Think about it

Christianity, fear, freedom in Christ, Jesus, joy, Multiple Sclerosis

Think about what you are thinking about. Is it worry, or fear? I heard it put this way recently: Worry is telling God that you think He can’t handle things correctly.

Fear is crippling and will consume us if not proactively fought. We must think about what we are thinking about. I am learning that peace and freedom from fear are my choice….what are you choosing to think on and meditate on? If we are not intentional, fear will be like a roller coaster that we didn’t mean to get on. It will strap us in and take us wherever it wants us to go.

We choose whether or not to get on the roller coaster of fear. If we aren’t proactive about our thoughts, they’ll take us for a ride we may not want to go on…

Check out this song by Hillsong, Forever Reign. It helps to focus my thoughts on Jesus when I am struggling with fear:

Today’s devotional from Jesus Calling addresses this beautifully:

Trust Me and don’t be afraid, for I am your Strength and Song. Do not let fear dissipate your energy. Instead invest your energy in trusting Me and singing My Song. The battle for control of your mind is fierce, and years of worry have made you vulnerable to the enemy. Therefore, you need to be vigilant in guarding your thoughts. Do not despise this weakness in yourself, since I am using it to draw you closer to Me. Your constant need for Me creates an intimacy that is well worth all the effort. You are not alone in this struggle for your mind. My Spirit living within you is ever ready to help in this striving. Ask Him to control your mind; He will bless you with Life and Peace.

Isaiah 12:2; Romans 8:6

Tired of being afraid? I am. After a few months of absolute freedom from fear, it came back fiercely lately since undergoing medical tests to diagnose some neurological issues. Fear & worry seem to be the things I struggle with the most.  The past six months have been up and down and I have struggled with fear and the unknown during lots of tests for multiple sclerosis. So far the tests are inconclusive, as MS is very difficult to diagnose or completely rule out. In the moments of peace that I experience, I have joy and peace that it really doesn’t matter whether I have MS or not…my life is not my own and it belongs to Christ who gives me life. In my worst moments, I run with my imagination and fear the unknown and worst debilitating scenarios that MS can cause. What goes on in our thoughts is our choice. You and I must choose to think on truth; if we don’t, fear and worry can take us for a ride.

LOL. Is there any other way?

Christianity, depression, freedom in Christ, joy, new creation

People say I have a distinct laugh. Which means it’s really obnoxious and loud. I have really tried to tone it down or make it more lady-like, but it still seems to come out as a sudden, loud, burst of unrestrained laughter. This means that my “distinct laugh” is really more of a guffaw. I also have the world’s gummiest smile. You can see most of my teeth and gums…and I just can’t help it! Yesterday in church they played a beautiful song, Restoration, by David Brymer. The lyrics are repetitive and also profound. This is what got me to thinking about my boisterous laugh.

Although I have had a real relationship with Jesus for the last fourteen years or so, I have continued to struggle with depression off and on. Sometimes I wonder if depression is even worse as a Christian. That sounds weird, but here’s why I say this: Being a Christ-follower can bring a whole new dimension of guilt. For example, when you aren’t able to pull yourself out of a dark place or season of life, you reason that Jesus is enough and if you only had enough faith in Him, you would be free from this. There’s a real tension here, because it’s true that Jesus IS enough. He is all-sufficient, He is healer and powerful to overcome death, depression, or any sickness. So what do we do with the reality that sometimes these maladies remain, in spite of the truth that we know about God and His ability to take it away or heal?

There’s not a clear-cut answer for this question, at least in my experience. All I know to do in these times is to cling to God’s truth, and cry out to Him, being honest about how I am feeling. It helps to read the Psalms aloud. They are authentic and raw, and no matter what season of life you are in, there is always a Psalm that can articulate our complex feelings. This song that was played yesterday echoes Psalm 30 and reminds me of what a joy it is that I laugh too loud and have a cheesy smile that I can’t seem to tone down. It’s because Jesus has held on to me when I have felt too weak to hold on to Him. He brings restoration and healing to our souls.

Here are the lyrics:

You bring restoration
You bring restoration
You bring restoration
to my soul

You’ve taken my pain
called me by a new name
You’ve taken my shame
and in its place, You give me joy

You take mourning and turn it into dancing
You take weeping and turn it into laughing
You take mourning and turn it into dancing
You take my sadness and turn it into joy

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
You make all things new, all things new

You’ve taken my pain

This video is about 10 minutes long, but if you only listen for a minute or two, you’ll hear the powerful lyrics that echo the greatness and power of God to bring restoration.

