Anxious for Nothing – Max Lucado
Do you think staying faithful deserve a reward? Does God owe you for your perseverance? Be honest. Why or why not?
Denise: I think we have to be careful with getting sucked into thinking that God and his laws are for reward only. By nature, we tend to be self-centered. If we are only faithful because God will reward us, then are we believing for the wrong reasons? When we commit ourselves to God, we are promised eternal life in His kingdom. But should we be rewarded for doing the right thing, for being a kind human, for being a life-long believer? I think God expects us to be His servants that are full of love, forgiveness, kindness, and honesty without the reward. In my opinion that is the ultimate example of unconditional love that we owe to God. He has shown us his unconditional love time and time again, and it’s only fair that we give that back to Him.
Jill: Do I think we deserve a reward…absolutely not! We were given and received the inheritance of grace from God to do good works in His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10). This means to praise Him during our storms and triumphs, do all work for His glory, and remember that He gave us His son, Jesus, to cleanse us of our sins and make the way for eternal life.
How do you reconcile tragedies in the news with your understanding of a loving God?
Denise: With all the tragedies that happened within this past week, I still believe that these are acts of humans who are deeply hurting and are lost. We are living in a world that is full of hate, destruction, selfishness, and so much evil. This world is ever-present with Satan and his evil ways. I personally don’t think God allows these tragedies to happen. I believe they happen because the person committing the crime is lost, hurting, and wanting nothing more than to hurt others. When nonbelievers scream, “where is your God now?” during tragic events, oftentimes an argument ensues. But what if we respond simply by showing that even though all the tragedy and pain, God is there. He is there showing us and nonbelievers that something good can from such a place of pain. I know a lot of people will not agree with me and not like my answer but it happens time and time again throughout history. It keeps repeating. Worlds collide and clash. People kill innocent people. People kill God’s people who are protected by His hands. We are killing this beautiful planet we inhabit. But these painful, tragic events bring out the helpers, bring about a change for the better, bring out love towards one another. And that is where my God can be found. He is found in the good, not the evil. We are living in a fallen world and have been ever since Adam and Eve.
Jill: This is so timely given that our news lately is just consumed with violence, death, and heartbreak. I process tragedies as a reminder that Satan is fighting a war against humanity. To me, violence is a tool Satan uses to try to break us and try to convince us that God isn’t an all-loving, wise, and sovereign father. We see this over and over in the Bible, whether it is Joseph, Paul, Job, or Jesus…all of them (and many others) said, “but God”. The violence in the world today is a reminder for us to call out But God! I know that we are at war against evil and the trappings of it. But, I know my God, and I will raise my voice and my sword and proclaim His grace.
How can you make it a point to choose hope? What do you need to relinquish to do this?
Denise: I will always choose hope over pain and despair. People have been telling me throughout my whole life, “Denise you can be so naive.” I am not naive. I have lived a life that is riddled with confusion, pain, loss, and have done my fair share of sinning. But when you commit your heart and soul to God, you choose hope. You choose to not just see but to find the good in every situation. It’s a matter of perspective. It’s a matter of how you respond to the world around you. As the one scripture that brought me to God says, “Do not conform to the ways of the world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12: 2
Jill: I know I need to relinquish the noise telling me that if I am being still, I am not being productive to others or myself. I am learning that in my moments of stillness, I can be the most productive and hear God guiding me. I choose hope because I know that, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus, 14:14).
Anxious for Nothing – Max Lucado
There are ways we try to process our guilt and fail: Numb, deny, minimize, bury, punish, avoid, redirect, offset, and embody.
During times of high anxiety, which of these false approaches do you indulge in most often?
Denise: For me, I avoid. I avoid being truthful with myself and/or my situation. I also avoid having tough conversations. I’m a surface pro. I avoid going deep. There are things that I have done in the past that I’m not proud of by any means. The guilt of it all floats just beneath the surface waiting for me to be engulfed by it. However, I know the only one who can help me through it in order to dig deeper is the Lord.
Jill: It is a combination of bury and avoiding. I can pack my calendar and to-do list with tasks, appointments, deadlines, projects, etc. that will keep me on the go constantly. I tend to always be in motion when my anxiety is high but never able to truly focus on the work and the impossible lists I created for myself. I am also very good at avoiding the guilt that is causing the anxiety. As I wrote in an earlier blog post, no one knew the level of my anxiety because I would put on my mascara and a smile and pretend that everything was okay, I was my usual happy self, etc. While on the inside I was a mess. It wasn’t until I started to learn how to stop and be still that I am now able to begin to turn my messes into my message.
What holds you back from fully trusting God to catch you?
Denise: When I think about all the times God has provided and shown up when I needed Him most, I have a hard time understanding why I can’t put all my trust in Him? I was just commenting on this in the bible plan that Jill and I are working through. We tend to compartmentalize our lives (work life, home life, friends, family, social media, etc). We can be a different person in each compartment and no one will know the difference. However, God knows. He sees when we are morphing into someone other than what He created. He does not compartmentalize us, yet we do it Him. And I think it’s when we do this to Him, it creates guilt within us. Guilt for not being our true selves, our best selves – the ones made in His image. That guilt is what holds me back from trusting Him to catch me. It makes me feel naked and afraid to face our father…much like Eve.
