Years ago, when I was smack dab in the middle of the years, I spent homeschooling my four kids, we started our day with a daily devotion. I would read a story or two from the “Egermeiers Bible Story Book” then we would talk about it. One day I was describing to the best of my finite capabilities the Greatness of God. I told my kids; God is like an ocean you can explore. You think you have seen it all and there is soooo much more out there of Him.” As soon as I spoke those words, I felt the Holy Spirit say, “Yes, and you are content to just dip your toes while sitting on the edge of the shoreline of ME”. “Busted!!”
This morning as I have been praying and reading my Bible the Song “Rest on Us” by Maverick City Music has been going through my mind. Actually, this started yesterday in my living room, while cleaning. This song came on and I was captivated by its words. (Gotta love a time of living room worship 😉)
Rest on Us
Spirit, when You move, You make my heart pound
When You fill the room
You're here and I know You are moving
I'm here and I know You will fill me
'Cause You love to meet us here
He-hey, baptize us afresh tonight
Baptize us afresh tonight"
God is an experiencial God. He wants us to feel Him. Case in Point: Thomas and Jesus after the resurrection. “Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” John 20:26-27. Acts 2 is definitely an account of the disciples experiencing God. The Holy Spirit comes, people hear the sound of a “mighty rushing wind”, the disciples feel joy, so much so that the people around think they are drunk. Acts 2:15. God talks about in His word that we are to “TASTE and SEE that the Lord is good.” Psalm 34:8. Sounds like an experience to me… The cool thing about God is that He’s not about just one good experience of Him, then endure til Heaven. He desires a vibrant, living relationship with us on the daily! BUT so often I find myself like I was telling my kids that school day long ago, “Dangling my toes on the edge of the ocean of God’s Goodness!” AND He is inviting me to SOOOOO much more!
His desire is for us to dive in and to explore the depths of HIs love, His Joy, His Peace, His Patience, His Kindness, His Goodness, His Self-Control! The question is “Will I dive in?” “Will I explore the depths of His love and His wisdom in HIs Word?” The invitation has been sent out. His depths are calling out to the deep.
"Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me."
Psalm 42:7 NIV
Proof that this pursuit is not a onetime occurrence, but a lifetime endeavor of seeking Him, searching out His word, communion/ experiencing His Spirit’s presence.
Years ago, February 4, 2006, to be exact I was contemplating all this and I wrote a Poem
The Deep (written 2/4/2006)
I can't go deep enough when i dive into You.
I think I arrive, but the hunger returns.
Your deep calls to deep and I am moved.
I follow You on and chase after You.
My heart cries out. "How long until I am consumed?"
You alone I desire. You alone satisfy.
"Fill me with you:" Is my hearts Cry.
Just one taste will NEVER satisfy! More of Jesus! More of the Holy Spirit filling us to the overflowing!
I grew up in a small southern Missouri town near Montauk State Park, a state park known for trout fishing. Opening day of Trout Season, March 1st was almost like a holiday in our area. Kids were known to skip school so they could be on the river, pole in hand, listening for the early morning whistle blow that signaled the day of trout fishing had begun. I didn’t go much, but some in my family did. Then I met my husband and we married. He took to the whole trout fishing scene and became pretty proficient in catching his limit of trout, almost every time. That is not easy. I could fish for hours and catch none….. Years went by, camping at another state park for trout fishing became a yearly, if not more occurrence. It was nice. We had a pull behind camper. I would sleep in with the kids, he would go fishing. I would hang out, relax, do some school work with them, since we tended to camp during the school year, perks of Homeschooling… Then the camper was sold, the kids grew up, and my husband needed a fishing buddy. So my love for trout fishing began.
One of the things about catching trout that still stumps me to this day, is they are incredibly smart. They can see the line, if too thick, the hook if too big, and they will NOT bite on it. You use a very light weight line and a very small hook considering the size of fish you will reel in.
This morning the image of a large trout being reeled in on a small hook has been floating around in my mind. I’ve seen it lots of times as I’ve stood with waders on, in the stream. Fish in one hand, my other hand free to remove the tiny hook from its mouth. How I ever got it into my net on such a small device eludes me. It probably amazes the trout as well. One chomp at an alluring fly and it’s a done deal, with the right skills, he becomes mine.
There is a parallel between the trout on a hook and the thought life I have struggled with for years. But finally, something has clicked inside of me that has “unhooked me” in my mind, and all I can do is praise the God who sets me free.
I’m pretty sure any person who struggles with trauma-based anxiety will identify with this pattern in your mind. A thought of an event or situation of the past comes to mind, a trauma. Then the thought, “uh oh… I thought the thought. I remembered the event. I prayed about that memory. I asked God to take it away, but here it is. I must not have experienced the healing God promises. What can I do to set myself free?” So, YOU fight to not think about it anymore: Distract, medicate, meditate, self-help techniques galore, the list goes on… That is the equivalent to a large trout hooked on a tiny hook. That trout will FIGHT to not be reeled in. All the while digging the hook deeper into its lip.
