An Anxious Heart.

An Anxious Heart.

Being a Christian with anxiety. The topic is entering conversation more and more and the reviews are mixed. On one side of the spectrum: anxiety is pointless and foolish if you understand God’s goodness and provision. Conversely, we are flawed humans and we should feel open to reveal our vulnerability. When we squish down our feelings and fears, we only will feel more isolated. God uses our shortcomings for His good and fills in for our weaknesses with His strength.

Personally, I have had periodic bouts of anxiety during the past few years. One moment I feel perfectly fine, but then suddenly, I feel a rush of panic and a feeling of anxiety that I struggle to shake. I go silent on the outside with a million thoughts and concerns rushing around on the inside. I then become guilty of having these feelings because I want to be always encouraging and always loving. And these feelings cause me to think I am doing the opposite of loving and encouraging and not like myself at all. I feel like a shell of myself.  I have difficulty finding the cause and try so hard to push it aside as quickly as possible or hide it all together from those around me (though those closest to me always seem to suspect something is wrong anyway). My sweet husband can tell when I am in a “funk” and I just want so badly for him and those that I allow to see a glimpse of this side of me to never have to worry about what is wrong or have to be so patient with me. It’s a rough cycle I put myself through.

I have started to write down these thoughts on the subject a few times over, but never put it all together for some reason or another. Allowing others to read all of this is hard for me. Because I want so desperately to be the person that others can count on to love them well and encourage them. I want to be the person that anyone can lay their burdens on, but not the one to lay them out before others. But we all have burdens. If I want others to be vulnerable and grow through it, I suppose I have to do the same.

So why do these feelings happen at all? I have been saved and am confident that my Savior is more than capable of overcoming every fear, insecurity, and shortcoming. I do not doubt that I have a deep, unshakable joy that comes from only the Lord.  So why do I become so anxious when I know that I can “cast all of my fears and worries on Him?”

I have recently come to the conclusion that I don’t think the “why” is as important, but more the takeaway. The takeaway, in my opinion, is that good can come from this too.

The truth is: I am not perfect. I am flawed. Sometimes I feel extremely anxious for no good reason and that is okay. No, I should not be complacent and let it become so intense that it prevents me from doing what Christ is calling me to be and do. However, it is okay because I am confident that God is capable and in control.  I do not doubt that God uses anything and everything. Thus, I do not doubt that the glorification of Christ can come from this.

Even in my most anxious moments, I know that if I allow it, God uses those twisted and uncomfortable feelings to draw me closer to Him. It is such a clear illustration of my dependence on Him. I am weak and flawed and messy, but He is not. No matter what I am going through and the feelings I am experiencing, founded or not, He is there. God is waiting for me to run to Him and find incomparable comfort and peace that can only come from Him.

Laura Ortberg Turner writes, A healthy anxiety can remind me constantly and fruitfully of my joyful dependence on and confidence in God. When I feel fear, I can allow God’s good grace to draw me to him and be reminded of his sufficiency in all things. I don’t need to draw a direct connection between my spiritual health and my experience of anxiety when I trust God to use my anxiety for good.”

 

Two verses really speak to my heart while writing this that I think sums it all up:

‘Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ Isaiah 41:10

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

 

I don’t have to feel like a failure because I sometimes feel anxious. God uses everything for good and gives us strength when there is no person or thing to give it and I am overwhelmingly thankful for that.

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For the good of the many.

For the good of the many.

Ministry is not glamorous. It is messy and random. It’s draining and often leaves me wondering “am I making a difference in any one thing that I’m doing?”

Simply put, working in ministry can be discouraging. I think since being in full time ministry, my personal relationship with the Lord has been tested the most. I have been the most frustrated with myself and others. I have found myself doubting the eternal significance of my day to day tasks. It is hard for me to always remember that we don’t get to pick the most pleasant or easiest ways to reflect Christ, but that we are called to serve others and show His love—in the ways we like and in the ways that we don’t. I will be honest in saying that when I feel my most frustrated or selfish, my heart does not automatically jump to the truth found in 1 Corinthians 10:31-33.

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks, or the church of God—even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of the many, so that they may be saved.”

…But it should.

I want my heart to go there. I want to have the mindset of whatever I do, wanted or not, to be done with the attempt of glorifying the Lord. I want to do it all for the good of the many so that they may be saved. If it is serving in a challenging situation, loving the unlovable, or completing a seemingly meaningless task—I should do it all in the hope that the lost may be saved.

