Anxiety is not too big for God

I am starting to experience the first of probably many anxiety dreams about having this new baby. Over the weekend two dreams carried a common theme, both of control and loss of control. In my waking thought life I understand intellectually that I will make various mistakes when handling this new little person, but I also am confident that I will get the hang of it. I’m not that worried when I’m awake. However, my dream life paints a different picture. Here’s a little taste from my journal:

I dreamed I was babysitting my 6 year old nephew and allowed some lady I didn’t know, but who claimed to be a professional, cut his hair. As she began he chopped chunks off here and there until he was partially bald in several spots. I was horrified, anticipating what my sister in law would say, since she is also a hairstylist. (Why was I getting his hair cut in the first place?) I angrily took him home and as I attempted to strap him in his car seat, he became an infant and fell right out of the car, hitting the curb and rolling into the gutter. Suddenly it was my own baby that I was holding close and kissing, apologizing to her over and over again. I couldn’t believe how I had allowed this all to happen under my supervision.

And then the following night, I dreamed I was caring for a salamander and a frog. In efforts to keep them safe, I held on to them firmly in my hand until I could place them in a larger tank. When I opened my hand, I realized to my horror that I had been holding on so tight that I had actually dismembered the poor frog at the midsection. The legs and some organs fell through my fingers and I woke up in a state of panic and sadness at the pain I had caused.

In the Bible, dreams are used by God to communicate to us, sometimes by clear instruction or else by symbolism. (See Genesis 37, Daniel 2, Matthew 1, etc.) As for myself, I’m not sure I am capable of discerning whether my dreams come from God. All I know is that the fear and anxiety I face at night may be what lies just beneath the surface of my distracted day times.

It makes me wonder about the mystery of our minds and sub consciousnesses, and whether there lurk other thoughts and emotions which I cannot consciously access.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12

What does it mean that His Word is living and active? First, we now that the Word is also the name given to Jesus at the beginning of the book of John: “In the beginning the was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Jesus will also be the one in the last times to judge: “Then I saw Heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war… He wore a robe dipped in blood and his title was the Word of God” (Revelation 19:11,13).

It is not just referring to the fact that the literal “words” of the Bible which are inspired by the Spirit of God to be recorded by men, are wise and life-giving. We take these things for granted. But there is another dimension altogether that we often miss when trudging through our verse-a-day Bible checklists.

I think His word is described as living and active, for a simple reason – that God is living and active in our lives. He IS his own Word and He cannot betray Himself.

Jesus admitted that he had so much more to say to us, but lacked enough Earthly time. Instead he comforted us by sending the Spirit to carry on: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (John 16:13).

We must also consider the passage in context. Hebrews 4:13 goes on to warn us not to get too comfortable in our salvation. If we stop pursuing God because we believe are “good to go” to enter Heaven, our attitudes have changed. We no longer rely on Jesus’s mercy, but have now switched over to reliance on our self assuredness.

As long as we are alive on Earth we are still able to reject our own salvation. We must sill keep sober watch over our hearts, thoughts, actions, and attitudes.

Not a creature exists that is concealed from His sight, but all things are open and exposed, and revealed to the eyes of Him with whom we have to give account.

Hebrews 4:13

So as long as I remain always turning toward God and His will for me, even though disobedient trips and falls, and how I might appear to others, I can rest assured that He knows the inner motives and attitudes of my heart. PHEW! What mercy and comfort in knowing this! I am giving this fear of messing up as a mother way too much credit. The fear is there, but so is God.

Don’t (necessarily) follow your heart: Making faithful decisions that agree with the will of God

STRICTLY

Commonplace stock phrases like “follow your heart” are so prevalent in our culture that e don’t think twice when we see them plastered on greeting cards, posters, and children’s clothing. They sure sound positive, upright and true, but Jesus says something different. The sins that defile us, actually start with your heart.

“Out of a person’s heart come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness” (Mark 7:20-22).

The heart loves comfort & convenience above all

In school I had a friend whose parents were divorced, but had agreed to live together until the kids graduated. From where I was standing, they loathed each other and the air inside the house was fraught with tension. Their reasoning was that it was easier than having to deal with custody and cheaper than living apart. It may have seemed to work on the surface, but the arrangement still left deep wounds on the whole family. The heart does not want to be challenged or disturbed, and that shuts out any possibility for redemptive, albeit painful, work to be done. 

The heart can be blind to its own sin

Jeremiah 17:9 calls the human heart the most deceitful of all. Jesus talks about this too, in Luke 18:9-14 when he tells the parable about 2 men who prayed at the Temple. One, a Pharisee, proudly stood in a place of importance and prayed like this: “God, thank you that I am not a sinner like everyone else. I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I fast twice a week, and I tithe 10%.” The other man was a despised tax collector. He prayed with eyes glued to the ground and beating his chest in sorrow like this: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Jesus explains that it was the tax collector, and not the Pharisee who stood justified and innocent before God.

The Pharisee’s blindness to his own sin came from within in the form of pride and foolishness. I believe that the Pharisee honestly believed himself justified, but that’s not enough. By fully trusting his own heart’s judgement of himself (we always tend to minimize our sins to ourselves, don’t we?) he lost an opportunity to be made right before God.

To be successful, our hearts need solid truth for direction

The basis of the gospel is that we (and our hearts) are not good or innocent by default (Romans 3:10). Thus, we cannot be trusted to follow our hearts unless what we desire matches up with God’s will for us. How does one do that, exactly?

  1. Believe First, take heart! (ha) Remember that God has said, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”(Ez 36:26). He can do amazing work with our old broken hearts.
  2. Commit There is a decision facing you today. It may be large or small, but to the Lord, size doesn’t matter when it comes to obedience. Make a commitment to seek the right path to take. “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11)
  3. Seek The first place I go when I’m seeking wisdom from the Bible is usually the concordance in the back of my Bible (many popular bibles have them). Biblegateway.com and openBible.info are also excellent for quickly finding what you need.
  4. Ask This one sort of goes together with #3. Often it’s not the finding of the information that’s difficult, it’s the application of it. Even if you are pretty sure you know what you’re doing to do, it’s important to check yourself with the wisdom of another older believer. Stay in fellowship with one another through a church, a small group, and/or with a spiritual mentoring relationship with an older and trusted believer. I’m personally so thankful to have several such wise men and women in my life to whom I can go for direction.

Do you have a person or church family you trust for support? If not, I challenge you to reach out this week to someone like this. Remember that we all get off the path and need the support of our church family. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)

God’s Word never changes and “all scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 timothy 3:16).

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Prayer: God, we praise you for your mercy on poor sinners like us. We pray that your Holy Spirit would help us to discern the difference between your direction and our own sinful direction for our lives. Show us how to recognize our need for your mercy. Let our hearts consistently move forward toward that perfection that we will have in Heaven with You.

Application Question: What decision is facing you today, and how are you going to search for the right way to go?

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

Psalm 119:105