Yesterday, the Bible study group I go to, “Women on Wednesdays” had a workshop on Emotional Woundedness. They invited the Reginal director for Center for Women’s Ministries to lead it. There was something talked about during the workshop that has “unhooked” me, “Holy Forgetfulness”. God must have been trying to get my attention, because not only did it come up during the workshop, the topic was brought up in church on Sunday by a guest speaker for Spring Revival, and it also came up on a teaching I watched online by Robert Morris. In fact, a quote from Robert Morris’ teaching was posted in my Facebook feed. “Holy forgetfulness doesn’t mean we won’t have the memory anymore; it means we won’t have the stress and pain associated with the memory.” I would venture to say God has been trying to get my attention. It hit me… Memories of painful events don’t just vanish. They happened. But fighting the memory by trying to forget will only “set the hook” worse. God has “unhooked” me! Satan wants to drag up the chains, the handcuffs, the prison cell bars, from the recesses of my mind and say, “Yep, they are still there…” But the fact of the matter is NOT that all those things have existed as a part of my story. The FACT is I am not in them anymore! The pain they caused me has been healed. I am free! Jesus, the healer and the source of freedom, has unhooked me! That memory that I have tried so hard to forget needs to only be filed away under the label, “YOU ARE FREE!” and each time it may come up, the label clearly displayed. Because that memory has no hold on me!
A sheep’s life has to be fairly uncomplicated. Graze on grassy slopes, drink cool water from streams, stay with the herd, listen to the shepherd’s voice, hang close to the shepherd. Wool just naturally grows on your back so you don’t have to work up some wool growing ritual, just occasionally yield to the shepherd as he shears it off. Yep, that’s pretty uncomplicated…
However, there are some sheep that complicate the good life. Case in point, New Zealand’s very own Shrek the sheep. Shrek decided he wasn’t content with the good life of sheepness. For six years he evaded his shepherd hiding in a cave living life his own way. He had avoided his only responsibility, yielding to the shepherd as the shepherd would sheer his sheep. Six years of missing his annual sheering left him with 60 lbs of wool on his back, a typical year yielded 10 lbs. Enough wool to make 20 large men’s suits. That, my friend, is a lot of excess weight for one wandering sheep to carry, and Shrek was having troubles bearing up under the weight he had taken on.
I heard the story of Shrek the Sheep years ago at “Ashes to Beauty- Women’s Encounter”. After attending this past weekend, I was reminded of it. Now this morning the images, the thoughts about the spiritual parallel keep running through my mind. (That’s usually a sign a blog is about to be written.)
Oh, the parallels in the life of Shrek the Sheep and me… I am Shrek the Sheep. Something inside of me finds it hard to rest in the beautiful green meadows. That something feels the need to rush on by the peaceful streams. Jesus assures me that a life living under His shepherding would be a life of His provision, His protection, and His care, but I tend to wander away, like Shrek. Maybe it’s my disdain for the process of being sheered every so often. I’m sure for a sheep that isn’t a comfortable procedure. Yielding to my Shepherd’s will isn’t always comfortable for me. Maybe it’s the “I want what I want, when I want it, how I want it” that rolls around on the inside of me. I’m sure that’s what Shrek had in mind as he slipped away to “do his own thing”. Me too… And then there’s the weight that piles on from time away from the shepherd’s care. Not to mention the discomfort of a summer with way too much wool on your back. For me all the choices, the voices, the burden to bear piles on after time spent away from the Good Shepherd’s gentle hand. Thankfully my shepherd has no trouble finding me, taking the unnecessary weights off of me, and showing me time and time again how much His love is for me even when I do not understand.
Yes, I am Shrek the Sheep. Once back in the Shepherds care, I am treasured, loved, healed, freed to roam in the life of abundance that He gives freely to me knowing that my every need will be met, and I am safe as I stay close to Him.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalms 23:NLT
David of the Bible spent many years as a shepherd before He became King. During His years as a shepherd, he experienced God’s supernatural help in battles with enemies against his sheep and most famously a Philistine Giant. In 1 Samuel 17:24 he recounts how “The Lord who rescued him from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue him from the hand of this Philistine (giant).” as a young man he tells Saul he will not only fight the Giant, who intimidated the entire Israelite army, but defeat him. He did experience that victory. Later, through a series of events, he was anointed King over Israel. 2 Samuel 5:17-25 gives the account of how the Philistines found out David was no longer just a shepherd and a mighty warrior; he had become King of Israel. They decided to pursue him with “full force”. After hearing about this, David went down to the stronghold, a mountain area in the desert of Judah that he had used before when defending himself. It was there that David asked God, “Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you deliver them into my hands?” God told him to “Go” and David defeated the Philistines there at “Baal Perazim”.
