5 Ways to Fight Fear

5 Ways to Fight FearThe dreams all happened over the course of a few nights.

A dream that our friends got divorced.
A dream that a friend’s baby died.
A dream that another friend got cancer.

For some, these tragedies are reality. For others of us, they are part of the battle against fearful thoughts.

If all our fears were unfounded, we could probably talk ourselves out of it.
But in this broken world, pain will invade us until Jesus comes back to destroy evil once and for all.

Those who don’t know Christ have a lot to fear. But if we have surrendered our lives to Jesus, His Spirit lives inside us.

We have weapons for the battle.

When I was pregnant with Isaiah, I remember being so afraid I would have a miscarriage.
In his first newborn weeks, I worried if I couldn’t hear him rustling around on the monitor during the night.
There are times even in this toddler stage that my mind jumps to fear when I’m in the kitchen cooking dinner and haven’t heard him make noise for a while.

Sometimes the “what ifs” can be suffocating, squeezing the air out of more positive thoughts.

Here are 5 ways I’ve fought in the battle against fear:

5 Ways to Fight Fear1. Remember that it takes intentional fighting.
Ephesians 6:10-11 says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”

Author and speaker Steve Wibberley talks about the importance of daily putting on the armor of God in his book, Knowing Jesus is Enough for Joy. We can be prepared for the battle by praying through each piece regularly.

  • The Belt of Truth: proclaiming the gospel to ourselves and acknowledging our identity in Christ (that we are loved, cleansed, and commissioned for His work)
  • The Breastplate of Righteousness: claiming God’s righteousness on our behalf, accepting His forgiveness for when we do sin
  • The Shoes of Peace: asking for strength to forgive others who hurt us and to love everyone we interact with
  • The Shield of Faith: praising God, even when things are difficult, trusting His work in our lives
  • The Helmet of Salvation: thanking God that “my significance and security come from Him and that they cannot be taken away by any person or circumstance.” (Wibberley 69)
  • The Sword of the Spirit: memorizing the Word and praying through what God is saying through a passage, relating the principles to our own lives. Here’s an example from Nehemiah:

“Thank you, Lord, for the grace you showed to the Israelites as they rebuilt the city walls and renewed the covenant, knowing that they would break it again soon. Thank you for extending that grace to me when I forget you and decide to wallow in self-pity, and for when I’m tired and short on patience with my husband and Isaiah.”

2. Remember whose side you’re on.
Sometimes it helps me to step away from my limited perspective by meditating on attributes of God that I have experienced or recently observed in Scripture.

Lover of sinners.

Creator of the universe.

Worker of everything good.

Gentle Shepherd.

Sovereign over all creation.

Redeemer of all my past, present, and future sins.


Promised Conqueror of all that is evil.

3. Remember that it’s not wrong to be afraid.
It’s encouraging to me when I think about how many people God used in the Bible who were afraid.

God said, “Do not be afraid” to Abraham, Moses (over and over during his ministry), Joshua, Elijah, Jeremiah, Joseph, Mary, and Paul, but it was not an accusation. It was a reminder that He was going to be with them in the special purposes He had for their lives.

Even Jesus was afraid. When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, waiting to be arrested, He said, “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”
Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” (John 12:27-28)

4. Remember the psalmists.
What I love about the book of Psalms is that one moment the writer is pouring out his feelings and frustrations to the Lord, and then by the time he reaches the end of the psalm (I picture him gritting his teeth), he declares his trust in God, even if he can’t see how God is going to fix his problems. (see Psalm 13, 28, 35, 42)

God wants to listen to the emotions going on inside of us and has given us words of faith we can pray with the psalmists.

A few weeks before Isaiah was born, my midwife encouraged me to find verses of faith to cling to as I approached the unknown of childbirth.

Here are a few examples of those words of faith: (Many of these examples are taken from Gaylyn William’s book All Stressed Up and Everywhere to Go).

Psalm 56:3-4–When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?

Psalm 68:19–Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior,
who daily bears our burdens.

Psalm 27:14–Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.

5 Ways to Fight Fear Psalm 46:1-3, 10-11–God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

5. Remember our final destination.
Sometimes the things we fear do happen.

Here are John’s words to one of the churches facing a fearful situation in Revelation 2:10: “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.

Maybe the pain feels so raw and gaping that you can’t remember what happiness felt like.

Paul reminded the church in Corinth, “For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Corinthians 5:4-5)

In Christ, there is always a hopeful future.

Randy Alcorn helped me to put this into perspective. He illustrated that our lives right now are a dot, but eternity is a line. (You can read more thoughts on heaven here.)