I think of the example found in our lead pastor, Dan. He does so much behind the scenes and most of it would probably not be his first choice. People see him on the weekends and on events as the upfront guy. The one that must be able to pick whatever he wants to do during the week and delegate all that he doesn’t. However, I see him as someone that understands he needs to seek the good of the many, not just his own good. I see him picking up water bottles left behind from the weekends, often being the first person to arrive and the last to leave, or even being willing to give someone the occasional hug (though it goes against every instinct in him to guard his precious personal space). Though he is as imperfect as the rest of us, he does what needs to be done because he is seeking the good of the many so that they may be saved.

This seeking the good of the many doesn’t just apply to church staff members or full-time missionaries. It applies to everyone that has received salvation. It doesn’t matter what we do. No matter how unpleasant or random or frustrating, we are called to do every task for the glory of the Lord so that others may come to know our Lord and we can find true joy in that cause. In our chosen careers and in every aspect of lives, we are called to bring glory to God. It may not always be pleasant or seem important from our perspective, but every task and conversation is so worth it if even one is saved.

Be a doer.

Be a doer.

 

For my whole life, I have been immersed in Christian communities. I grew up knowing mostly believers. Then I went off to college and found another spot full of people that love God and shared God’s word with me constantly. It has been wonderful and needed and I have grown because of it, but a wave of conviction comes over me when I ask myself if I am only listening to the word? Am I a doer of the word as well?

I have listened during all the bible studies and took notes within all the groups, with comparatively little action afterwards.

 

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” James 1:22-24

 

What is the point without any doing? If we don’t go and do, it is all worthless. It is the same as being constantly fed without ever exercising. Of course, we should be fed and built up, but then we need to put that strength to good use. If I eat and eat, but never move, I atrophy.

 

“But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it – they will be blessed.” James 1:25

 

The one that acts will be blessed.

True religion is not only attending a church service, bible study after bible study, and gathering around believers and talking. True religion involves action. It involves action to move away from the filth and selfishness of the world in which we live. It involves acting on the love we read about in His word.

 

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:26

 

Let us not give into the worldly temptations that tell us “we deserve to do whatever we want” or “I don’t need to change.”

Let us shake off the pollution of this world and do what His word tells us. Let us care for the orphans and widows. Let our lives reflect the gospel. Let us not be listeners of the word and never doers.

It’s not about me.

It’s not about me.

 

We all have dreams and desires. I’d like to have certain life experiences and having those dreams and ideas is certainly not all bad. God places preferences, passions, and desires specific to us on our hearts that He can and does use for His glory.

But the question to ask ourselves is this: how often do we let our own ideals become greater than Christ? The line becomes blurry and soon we have made ourselves greater than Him.

How often do we remove Christ as the focus of our big picture and replace Him with ourselves?

In John chapter three, John the Baptist paints a beautiful picture of placing Christ in the correct spot. Instead of selfishly responding with disappointment or anger when attention and focus shifts to Christ, he responds with a humble joy. He understands that his purpose was to lead the way to Christ. He chooses to take himself out of the picture.

 

“The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.” John 3:29-30

 

Do we get our joy from the hope we find in Christ and making Him known or do we find satisfaction when we feel happy and life meets our expectations?  Is our joy lost when we don’t feel happy or when we go through a trying season we don’t pick?

 

James chapter one speaks to these inevitable trials and temptations.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete..” James 1:2-4

 

As a silversmith refines and purifies his metal by testing it to make it strong and reflective, we also are refined and strengthened by our tests and trials. As Christians, we will face trials, big and small. They refine and strengthen us so that we can better reflect Christ. As contrary as it may be to our human thought processes, we were not put on this earth to have perfect, always fun, and always happy lives. We were put on this Earth to reflect Christ.

 

Would we rather not spend our time with certain people? Maybe.

Would we prefer to act only on what will make us feel happy? Yes.

Would we like to choose doing the easy thing? Of course.

 

But guess what? It’s not about us. When we finally grasp how to “make Him greater and ourselves less,” we find our joy. The joy that comes not from circumstance or action, but the joy we receive when we experience Him and make Him known.

Be Different.

Be Different.

To be set apart. To be seen as different.

A couple of weeks ago I was reading through prayer requests sent to the church. Some were praises, some were full of humble desires to go deeper with Christ, and some were full of desperate brokenness. It is my job to figure out how to respond. How do we help them take the next step? What is the next step?  How can I get across that what they need is something different? To know a God that is different. To know a church that is different. I was overwhelmed and a little heart broken.

So I decided to go on a walk and pray. Pray for these people and pray for how I should respond. Pray for my role here in general. Pray for my life here and how I should seek to follow Him within every one of my roles. The longer I walked, the more I talked with God and attempted to listen.

