You can’t stop thinking about it–that fear that keeps you up at night, keeps you vigilant, keeps you looking for safeguards. It could be a health scare, fear for your kids, or a phobia. Whatever your fear, you are preoccupied with the terrible consequences you foresee. How would your kids cope without you? What if something happens to your child? What if you’re in a packed public place and you can’t get out?
None of the reassurances you get from statistics, family, or even doctors provide any comfort. The fear doesn’t lose its grip on you. Want to watch this in video form instead? Scroll down!
As a trained Christian psychologist, I know how to treat anxiety. Pharmacotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and biblical counseling can be very effective in treating anxiety. Yet, there is evidence that anxiety is on the rise. I’ve noted a significant increase in the number of people I know who suffer with anxiety. Despite being very familiar with anxiety, I suffered with it myself.
The Truth That Can Set Us Free From Fear
If you suffer from chronic fear, I urge you to seek help from a Christian counselor experienced in treating anxiety disorders or a cognitive-behavioral therapist. In the meantime, consider this truth:
Before I explain, I’d like to direct you to 1 Samuel. David had been promised by God (with much confirmation) that he would be the next king of Israel.
So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of theLord came powerfully upon David. 1 Samuel 16:13
We, too, have the promises of God: eternity with Him; He will never leave or forsake us; nothing can take us out of His hand; all our needs will be met; we will be comforted in our trials; all things will work together for our good, and many more. Like David, we have had the promises of God confirmed many times. Can you recall a time of God’s provision, presence, or peace in fearful times in the past? I definitely can.
Yet, despite God’s confirmed promise to David, David feared that Saul would kill him. He wouldn’t be king after all. Now there aren’t many things more terrifying than being chased after by a murderous madman, so I sympathize with David. But the consequence of David’s fear was eminently more devastating than even his own death.
David fled to Ahimelek the priest and lied to him about why he was in Nob because he feared Saul. The end result of David’s fear was the murder of 85 priests and the entire town of Nob, including children and infants. What’s more devastating than losing your life? Being responsible for the murder of an entire town full of people. Can you imagine the guilt he must have felt?
You’d think that David would have learned his lesson and would have trusted God to protect him, but no. His next fear-induced decision was to go to live amongst the Philistines. There, he consoled himself, he would be safe from Saul. But the devastating consequence was that his wives and his men’s wives and possessions were taken. His men were so upset with David about this turn of events that they nearly stoned him to death. Would it have been more devastating to be responsible for losing your family, your men’s family, and to be killed by your own men than by Saul? I think so! If you don’t know how the story ends, read 1 Samuel.
Are the Consequences of Fear Really More Devastating Than What We’re Afraid Of?
“Okay, Melanie,” you may be thinking. “That was David in Bible times. What I’m afraid of is much worse than the consequences of my fear.”
Don’t be so sure. Allow me to use fears you may be able to relate to for the purposes of discussion.
Are you afraid for your own health?
I was. I had symptoms of multiple sclerosis, a disease my mother has. I was so terrified I wouldn’t see a doctor. I didn’t want to hear the diagnosis. I began a diet and supplement regimen I hoped would cure me. It left me twenty pounds underweight, had me experiencing nearly every physical symptom you can imagine, and had my family and friends fearful for my life and sanity. What my fear did to me was much worse than multiple sclerosis could ever do. When I finally decided to trust God (and that was a process that required much prayer and meditation on Scripture), my physical symptoms disappeared. The book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie is full of accounts of people whose terminal illnesses disappeared when the fear did.
Are you afraid of losing someone you love?
Surely the consequences of your fear aren’t worse than having your loved one die? Not so fast. People who are afraid of losing a loved one typically make their loved ones so miserable with their constant worrying and unnecessary rules that their loved one no longer wants to be with them. Isn’t it more devastating to have your child or your spouse leave you by choice than by God’s sovereignty? I have had the opportunity to know godly people who have experienced the loss of a child. Their testimony is that God has given them grace to endure the loss. You will literally have Jesus’ ability to cope if you need it.
Are you afraid of flying or crowds or failing?
If you have a fear like these, do you think the consequences of your fear are more benign? Wrong! Do you remember the parable of the talents? Servants were given bags of gold: one was given one, one was given two, and one was given five. Why did the servant who made no return on his money bury it? Because he was afraid. What was the consequence? He was called wicked and lazy and his money was taken from him. He was thrown into the darkness where there was weeping and gnashing of teeth.
