bethel albums on. I paced up and down in my living room and worshiped, singing the words out loud and not caring too much about the neighbors at that point (they still love me though). But I knew there was going to come a point when I needed to turn the music off and listen to His heartbeat and fight through what I was feeling. So many things were fighting to distract me from my pain but I knew this was an opportunity for Jesus to work.
God just come. Come heal my heart. It hurts, Jesus. Come sit with me. Come be with me. Touch my heart, Jesus.
I cried. I felt Him come. I felt His presence. I prayed. I believed the things I prayed for.
Peace came again, flooding me, filling me with hope.
As the day wore on, I tried to fill my mind with Him. It’s not always easy at work. You’re around people that don’t understand relationship with Jesus. When you have to stop mid-keystroke because you have to ask Him for peace (silently), everyone is like…. uhhhh what? That anxiety will come in waves, cresting during very inopportune moments. Push through it. Ask Him to come. Focus on His heart. Focus on His plans and promises. Sometimes I imagine myself curled up in the crook of His arm. Tiny little me, and great big Him. Look at who He is and You won’t be disappointed. Feel the rush of His love and His kindness and His goodness. Just sit in front of Him. Just sit.
In the past I have been known to have some serious sleep issues. Anxiety is usually the culprit… worry, fear, etc. etc.. In the last several months, however, I’ve noticed a healing taking place in that area. It use to be that I could go for a couple nights without getting any sleep at all, and now for the last several months I rarely have one night where I am having trouble falling asleep. The Lord has restored a peace to me that I haven’t had since elementary school! It’s quite amazing, actually.
Unfortunately, last night that same enemy of insomnia crept up on me again. I was worried… again. I was distressed about friends that were struggling with addiction and despair. I was wrestling fear issues in my own heart. Hopelessness started to set in a little bit and the tossing and turning continued. In desperation for some sleep I asked the Lord for help. Please Jesus… I have GOT to get some sleep! It was a scene that was all too familiar as I tried to examine my heart… repent for my fear, worry, or anything else that I might be allowing to rob me of my sleep.
And then He started speaking this passage to me in Isaiah:
1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called mighty oaks,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.
4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.
5 Strangers will shepherd your flocks;
foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.
6 And you will be called priests of the LORD,
you will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
and in their riches you will boast.
7 Instead of your shame
you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
and everlasting joy will be yours.
I have heard this passage taken out of context and people attribute portions of it to themselves. I have to admit, when I started to hear Him speak to me that passage at around midnight, I thought maybe He was telling me what I was suppose to do… but instead He was telling me who HE WAS. This is a prophecy about the Jewish Messiah, not about the ones He came to save. My immediate reaction was… “okay! I’m in, God! Let’s do it!” But what He was really saying to me was… “when are you going to start believing that this is who I am? That I’m the only one what can heal the brokenhearted, turn broken men into mighty oaks, set people dancing who were once in despair? When are you going to let Me be that in Your life? When are you going to start believing that I am who I say I AM in the lives of your friends?”
Fear is probably the most dominant struggle I have in my life. Having the fear of man has become so extreme that it has begun to rule many areas of my life… much to my chagrin. After reading my previous post, I realized that I sounded a bit trite when talking about difficulty and that maybe I sounded as if turning to God during painful seasons was a SUPER easy thing to do. Well let me explain further that it is NOT one of my greatest skills. But I have also learned that if I continue to put off turning to the Lord during difficulty and try to take matters into my own hands, my spirit begins to diminish and my heart will become weak.
I think most of us can understand the pain of the pressure that comes from fear. I remember feeling pain from others that was so great at times that I gave into relieving myself from it in a way that was just as ungodly as their behavior towards me. King David did this as well when he ran from Saul. When the prophet Gad told him to go to Judah, David didn’t remain there because of fear but instead found refuge in Gath, an enemy city. Instead of using the pressure of fear to drive him into the arms of Abba, David fled to a much more unsafe place, thinking Saul’s own fear would keep him out of Gath. Instead, David found himself in more trouble… just because He did not trust in God’s faithfulness and justice.
I can describe some of those moments, like the one I had last night, where I knew that my only choice in moments of distress was to cry out to God for answers… to acknowledge my own inadequacy and brokenness before Him. I had to make a choice to trust Him instead of turning to ungodly slander (which I haven’t even come close to succeeding in previously) or some other method that would bring me comfort. I had to have the fear of the Lord that I would be disciplined for lack of obedience if I did not come under His righteousness. And finally, I had to learn to enjoy Him in the process of restoration. All of these things I am still coming to understand and just beginning to learn how to walk in.
So I’m challenging the rest of you out there to do the same. Take the opportunity, in moments of fear, to turn your face toward Him, to cling to Him with all of your strength. Don’t run to the TV, your many social networking sites, or your cell phone and start texting a bunch of gossip. Take hold of Him!!! When you feel that discomfort or accusation from others, acknowledge your fear to Jesus and ask the Holy Spirit who lives inside of you to rise up and take over your heart. He is faithful to conquer and to comfort all fear!