In the Bible names have meaning. “Baal Perazim” means “The Lord who breaks out- Breaks through”. After his victory David said, “The Lord has broken out against my enemies before me.” 2 Samuels 5: 20. The Lord of the Breakthrough!
Last weekend I attended “Ashes to Beauty- Women’s Encounter” sponsored by Encounter Ministries. It was “Awesome!” and that is an understatement. 48 hours of testimony, teaching, worship, and prayer for issues that women battle. Everything from Repentance from our sins, receiving forgiveness, forgiveness for self or past hurts, to how-to live-in victory in everyday life as a woman of God.
One of the songs played during the sessions for worship has touched me deeply and has been stirring around inside my heart, “Breakthrough” by Chris McClarney.
Many of those who attended last weekend, came from situations that needed exactly what the words of this song speak to. They were surrounded by problems too big for them to solve, drowning under the weight of it all, but instead of running to the one who is the answer to their problems and very capable of removing the heavy weight they had been carrying, they had chosen to run after all the solutions the world offers: unbiblical sex, pornography, drugs, alcohol, ungodly relationships, etc. Finding themselves struggling with the results of those choices: addictions, anxiety, depression, suicidal ideations, etc. FAR from the peace that God wants to offer as we hide away in His stronghold, seeking Him. This was exemplified in the account of David I described above. David, being a man after God’s own heart, knew where to go when surrounded by situations bigger than Him, “The Full Force of the Philistine Army” that had it out for him because of Him already having taken out their Champion, Goliath. David was their #1 target. We God’s beloved, made in His image, are also the #1 target of the Enemy of God, Satan. We would do well to follow David’s example: Run to our stronghold, God himself, Seek HIs direction, and Act only on what we are told to do. Totally depending on God’s Omnipotence, the all-powerful Defender and the God who fights for Us! He alone has the power to “Breakthrough” situations that are harder than stone, to free us.
A few weeks ago, my husband was telling me about nuclear submarines in the arctic region. They can run for days far beneath the hardened layers of ice. But at the right time, they are able to surface, breaking through the ice to accomplish what needs to be done. I spent time this morning watching videos of this. It’s pretty cool. Nothing but snow and Ice and suddenly the top of the submarine appears and grows in size until it is the entire length of the submarine. One video showed this, then a hatch opened and out climbed a sailor to stand on the once, impenetrable ice. We are like that sailor. We may have spent days, weeks, months, years underneath something so hard and cold, nothing seems to be able to bring us above it. But hold on. God has the power to “Break us through” the cold layers of hurt, disappointment, poor choices, etc. Our God is as David knew him so long ago, “Baal Perazim”- The Lord of the Breakthrough!! He will not allow us to live out our lives covered over. As we trust Him, seek His face, we will find ourselves standing on top of what once covered us, proclaiming the Goodness of our God who give us the Breakthrough!
History tells of both Alexander the Great and Spanish Captain, Hernán Cortés burning their ships on the shores of the lands they had set out to conquer. The reasoning was to destroy the only possibilities of retreat should the battles become too hard. There was no other way to go but into the battle. There was no other option for the men- conquer or die.
Every once and awhile something I read in the Bible strikes me. When it does, it becomes the focus of my day. That’s a part of meditating on the Word, a concept I’m trying to wrap my mind around lately. This morning I had this experience once again. A few years ago, I purchased a copy of Secrets of the Secret Place written by Bob Sorge. It was highly recommended by the leader of a ministry my husband and I were involved in. For various reasons, I have not ever finished it. I picked it up again this week. Today when I read the chapter “The Secret of No Plan B” This quote and this verse stuck out to me.
“One of the greatest secrets to intimacy with God is to come to Him as your only source of help and hope. ‘Lord in this situation I have no Plan B— no other options to default to if You don’t come through. You are the only one who can help me!’ He loves it when you look to Him alone for deliverance.” – Bob Sorge – Secrets of the Secret Place
“My soul, waits silently for God alone, For my expectation is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved.” Psalms 62:5-6 NKJV
Lately, I have been writing several testimonies of the work God has been doing in my heart. A year ago, I would not be able to speak of the peace and joy I have been experiencing the past few months. There has been a closeness to God that I have been experiencing that I haven’t had for a very long time. The distance I was living in before God’s work was brought on in part by my decision to live my life with a “Plan B”. There is a real and present danger when we choose to allow a “Plan B” to exist. I can testify, God will not share His supremacy in our lives. He is First and our ONLY God, our ONLY Help, our ONLY Deliverer. He is Plan A for who we run to, who we trust, who fights for us. Plan B cannot exist.
