Antidote to Anxiety

What a wonderful summer it’s been! I’ve had the amazing opportunity to spend it in full-time ministry for nine weeks, teaching kids about God from his Word and sharing the amazing gospel of grace. I’m so grateful for everything that’s happened and the way God has been working in all of it. I’ve been tired, I’ve been worn, I’ve been weak, I’ve been stressed and sick and overwhelmed–but what life I’ve found in this. It’s such a beautiful thing, and my Rock is that God is faithful. None of this has been about me in the first place, no matter how much I may act like it in my pride. He’s shown me that more than once.

My prayer is that I can hold on to that, clinging desperately. School starts a week from now, and there’s so much I still have to do–so many demands and decisions and conflicting commitments. This summer, I’ve learned that when I’m in that place, of being totally lost amid the different demands tugging me this way and that and feeling like I’m going to drown amid all the work and all the scheduling and all the things on my list that have to get done–I’ve learned that there’s only one place to go.

In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul writes:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

He promises to safeguard your heart and mind. Safeguard. There’s something about that word. Other translations use words like keep, protect, et cetera, but there’s just something about the concept of safeguard that I love. Maybe it’s because I know I need it. When my mind is so full it feels like I’ll burst with all the things I have to juggle and all the things I have to think about and everything tugging and pulling me this way and that and my heart is a turmoil of mixed emotion and inconstancy–the idea of a safeguard, holding the good things in and keeping the bad things out, is a welcome thought.

wpid-wp-1439171517282.jpegI picture an actual wall, the kind of thing they used to have in the medieval days, where the outer wall was the first line of defense in your castle. The kind of wall that’s ten feet thick and made of stone and iron.

wpid-wp-1439171619277.jpegThis wall of mine, it has no holes, no weaknesses. But a wall, you say–things can get over a wall. You could dig a tunnel underneath or let fly an arrow over. So let’s add a nice force field as well. An impenetrable orb of energy.

Oh, and just for fun, how about some archers of my own? After all, the Weymouth New Testament translates this passage as “And the peace of God, which transcends all our powers of thought, will be like a garrison to guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.” Let’s garrison this fortress of my heart and mind with an arsenal of truth.

Voila. I think God’s got me pretty covered.

If nothing else this summer, I’ve learned what a refuge prayer can be. I get so easily frustrated, so easily consumed by the little things that become so BIG in my mind.

But…He is bigger.

Despite all the doubts, anxieties, worries, voices, demands, expectations, choices, pressures, burdens, fears I face, the fear of the LORD is greater. Because when you fear the Lord, it means an awe of who he is. When you’re in awe of who he is, when you see the awesomeness of his power and his might and his glory and his strength and his wrath and his purity and his holiness and his passion, when you recognize who this God is–everything else becomes small.

The antidote to anxiety? Truth and trust. Bury yourself in His Word until you find what it is you seek. The beautiful thing is, his promise is always true. He is with me, whether I necessarily “feel” him or not.

Wash yourself in who he is. Recognize the truth of the God you serve, and realize that he won’t ever fail you when you trust in him, because he is greater than the problems you face. Love him, delight in him, until everything else seems small in light of him.

Psalm 73:26 – My heart and flesh may fail, but the Lord is my strength and my portion forever.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
all other ground is sinking sand;
all other ground is sinking sand.

May the Lord safeguard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. May you recognize him for who he is, and take refuge in prayer and in promise. May you build your house upon the Rock and live your life in light of eternity.

–Bre

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I Have Decided

Recently, God’s been doing some stuff in my heart. I’m hesitant to share it, frankly, because it’ll mean I’ll have to follow through. But then again, shouldn’t that be all the more reason to do so?

I’m going in circles. Let me start at the beginning. Ish.

Since I was at a summer camp when I was thirteen and rededicated my life to Christ–the first time I really understood what it means to be a Christian, with a capital C, which I will likely go into at another time–God has kept a special place in my heart for missions. I’m talking real-deal, get-the-word-out, telling-people-about-this-crazy-awesome-Jesus missions. Local but especially global, not because people here don’t need to hear it but because I’ve always wanted to travel, and because so many people worldwide don’t even have the opportunity to ask the questions about God that they may have, while here, well, most of us can, if we really want to.

