Seeking God: Seeking answers

Seeking God: Seeking answers

Read: Psalm 17:1-5, John 16:7

Christ: My disciples fretted about what they didn’t understand instead of coming directly to me. They went to each other like the blind leading the blind, but I am the Way.

text-separator

Think: Is God my first resource for answers? Who or what do I consult for answers before going to God?

Pray: Dear Jesus, lead me yourself. Save me from false information. Where am I getting my information about You and Your nature? Teach me yourself. I will rely on none but you. Amen.

a backwards miracle

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

When I was swimming in depression a few years ago, this verse was quoted at me quite a lot. By well-meaning people and books. But still, it did not truly permeate through my thick skull until about a week ago, taking me completely by surprise.

My fiance and I had a very large disagreement. I won’t say fight because that makes me think of screaming and throwing things. All I know is that he wanted me to do something that I did not want to, and after the phone call was disconnected, both of us were left feeling somewhat unloved and indignant. 

When he hung up, I wanted to cry. My body was physically bracing for the heart ache, the sniffling, and hot tears. I even held my breath waiting for the onpour to come. But try as I might, I couldn’t cry! Nothing happened. In fact, it took a few minutes to realize that I wasn’t even really upset at all! I only assumed I should be, from prior experience.

It was so strange. My heart was quiet and calm, my mind, clear and able. I felt an overwhelming peace throughout my being that in all logic should not be there. It is difficult to explain, but it was a something Other than myself. I racked my brain trying to understand what this strange peace was, and then I remembered the verse, about God’s spirit guarding our hearts and minds.

Hearts and minds, I believe, are the essence of our earthly selves. Our thoughts, words, and actions all pass through our hearts and minds. And here I was in this difficult situation, with a clear mind and a peaceful heart. Only God could protect me from the impurities that would cloud my ability to make decisions. He hedged me in and set angels at the gate of my heart.

Now, the syntax of the text, and indeed, our worldly experience, would imply that we have to first give our anxieties to God, and then, only then, would he give the OK to bring peace which transcends all understanding to us. You give, and then you get.

Even after understanding that we can’t make our own salvation, I would still read this text in that way. “But not so”, says God. He gave me the peace first, and then I prayed after. 

What a Good God we have, who anticipates our needs, and gives freely of his everlasting store of peace!

His extraordinary peace found me first, built a protecting wall around my heart and mind, And only then, when I realized he was already holding me under his wing, was I able to let all of my anxieties and cares out to Him.

 

 

God used my anxiety

God used my anxiety

A few years ago, I spent 5 days in the hospital being treated for anxiety, panic, and depression. As part of my discharge plan, I was required to attend 12 hours a week of group therapy. I absolutely loathed it.

On the days we had group, I went around dreading the 3 hour session. Once there, I spent the time in the corner of the room, on the verge of tears. I was unwilling to participate, or if I did, I did so reluctantly. I did not want to share anything; I did not want to hear their stories, and I did not want to participate.

All I could think in my head during those painful sessions, was “No, no, no. I do NOT want to be here. I HATE this. All I want to do is go home. No, no, no.” My heart was broken and I was torn up inside. Having to withstand more was like insult to injury. The clinical social workers didn’t see that I actually felt worse.

Instead, I was threatened with an ultimatum: if I didn’t finish out the therapy, they couldn’t bill my insurance, but I would become responsible for the entire cost ($2-300 sessions, plus private cognitive-behavioral therapy). Praise be to God that somehow, I received permission from my doctor after just 2 months to stop attending.

There was, and is, something about “group therapy” that grates on me. Maybe it was the openness to strangers who did not share my faith in God (however little and withered it was), or the group exercises that I felt were pointless and based on pop-psychology. All I know is that every fiber of my being cries out against it.

Even work, church and social gatherings were a source of anxiety and panic for me. There have been too many Sundays to count where I have literally driven to church, parked my car, walked up the front steps, and tuned on my heel and gone home. I have abandoned plenty of parties, meetings, and fellowship groups because of the overwhelming anxiety that plagued me. Managers have driven me home from work and HR requested I take a three-month leave of absence to get well. I could not bear to appear in public and open myself up to others. An evil and life-draining force suffocated me and did not allow me to rest.