It is very common in our modern world to come to God with a bunch of Plan B’s in our back pocket. I had my stack of them ready for use. This is why the Modern Church is riddled with addictions, depression, anxiety, brokenness, failures, etc. We come to God seeking all the goodness we want to experience, yet we refuse to let go of our Plan B’s that we use to cope with the trials, pain, disappointments, etc. that come our way. This is how I lived… Trial comes my way, discouragement- figure out a way to distract yourself. Emotional Pain rears it’s ugly head- self help book after self help book on how to cope. Meditate (in an Eastern religion way) to get peace in your mind. Google search after google search for a solution. The truth of the matter is our reliance on all the Plan B’s the world has to offer is no different than the ancient world that cut down trees and cooked some food on the wood and saved a piece of it to chisel out an Idol to call their god so that they could pray to it and worship.
“He cut down cedars, or perhaps took a cypress or oak. He let it grow among the trees of the forest, or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow. It is used as fuel for burning; some of it he takes and warms himself, he kindles a fire and bakes bread. But he also fashions a god and worships it; he makes an idol and bows down to it. Such a person feeds on ashes; a deluded heart misleads him; he cannot save himself, or say, “Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?”” Isaiah 44:14-15, 20 NIV
The Plan B’s of our modern world are just works of human hands, as powerless to save as a carved image in ancient times, and probably the most startling fact of our reliance on all the Plan B’s of self effort, meditate, self-medicate, etc. is as we bow ourselves and ask them to fix us, we have participated in a SIN called “Idolatry”.
Our victory comes to us in a very similar way that Alexander the Great and Hernán Cortés spurred their warriors to victory, we must Burn Our Ship, Burn our Idols, Burn our stack of Plan B’s. Look to Jesus alone for the peace, the joy, the love we long to experience. Eyes on Christ alone. Thoughts on God and His qualities. Seeking Him only for our Help and our deliverance. Bragging about Him alone as the source of our Freedom when we finally began to walk in it in earnest.
We cannot save ourselves. Our Plan B’s are a sham. There is only One Way and when we walk in it, life in Jesus, we cannot help but glory in His Salvation. Because there is no other name, or Plan B, that can save us. Only Jesus and His Plan A- looking to Him alone!
I was most definitely a daddy’s girl. I held the title of baby of the family for the first 9 years of my life, until our family became a Foster Family, and my little sister, who my family adopted later, came to live with us. Up until that point it was my two older brothers and me, and you better believe that I milked my youngest and only girl for all that it was worth. Probably my earliest memories of my dad were being held by him. I can remember sitting in the wooden pews of church during service, trying very hard to not to get in trouble with my older brother Joe on one side of dad, me on the other, and our little hands going behind dad’s waist against the pew trying to reach each other. After a little bit of that, my dad would cross his leg and there would suddenly appear the perfect little seat in the bend of his knee and the place where his ankle met his other leg’s thigh. I just had to crawl up and sit. It wouldn’t be long I would rest my head on his chest. Awww… that was comfy. Then there was the weekly trip to my grandparent’s house in the country. After an evening of cracking peanut shells and eating them with my grandpa and walking around looking at my grandma’s iris beds along her fence row, I would be pretty tired. So, I begged for my dad to pick me up and carry me to the car. I can almost hear my Grandma’s voice saying to my dad, “I believe you will have to carry that girl down the aisle to the altar when she gets married. She needs you to carry her all the time.”
I loved to be held.
This morning as I spent time praying and listening to God, I thought about how much I love to be held still. I’m probably about 130 more pounds than I was back when I was constantly looking for a way to be held by my Dad, so he probably would not appreciate it today as much as he did 48 years ago. And him carrying me is, shall we say… “Out”. Not gonna happen… However, NOTHING can compare to the warmth of being up close to the chest of someone stronger than you, listening to their heartbeat, feeling safe and secure. I may have outgrown my earthly Daddy, but my Heavenly Daddy is impossible to outgrow. So, back to this morning, I found myself telling God how much I wanted to be held by Him. Just to be so close, I could nestle up against Him and listen to His heartbeat and truly realize the reality of His love that wraps around me and holds me.
There are a lot of things in life that try to separate me from knowing I am held by God. It’s 6:52 in the morning here, and my busy day is already trying to whisk me away from the time I am able to spend with God, close to Him. That is just part of being on planet earth. But today as I have been reflecting on how I can take this short time of devotion in the morning when I feel so close to God and make that my entire day, I am reminded that my Heavenly Daddy has no limits of “just this time, just this place is the only way to be held by me.” He is always there. I am always “the apple of His eye”. I may not fully grasp the reality of just how Big He is and how Strong He is. But He never puts me down. I am always carried by Him, I am always Held. God give me eyes to see and a heart to understand how treasured I am.
1 John 3:1 "See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!..."
Psalm 27:10 "... the Lord will hold me close."
Psalm 17:8 AMP "Keep me [in Your affectionate care, protect me] a the apple of Your eye; Hide me in the [protective] shadow of Your wings."