I’m not suggesting our fears will send us to hell. Rather, this account suggests that the consequences of our fear includes separation from God. Ultimately, my own fear was like the wicked servant’s. I was afraid of God because I didn’t see Him as the good, loving God that He is. I didn’t believe His promises any more than David did when he was running from Saul.
The second devastating consequence of these kinds of fears is missed opportunities. We don’t know that the servant who buried his money saw the money the other servants earned or not. But won’t we realize our lost opportunities either at the end of our lives or when we give an accounting to God?
What would God have done in you and through you if you’d gotten on that flight? What if that crowded Christian concert you were too afraid to attend would have renewed your faith and confirmed that mission God has for you? What if you had written that book, gone into business, or started a ministry and you had changed people’s lives? Regret, my friend, is more devastating than anything you fear.
What will you do now?
Fear is appropriate when our proposed actions are foolish or disobedient, but fear isn’t appropriate when God has clearly called us to act, trusting in Him.
If you suffer with chronic anxiety, recognize that it is the most treatable mental illness. Make an appointment, and ask your loved ones to pray for you and to go with you for support. I’m praying for you!
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It was Daylight Saving Time and my husband tried to change the time on our oven. He told me had had some trouble with it and I wasn’t worried. I’d changed it many times before. But when I tried to change the time, I noticed that I couldn’t do anything with the oven. It wasn’t working. There was some kind of strange error code. I tried flipping the breaker, but to no avail. It was time to call appliance repair.
The repairman arrived and glanced at the error code. “Oh, it’s in Sabbath mode,” he said.
“Yup. You just need to look up how to get it out of that mode in your manual.”
I couldn’t find the manual quickly, so Google explained that I just had to hold the clock button down to change it.
“That’ll be $75,” the repairman said. OK, so he wasn’t that rude, but that’s what it cost us to fix our oven. Ugh.
Why Do You Need a Sabbath Mode?
My husband kept thinking about the $75 bill, but I kept thinking about an oven mode that kept you from using the oven. Why would one need that?
I know that Jewish people observing the Sabbath aren’t allowed to cook. But why would you need to disable your oven? Couldn’t you just not bake?
A few weeks have passed since I asked myself these questions–a few weeks full of stress and busyness and what one of my Periscope viewers (catch the replay below) called “the creep.” In that time, I have felt exhausted, sick, and discouraged. Guess why.
- I had been ignoring my rule about not working past 8 p.m.
- I had been ignoring my rule about not working on Sundays
- I had been ignoring my rule about not working through lunch
The short answer to why I was starting to fall apart is that I hadn’t used my Sabbath mode.
We need a Sabbath mode so we can be strong physically.
Lack of sleep and unscheduled time can lead to illness and exhaustion that can sideline us for weeks or months. Our bodies weren’t created for continuous operation. In Mark 2:27, Jesus says: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” God asked His people to rest, not because He needed them to, but because they needed to.
We need a Sabbath mode so we can be strong emotionally.
I don’t know about you, but the most exhausting parts of my life are emotional, not physical strain. If I don’t have down time to process it, pray about, and talk about it, I will get testy. If it goes on long enough, I will get depressed. I love what Psalm 127:2 says about rest: “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” Rest is God’s gift to us.
We need a Sabbath mode so we can be strong spiritually.
Exodus 20:11 says: “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day.” When we work seven days a week, we can begin to believe that we are even more important than God. Even though I use my oven A LOT, life in our home wasn’t much different. We got to go out and I made meals that didn’t have to be baked. If you take a Sabbath rest, your family will survive, too.
When Are You Going to Go Into Sabbath Mode?
I determined that I need to turn my Sabbath mode on again at lunch time, after 8 p.m., and on Sundays. I asked not to be scheduled for tennis matches on Sundays unless I am really needed. I am going to tell my family to object if I try to keep working after 8 p.m.
Decide when your Sabbath will be and how you will keep your buttons from being pushed to keep working.
Need more? Catch the video where I discuss needing Sabbath and consider reading
If you haven’t seen the movie, War Room, I highly recommend it. It’s about the victory we can have through prayer. Sadly, too many of us don’t pray regularly. I think that’s because we have believed the enemy’s lies about it.
Want to watch the video of this post instead? Scroll down.
#1 We don’t have time to pray.
