A Spacious Place {Verses of Hope}

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A little over a year ago God led me out into a wilderness. I had been living in a world of pain suffocated by the actions of others. I felt confined and hopeless. I was anxious because of the unhealthy situation I was in. I felt stuck and wanted out. Trapped. Then in the middle of it all, He set me free to move from the unhealthy situation to a whole new world. God had taken me to a "merchab", the Hebrew word for a "spacious place".

There is now freedom. I can breathe and feel safe. I can take the time to heal without the condemning eyes of others watching me. It truly is spacious in the sense that I can move about freely without fear of condemnation. "Merchab" also has a second meaning...freedom from anxiety. The "spacious place" is where we can be free to trust Him and what He is doing in our lives. 

God's aim is always to bring us to a spacious place. To set our feet in freedom. He refuses to hand us over to our enemies whatever or whoever they may be. Basically, He is out for our good even when it is painful. We just need to wait on Him to lead us to that roomy place of freedom.

If you are struggling right now hang on to hope. He will not leave you forever where you feel stuck. Call out to Him. Lean in on Him. Wait on Him. Because God is the Great Mover, and He wants to change your residence to one that has a bit more room.

This post is part of a series called Verse of Hope. Come join me as I explore God's Word and the hope He gives through it.

A Fortress of Hope {Verses of Hope}

Monday, October 20, 2014

I never thought of hope in the terms of a fortress or even a prison, but as I go through the trials of life I realize hope is vital to make it through. There may be a myriad of reasons that we need hope. Life can be so hard...

Bills to pay. Schedules to arrange. Busyness to control. Conflicts to navigate. Grief to heal from. Illness to recover from. Sorrow to process. Tension.  Loss. Heartache.  

How does a person overcome it all? Or forget overcoming...how about just managing the day-by-day so that you don't drown in it all. When we lose hope we walk out of the fortress and the hurt of life can kill us. Better to put up your defenses and surround yourself with hope than to succumb to it all. Hope is like a circling of the wagons, the building of some trenches, or installing of a security system. It protects us from whatever we may come up against.

To give it up is to give up. Defeat is sure to follow.

For me and those of you who have suffered a loss of any type, Zechariah 9:12 tells us why we can have hope. Our God won't leave us in the loss. In fact, he will restore twice as much to us. It doesn't mean he will bring back our deceased love one or even a particular relationship, but it does mean that He will find ways to bring restoration that will outweigh the loss. We can have hope that whatever the loss is He will redeem it.

So today I choose hope as my fortress, my prison. I plan to stay awhile...

This post is part of a series called, Verses of Hope.  Please join me for other scriptures that can maintain your fortress.

Verses of Hope

Friday, October 17, 2014

We all need hope in order to wade through life. There are seasons when we may need it even more. I am in one of those seasons. A few weeks back I went and bought a stack of pretty index cards ringed together. My goal was to collect verses of hope that I could read each morning. 

Life has been a series of losses for so long now that I need an extra dose of hope almost daily. My lifelong fight with depression and anxiety don't make the grieving any easier. I literally have to battle myself to re-frame my negative thinking. Maybe you do, too? Are you suffering? Feeling like life is too hard to be happy? Grieving? Wishing that whatever has become of life was not your reality? I have been there. I AM there on many days. On the tough ones I have to constantly realign my thinking with His. Not easy, but worth it if I am going to make it through.

So starting on Monday I would love to share with you ten of the verses of hope tucked away in my stack of index cards plus a short devotional on each of them. One verse each day over the span of two weeks. My prayer is that you will find hope in His Word even if life is less than perfect, less than good. I am praying for you...even if I don't know your name or your situation...praying that God will give you hope.

Here is a list of the posts. The links won't work until the posts actually go up on the blog...

When God Whispers {The Answer to All Our Fears}

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

He flees. Fear hunts him down in the form of a manipulative, evil woman. He can't take it anymore. He stood up to the false prophets and even mocked their god. He witnessed a display of tremendous power from his own God, but now he was spent and afraid for his life.

"What are you doing here, Elijah?"

"I have been very zealous for the Lord...the sons of Israel have killed Your prophets with a sword...And I alone am left; and they seek my life to take it away."

-From I Kings 18 and 19

Fight or Flight. The human reaction to fear. Fight? Elijah knew how to pick one when he stood up against 450 prophets of Baal. Flight? Elijah knew where to hide when Jezebel came searching. We all face fears, anxieties, and worries, but our responses to fear rarely satisfy. We fight, and we flee but it never really quells the fear. God has a different response...He whispers.