Deuteronomy 7:6 "For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession."
Good Friday is here! Reflecting on what Jesus did on the cross becomes the focus of this day. Where would I be had Good Friday never happened? No hope, Fear, Torment… Lost. The truth of the matter is it was my rebellion, my choices, my sin that Jesus took upon himself on the cross. He essentially did the equivalent of running into a burning building and pulling me out at the cost of His own precious life. All this so I could be free and experience His love. He is just that Good!
Finally Free- (originally written 3/4/2007)
I know where I come from.
I know You are the Holy One
With sin filled heart I spat in your face.
I am nothing apart from your grace.
Your nail scarred feet ran to rescue me.
Your blood stained hands reached out to me.
From the fire you have pulled me.
Oh what I owe is too much to see.
Your arms of love surround me.
And draw me to the side pierced for me.
You saved me
I am finally free!
May I kiss the hand of the one who saved me.
With grateful tears may I wash your feet.
I long to gaze in your beautiful face.
I am grateful for your grace.
Your arms of love surround me.
And draw me to the side pierced for me.
You saved me
I am finally free!
“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
(Last Sunday afternoon I spent some time surfing the internet. I came across a church service online from a church that my husband and I attended years ago. This illustration came from their opening of the service. It struck me because it is something I’m sure we all experience. In fact, I experienced it a couple of weeks ago, so I will relay my occurrence.)
Every once and awhile I get a hankering for a large McDonalds UNSWEET Tea. It’s a dollar and some change, so when I’m out and about it seems like a little treat to me. I DO NOT LIKE the Sweet Tea. It is so thick with sugar. I feel like I’m trying to suck down some kind of syrup. So strange as it may seem Unsweet is what I go after. Two weeks ago, I took my grandson for a ride in my Jeep. We ran through the McDonald’s drive thru to get him an ice cream cone and me… you guessed it an UNSWEET tea. I tried my best to enunciate in the drive through order box that I wanted UNNNNNN Sweet. So, I felt pretty confident they would get it right. I handed the mini-ice cream cone to my grandson and sat my Tea in the cup holder. Off we went. All was well until I finally found the straw they gave me, stuck it in the cup, and took a swig. SWEET… UGH! I was already down the hill and entering the roundabout towards the next destination. My first thought was, “Oh well, you didn’t really need it anyway.” But then it hit me. I paid for Unsweet. I wanted Unsweet. I will go back and get it. So I did. I pulled up to the window and explained that I had purchased an Unsweet Tea and they had given me sweet. In a matter of less than a minute, I was happily pulling away from the window with the Tea I ordered. All this over a cup of tea that cost me a little over a dollar and some change. But I wanted what I paid for.
Starting today, Palm Sunday, we have entered Holy Week. I come from a tradition that observed little of the week with exception of Good Friday. But In more recent years I appreciate the remembrance and celebration of the days leading up to Easter Sunday. Especially the observance of Good Friday. Reflecting on the price Jesus paid for me to live free each year is so very important. As the verse above states, “The punishment that brought us peace was laid upon Him”. He gave all of Himself, so we could be in relationship with Him and live the life we were originally created to live before sin entered and our world, our lives were broken. We however choose to live lives that are far from what He purchased for us to live. He came that we would “have life and have it more abundantly” or as some versions say “to the full”. John 10:10. He came to make us subjects of His royal kingdom, heirs to His promises. Yet we choose to do what I almost did at the roundabout when I discovered I did not get the Tea I paid for: think oh well, I don’t need it anyway, and drive away… BUT Jesus wants us to live in EVERY Blessing He paid for us to live within. He “Wants what He paid for ” in our lives. He wants us to not settle, but to be willing to pursue and run towards the “prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14. He wants us to “take ahold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of Us”. As we go through each day approaching the celebration of Good Friday and then Easter, I believe God wants us to reflect on this one thing. As the old Hymn says, “Jesus Paid it all. All to Him I owe…” Am I living a life full of what Jesus paid the price for me to obtain? Am I experiencing His peace? If not, time to go through the spiritual roundabout back to where you got away from HIm and the peace He paid for you to have. Am I experiencing His joy? If not, time for a U Turn Go back to the only true source of Joy, Jesus. Am I living in His Love? No? Go back to the place you were when you walked away from your First Love. He paid such a great price on the cross so we could live in these. Don’t cheapen the tears that rolled down His face, the bloody stripes across His back, the nail prints in His hands and feet, by being unwilling to go back to Him. He is saying “I want what I have paid for in your life!” not because He is a “demanding” God, But because HE IS GOOD! And He loves us SOOOOO much! He is not satisfied for us to have a half fulfilled life. He wants to overflow us with ALL He has paid for, we are the ones who choose to go after it by going after Him or going our own way, turning down the Good He offers us.