This is a big lie! We imagine that we have to devote an hour of uninterrupted time to pray or we can’t pray at all.
The truth is that, unlike many other activities, we can multitask when we pray. We can pray while we drive, exercise, and do laundry.
We don’t have to set aside a specific time to pray (although that is an excellent practice). We are to be praying all through the day.
TRUTH: We have time to pray.
Rejoice always, pray continually… 1 Thessalonians 5:16
#2 We are too emotional to pray.
When we are angry, crying in despair, or even celebrating a blessing, we may believe we aren’t in the right emotional state to pray. Yet the Bible is full of prayers written by people who are very emotional.
Our emotions should prompt us to pray! God is not put off by our emotions. Yesterday I was angry and was tempted not to pray. I resisted the temptation and took my upset to the Lord in prayer. Within minutes, the anger was gone.
In the middle of an emotional state, we may not know what to pray. At those times, we can simply say His name.
TRUTH: Emotional times are the best times to pray.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. Romans 8:26
#3 We are too imperfect to pray.
The enemy reminds us of our sin and taunts, “You are the last person who should expect help from God.” He may even twist Scriptures like Proverbs 15:29. The LORD is far from the wicked: but he hears the prayer of the righteous.
The enemy knows that if he can get us believing that we have to be good enough to have our prayers answered, that we will never pray. Who can be good enough? Thanks be to God that this isn’t His standard for answering prayer. Instead, He asks that we come to Him in truth. The Lord loves the confessing tax collector and is put off by the prideful Pharisee.
TRUTH: God wants imperfect sinners to pray.
The LORD is near to all them that call on him, to all that call on him in truth. Proverbs 15:29
#4 There is only one way to pray.
Human nature resists rules. If there is only one prayer to pray, one place to pray, or one prayer posture, we won’t want to pray.
While there are beautiful prayers like the Lord’s prayer that are scripted, all prayer is beautiful to God. Prayer is simply conversation with our Creator. Having a prayer room would be lovely, but as I mentioned in lie #1, prayer is to be happening continually. We do not have to have a prayer room. Praying on our knees or on our face before God can be a powerful part of emotional prayer, but I spend my devotional time in a recliner! I want my time devoted to prayer to be my favorite part of my day and it is.
Determine what could make prayer time your favorite time and do it. Grab your favorite beverage, a favorite spot, and your favorite tools and pray.
TRUTH: Prayer can be any words, anywhere, any way.
I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. 1 Timothy 2:8
#5 Our request is too small.
If you’re at church or in a Bible study and other people ask for prayer for someone with cancer or for someone who lost a job, you can feel like your request isn’t important enough to mention. We can take that attitude home with us.
The enemy knows that if he can convince us that our prayer request doesn’t compare to others’ needs, he can keep us from praying and trusting God. I wrote a post called Permission to Pray Little Prayers about this lie of the enemy. God wants us to pray about everything so we will not believe another pervasive lie: God helps those who help themselves. This is not found in Scripture. The enemy wants us to figure things out on our own. If you’d like a reminder as to why this is, reread the book of Genesis! Yes, God wants us to work for Him, but only after we have prayed.
TRUTH: God wants us to pray about everything.
Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6
#6 Prayer makes no difference.
This is the biggest lie about prayer. The enemy reminds us continually of our unanswered prayers–the prayers where it seems the enemy is enjoying victory. He wants us to ask, “What’s the point of prayer?”
This lie is based on Satan’s very first lie: God isn’t good. If he can get us to doubt God’s goodness, he can get us to stop praying. Many teachers today try to answer this lie by suggesting that God will always answer our prayers the way we want if we just have enough faith. But that answer suggests that God is only good if He does things our way. God is good even when our prayers aren’t answered in the way we hope.
Like a good parent, God doesn’t ask us to perform for Him in order to be loved. While we don’t know His purposes in unanswered prayer, we can know that God is good and that He loves us.
TRUTH: Prayer is powerful because God is a loving, powerful God.
If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? Matthew 7:11
I’m praying for you right now. Father, give this child of yours a heart to pray in spite of the enemy’s lies. Amen.
New to Periscope? Check out the page and join us at PeriSistersinChrist.com.
I was praying using my Spiritual Circle Journal. I had told the Lord about my dissatisfaction with my appearance, my kids’ behavior, and the progress I had made (or really had not made) on the language arts curriculum I’m writing. I waited to hear the action steps He would give me for fixing these problems.