When God confronts Elijah after fleeing Jezebel, Elijah responds that he is alone. God's reaction was to show up...pass in front of  Elijah. First there was a strong wind, but God wasn't in the wind. Then an earthquake...but God was not in the earthquake. Then came fire. No, God wasn't there either. Finally, a gentle blowing, a whisper, and Elijah covers his face. Why? Because God was in the whisper.

God's answer to our fears is always Himself. Our fears fade when we see His face. Our paranoia subsides in His presence. He is with us no matter what we face: the strong winds of adversity, the earthquake that crumbles our lives, or the fire of getting burned in relationships. He comes in a whisper to comfort His child. We think that because we suffer harm that somehow we missed Him. He didn't show up that day. Maybe He was too busy, or on vacation, or asleep (by the way, the very things that Elijah accused Baal of), but the reality is that He was always there and His presence is the answer to all our fears.

 He was there in your past as you suffered harm. He sits with you now. And the future? He's already occupied it. So the answer to fear isn't fight or flight, but a God who whispers.

Verses on God's presence, the antidote to our fears

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Psalm 34:7

I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you. Isaiah 43:1-2

When You Get Unfriended...

Sunday, October 12, 2014

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Facebook can be a miracle or a monster depending on how you  look at it.  The upside? We are able to keep in touch and find long lost friends and maybe a relative or two.  The downside...we can see and hear way too much about people's lives. And then there is the unfriending...

I have been unfriended several times, and to be totally transparent I have unfriended once because I didn't feel safe around the person. Most of the time I have no idea why the unfriendings occurred. I have suspicions though...gossip flew and my status in another's eyes sunk. Anger flared. Jealousy raged. Some just moved on. While most have been no big deal there have been a couple that have stung and hurt the heart. I have had to heal not from the virtual unfriending but the real ruin of relationships with those that I loved and cared for. The unfriending on Facebook was just a symptom of a much deeper breaking.

As I go through the process of healing I am understanding more and more that our only real, true friend doesn't live on social media and never touches technology. {Who needs technology when your knowledge encompasses the whole web and so much more?} His friendship stands regardless of our forgetfulness of Him or our sin towards Him. He is a constant companion and never practices unfriending. We can rest in the fact that with God our status will remain "friends". There is no rejection. There is no sting. He is here to stay regardless of those that move away from us...regardless of the fact we move away from Him.  What counts is that He counts us as friends.

Sure, there have been times in the last few years that I have felt like an outsider...the one not worthy to be friended...the one living on the outskirts of others' lives. But as Thom Gardner writes in Healing the Wounded Heart,

"To those of you who have lived on the edge of camp, in the outer cold away from the fire, God has brought the fire to you."

May we never forget that the only One we can count on for friendship will never count us out. These days, I am putting all my hope in Him. Trusting the One who never unfriends. 

This post is part of my Word of the Year, "Count".  Come count with me.

Been hurt in relationships? For more resources on healing, click here.


Five Ways to Deal with Anxiety and Depression

Friday, October 10, 2014

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The road to understanding ourselves can take a lifetime. For me, it has taken some forty years or so to understand what was wrong. I always knew I was more scared, more nervous, and more melancholy than many of those around me. I have spent the last couple of decades learning to manage what I know realize was an anxiety disorder that has the potential to lead to depression. A lifetime of learning how to cope, survive, and at times overcome it.

Proverbs 12:25 could be the story line of my life...

Anxiety in a man's heart weighs it down, but an encouraging word makes it glad. (AMP)

For many out there there is a connection between anxiety and depression.  God's Word made that connection years before any psychologist or counselor did. Anxiety does weigh a person down with depression. What I find fascinating is the second part of the verse,"but an encouraging word...". Not that everyone has had the experience I have, but I can honestly say that part of my struggle with anxiety and depression has been with critical words coming from loved ones. There is a definite benefit to speaking uplifting words into someone's life in order to give them the courage and the stamina to push forward.

Not that anxiety and depression can be solved with a kind word...the two conditions are way too complex. Both mood disorders are a conglomerate of physical, emotional, and spiritual problems. It is hard to unravel all the sources that can attribute to them.  We don't have all the answers, but we do have a God that understands us more than we will ever comprehend ourselves.