During the Jesus Movement, my dad, who had been saved for probably two years at this point, would go down to the local park where all of the homeless hippies would gather and live. He would minister to them, talk to them about Jesus, and invite them to a Bible study at his house where a massive move of God was happening. My grandparents basement would have upwards of 500 hippies every Thursday night who were hungry for Jesus. At this particular park there was a warlock (male witch) who would walk around, intimidate and harass the people in the park. Most of the hippies were scared of him and the supposed power he held.
One day this warlock confronted my dad. “This is my territory. You need to go,” the man said.
My dad responded , “this is a public park. You don’t own it and you don’t have authority over me.”
At this point, a crowd began to gather around the two, literally opposing forces. “If you don’t leave, I’m going to put a curse on you.” This guy wasn’t playing. He was known for putting powerful curses on his enemies.
“You just try. Greater is He that is in me than He that is in the world.” My dad looked him in the eye without flinching, standing his ground. The man immediately backed up and ran for his car. As he drove away he stuck his head out the window chanting and doing strange things with his hands. The crowd, in the meantime, cheered and clapped that this scary person was finally gone from their park.
One week later the man was arrested for dealing drugs. Two months after that he died in prison. That’s what happens when you come against the people of God, I guess. It might not happen immediately but believe me… it’s gonna happen.
I thought about this story as I was listening to Mike’s message on the Spirit of Might which you can find HERE. One thing that struck me about David was that his courage flowed from his relationship with God. It really was a powerful spirit working in David to kill the lion, the bear, and then eventually Goliath. This strength wasn’t derived from David’s own ability. It wasn’t courage drummed up by his own pride and arrogance. It wasn’t fueled from bitterness or his flesh. It was pure God which gave Him the power to defeat his enemies.
When we know who we are to God and we are confident in how He feels toward us, lack of courage will not be a problem. We will know when we hear from God to confront our enemies and we will know when our boldness is truly from Him.
I sat in a sideroom of the prayer room one Tuesday afternoon during a fasting meeting and listened as one of my prophetic mentors explained to me that I was about to enter one of the most pivotal, horrific, and beautiful seasons of my life. That was in November of 2008 and on the previous day I had an absolutely disrupting encounter with the Lord. Today I remembered a part of that conversation. She explained a similar encounter and journey she had years before.
“It was the most difficult season of my life. It had a lot to do with love. A lot of ‘Sermon on the Mount’ type stuff.”
A lot of ‘Sermon on the Mount’ type stuff. That sounds nice. That doesn’t sound too bad.
Boy, was I wrong.
I don’t care who you think you are, but if you think you are good at the Sermon on the Mount, you are delusional and probably arrogant. I’m pulling no punches here. I love Jesus, but this Sermon is absolutely the most flesh-killing tool He operates with not to mention the fact that it is completely offensive… in a good way :/.
This weekend I was driving down the road with my new friend Rachel who was visiting for our Winter Gathering. She told me she felt the Lord wanted to free me from the bondage of worry (ahem) and that He wanted to free me from the bondage of the ‘need to be right.’ Oh yes. That’s what she said. And the problem with this is that Rachel happens to be the sweetest person I’ve ever met in my life so I couldn’t accuse her of impure motives.
But here, I realized what the Lord was saying was that that all of this really wasn’t about who is right or wrong… it was about self-preservation. Do I care more about preserving my reputation or do I care more about pleasing Him and becoming a humble peacemaker? It’s not the question that is so humiliating but the fact that my answer is so obvious when I allow the Holy Spirit to examine my heart. It is moments like these that I don’t want to waste. Moments that I know the Father is doing something so beyond the actual circumstance I’m in. He sees so far ahead and we stand there, grasping for control when we will never really have it. We really think we’re ‘big stuff’ and then we realize that we have no idea what we’re doing. We’re idiots. Idiots with a great inheritance. Sometimes God doesn’t actually care if we’re right or not. Sometimes He just wants to show us the idol of approval in our lives.
It makes me feel like a child. Like a two year old being potty-trained.
Oh yeah. That’s how I’m suppose to feel.
Which brings me back to another incredible vision I had this weekend.
Dancing. Dancing in my pink bedroom with the ruffled canopy bed in the background. I was eight. And I was worshipping. And He was dancing too.
And then we were in a field of flowers, dancing wildly, spinning and spinning and spinning. Then a drastic change in scenery.
Suit of armor, like Joan of Arc. Swinging my sword, cutting off the heads of demons, challenging the forces of darkness.
Back the camera up. I’m not Joan of Arc. I’m a child. I’m a little child wearing a miniature suit of Armor and the Father is standing right beside me and He’s huge. HUGE.
A massive dragon flies toward me. It was not nearly as big as the Father but it was A LOT bigger than me. I thrust my sword through it’s belly and it was forced backward with ease. I threw that silly creature back so effortlessly as the Father looked on in pride… even though I knew He was giving me all of the power to do it in the first place. It was more like He enjoyed the very sight of me… not so much that I was some crazy, skilled warrior.
There happens to be more to what I saw but I’ll keep it to myself for now.
