Have you ever noticed that some of your best traits also flip over to your worst traits? The same part of me that makes me cautious, careful, and escape trouble and pain also became the source of my biggest struggle over 2017 as I struggled with fear and anxiety.
When I was younger, my parents taught me a lot about trust. I learned to trust them, to believe them. They also taught me the importance of trusting God. Surrendering. Not having to have it all figured it out. They taught me how to balance caution and planning with my faith in God and the sometimes blind obedience that he requires me.
All of this was tested when God did something totally unexpected and completely beyond my understanding: he took my best friend, mentor, and father to Heaven.
The roller-coaster of emotions I experienced during 2017 is beyond description, and even thinking about what I went through, especially those first few months, exhausts me. I went back and forth between supernatural confidence and faith in God, to crushing fear, anxiety, and an overwhelming, oppressing sense of despair. One moment I had hope; the next I felt like I’d never have hope again.
Why? What was happening? How could I so quickly falter?
I knew exactly why.
I knew exactly what was happening.
And I knew how to fix it.
But let’s be real: when we’re in it, we’re not usually thinking that clearly.
And when we’re hopeless, it’s hard to find the motivation to break through it.
Because disappointment leads to discouragement which leads to despair. And when we look through life with the lens of despair, we can’t find a reason to go on.
The problem was not circumstances.
The problem was not my loss.
The problem was not God.
It was me.
It was my vision.
I was focusing on the wrong things: myself, my emotions, my circumstances, my loss.
And the more I focused on myself, the less I saw God.
There was no room for Him.
It wasn’t intentional. It never is.
But it happens.
We slip. We begin to look around. We begin to look down.
We lean in, trying to find the reason, the justification, the problem.
But the more we zoom in on our problems, the more we fixate on our emotions, the worse we feel.
Because we’re pushing God out of focus.
Scripture commands us to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”
He is our example. He pushed through the pain.
And his pain was intense.
It was circumstantial. It was physical. It was emotional.
But he overcame.
He fixed his eyes.
He didn’t fix his eyes on the betrayal he was experiencing.
He didn’t fix his eyes on the humiliation he was experiencing.
He didn’t fix his eyes on the brutal physical abuse he was experiencing.
He fixed his eyes on his Father, who was waiting for him in heaven.
He fixed his eyes on the reward, and the ultimate resort.
And when he fixed his eyes, he found the strength to press on.
I had to choose to do the same.
I already knew all this. I’d been taught the importance of taking my thoughts captive. I’d even taught it to others. I knew Philippians 4:6-8 and used it in counseling sessions on a weekly basis. But in trials and testing, it’s easy to let our gaze slip, and let our feet falter.
It was time to live what I said I believed.
It was time to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.
It couldn’t be optional.
There was no “little” thought that could escape.
It had to be full-force, no-nonsense, all-in and all-out determination to think on things that were true.
Starting with God.
Because my belief in God is the foundation of everything else.
I had to go back to basics.
God is good.
God is good and everything he does is good.
God loves me.
God is in control.
God is working all things for my good.
I am not alone.
This will get better.
And you know what?
It did get better.
Because God is good.
And everything God does is good.
And God loves me.
And God is in control.
And God is working all things for my good.
And He is with me.
When I surrender my thoughts to God, and choose to believe the truth, I find peace in the midst of anxiety and fear.
I find hope in the midst of despair.
I find God in the midst of my trial.
It is my prayer that you will, too.
In a word: passionate.