Over the years I have tried a multitude of methods to manage my emotions.  I still don't totally have an answer to it all, but here are a few things that I have found helpful...

Books-  Here is a short list of books that have helped me come to terms with both beasts...

Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest
Depression: Looking Up from the Stubborn Darkness
The Anxious Christian: Can God Use Your Anxiety for Good?
Breaking Free: The Journey, The Stories

The Psalms- For anyone who is depressed or anxious the Psalms are such a comfort. If there is one book in the Bible that runs the emotional roller coaster it would be this one. There is sorrow, anger, worry, despair, but also hope, joy, love, and praise for the God that helps us overcome it all. Here are a few posts from a friend who writes about the Psalms and how they can encourage us...

Praying the Psalms
Scripture for the Brokenhearted

Prayer- When the anxiety hits I have learned to immediate hand it over to God in prayer.  More often than not I have to do this numerous times in a short span of time. It is a fight, but with practice it does get easier to do. It is almost like a battle in my brain to constantly give over my worries to Him. He is in control after all. Worry is just the illusion that I am in control.

Mind Control- Yes, you heard that right, mind control...otherwise known as taking every thought captive. Controlling your thoughts if you struggle with either anxiety or depression seems near impossible, but the irony is it is imperative in order to survive them. So I read God's Word, memorize it, listen to it on my Bible app when I can't sleep, etc. When I sense that my thoughts are spiraling into a negative abyss I try to re-route. Not easy.  Practice, however, helps.  Be patient with yourself if you struggle with negative thoughts, and as Beth Moore says in her Bible study, Breaking Free {see above}, re-wallpaper your mind with God's thoughts.

Outside help- When anxiety and depression get to the point that you can't pull yourself out then it is time to look outside for help. Medication can help your body even out the chemical imbalance (which is VERY REAL when it comes to anxiety and depression), and counseling can help you train your thoughts and learn coping mechanisms to get through the hard days. Hitting anxiety and depression from all sides (physical, emotional, spiritual) normally helps more than just using one avenue to fight it.

Through the struggle there is hope. I have found that my life has become richer and more anchored in God simply because I have had to battle my moods. While it has never been easy, I have grown because of the hardship. My prayer for you is that if you struggle with either monster that you will lean into God to help you through.

Healing the Wounded Heart

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

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Sometimes it takes a lifetime to heal. A lifetime of learning how to overcome the hurts that we encounter. It has been my life goal to heal, forgive, and be as whole as possible regardless of what has happened to me. When I get to the end of life I don't want to be bitter and angry. I want to be free to love others and free of the fear that past hurts have produced in me. The process isn't for the faint of heart because sometimes the healing hurts as bad as the wounding. It is work...hard work.

Thom Gardner has written a thought-provoking book, Healing the Wounded Heart: Removing Obstacles to Intimacy with God. Gardner does an excellent job of describing what has happened to us and our hearts when we are wounded. Wounds produce lies we begin to believe and then live out. The goal for the wounded person is to get rid of the lies that have controlled them since the hurt occurred. 

Gardner goes through seven issues that wounded people tend to struggle with. I would have to say that I have battled every one of these...

Fear, Rejection, Worthlessness, Shame, Insecurity, Defilement, and Hopelessness

The chapter on fear touched my heart. I struggle with anxiety, and the fear of being hurt all over again. Using an Old Testament story, Gardner shows how God is always with us. He is even with us as we are being wounded. So many times we think He must not have been there otherwise He would have stopped it. Not true. He is always there with us. The answer to our fears is a God that won't ever leave us. We can trust that whatever He allows in our lives His aim is always to love us lavishly.

On the day of our wounding, He was already leading us to the day of healing in His presence. -Thom Gardner

What a comfort to know our hurt is not the end of the story. He desperately wants us whole and healed. If you are struggling with old wounds or maybe even fresh ones, Gardner's book can help you start the process of healing. My prayer for anyone reading this is that God will touch your heart and make you whole.


Gardner has a companion book to Healing the Wounded Heart that is excellent! It is more of a journal of sorts. The Healing Journey has 100+ verses that you can meditate and journal on to help with healing. I am currently working through this book, and have grown so much through it! It is helping me see God for who He really is. It is revealing some skewed thinking on my part which has slowed the healing process. I highly recommend it!

For a more complete list of books to help with emotional healing, see this post.