The point is this– He’s God. I’m man (lady). Whether you’re a retired 78 year old worldwide evangelist or a four year old child, we are children of God and children have a very limited understanding of what our Dads are up to; why they do the things they do. We just go with the flow and let Him handle it, knowing that whatever happens it is for our good…
So my ex-boyfriend emailed me on Facebook the other day. He rarely goes on Facebook but a couple of weeks ago decided to make a surprise visit and initiate a little bit of a chat. I hadn’t had any communication with him for over three years. It felt fine talking to him. We only talked for about twenty minutes and it was mostly catch-up stuff. I didn’t feel any tug on my heart or anything emotional whatsover. Well this weekend he sends me an email. It seemed perfectly innocent and just might be perfectly innocent but I decided not to respond. In fact, I thought maybe… just maybe I should delete him completely from my Facebook friends list. Why would I do that if everything seemed perfectly innocent? Because our hearts are easily deceived. I, at one time, had an emotional connection with this person… it, was one of the few romantic relationships I’ve had where I actually felt loved and valued. We had very legitimate reasons to break up and I’m not sad that we did but any time your heart has been involved, trouble usually follows.
Our hearts are so deceptive. If we do not let go of emotionally-tied relationships from the past we will remain stuck in the same place and unknowingly halt any forward movement in our lives… including spiritual growth and relationship growth. Sentimentality is not all that it’s cracked up to be. Objects, pictures and other paraphanalia from our past are signs (big ones) that we have not let go of emotional ties. I don’t normally hold onto anything that exes have given me (and I don’t have a lot of exes) but I still own a painting from this particular guy (who is an up and coming artist in Dallas). I know, even though I enjoy this piece of art, that I should probably ebay it simply because there is no need to for me to remember him every time I see the painting.
I have thought a lot about past relationships recently because I am finding that they have influenced my reaction to others far more than I thought they did. I realized that there is one particular ex who I thought I had forgiven, but in reality, all of the evidence points to the fact that I have not forgiven him much at all. It has been seven years since the ending of that relationship and I thought that I was totally healed from everything that happened to me during that time period but mistrust and fear have once again begun to rule my life. It is probably one of the most frustrating experiences to realize that we are still in pain after seven years of wanting and contending so much for our hearts to be healed and finding ourselves back in the same place with our hearts still locked up. The worst part is that you don’t feel like anyone understands how this could happen. How could anyone still have serious trust issues after seven years? I simply don’t know how to answer that. Believe me when I tell you that I wish I had the answers. I wish I didn’t act like a maniac about everything. I wish I didn’t live in constant fear of getting hurt.
Last night the Lord spoke to me about moving forward with Him. I don’t really know what that looks like, only to say that I think it means to not give up- to fight for this “thing” in my heart to be healed… to fight to forgive and move on and not allow someone else unknowingly control my life in this way.
I’ve noticed that I have been writing about the subject of fear a lot lately. Well… I’m going to write about it again.
I’m not really sure I know how I got through all of my high school extra-curricular activities. I never felt like I was good enough to sing the solo or get the big part in the play and was usually mortified and terrified when I did. I remember my senior year, after moving to Little Rock, Arkansas from Wisconsin, I was picked to perform as “Eponine” in our school’s production of Les Miserables. Here I was, the lone “yankee” girl that everyone hated because they were still stuck in the Civil War, and I got picked as one of the main leads in the musical. Needless to say, this did not add to my popularity. During rehearsals, I could hardly get anything out of my mouth because I could feel the hatred seething from the other girls. Some of my friends told me that many of the girls would mock me in class behind my back. Eventually, I went to my choir instructor and told her I didn’t want the part any longer. Surely, there was someone better that could take the part! She just smiled at me and said “I picked you, Brooke, because you were the one that was right for the part. You can’t back out. I’ll dock your grade.” She smiled at me again and I responded with a dreaded “fine. I’ll do it.”
Twelve years later, I’m still struggling with the fear of man. I don’t like getting in front of people. I don’t like it when people give me attention. It makes me feel uncomfortable and nervous.
Sunday night I preached a sermon to a room full of peers and last night I helped lead worship at our Wednesday night meeting. Two more terrifying moments in my life but I knew that I would never get over this fear, if I didn’t force myself to do the things I know that I’m called to do. I had to remind myself, that it isn’t about me anyway, it’s about revealing the man Jesus. It’s about pointing people to Him.
Sunday night I remember sitting to the side right before I came to the mic when I heard Jesus speak to me and tell me that He was going to be standing up there with me. A split second after He spoke this to me I heard Pete, our pastor say “I think Jesus is in the room right now!” And when I went up there to talk to about the FIRE of God’s love I felt his fire next to me. It wasn’t me that was speaking but it was Jesus, Himself, planting his passion for His people in my mouth.
So let’s get down to business: we can tell we are ministering the gospel with wrong motives when we are feeling fear, jealousy, envy or competition. If we are feeling these things, than we know that we are presenting ourselves to the people and not to Jesus who is deserves all of the glory and all of the honor.