Winter in Missouri can cause challenges. Especially if you live on a gravel road. (Thank God it’s spring now). Significant snowfalls tend to make traveling our roads into a challenge. Especially when the snow begins to melt and the side of the road becomes sloppy with a mixture of mud and snow. Just ask my son… A narrow road, an oncoming school bus with no intention to slow down or move over, and a little too close to the side creates the perfect opportunity to find yourself in the ditch… stuck.
Once trapped in such a manner with one tire in a hole off the side of the road, there is no amount of tire spinning, or trying to lift oneself out of the ditch. The only solution is to call for help from someone who has the experience and the tools to remove you from it. Thankfully my nephew had a 4-wheel drive truck, a chain, and experience from his own off road/ ditch time.
Years ago, I read the book, “Get Out of That Pit” by Beth Moore. In the book, she made a point about how we get “stuck” in life’s pits: Some we are thrown into, some we fall into, and some we jump into wholeheartedly. That pretty well sums up the times I’ve found myself in an emotional/ spiritual pit. I ended up there one of those three ways. My most recent pit experience was due mainly to a slow slide into it, kind of like my son’s car. Adversity (the school bus) came barreling down my spiritual dirt road with no intention of slowing down, moving over, or yielding to my desperation to get out of its way. Three or four major life issues hitting you at once… not a fun time. But the problem was not so much my problem, although it felt very much like it was. The problem was my response to my problem. I tried to fix it any way so I could feel the slightest bit of relief… Also known as, “my own efforts to save myself”. Feeling overwhelmed… no problem- take some meds, up your meds- again and again. Feeling unheard… no problem- try meditation, empty your mind, find your zen. Feeling angry… no problem- find some angry music, listen to it loud, scream let it out. Feeling (whatever it is) … no problem- fix it yourself. The problem was “I” became my solution… and I cannot do anything to save myself.
“God, the Master, The Holy of Israel, has this solemn counsel: ‘Your salvation requires you to turn back to me and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves. Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on me— The very thing you’ve been unwilling to do. You’ve said, ‘Nothing doing” Isaiah 30:15 – MSG
I don’t know if you’ve ever been in real, police handcuffs. I have once. Not that I was arrested. A friend of ours was a police officer. He offered to let me have the handcuff experience. There’s this nifty little thing about handcuffs. When placed on your wrist, if you resist them, they tighten. Less than 30 seconds with them on and experiencing that tightening, I was telling him, “Ok get the key. Take them off.” Our wrestling in self effort to save ourselves is very much like having handcuffs placed on us and the movement only causes the issue/ problem to tighten. There is only one way out, and that is for the one with the key to unlock them and set you free. Let me tell you in no uncertain terms, “YOU FIXING YOU WILL NOT WORK!” It is the same as wrestling with the handcuffs on your wrists. It will only hold you more captive than when you started.
Maybe it’s just I’m hardheaded (my husband would probably say “amen”), but when I started my own self effort to fix me, I was convinced just a little more of my effort would be the cure to the struggle on the inside. Anxiety, depression, anger, etc. are not fixed by me. They are only fixed by allowing the holder of the key, Jesus, to do His work. The only way out of the ditch we find ourselves in by our choices to do it our way, is for Jesus to pull us out. As the verse above states, “Stop your silly efforts to save yourselves”.
My first session with a Christian counselor actually contained the key, that I was unwilling to allow unlock my chains, presented to me. She said, “You know all the things of modern psychology, relies on changing how you see and think about your situation. God already told us how to do that centuries ago in the Bible. Philippians 4:8 is true, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, whatever is excellent, or praiseworthy… Think on these things.”” Here is where I went wrong… When she told me this, I was annoyed instead of accepting. I gave it a weak try instead of being determined that I would have to believe and stand in the power of HIs (Jesus’) might. Instead of asking God to help me to think about what He told me to think upon, which equates to thinking on HIM, I started my journey into trying all the solutions that did not include the true key, Jesus. That plan, built on self-sufficiency simply does not work.
God sufficiency does! He is able to do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” Ephesians 3:20. It is a matter of me turning to Him and allowing Him to work. It is a matter of me focusing on who He is giving worship and thanks for who He is. It is a matter of believing. Believing that He is my defender, my rescuer, my strength, my fortress, my teacher, my waymaker, my provider, etc. And in that believing, doing just what Isaiah 30:15 says, “settling down in complete dependence in Him”. God does not fail!! He is waiting for me to stop my “silly efforts to save myself” so He can be who He has always been my savior! He is just that good!
“At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.” Daniel 4:34 NIV
“God, I hate my mind!” – my prayer after another day drowning in anxiety. 8/31/2021
Emotions and feeling can take us on the wildest roller coaster rides of our minds. Sometimes the feeling goes beyond a little extra stress. Having lived with an anxiety disorder for years, I have felt like the crazy inside would never end. But I’ve had what I would call my “Nebuchadnezzar experience”. After raising my eyes toward heaven, my sanity has been restored.
