10 Tips for Overcoming Fear and Anxiety

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Fear is a tormenting emotion, and if you struggle in this area, you know what I’m talking about. It has the potential to cause us to walk away from engaging in life and keep us from being all we were created to be. If we allow it to rule over us, our world will become smaller and smaller until we have shut out much of what God wants to bless us with. The more control we hand over to fear, the more it will be empowered to steal from us.  It consumes. It drives. It steals sleep and drives us down paths we never thought we’d go. Fear can cause us to hide from God, from others and even from our true selves.

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Discerning between gossip and problem-solving

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“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18:21

We’ve all done it. We’ve found ourselves caught up in conversations that we weren’t proud of, and someone else got hurt. Whether they knew it or not, their reputation had taken a hit, and the damage was done. Trying to undo that damage would be like trying to recover a basket of feathers thrown to the wind. If you’re like me, you may have found yourself asking, “Where does problem-solving end and gossip begin?” Or “How do I do life with ANYONE if I can’t discuss the problems at hand?” How do we discern the difference between problem-solving and gossip?  Here are some questions to ask yourself before talking negatively about someone:

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Choosing unity over division

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Division.  It seems to be hitting us on every level; national, regional, and individual. It has the potential to steal what is precious to us if we yield to it. Division can separate us from those we love the most; it can take down cities, corporations and nations if left unchecked. There are a few things I wish I’d known sooner in life about division that could have saved a lot of heartache:

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What is unsanctioned domination?

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Everyday, we each make decisions about who or what we will submit to, even if that decision is made by default, yielding or deferring. There is no such thing as living a life free of submitting to someone; even the most rebellious of men submit to someone. It’s not a matter of if we will submit as much as who we choose to submit to.

So first of all, let’s lay some groundwork. What does it mean to submit? To submit means to accept or yield oneself to a superior force or to the authority, opinion, (judgment or approval) or will (desire or insistence) of another person.

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Waking up to the spirit of heaviness

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Have you ever woke up to recognize the presence of heaviness? Even before you’ve started your day or had time to think about anything, it’s already operating. Today was one of those days. One of the first things I like to do in those situations is a self-check. I examine myself to see if there is any place where I have come into agreement with, or yielded to that spirit.  Isaiah 61 tells us that it is an evil spirit: “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to…appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.”

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Fear of man and fear of God

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“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10

Have you ever found yourself distracted by other people’s opinions of you, afraid of their disapproval? Recently I found myself dealing with some dealing with some anxiety over a situation and began to suspect that fear of man was the root of it. In my search to understand the topic, I learned that this fear can mean to be afraid or intimidated, but it can also mean to revere or respect. Scripture gives us some markers we can use to know whether we fear God or fear man:

Markers that indicate agreement with fear of man/lack of fearing God:

  1. Decisions motivated by the approval of people. What we fear reveals who we love and whose approval matters most to us. In an article entitled, Lay aside the fear of man|Desiring God, {9.16.16} author Jon Bloom explains it this way: “The person(s) to whom we ascribe most authority — to define who we are, what we’re worth, what we should do, and how we should do it — is the person(s) we fear the most, because it is the person(s) whose approval we want most. God designed us this way, for it reveals who and what our heart loves.” See also 1 Samuel 15:24
  2. Taking Flight when the heat is on can also indicate when fear of man is present. Examples of this would be when Elijah (normally a man of great courage) ran from Queen Jezebel (1 Ki 19:1-3) or when the Israelite army ran from Goliath. (1 Samuel 17:23-24)
  3. Passivity when doing the right thing would require action.
  4. Mistreating others, exploiting their weaknesses/handicaps (Lev. 19:14), taking advantage of others because you can, (Lev. 25:15) treating subordinates ruthlessly (Lev. 25:43) or withholding kindness from a friend in distress (Job 6:14).
  5. Tolerating unholy domination
    • Allowing others who do not have God-given authority in your life to act as if they do (posturing authority) (1 Sam. 15:24)
    • Allowing someone who does hold a legitimate position of authority in your life to over-step the realm of legitimate authority. In Esther 3:5 we see Haman attempting to exercise unholy domination over Mordecai, but Mordecai refused because he feared God rather than man.
  6. Pride (Psalm 36:1-2)
  7. Finding refuge in places other than God (Psalm 31:19-29)
  8. A pattern of foolish actions/decisions (Proverbs 9:19)
  9. Hiding (1 Samuel 10:22; 15:24-25)

Markers of agreement with the Fear of God:

  1. Decisions are motivated by approval from God rather than people. Examples would be the midwives who refused to obey the King’s command to kill the newborn Israelite babies (Exodus 1:17-21)and Queen Esther going before the King in order to save her people at the risk of her own life. (Esther 4:15-16)
  2. Finding refuge in God (Psalm 31:19-20; 55:19;61:5) The reality that everyone needs refuge at times seems to be assumed in scripture. Not only do these individuals recognize their need for a refuge, but they tended to verbally express their need to God.
  3. Obeying God’s commands, even in the face of danger. (Eccl. 12:13-14, Job 1:9)
  4. Hating evil (Job 1:9)
  5. Idols in your life have been cast down (2 Kings 17:33-37)
  6. Treating others with justice and honor (Lev. 25:17; 19:14;25:35)
  7. Your life demonstrates wisdom, understanding, knowledge (Proverbs 9:19,Micah 6:9, Psalm 111:10)
  8. Remember the mighty acts of God (Deut. 7:18)

How to come out of agreement with Fear of man:

  1. Repentance
  2. Forgive those who have intimidated, threatened or harmed you
  3. Lean and obey God’s commands
  4. When you need refuge, go to God
  5. When obeying God involves risk, be willing to take a leap of faith
  6. Use your sword (the word of God) when intimidated
  7. Topple any idols in your life.
  8. Remember the mighty acts of the LORD

There are many benefits and promises for those who choose to fear the Lord rather than man, including:

  • The Lord will confide in you (Psalm 25:14)
  • You will rest satisfied (Proverbs 19:23)
  • You will be hidden from the conspiracies of man, sheltered from the sharp tongues of others (Psalm 31:19-20)
  • You will lack nothing (Psalm 34:7-9)
  • God will fulfill your desire (Psalm 145:18-19)
  • And many more!

Endurance

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment.” Romans 5:3-5a
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Have you ever found yourself going through a trial that just seemed to go ON and ON and you found yourself asking God if it was EVER going to end? I’ve been asking the Lord that question lately, wondering if this is something that I’ll have to deal with the rest of my life. In that place, I found myself squirming and resisting what the Lord was allowing. A dear friend reminded me of the peace that comes when we allow patience to weave its’ way around the trial that God, for some reason, is asking us to endure. Somehow the trial seems less painful when we stop squirming and surrender to God’s plan for our lives. Continue reading

Depression and Self-Pity

To a person who has never experienced depression, it would probably be easy to say, “Why don’t you just get over it?” But to the one suffering from it, things don’t look that easy.

During the years that I struggled with depression, I felt like my heart was bleeding. As much as my husband and friends tried to help, they eventually had to tend to other things, leaving me feeling abandoned in my pain. If I were to paint a picture of what that felt like, it was like I had been in a horrible car accident and was bleeding profusely. My friends and family would come and go, but no one was able to extricate me from the car and get me into an ICU. What others could not see is that I had been in an accident of sorts, but it wasn’t physical. It was emotional and spiritual. It sounded like such a comfort to me to die and go to heaven where the pain would be over.

To the person suffering from depression, telling them to “just get over it” sounds just as cruel as telling the person who has just been in a car accident who is bleeding profusely to “just get over it.” He or she is sometimes “navel gazing” because he or she is just trying to figure out how to survive. Continue reading

Overcoming Depression Through Restoring Trust

Have you ever wondered why you were doing pretty good emotionally, and then another bout of depression hit you like a tidal wave? I want to share some troubleshooting tips that I learned during the years that I spent recovering from depression. If you find that this applies to you, you’ll be amazed at the instantaneous relief it can bring. Troubleshooting tip #1: Identify any areas where you may have felt, or perceived that God betrayed your trust.  When troubleshooting reasons for a bout of depression, this was THE MOST common reason.

If we have the PERCEPTION that God hasn’t come through for us, it can create deep anger in us.  This often is not on a conscious level. As “good Christians,” we don’t like to entertain such thoughts, so we tend to ignore them, suppress them, and pretend they aren’t there. Continue reading

What does it mean to walk whole?

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Walking whole. What exactly does that look like? When I consider what it might look like to walk whole, images of some of the great men and women of the ages come to mind. Men like William Wilberforce, who were willing to endure great opposition from men in order to fulfill their purpose.  Wilberforce had few allies when he began his quest to abolish the slave trade in England. His burden for slaves burned in his soul, his health nearly destroyed by it. His passion would not be silenced until many years later, when he succeeded in his mission, even his one-time enemies couldn’t help but commend his dedication. Continue reading