Anyway, that’s kind of been at the back of my mind for years, on and off, but when I was at a retreat this January, God was just like, “Hey, Bre? This is what I want you to do. That’s right, I’m sending you.” And I knew, with an astonishing crystal clarity, that I would be a missionary.

And then I came home.

Fast forward to March, 2015: every year, in Pennsylvania, there is a gathering of hundreds of high schoolers from many different churches who want to make a difference. It’s called Vision Conference. Because, you see, God’s heart is for people. He created each of us, and loves me and you and everyone else each uniquely, intimately, and personally–whether they know him or not. But he really wants us to know him, too–because if we don’t follow him here on earth, we’ll never be with him again.

Pause: now, if you will, return with me to your high school days (Or, if you’re like me, don’t go anywhere).

You walk down the hall, and there he is. You’ve seen him around before. You’ve asked his name from your friends a grade above you, same grade as he is. You’ve figured out what sports he plays, what he’s involved in. You may even have stalked his Instagram. You’ve watched him interact with others–seen him smile, known his laugh. But you also know his hurts, his fears. You’ve seen him shy away from spiders and his eyes harden at the mention of divorce.

You feel as if you know him, even if you’ve barely scratched the surface. Perhaps you’ve even worked up the guts to say hello in the hallways.

But each time, he brushes you off. He doesn’t even know your name.

The romantics among you are probably sobbing. The rest of you are rolling your eyes. Bear with me.

Now imagine your best friend. The person who knows everything about you, and whose response in any given situation you could, smiling, predict. Imagine the way you know them–and them not recognizing your face. Not laughing at your jokes (though maybe they don’t do that anyway), not sympathizing with your woes, not remembering your name or any of the memories you share.

Parents: imagine your kids, your spouse–unresponsive to your words, your pleas, your calls.

Maybe for some of you, I’m hitting a little too close to home. Maybe some of you already know what this is like.

God may have created billions of human beings–but for each one, he feels deeply. Don’t deceive yourself into thinking God is an emotionless God. God quite literally invented emotion. And God is love. And you know what? Sometimes, love hurts.

But imagine the joy, when at last the prodigal son returns to his Father’s arms. The Bible says the angels rejoice at the repentance of even one–party time in heaven!

I want to be a part of that. I want to be a part of the kingdom come, and I want to kneel at my Father’s feet and hear him say: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

At Vision Conference, God moved in me. And a shift took place, in my heart. I went from willing to go but planning to stay, to planning to go, but willing to stay.

I don’t know where. I don’t know how. But I know that my purpose in life is more than getting into a good school, getting a good job, marrying a good man, and retiring after a good many years.

Maybe for me, a good life will mean sacrificing all of those things.

I guess when you think about it, though, it’s not that great a sacrifice. Not when you think about what happened to Jesus. Not when you think about what we’re going to be remembering this Friday.

And the only reason we can celebrate Good Friday and Easter at all, is because our God is victorious. He is powerful, and he is just, and he is mighty, and he has conquered the grave, conquered sin, conquered death, conquered sorrow, conquered depression, conquered despair. He has conquered defeat.

And he is full of beautiful grace, and sweeps us up in it like a rushing torrent, a raging flood, and overpowering waterfall and yet a gentle rain–of grace.

None of this could happen on my own. It’s so easy for me to wander. To fall away. To get caught up in the things of this world, overtaken by stress and despair and envy and lust and pride. Oh, pride, my old enemy. But when I look at the cross–when I look at the cross, I see myself for what I am.

Someone who was worth nothing, who a Savior saw as everything.

That’s why I will go. Because the world has got to know.

In the meantime? In the meantime, well, God has put me here for a reason, too. He’s teaching me what it means to be a high schooler for Jesus. What does that look like? It’s a hard question to answer. Maybe because it’s just a little different for everyone. You tell me: what does it look like for you, to be pursuing Jesus from where you are? Tell me your story in the comments below.

Shine on!

–Bre

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I have decided, to follow Jesus
No turning back, no turning back.