I have known the torment of hideous nightmares, sleepless nights with my mind running 100 mph and no sign of stopping. I have known the fear of going to sleep because of not being to control what was going on around me while my eyes were closed and I slept. I’ve known what it is like to not be able to stay present in a situation. The whole Fight, Flight, Flee, or Freeze. I would freeze under extreme stress of fear. It was fairly unnoticeable unless you knew what you were looking for. Zoning out, feeling like you’re sinking into a tunnel inside your head, everything around you becomes just noise. Then there’s the tightness of your throat and chest that would go on for days. Before the meds- crying and not really sure why, after the meds- not crying a drop, numb. Going over and over and over again inside your head trying to make sense of the memories you would like to shut out, but can’t. I would have them hit when I was about to fall asleep and then feeling the tension of my shoulders as they tighten and I would find myself holding my breath like I was waiting for a shot to hit me.
All this going on while I have been a Christian- loved Jesus, a wife, homeschool mom, served on boards for different groups, lead ministries at my church, and tried to keep busy so it wouldn’t hit as much or I would hopefully forget. The problem is it would calm down on occasion, but all it took was a trigger and I would be back into the torment of my mind.
After 3 years of knowing me, my best friend suggested that I would go and see a counselor. So I did. I also began taking Prozac, which then had Hydroxizine added to it, then Buspar as the MG of Prozac grew too. I would make sure I took the pills as soon as I got out of bed and most days I couldn’t wait for my next dose in the evening. But after awhile, even the medicines weren’t working.
Four years of counseling… CBT- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, ACT- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, EMDR- Eye Movement Desensitization Reprogramming were some of the things I tried. There were things that definitely helped in some areas, but nothing stopped the anxiety. In fact, it seemed to get worse.
I tried doing everything the counselors I went to recommended. I began reading self-help book after self-help book trying to figure out how to get the feelings to stop. I tried the suggestion of “making room” for your anxiety. Imagining it being able to grow and not be resisted so that if I didn’t struggle it might stop. Then I tried Meditation. I downloaded the “HeadSpace” app. Which was started by a Buddhist Monk. I tried to blend their beliefs in with the Bible. Thinking that maybe I could make them fit and then justify my willingness to embrace things that went against what the Bible said. I wanted to believe that my problems had absolutely nothing to do with a spiritual world. That anxiety was my cross in life to bear/ thorn in my flesh/ in my DNA. That I might have the power within myself to fix myself If I tried to faithfully work through all the coping mechanisms that I was learning about that I had developed. I was starting to believe that the best I could do was to try to be my best me and live my out my truth, whatever that was and manage “my anxiety” (like it was my new lifelong pet). Then there was trying to let out pent up emotions as recommended to me, by getting alone in my car, finding the most angry/depressing music I could think of, usually Metalica or Nirvana “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, then screaming as loudly as I could. Again, all this while attending church regularly, but not necessarily willingly (as time went on), also reading my Bible after trying to calm my mind by meditating. Every night ending with a tight throat and chest and not so restful sleep.
I tried everything I read and all that was recommended to me. Yet I was still drowning in anxiety and getting to the point that thoughts of suicide were entering my mind more frequently. I would find myself driving my Jeep and praying to God, begging Him to heal my mind and telling Him how much I hated my mind, then having my mind have this weird sensation and thinking, “I have to stay present! I see a red stop sign. White car, my steering wheel is black. I feel it’s rough yet smooth touch. My seat feels like fabric. I smell…”. “The 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 method” for grounding, all this while driving. My mind was tortured and there seemed to be no end on the horizon.
Finally, I had to come to the end of myself. I found myself sitting in a counseling session talking about the past and these words rolled off my tongue, “If there really are any demons…” In searching to figure out “my truth” (as is a common theme in today’s culture), I had started to doubt “God’s truth”. When the words came out, I immediately thought, “I am in trouble. Am I going to Believe Jesus, the Bible, what my whole life had been built around since childhood, or am I going to turn away? God HELP me I am in trouble, and I can’t get out of this.”