5 Ways to Fight FearThere might be a lot of pain packed into that little dot, but the line won’t even have a hint of it.

We will encounter fearful situations. Fearful thoughts may come when we least expect it. But Jesus is always ready with His peace.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)

Calling out His name is a great place to start.

How will you battle against fear today?

Why It’s Not Your Job to Prevent Pain

Why It's Not Your Job to Prevent PainA couple weekends ago, my husband planned a trip to Ohio to visit one of his friends and wanted to take our son along (8 hours away, if you calculate it without a toddler in the back seat).

It was going to be the first time in 19 months that I’d be baby-free for more than a few hours.

It terrified me to think of not being there to anticipate my son’s needs, put him down for a nap, comfort him, or make sure he ate some vegetables.

What if he cried in his carseat for hours?

What if he wouldn’t go to sleep in a new place?

What if he stole toys from their little girl?

What if he experienced (gasp) pain?

It caused me to question some of the beliefs I didn’t know I had:
1. It is my job as a wife and mother to try to keep my husband and child from feeling pain.
2. I need to do everything I can to prevent anything bad from happening.

What if I failed?

Occupation: Pain Prevention Squad
Sometimes, when we see those we love going through difficulties, it feels like we’re the ones with the hangnail being ripped off.

We wish would could take it away or even take it on ourselves.

But God has never shied away from pain, because there is something He values even more than our comfort.

  • Joseph was falsely accused and thrown into prison. (Genesis 39)
  • The prophet Isaiah was told no one would listen to his message. (Isaiah 6)
  • Daniel kept praying to God despite a king’s edict and was thrown into a lion’s den. (Daniel 6)
  • John the Baptist lost his head because of his preaching. (Mark 6)

Why It's Not Your Job to Prevent PainGod wants our hearts–and the hearts of everyone around us. He was willing to send His own Son to die an excruciating death so that we could be His sons and daughters. And, like a loving parent, He wants us to experience His spiritual blessings.

According to Ephesians 1, God . . .

. . . chose us before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight

. . . adopted us as his children

. . . lavished us with grace with all wisdom and understanding

. . . redeemed us through his blood

. . . forgave our sins

. . . worked everything out according to his will so that we could bring him glory

. . . marked us with a seal, the Holy Spirit, guaranteeing our inheritance in heaven

2 Corinthians 4:17-18 says, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Our pain has a purpose. My child’s pain has a purpose. I may not see it on this side of eternity, but if my son’s pain causes him to see his need for Jesus, I’d much rather he experience spiritual blessings with pain than live a comfortable life.

Why It's Not Your Job to Prevent Pain

C.S. Lewis, in his book, The Problem of Pain, says that “pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” 
If I believe I serve a loving Father, who delights in His relationship with me, I can crawl into His arms, knowing that he may be using our family’s pain in any number of ways. . .

. . . to refine us.

. . . to protect us from further pain.

. . . to grow us.

. . . to guide us.

Sometimes our fear of pain can eclipse the rays of blessing Jesus wants us to feel.

When I was able to lay my fears in Jesus’ capable arms, I was free to enjoy the gift of solitude while my family was away. Isaiah got some really special “Daddy time,” learning how to communicate with him without Mommy intervention. Everyone came back in one piece. And I got the chance to see how efficient I can be when I’m alone in the house–and that I don’t care to.

I’d much rather trip over toys on the floor than be able to see what color the carpet is. I’d rather cook meals that get devoured in ten minutes than have no one to cook for. I’d rather risk pain than abandon my relationships to avoid it.

And seriously, who doesn’t like to listen to little-boy animal and truck sounds all day long?

Spirit, please lead us out of our fear of pain and into a place of trust. Please take our painful experiences and make something beautiful out of each one. You are worthy.

5 Ways to Pray With Hope

Praying With HopeDo you ever feel like you’re praying on autopilot?

I try to pray with my son before his nap each afternoon. Often it sounds something like this: “Dear Jesus, please give Isaiah a good rest, so that he can wake up refreshed, (so he won’t be fussy and I can get lots of stuff done).”

One afternoon at the end of my prayer, as I left my son to continue playing with his toy smartphone in his crib, I felt God asking me what else I wanted Him to do in my son’s life.

Henri Nouwen, in his book, With Open Hands, says, “The prayer of little faith makes us cling to the concrete circumstances of the present situation in order to win a certain security. . . wishes which beg for immediate fulfillment.”

Sometimes, my days alternate between feeling sorry for myself (when there’s a huge pile of dishes to be washed, child throwing a tantrum, or my efficiency plans get tossed in the trash) and feeling sorry for others (when my brain stops long enough to realizes there are other people around me and around the world who are going through unimaginable hardships).

When I pray, I want to see God act. “Help the people affected by the earthquake in Nepal. Let things go smoothly with my friend’s delivery. Heal my mom’s foot pain.”