God showed me that what these people need is simply to see “the different.” They should be shown a church that goes beyond. A church that is uncommonly generous in our time and effort to show them how different life can be when they know and are known by a loving Father and are part of a family of believers that seeks to be set apart.

God showed me and is continually trying to show me that sometimes we need to eliminate the ministry strategies for a second and remember to simply desire to follow Him. To allow our God to fully equip. To lay aside distractions and sin and allow myself to be set apart. To be seen as different. To have a heart like His. In my job. In my relationships. To be known as different in how I love and how I act.

set-apart

 For you are a holy people [set apart] to the Lord your God; and the Lord has chosen you to be a peculiar people to Himself, above all the nations on the earth. Deuteronomy 14:2

 

 

It is worth it.

I have been living in Maine and working at Kennebec Community Church for about a month now. People often ask me how I am doing, “Are you homesick yet?” “How are you adjusting?” “What do you think?” My answer is usually some variation of “it’s been very good, but lots of changes to adjust to.” Of course that is a natural response to moving across the country to do something you never planned to do. And in some respects, it does feel as though my whole world has changed, yet I often feel like this transition was the most natural shift for me.

In ways, my role here is different than I expected. I have moments of confusion. Moments of feeling useless and incapable. I have had moments of sadness and frustration. But with that being said, there have been many more moments that I think, “this is worth it.”

When I speak to someone and they are shocked to hear that someone genuinely cares for them.

When I receive a hug that lasts for a longer than expected because it is clear that person needed it.

When I see someone’s eyes well up with tears at the relief of being able to share their burdens.

When I see an individual start to use their gifts and abilities to further His kingdom.

When a person who 0fe1b4b42dde43ca9921f26b3cd8991dis broken, lost, and hurting and I get to share with them the unending love that Christ pours out on His children and that same person then in turn accepts this great love.

When I have these experiences, it makes any lonely moment, any second of doubt, any bit of confusion worth it. This is all worth it.

 

A wise friend told me once to consider selecting a “life verse” of sorts. I picked Ephesians 5:1-2 “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”  I desire to simply “follow God’s example” here. I want to give that love back, to let others that are lost and hurting know they are dearly loved. To give myself up as a living sacrifice, a fragrant offering to God.  When living this out, it is all so worth it.

I am all in. Send me.

I am all in. Send me.

Next week I graduate from Arkansas State University and attempt to become a “real adult.” The week after, I move 1600 miles away to a state that I never had even an interest in visiting until last year and that’s all just a bit unfathomable to me sometimes.

This past summer I decided to change my plans of working at a pediatric clinic that would look great on my resume and align perfectly with what was expected of me as I continued on my well-planned path to becoming a Speech Pathologist. However, I instead deviated from my plan and chose to be a summer intern at a wonderful church in Augusta, ME. I went and had the very best and hardest summer. I was able to be part of a body of believers that was bringing the light of the Lord to an area that is clearly dark. And I am so glad I did because now I’m moving back to that same place I never really wanted to go in order to do a job that I never had any intention of doing and I am so grateful that this is the new plan.

Recently, it has been easy to get swept up into the excitement of it all. The excitement of beginning an adventure of sorts. However, as I begin to start saying final goodbyes to sweet friends, reality is hitting me. The reality of the life change that is about to begin. I would expect that I would be sad about leaving all of my loved ones and the wonderful life that I’ve always known here in Arkansas and in a way I am, but much more so I am reminded of why I am doing what I’m doing. The Lord has blessed me with this opportunity to serve Him and chosen someone that is inadequate in every way and made me adequate. He is equipping me to be able to devote my whole heart, soul, and mind to serving Him in a place that desperately needs to be served. I have an overwhelming joy at the thought of showing and sharing the love that the Lord has lavished upon us to people who are lost and hurting. I’m praying that my heart would burden and ache for those that don’t know this great love so much so that I would be moved to action. I pray that I would be bold and genuine in how I love. I pray for wisdom in knowing how to lead. I pray that I would grow every day in truth and love alongside those that I wish to serve.

I expect this transition to be hard, nerve-racking, and maybe a little lonely, but also beautiful and exciting. I expect to rely on God’s goodness and faithfulness. I expect to fail and learn from it. I expect to  give it my all.

At the end of the day, I want to be able to say that I am all in. Wherever, whenever, however, my Lord. And it looks like that “wherever” is Maine, the “whenever” is now, and the “however” is working on a church staff and not becoming an Arkansan Speech Pathologist.

 

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!'” Isaiah 6:8