Instead, He said:
The real problem is you aren’t content. I think you wrote about that.
I was surprised by that answer. I found the series of blog posts I had written on contentment (you’ll find them at the bottom of this post) and was convicted. But I wanted more than what I had written. The Apostle Paul said that he had learned the secret of contentment, regardless of circumstances. But what was that secret? I was on a mission to discover it and I wanted to share it with you.
Why Contentment Matters
1 Timothy 6:6 says that godliness with contentment is great gain. It is an amazing blessing to be content and miserable to be discontent. Proverbs 19:23 tells us that when we rest content, we are untouched by trouble. That doesn’t mean that we won’t HAVE trouble. We know we will. Jesus says that’s a given. But Proverbs says that our trouble can’t have its way with us. We will be at peace despite our circumstances if we are content. If I’ve sold you on the value of contentment, read on.
The Secret of Contentment
1. Receive Christ
In Philippians 4:13, Paul tells us that he can do all things (including being content) through him. If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit working in your life, it will be difficult–if not impossible–for you to have contentment.
2. Surround Yourself With Contented People
In verse 14 of Philippians, Paul goes on to tell us that despite the power of God enabling him, he is comforted by the encouragement of other believers. If you spend most of your time with people who are never satisfied, how will you be content? But when you share your burdens with contented believers, they will remind you of the promises of God and your contentment will grow.
3. Focus on What You Know
In Psalm 131:1 the psalmist tells us that he doesn’t concern himself with great matters or things too wonderful for him. We can become discontent when we want to know the answers to difficult questions like, “Why did God let this happen?” or worrying about the future. We KNOW that God is good and He loves us. Focusing on that truth gives us contentment.
4. Get Out of Situations That Make You Discontent
The psalmist continues in 131:2 to say he that he has calmed and quieted himself like a weaned child with its mother. As a mom, I know that when my baby is fussing, the best thing I can do for her is get her out of the situation. She needs to get away from the noise. I was watching a lot of home remodeling shows and found myself being discontent with my house. Suddenly, everything seemed so 80s! I have stopped watching those shows to quiet myself.
5. Fear the Lord
Truly the only thing we have to fear is God, because He is in control of our lives. Even if He permits something into our lives that we don’t want, we can be confident that He will give us His grace to endure. He will use it for our good and His glory. That truth fosters contentment. (See Proverbs 19:23)
6. Rejoice in Your Relationship with God
He is our portion, better and more satisfying than anything we are pining away for. He will never leave us or forsake us. Hebrews 13:5 tells us that this truth is what makes us content. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells us that continually rejoicing, praying, and thanking God is the antidote to discontentment. Our blessings can be like the bucket of popcorn at the movies that we mindlessly consume. The 5 Minute Journaling app has been helpful to me in focusing on my blessings. I have copied and pasted these contentment Scriptures to pray through on my Pocket Prayer app on my phone.
Do you have any other suggestions for fostering contentment in your life? Comment or tell me about them on Facebook.
Let’s be honest. You’d pray more if you felt like more of your prayers were answered. Why aren’t your prayers being answered?
This post isn’t going to delve into all the many reasons your prayer may not be answered in the way you hoped. Instead, I want to share a very practical reason you and I aren’t checking off as many answered prayers as we could be. The simple steps necessary to address this problem can have a huge payoff:
- Your faith will grow as you see that God really is hearing you.
- You’ll pray more as you come to believe that a prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
- You’ll encourage others to pray because of your own experience.
A Lesson from Productivity
I have so much I want to do that I’ve long been fascinated with finding ways to motivate myself and to make the best use of my time. That’s why I’ve been doing a whole series on Fridays called A Year of Living Productively. I’ve also been blessed to have a number of visitors to those posts who wouldn’t ordinarily visit a Christian blog like mine.
One of the basic teachings of productivity is that you have to make your tasks actionable. In other words, I don’t put ‘be happy,’ ‘be strong spiritually,’ or ‘be healthy’ on my to-do list. I would have no idea if I’d finished those tasks.
The problem is we regularly put those kinds of things on God’s to-do list! We pray that we and others would be happy, strong, and healthy. Those are wonderful prayers and we don’t have to stop praying them, but if we want to see answered prayers, we need to make some changes.