Praying With Hope
But what if God doesn’t seem to be answering? Part of living a life of faith involves praying with hope.

Praying With HopeNouwen says, “If you pray with hope, all those concrete requests are ways of expressing your unlimited trust in God, who fulfills all promises, who holds out for you nothing but good, and who wants to share goodness and love with you.”

He goes on to say that “Our numerous requests simply become the concrete way of saying that we trust in the fullness of God’s goodness. . . expressing an unlimited faith in the giver of all good things” (p. 46).

So how do we pray with that kind of hope? Dictionary.com uses words like believe, desire, trust and rely when defining the word hope.

Hope and faith go hand in hand. Hebrews 11:1 says that “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

According to Nouwen, “Hope includes an openness where you wait for the promise to be delivered., even though you never know when, where or how this might happen” (p. 43)

Praying With HopeIt’s easy to hope in things we feel are under our control–our home, children, work, even the reliability of our car. These securities can cause us to forget the One who is in charge of it all. When the roadblocks do come and our feelings of control are shattered, our loving Father is always there with His arms out to welcome us back to His peace.

When we practice praying with hope in God, the roadblocks we encounter can draw us into even deeper intimacy with Him.

One way God has guided me in prayers of hope is through focusing on what He’s already started doing in the world. Here are five areas we can pray with Him.

1. For unbelievers to know Him.
Tragedies occur every second of every day. Natural disasters and evil people make others suffer and die. We live in a broken, sin-stained world. But since the beginning of time, God’s desire has been for people to know Him. As we pray for deliverance, comfort and relief for those in pain, we can also pray that through it people would know Jesus. We can even pray for terrorists, dictators, and murderers to be brought to their knees in surrender to Christ.

2. For people to remember Him.
We are forgetful people, and pain can shock us into remembering who is really important. I don’t need to pray for my son’s life to be hard. It will be. But I can ask that God would use his hardships to draw him closer to Jesus.

Praying With HopeSome of my friends have recently had babies. I’ve prayed that the babies would sleep well at night and cry less. I’ve prayed for healing in the mothers and protection from depression. But nothing can prevent it from being a hard season, so I can also pray that in all the difficult moments, these moms would feel God’s presence with them. I can pray that as their babies need them constantly, they would be reminded of their need for Jesus.

3. For daily communion with Him.
Many times we can’t relieve people’s struggles. It’s impossible for life to be easy for my friends living overseas. Language, cultural blunders, and going from shop to shop just trying to find floss is exhausting. I pray for deliverance from their current struggles. But I can also pray that through the challenges, they would have a deeper communion with Jesus.

4. For Him to use us to shine His light and glory to the world.
We are jars of clay (2 Corinthians 4), and God often uses our broken places to shine His light. When we are vulnerable enough to share our struggles with other people, it gives us the chance to point to Jesus.

We serve a Savior who was perfect so we don’t have to pretend we are. Instead, we can pray that God would use our experiences in the daily grind of life to show others His greatness. And why not even thank God for how He’s going to display His glory through people we’re trusting Him to bring to the faith?

Praying With Hope5. For us to live in the hope of heaven.
No other religion can offer this sure hope to those who only see suffering ahead of them on earth. When my son cries, it seems like the world has been drained of all happiness. When I read the news, I often wish I hadn’t. The suffering is too much to imagine.

Whether the pain is slight or suffocating, God is always there, holding out the hope of eternity. It’s always within reach.

Nouwen reminds us that, “Prayer is a way of life which allows you to find a stillness in the midst of the world where you are open to God’s promises, and find hope for yourself, your neighbor, and your world” (p. 79).

Let’s ask God to guide us in that hope, so that we can delight in Him as we share it with others.

Why Forgetting About Heaven is Dangerous

Do you ache for heaven?

Most of the time I’m aching for a lot of things–more sleep, the casserole’s timer to go off so I can eat, time to read a novel, relational connections with my friends and husband, my son to stop whining and eat the lunch I made for him.

HeavenThese aches can pull us down, making us feel ungrateful and trapped in the responsibilities of life. That’s why it’s essential that we take time to meditate on the root of the ache–the heaven-shaped hole in each of our hearts.

Why it’s okay to look ridiculous
If you’ve chosen to follow Christ and have asked for His forgiveness, believing in His death on the cross as payment for your sins, you have a hope that no one else can claim. But it’s so easy to get distracted. . .

Your friend’s kid made it on to MasterChef Junior while yours can barely manage a piece of toast?
Your boss seems to relish your mistakes?
You can’t seem to get off the ground financially?

It can be so easy to compare myself to others who seem to have better lives now, instead of seeing this life as preparation for a glory-filled eternity.

Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 15 why this might look ridiculous to those who don’t follow Jesus.

13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. . . 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

bridge-19513_1280How to jump off the treadmill
How can we keep running in the joy of Christ if we aren’t focusing on the finish line?
When we forget about the eternal reward that’s being momentarily delayed, life can start to feel more like a treadmill.

Dr. Randy Alcorn, a former pastor and Bible teacher who has devoted decades of his life to studying Scriptures regarding heaven said that, “following Christ is not a call to abstain from gratification but to delay gratification. It’s finding our joy in Christ rather than seeking joy in the things of this world. Heaven–our assurance of eternal gratification and fulfillment–should be our North Star, reminding us where we are and which direction to go.” (Heaven, p. 455)

But how can we look forward to something we know so little about?

How can we picture a place when the images in Revelation seem so different from our everyday lives?

In my theology class in college, we studied about heaven in Millard J. Erickson’s book “Introducing Christian Doctrine.” It was the beginning of my heaven meditations as I was reminded that not only will we be worshiping God, but there will also be meaningful work and rest.

But what really started to put meat to the bones of my understanding was Randy Alcorn’s book, “Heaven.”
He explained that not only do we have heaven to look forward to when we die, but Jesus is coming back to create a New Earth where all of His followers will live for eternity.

Revelation 21:1-4 says:

21 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

It was a whole lot easier to picture a future like earth, with all the incredible blessings it contains.

Everything is spiritual
Alcorn says, “When we think of Heaven as unearthly, our present lives seem unspiritual, like they don’t matter. When we grasp the reality of the New Earth, our present, earthly lives suddenly matter. Conversations with loved ones matter. The taste of food matters. Work, leisure, creativity and intellectual stimulation matter. Rivers and trees and flowers matter. Laughter matters. Service matters. Why? Because they are eternal.” (p. 443)

It won’t be one unending church service, like Tom Sawyer pictured, but communion with Christ in everything we do. Randy Alcorn says it beautifully:

“In liberating us from sin and all its consequences, the resurrection will free us to live with God, gaze on him, and enjoy his uninterrupted fellowship forever, with no threat that anything will ever again come between us and him.” (Heaven, p. 304)

All the barriers to our intimacy with the Father will be removed. He will never feel distant again.

We’ve always been God’s image-bearers (Genesis 1:27), but that image that was marred by sin will be perfectly restored. The beauty and goodness that we experience now give us glimpses of what that will be like.

As I’ve gone through Alcorn’s book on Heaven, here are a few things that I can’t wait to experience as I worship God.

Heaven1. Discovering new things.
God is the author of all knowledge and creativity, and none of it will be tainted by sin as we pursue it. I’m actually kind of hoping I can learn to play the cello.

2. Rest
Hebrews 4:11 encourages us to enter God’s rest through Sabbath, but in heaven, we will get to experience true soul rest, a rest that Jesus gives us tastes of now as we come to him with our weariness (Matthew 11:28)

3. Eating
Would it help my eating habits now if I was able to save some of my appetite for the Great Wedding Feast of the Lamb? What other kinds of delectable morsels might we get to try?

4. Work
Alcorn reminds us that “Work wasn’t part of the curse. God himself is a worker. He didn’t create the world and then retire (Heaven p. 329). Just imagine all the enjoyment and fulfillment you’ve gotten from aspects of your work and take away the nasty bosses, tiring hours, and boredom!

5. Marriage to Christ
Earthly marriage is a shadow, a copy, an echo of the true and ultimate marriage. (Heaven p. 336) Everything good and tingly and fun and seemingly perfect about marriage will be even more soul-satisfying in our marriage to Christ. When we struggle to fight selfishness and work through miscommunication in our marriages, we can be reminded of how complete and satisfying relational intimacy will be on the New Earth.

But what about sex?
Alcorn says that since the intimacy and pleasure of sex was designed by God, “I don’t expect him to discard it without replacing it with something better.” (p. 338)

If questions about heaven have been keeping you from focusing on the finish line, the second half of Randy Alcorn’s book is filled with about 200 pages answering questions people have raised. It’s called “Heaven” and you can get it here. 

Exercising our imagination
We have so much more than the good feelings people get from practicing gratefulness. Not only can remembering our blessings lead us to thank the Giver of everything good, but we can let each smile, kind word, tasty meal, and intimate conversation carry our imagination heavenward.

HeavenAnd as Alcorn says, “With the Lord we love and with the friends we cherish, we’ll embark together on the ultimate adventure, in a spectacular new universe awaiting our exploration and dominion. Jesus will be at the center of all things, and joy will be the air we breathe. And right when we think ‘it doesn’t get any better than this’–it will.”