Jill: I have been thinking a lot about this question since a recent Feed Your Spirit podcast interview we conducted with Carol Ann (Episode 3). In the conversation, she talked about truly surrendering to God. This got me thinking, yes my faith is strong, but have I surrendered myself 100% to Him and do I believe that God will catch me no matter what? Then I started reflecting on all the times I stumbled, fell down, and came back to the altar on my knees. I realized that He will always be there to catch me, pick me up, dust me off, and love me because I am His child. I think that we learn to rely on Him and His promise to always be there for us, no matter how far we go from Him.
What are some practical ways you can discipline your mind and heart to release your guilt to the Lord each day?
Denise: I can start disciplining my mind and heart to release my guilt and fears to the Lord each day by reminding myself that he has never dropped me and will never let go of me. I am safe in His presence. I will work through breaking down the walls of the compartments of my life so that I can feel how much God loves me and is right beside me through it all.
Jill: I am making a daily effort to turn my guilt and life over to God so that He can lead me on the path He has written for me. As I stated in an earlier response, it is about surrounding myself in His word, worship, love, and stillness. I give myself permission to stop and be still so that I can talk to God and become closer to Him. Whether that is through song, messages, writing, reading, devotionals, prayer, or just looking around at His creation, I am constantly trying to remind myself that “He will not drop me”.
Anxious for Nothing – Max Lucado
Ponder this statement: “The mind cannot at the same time be full of God and full of fear.”
How might this truth affect how you spend your free time?
Denise: I’m struggling with this one but I’m beginning to see that it is true. When there is free time and its full of God, it feels like a reward. When it is spent in an anxious state, time is restless and uneasy. It’s full of worry. It’s full of self-doubt. It’s full of time criticizing not being where I should or gossiping about others. But when that free time is spent consciously with God, it’s relaxing. It’s refreshing to the soul. It’s love. It’s fun. It’s carefree.
Jill: I know that God is with me at all times, but there are times when fear and anxiety, along with the pressures from a broken society try to take control of my thoughts. When this happens, I find myself constantly checking email, social media, watching television, and making to-do lists that are impossible to complete. I have been able to identify the feelings prior to letting other ‘things’ fill my mind and take time to spend with God. Whether that is immersed in devotionals, listening to worship music, spending time with sisters in Christ, attending groups, listening to podcasts, or just being still and writing. As I grow closer to God and deeper in the Gospel and the teachings of Jesus, I am finding that I am changing. I surround myself with His messages, through music, reading, podcasts, work, and spending quiet time with Him. For example, last week our Devotions on the Beach started. It’s a chance for the Women of Bayside Chapel to gather and hear His word while enjoying a glorious sunset on the bay. I arrived from work, dog-tired, and looking forward to crawling into bed the minute the sun went down. Instead, I made dinner and headed over to Long Beach Island for the group. I was so happy I attended. The energy and message were what I needed to hear. I was graced with the pleasure of spending time with other Sisters in Christ. I need to fill my heart and mind with God so that there is no space for fear and anxiety to take residence.
What action steps can you take to discipline your mind?
Denise: The first action I can take is to repeat my favorite scriptures. It’s to turn on the worship music and let it take over my soul until I’m in that place where God is first in my heart and mind. It’s being fully aware of those who are gossipy and negative and putting on His armor and not joining into that negative void of love.
Jill: For me, it is immersing myself with His word. When faced with a choice, always choose God. Whether that is through what playlist to listen to, what book to read, what podcast to listen to, who I choose to spend my time with, and what self-talk I am saying to myself. When I surround myself with His message, it helps me. For example, my home office has some of the following messages on the walls and in my workspace: Let everything that has breath praise the Lord~ Psalm 150:6, Life is full of blessings, I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint~ Jeremiah 31:25, I know the plans I have for you~ Jeremiah 29:11. I find that for me, surrounding myself with all things that glorify God is what works to calm my mind and reminds me that God is here with me.
“Your anxiety decreases as your understanding of your father increases.” Putting this thought into practice, in what ways can you pursue a deeper understanding of who God is?
Denise: I will continue praying and studying the bible. I need to reach out more to my women’s group and neighbors who will pray over me when I am in need. Not shying away from talking about God and His good works in other people’s lives. Asking God each morning how I can be a good servant today. I also think telling more and more people about my testimony will keep me focused on God and the purpose He has set forth for my life.
Romans 12:2: Do not conform to the ways of the world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Exodus 14:14: The Lord will fight for you. You need only to be still.
Isaiah 41:10: Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you.
Jill: I am an avid reader, I love to read, to the point where I barely watch television (unless it’s football season). With that being said, I find I learn the most when I read and can markup a book, have post-it notes sticking out, create an image out of a message, or textDenise about something that I just read. I am reading more and more books about theGospel. Whether it is a devotional, self-growth book, or a Bible plan, I find that if I can focus my mind on God and His word, I am focused on Him.
