Looking, acting & talking tough is not the same as actually being strong. Sometimes the biggest & baddest dudes are the first to scream like sissies. We just don’t know what we’re made of until it’s revealed one way or another.
Anxiety and fears, small and large, threaten us all every day—from traffic jams to test results, car repairs to job loss, family disputes to government corruption, viruses to terminal diseases. Our complex lives push our anxiety levels to an all-time high. Sometimes we only feel a tinge of impatience and anxiety that we can shake off, and at other times it may be full-blown panic, paralyzing our ability to take the next step. If it hasn’t happened to you, never say “never”.
Maybe we deny it, ignore it, drowned it, get busier or simply medicate it. In our complex and crazy society, I believe that medication is sometimes necessary. It’s possible that the rise in mental and emotional disorders have a lot to do with the abnormal speeds, information overload and crushing stress that we deal with on a daily basis. God has given us doctors to ease our suffering and their advice is necessary, but more than this– He has provided the way out. If you’re like me, it may not come easy, but that’s O–kay!
God strengthened me (and still is) through many months of anxiety and a crushing depression that forced me into the long waiting room of life (and operating room too) with all sorts of questions and fears. When would it be over? When would I feel the joy of the Lord again? Or would I? I could get through anything with the feeling of security and assurance I had known. Couldn’t I?
No, I couldn’t. We can easily become too dependent on feelings. I now understand, on the other side, that only complete trust in Jesus Christ and His WORD is what will sustain me, no matter how I feel; no matter what is happening all around me. The Lord, alone, is our Sustainer.
I love the word sustain. It’s so deep and encouraging. The American Heritage College Dictionary defines it in great detail:
- To keep in existence; maintain
- To supply with necessities or nourishment; provide for
- To support from below; keep from falling or sinking
- To support the spirits, vitality, or resolution of; encourage
- To bear up under; withstand
- To experience or suffer
- To affirm the validity of
- To prove or corroborate; confirm
- To keep up competently
How’s that for support!! Considering this with our faith in view—our opportunities to grow in the Lord, especially through suffering, make perfect sense. It’s all for our good, so that He may cast out our fears and replace them with courage. Not with a good feeling of His presence, but with Himself.
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to overcome it.”
It’s been good for me to hold on to short instruction from His Word through distress, as it’s no time for complexities, at least not for me. It’s good to study and memorize longer passages of scripture, but when I find myself under attack, the fewer the words—the easier it is to quickly recall them and stand firm.
One short, sustaining verse for me is this:
“Wait for the Lord, be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.” -Psalm 27:14
- Wait for the Lord.
Instead of living my life waiting for this or that circumstance to change or end—I can train my mind to wait instead for the Lord. What comes to our minds when we hear the word, wait? It sounds like inactivity. However, the Hebrew word describes mental action. It’s transliterated kaw-vaw’ and means:
to bind together (perhaps by twisting), i.e. collect; (figuratively) to expect….This word stresses the straining of the mind in a certain direction with an expectant attitude….a forward look with assurance. (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance)
So, waiting on the Lord is serious mental/spiritual exercise. We practice claiming rest in the midst of anxiety, trusting that whatever may come—our God is already there.
- Be strong and let your heart take courage.
When I’m fearful, it’s an opportunity to be strengthened—to let my heart take courage. During times of distress, our flesh longs for ease. We want the suffering to simply end, but this doesn’t equip us for battle. Instead, we need courage.
Jesus often repeats this instruction in the New Testament. Here are just a few of many…
- But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” -Matthew 14:27
- Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” -Matthew 9:2
- Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” -Matthew 9:22
The phrase translated in the above verses as “take heart” is literally— to be of good courage.
I pray that as we face every challenge, great or small— we’ll recognize anxiety at it’s first threat and train our minds to hear the words of our nearest and dearest Lord Jesus: “Let your heart take courage. Don’t bypass the opportunity to gain it. Believe that you have ME—every step of the way.”
“When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You.” -Psalm 56:3
In training and being sustained with you, friend… Jamie =)