Start recording your prayer requests. If you have no record of what you’ve done during a given month, you’re going to be dumbfounded if I ask you what you’ve accomplished in the past 30 days. In the same way, God is very busy acting on your behalf, but you have to write down how to remember. Begin keeping a prayer journal or use an app to track your requests. Here is a free prayer journal printable with plenty of room to record the results. I love Pocket Prayer Pro for the iPhone because I can schedule requests.
Phrase your prayer requests in actionable terms. Instead of praying for happiness, pray that you or a loved one would rate your joy as 7 or higher for the day. Instead of praying for your child or grandchild to be strong spiritually, pray that they would show interest when you talk with them about God. Instead of praying for health, pray for a specific indicator of health, such as a medical test result. Exactly how you phrase your request doesn’t matter as long as you will be able to clearly determine that your prayer has been answered. Be sure to include short- and long-term requests, just as we include these kinds of tasks on our own lists. You can absolutely keep praying general prayers, too. Fortunately, God doesn’t give us prayer request limits. Isn’t He incredible?
Follow-up. When we work on our own task lists, we want to know the results. We find out if our boss is happy with the report, if the small repair we did worked, or if we are actually losing weight by eating right and exercising. Experiencing more answered prayer is no different. We shouldn’t just pray for our loved one to have peace during a medical procedure; we should ask them if they did! Then let them know you were praying for them. If you pray in the morning, look over your prayer list that evening and see what God got done.
Recording the answers to prayer this way can uplift your faith, your family, and your church. When you or someone you love is discouraged, you can show them the record of answered prayer in your life.
I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer. Psalm 17:6
Do you have an actionable prayer request that I can pray for you? Please contact me if you have a private request.
I often feel guilty praying little prayers. I have friends right now who need great big prayers. They’re in pain. They’re in mourning. They need a job in the worst way. Do I have any business praying for the rain to stop so my hair doesn’t get wet?
Praying for Dresses and Parking Spaces
Graduate school had been a harrowing time for me. In So You’re Not Wonder Woman, I share some of the many challenges I faced: impending failure, unbearable living conditions (that I’d created), credit card debt, overeating, unhealthy relationships, and depression. I was so thankful to have emerged from that time with a Ph.D. that I wanted a special dress to celebrate. I wasn’t willing to spend a lot on it and it had to be just right. But my shopping had been to no avail. I had to have a dress before the stores closed that night or I would have to wear something I’d worn many times before. I prayed that if the Lord wanted me to have a new dress for graduation, that I would find it at this last store at the right price. I walked into the store and saw it immediately. As I reached to take it off the rack, a sales clerk stopped me and said, “Wait! We’re marking that down.” I not only got the perfect dress inexpensively, I got the idea that it was okay to pray little prayers.
I’ve written before about God answering prayers for parking spaces and beautiful weather for weddings because God is a Gentleman. But I keep forgetting that fact and feel like I’m being a spoiled brat whining at God’s feet when I pray little prayers. This weekend I remembered why you and I have permission to pray them.
The Rain that Wasn’t a Pain
Saturday morning I was getting ready for the annual Women’s Day of Renewal where I would speak on “Secrets of the Spirit Lifters.” I had my hair sufficiently poofed up, but it would be no match for the rain that was coming down. I asked my husband if we had any umbrellas I could take with me. He thought maybe there was one in the garage. Nope! I was pretty sure they were all in our family van which I was not taking to the retreat and which would require me to take on a lot of rain to get to. I decided to jump in the other vehicle and take my chances not having an umbrella.
On the way to the retreat, I realized I didn’t even have a jacket to cover my head. I was NOT thinking about encouraging the women; I was thinking about keeping my hair dry! I decided to pray.
Lord, if you would stop the rain long enough for me to get into the church, I would be so appreciative! Please bless this retreat and make it the best one yet.
I’m going to be completely honest and admit that I didn’t expect Him to hold off the rain–especially as I turned up my wiper speed as high as it would go on the drive there. But I did relax knowing that God would help me, one way or another. I sang along to the praise music on my radio until my exit was in sight. The rain suddenly stopped. The little drops stopped landing on my windshield and threatened to slide down my cheeks.
I was able to get into the church with my materials dry and my hair held high. But nothing could have been higher than my spirits. God cares about dresses and parking spaces and dry hair because He cares about me and you. He seems even bigger when He answers our little prayers.
As I left the retreat I asked one of the organizers how it had gone and she answered, “It was our best one yet.”
And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Matthew 10:30
Has God answered your little prayers and renewed your faith?