Another way that I pursue a deeper understanding of God is through the work of 2Scripture Sisters and Feed Your Spirit podcast. Through this work, I have been connecting with people who may not have entered my life prior to it. When people share their stories about how God is working in their life to demonstrate His grace, wisdom, and sovereignty, we are reminded of His wisdom. Through this work, I am able to share the seasons we all experience here on Earth. I am blessed to be called to create this with my sister, Denise.
By increasing my understanding of God I have begun to recognize the early feelings, thoughts, and habits of when my anxiety is increasing. Although I know this is a way Satan has chosen to wage war on my mind and heart and those attacks are ever-changing, I know that if I return to His empowering word, I can defeat the devil and grow closer to God.
There are two things I rely on when I can feel the fear and anxiety rising: worship music and the Gospel. I have created a “Calm in the Storm” playlist in both my music app and in Pandora. I know this may sound silly to some, but I always find music to be a source of stress-relief, motivation, and comfort. The other day while on the treadmill running, I almost stopped dead in my tracks to raise my hand in praise and sing out loud while listening to “The Elements” by TobyMac. I was nervous, worried, and anxious about an upcoming event at work but I knew that I needed to remember that God is with me as I “fight the elements”. The other thing I rely on is His word, specifically, Jeremiah and Ephesians. Just knowing that God knows every hair on my head, has written a plan for me, loves me unconditionally, and can provide me with the armor to protect my mind, heart, and soul. I love the imagery Paul gives us as he tells us exactly what we need to “stand firm against the schemes of the devil”~ Ephesians 6:11. I have started to be able to visualize myself putting on the Armor of God when fear and anxiety are rising and be victorious against this chaos.
Anxious for Nothing – Max Lucado
“Anxiety and fear are cousins but not twins.” Do you agree? If so, how do the two manifest themselves differently in your life?
Denise: Yes, I agree; however, for years both have stopped me dead in my tracks. Fear can lead to anxiety and anxiety can lead to fear. They may be separate in psychological definitions but they are interrelated. For me, anxiety comes in the form of panic attacks. Have you ever been driving down the road when all of a sudden there is a car either in your blind spot or cuts in front of you the moment you happen to look at the speedometer? It’s the heart-stopping feeling that leaves you breathless. It makes all the nerves in your body feel like you just shocked them all at once. That is what happens to me when anxiety/panic hits. It jumps scares you leaving you momentarily alert but completely exhausted afterward, preventing you from doing anything – it’s a panic disorder that I’ve battled with since high school.
Jill: Yes, I do agree For me, fear is temporary, fleeting, and it subsides in a short amount of time. Unlike anxiety which is always there. Always waiting, just beneath the surface for the opportunity to come roaring like a lion and waging war on my thoughts and feelings. Anxiety is a slow build in me, it starts with the “what if” thoughts; What if I don’t get a good evaluation? What if I don’t get accepted into a program? What if the decision is one that God doesn’t have intended for me? What if I am walking down the wrong path? What if, what if, what if. Then, the nightmares start, then come the sleepless nights, then comes the negative self-talk, then comes the inability to focus on a task, all the while my mind and body are buzzing. The rational side of my thoughts will pop into focus every now and again, and I am able to take a deep breath and focus on what is really at the root of the anxiety. Then, peace and tranquility set in until the next time…
What are your personal anxieties?
Denise: These anxiety/panic attacks have stopped me from doing so much in life. It stops me when the vulnerability is high, like submitting a manuscript to an agent. Panic also sets in when my husband is driving faster than I would. Panic sets in when I say “yes” rather than protecting my time by saying “no.” This has been my life-long battle.
Jill: For me, it is the constant struggle of “Am I doing what God has intended for me?” When I am very busy, this thought will enter, but I am so transfixed on getting through the work, that it rarely is loud enough for me to hear. It is in the quiet moments, when I truly ask myself, “Is there something else I should be doing? What are His plans for me? What if I am walking down the wrong path?” Then, it hits hard.
“We have been taught that the Christian life is a life of peace, and when we don’t have peace, we assume the problem lies within us.” If this has been your perspective, how does Philippians 4:4-9 make you feel?
Denise: I agree there is a perception that living a life as a Christian should exude peace but that is a perception we shouldn’t promote. I have witnessed Christians making people feel inadequate because they don’t always have inner peace or making them feel as if their anxiety disorder is a sin rather than teaching them or showing them the gentleness and calm of God’s love. If we find someone in the throes of an anxiety attack, we should show them patience, reassurance, gentleness, calm, love, and understanding. We should show them how Jesus taught us to be like him.
Jill: We should be a peaceful follower of Christ, however, it is also said that Satan is constantly at war for our minds, hearts, and souls. Which is why we need to be reminded of Ephesians 6:11, “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” Whenever my anxiety is great, I try to visualize myself tossing my anxiety into the crashing waves at the shoreline and putting on the armor of God. Then, I can fight the battle to rejoice in the peace and protection He provides me. As I read and study the Gospel, I am finding solace, peace, and purpose in my life.