In January of 2021, I had started attending a Bible study in our area called W.O.W. (Women on Wednesdays). One of the sessions talked about how as Christians we choose to wander in the Wilderness, following after fleshly things and this will leave you empty and unfulfilled. Sins were specifically mentioned, among them was “Anxiety”. This offended me. My mind ran like a hamster on a wheel uncontrollably, how could they say that struggle was a sin, something I chose to live in? But for some reason, I knew I needed whatever they had, so I kept going until the Spring session was over. Then, during the summer, I felt like I needed to get to know these people who were saying this, so I would not struggle with anxiety about going to the Bible study so much. I texted one of the leaders and offered to just help- set up or tear down, nothing more. You would have thought that I had shaken a jar of yellow jackets and set them loose inside my chest. I couldn’t do it, not even help. So, I texted her back, and told her that I was rushing things, it would be better for me to just attend for a while. I was too anxious to help even just a little. She urged me to pray about that and not make any quick decisions. I told her, “I struggle with anxiety, but I will pray.” God helped me to say that I would serve as a door greeter. If you knew my history of serving in church, this should be a piece of cake. (I like people, most of them ha ha) But it wasn’t. Not because I didn’t want to tell women “Good morning” when they arrived. It was because, just walking in the building was hard for me. I would arrive in the morning, on time, and sit there for a few minutes in my Jeep, asking myself, “Why did you say you would do this? Now you have to come all the time… They don’t like you. You’re a bother…” the session of lies would go on and on, then I would think, “I have to go in.” and I would make myself get out of my Jeep and walk into the church. After a while of being there, I would somewhat calm down, but the struggle went on and on. I would occasionally mention the anxiety I suffered with to the leader I was kind of getting to know. She mentioned the Co-founder of the organization had struggled with Anxiety and that she might be good to talk to. She was the one who mentioned Anxiety being a part of the wilderness experience the semester I attended before, it intimidated me to talk to her about it, but I was desperate. So, I texted her and asked her if I could talk to her about anxiety. She made time and we talked. It was then that she told me I was going to have to fight. That I could be free. That I was believing lies. That I had lost my first love, my passion for knowing Jesus. Everything she said hit home. She gave me a paper and told me to take it home and write out what I want, what I want with my relationship with Jesus, my life to be, etc. I took it home that afternoon and this is what I wrote:
“This is what I want… to walk in freedom from anxiety, but more than that I want to be close to Jesus. I want to drop the Buspar- Pop my eyes to you Jesus instead of pop a pill. I want for the very things that the enemy intends to tear me away from Jesus to be the very things that cause me to run to Jesus and my response to be one who falls at His feet close to HIm. I want Peace. I want You to be my peace…”
This is the beginning of freedom. I’m not sure of the timing but shortly after I wrote that, I woke up one morning with the words, “Anxiety is not a part of my inheritance. I do not have walk in anxiety anymore.” running through my head. The whole day when anxiety would come to me, I would say, “NOPE, you are not my inheritance. My inheritance in is peace, love, joy, patience, kindness in Jesus.” One day would go by… Not too bad of a struggle, two days, three days, etc. Then I woke up one morning and thought. You don’t need the Buspar. Skip the morning dose. Did that for a week, felt good. Skip the evening dose. Did that for a week, felt good. I think I’ll drop them both. Quit the Buspar. Thank you, Jesus! Feeling less and less numb inside. Then, I started to believe that I can be free from the Prozac. I talked to my doctor and told her I was feeling better, and I wanted to go off it. She was all for it. Drop 10 mg. A much slower tapering off, 10 mg at a time, for weeks and weeks until I am finally Free! And feeling Soooo much better!!
Now when Anxiety comes to rattle my cage, I have a battle plan: I pray. I pop my eyes to Jesus. Speaking who God is and how He is worthy of praise. Worship music. Quoting Psalm 18. If it’s real strong, engage my praying friends. I’ve not lived in this kind of peace ever. God has set me free!
I have not needed the oftentimes-weekly counseling sessions I was going to for 6 months. Spending time in Bible Study and Prayer has been more than enough. Praying with my husband if I’m struggling and having friends pray have helped so much.
Do I battle? Yes, Satan knows where to hit me at, but God has shown me how to let Him hit back. It’s not by anything I do. It’s by me Looking to Jesus. Calling to Him for help. Thinking about How GOOD He is. Doing this over and over and over and then it Goes!
All the ME Centered living: my effort, my wants, my plans, my truth, etc. Only led me further and further away from peace and further and further into a pit. Repentance, and running to Jesus, hiding away in Him, relying totally on Him, trusting Him, surrendering to Him by submittance and obedience. It is the only thing that works because it is how He designed me to live. It is the only way out of the wilderness living to the abundance of Jesus’ Kingdom living.
The song “Too good to Not Believe” has a line in it that brings tears to my eyes on occasion. “Cause I’ve seen real life resurrection. I’ve seen mental health restored. Don’t you tell me He can’t do it… I believe You’re the Wonderworking God… The miracles I’ve seen. You’re too Good to not believe.”
God truly is too good to not believe! He can do anything. A little over a year ago, I was struggling to believe that there was any way to get free from the anxiety inside of me. Fear of needing to take more meds, try more self-help techniques and knowing what I had already done was not cutting it shouted its lies to me over and over. But Jesus heard my cries for help, and He came to my rescue! If you only knew the difference I feel, you would see, God is “Too Good to Not Believe”.