No fear of bad news, laughing at the days to come

Christianity, fear, Jesus, joy, mission, righteousness, spirituality

It’s funny how an upcoming event can fill us with conflicting emotions. We are giddy and excited about an upcoming mission to Africa, meanwhile there are bad reports on the news. Below I found joy in what the Psalmist says about bad news:

Praise the LORD.
Blessed are those who fear the LORD,
who find great delight in his commands.

Surely the righteous will never be shaken;
they will be remembered forever.

They will have no fear of bad news;
their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD.
Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear;

They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor,
their righteousness endures forever;
their horn will be lifted high in honor. (excerpts from Psalm 112, emphasis mine)

I have no righteousness on my own, but only because of Jesus’ sacrifice for my sin. Because of that, this Psalm says that I will never be shaken. I don’t have to fear bad news. Keeping my heart steady, trusting in the LORD, I will have no fear. And as the Proverb says, we can laugh at the days to come.

Here’s where the laughing part comes in for me today:

This makes me laugh out loud every time I read it, because I am guilty of complaining and saying some of these very things! It will be great to put life and annoyances in perspective, visiting with missionaries and nationals as we go in a few weeks to experience third world culture again. Do these thoughts feel disconnected to you? That’s what’s going on in my brain today. Wanting to keep my heart steady on the LORD, trusting in Him, and laughing at the days to come!

True Joy

joy, perseverance, steadfastness, suffering

Joy can mean happy, but not necessarily.  Maybe for the first time, I’m beginning to see that joy is not really based on circumstances.  Sure, I’ve heard that about 100 times. Happiness is a choice; Attitude is everything, so choose a good one; blah, blah, blah. It’s just been in the past couple weeks that I am really being to understand this a little. Things can be tough, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t experience joy. So does joy mean that we put on our fake smile and try to be charming in social settings so that everyone thinks we’re happy?  Or do we say, “Oh, yes, it’s been hard, but God is good.”? If you’ve seen me during a rough patch, I’ve probably given you both responses, but I’m learning that there’s a whole lot more to joy than that.

Look at what Jesus’ brother James says about it: Count it all joy, my brothers, whenever you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. This week I was really curious about this because frankly, I was irritated. What if I don’t want steadfastness? Or trials? When my kid is hurting and family members are physically suffering, or if we are going through really hard stuff, I should count it all joy? James says emphatically, “Yes”. Okay, when I thought about James’ perspective, it makes it a little easier to swallow. He was talking to the Jewish people who were believers of Jesus Christ, scattered among non-believing people, and they were being persecuted for their faith. I know some people don’t like me and relationships can be messy, but it’s quite a different perspective to understand that James penned these words to people who were really experiencing trials beyond what my suburban mind can fathom.

So James is coming at us with this outlook: You’re scattered from your home with people who don’t understand or think like you.  Some of them want to kill you because they don’t like that. But when you are being tested or in a trial, count it all joy.  That means think about it as joy, decide to find something to rejoice about. So I’m getting the idea here from James that joy doesn’t just mean that I’m a really smiley person with a great laugh, no matter how tough life is. He might be saying, Yes, you are facing persecution and loneliness and maybe death. Decide to find joy in it. Almost forgot!  Count it all joy. Because you know that the testing of your faith develops steadfastness.  I’m going to be really honest and tell you that I haven’t given much thought to developing perseverance before.  It sounds pretty good, but I wouldn’t necessarily want it as a trade-off for really hard times.

So I think the take away for me is this: I can be really mad and discouraged in trials of various kinds. I can kick and scream and question God about if He loves me, how could he not get me out of this. I can get downcast or depressed or just complain a lot. (I’ve done all of the above) But it seems a lot more beneficial to practice this upside down idea from James.  Maybe that’s what true joy is.  Deciding to choose joy in tough circumstances. Asking God to teach me through them and develop perseverance, character, and steadfastness in me through the trial.  Otherwise it would just end up being a rough time. I’d rather it be training ground for developing qualities in me that I didn’t know I needed, but boy do I need them!

True Joy: The world didn’t give it to me and the world can’t take it away.