It pleased God to slowly bring me out of the depths. He did not forsake me, He only allowed me near enough to the precipice to feel despair, pulling me away at the last moment.

About once a month some girls from church get together for breakfast where we chat and read scripture and pray for one another. As we were together this morning, I thought about how far I have progressed. The dark time serves as a strong reminder of my depravity. And to think how He saved me from that, I can glorify Him all the more because of it! Now, I am able to look forward and enjoy coming together to share a table with my sisters. I get to share their burdens and be aware of how God works in the world.

How good God is to us! Praise be to God!

You can’t take worries to Heaven!

Many changes are coming up later this month, including that I will be moving into a new place. Right now, I’m struggling with a few different things:

  1. Getting rid of things. In all the cleaning, organizing, and packing, there are some material possessions I am having a hard time letting go of. This is because I either dread having to repurchase them later, I have an inordinate emotional attachment to them, or I just selfishly want to hang on to them because they are the trophy items of my financial achievements.
  2. Impending changes. A few very important people are moving away in a matter of weeks: my sister and my boyfriend. I’m not losing them, they are just off to do bigger and better things. There will be an adjustment period during which I will mourn and eat lots of ice cream.

In all the changing and letting go of things and situations, I did a quick search on bible verses that mention possessions. Most of the verses that kept coming up were in the context of practical commands to give to those who are in need out of the abundance God has blessed us with. While this is excellent, I kept searching and lo and behold, verses 19 to the end highlighted the exact two issues I’m dealing with: possessions and worrying about the future. Here’s what God showed me:

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also ~Matthew 6:21

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. ~ Matthew 6:33

The bad news: I’m awfully preoccupied with controlling my situation, and awfully UN-occupied with seeking God first in all things. All things means all things. Even when you’re about to step into a new phase in your life and everything feels like it’s going backwards and upside-down. It means I should seek Him in the little details like giving away my favorite tea kettle, and in the medium-sized things like giving away my beautiful Ikea bed I love so much but have no room for, and in the king-sized things like having a long-distance relationship, uncertain how we will end up.

But here’s the good news: Jesus promises us that our Father knows what we need and will provide, and that we are storing up treasures in Heaven “where moth and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:20). He will add to me everything I need, and then some! (Matthew 6:33).

It’s certainly not easy trying to remember and take comfort in these passages. Indeed, these are hard things to apply to real life. I am a physical being in a tangible world, but this is not my permanent home. Jesus prayed to the Father for his disciples, and you and me, in John chapter 17:

I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.  As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. (vv. 14-19).

Lord, Thank you for revealing your love for us chronic worriers through your Word. Use it in our lives that we might be renewed in our mines and attitudes for Your Glory. Thank you that you don’t ever leave us to face hardship and change on our own. Help us to keep Your perspective on what is worthy of our attention. Amen!

I sought the Lord, and He answered me

Ever have one of those moments when emotions build up out of nowhere? I was having a fine morning, 3/4 done with another brilliant post (or so I thought) when I realized that somehow I had saved a blank page.

No big deal right?

All of a sudden, out of nowhere, I was like a pressurized water heater ready to explode. It wasn’t just the lost piece of writing I was so proud of – everything came to the forefront. Fears, disappointments, bitterness, rage. I imagined that if I was sailing in the middle of a tempest, I’d be clinging to a loose rope, being violently thrown by the wind. I prayed and pleaded with God to fight this evil for me.

Image
Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me;
fight against those who fight against me ~Psalm 35:1

When I’m in distress like this, I pray in a desperate and pitiful way, simply asking Jesus to “come here” as if he was just down the hall. Exactly when he came and took care of me, I’m not sure. All I could see was the terrifying storm and pain in my heart. It wasn’t until I realized I had caught my breath and my heart was beat regularly that He had given me his peace and led me to calm waters.

All I know is what He allows me to experience, but I am by no means an expert on emotional distress. So I will offer this: If anyone out there today is feeling fragile or broken, there’s nothing better you can do than call out to Him for help. Hope in Jesus is the safe anchor for our souls (Hebrews 6:16). Instead of fixing your eyes on the problem, fix your eyes on Him.

I will be glad and rejoice in your love,
for you saw my affliction
and knew the anguish of my soul.
You have not given me into the hands of the enemy
but have set my feet in a spacious place. ~Psalm 31:7-8