Fear’s Antidote

Here is a letter I recently wrote to a struggling friend concerning handling my fear:

Hi Friend,
Lately I’ve thought more about fear (I’m talking about sinful fear – anxiety – worry, not the healthy fear of God we are commanded to have)  and the solution to that sin in my life. It’s not been a pretty aspect of my life to contemplate, but I think it has been productive and helpful. Fear has generally governed my life to some degree always. It has effected my parenting, my health, my thought processes, what I’ve allowed my kids to do, how I viewed God, caused some anger and more. It has never, not even once, had a positive affect on my life or any relationship, but rather, it has damaged me and others and my relationship with God-sometimes seriously and perhaps, but in God’s mercy I hope not, irrevocably. It is a destructive force I learned to live with and actually, if I’m being completely honest, came to be comfortable with.

I think I have been at ease with anxiety, even while despising it, because it felt like I had some measure of control over things if I felt fear over them. In a twisted way, it felt like the dread and apprehension were giving me a “handle” on things in life. For example: When one of my children has a serious health issue, I think I’m doing something productive to feel fear and worry over him. The fear “feels” like I’m coping with the situation and helping it out in some way. It seems like that’s what I must do to “help” or “cope.” It’s me “doing something” in the face of an event I can do nothing about. But all that’s a lie. And it’s a lie I’ve chosen to believe for many years. My fear doesn’t help any situation in any way. It doesn’t help my child heal or overcome disease. It doesn’t grow my faith in God or give me peace about the situation. It destroys. Only. But it’s what I’ve trained myself to do. And it has to stop.

When I look back at the most fearful incidents in my life, especially the prolonged ones, I can clearly see how darkly the dread effected me and how it only brought misery and damage. But, when I look at how the Lord overcame it in my life, I see victory and joy and peace. I see fear erased and replaced with joy and peace and comfort. But how it was replaced was not what I expected to see. At first glance, it seems that what would conquer fear is peace or safety or joy, and while I have experienced those things once the fear is gone, they aren’t the things we should be seeking to get rid of the fear. That won’t work. Believe me, I’ve tried it. What has crushed my fear so that it is completely decimated in my life has been nothing but love.

I hope I can clearly explain this so it makes sense.

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18a

This verse never made sense to me. I couldn’t see how love could cast out fear. Maybe if God gave my child his health back or repaired all my damaged relationships, then fear would leave, but how can love get rid of the anxiety?
And whose love? God’s love to me? Or mine to Him? Or some other kind of relational love? It seems that the context of this verse indicates all of those types of love but how exactly does it get rid of fear?  I didn’t know this or practice this in the midst of my fearful circumstances. I just feared and fretted, lost sleep and weight and friends and direction and purpose.

Then, God brought love. He showed me through His word in dozens of places His love to me. Real love to real me. Right then. He spoke to my heart. Not audibly but more powerfully – to my soul through His word. He showed me that it didn’t matter what my fear was, but that His love was there cascading into my life overwhelming that circumstance. I already KNEW this but I wasn’t embracing this. I wasn’t focusing on this. I was focusing on my anxiety and the situation, not God. Knowing He loved me was nice but my heart was still fearful. Worry consumed me, not love, even though the God of the universe had just shown me His love to me! But that wasn’t quite enough to completely still my heart. Something else was needed. I needed to love Him in return for His love and I needed that love to join with His love to cast out fear. I did love Him. I just didn’t love Him more than I loved my solution to my fears. I thought if God would just change this horrible thing in my life, I wouldn’t be afraid any more. I wanted the thing to go away! And that was my focus. But, when God mercifully showed me His love to me AND then my heart was willing to respond to His love in love back to Him, something changed in my heart. The fear left. Peace flooded my darkened soul and light entered and calm was restored.

When I really deep down believed God perfectly loved me, and then my heart responded in love back to Him, then, and only then, did my fear leave. I think it left because the love drowned it out. How could I fear for my health if this all-powerful, good, loving God was in control and working all things for my good? How could I still fear if love to God was the dominant factor in my heart? If I believed my name was inscribed by love on the palms of His hands, and it is, then I could relax and trust Love to only do the best thing for me.  When my heart began to sing in love back to Him, that’s when anxiety fled. And the ONLY way I could love Him more than myself or my kids or any of the things I was afraid to lose was through looking at His love to me first. Over and over and over and over again. Every day. For days on end. I’m pretty stubborn, so it took a while. But oh the peace and joy that flooded my soul when I loved Him more than I feared things! It was so sweet and all-consuming, I wanted nothing in life but to love Him and please Him and even submit to His will in the fearful situation.

In reality, the fearful circumstances didn’t change. No instant change in all the negative things in my life happened. But my heart was changed. It loved God supremely and counted Him as my joy in everything. Not health, perfect relationships or anything else. Just Him. And that love to Him and trust in Him brought all the peace I could ever want or imagine. And I know it was His work. I could never summon up that kind of love from this divided heart. I can’t just make myself love Him, even though I know I should and am commanded to by Jesus. But His perfect love to me, meditated on persistently, and my heart desperately begging for Him to make me love Him, brought love to my soul for Him. And that love cast out fear.

I can’t say I’ve never feared again once I discovered this path. But I can say He is at work in me changing me so that when a sinful fear does spring up, I am much quicker, by His mercy, to run to Him, focus on His love to me and beg for my heart to love Him more. In fact, I’ve found that all of life is sweeter when my focus is always on Him and I am desperate to love Him all the time. I fail, but His love restores me and never fails. I praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for loving such a wretch as me and I plead with Him to keep my heart where it should be. And if fears arise, I beg Him to lead me to the place where His love is most clearly demonstrated: at the cross. That’s where my sin and His mercy meet and where my love is kindled anew and my heart rests in sweet repose.

love to you on this lovely day,
Your Sister in Christ

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Do My Feelings Overrule Faith? Pt. 2

Now that we’ve had time to ponder the fact that God commands our emotions, here’s a little bit more from a learned man on this same topic, just in case you weren’t convinced by little ole me:

And since Brian Borgman does such a phenomenal job explaining this point, I’m simply going to quote him for most of this post with brief thoughts in parentheses from me. From Feelings and Faith, pgs 61-62:

Begin quote:

Earlier I quoted an evangelical Bible teacher who said, “As a saved person, you can control your mind and your will, but not your feelings. God’s plan is for us to believe Him and choose to submit ourselves to His loving care and authority regardless of how we feel. All together now, Rain on how I feel!” (This statement gives us little hope about our sinful emotions and is not biblical in the least. The author of this sad quote is Bill Gilham in Lifetime Guarantee pg. 149.) It is common to hear such sentiments expressed one way or another about the emotions. The assumption often is, “They cannot be changed or governed; therefore, God cannot tell us how we should feel”…Others categorize the emotions under temperament, personality type, or ethnicity. Once categorized, the emotions are then explained as “high D,” introverted, bubbly, a fluffy puppy, choleric, Dutch, Irish, Italian, ad infinitum. Once we categorize certain emotional behaviors, we have put them into a special protective vault. The categorization effectively puts the emotions beyond the reach of sanctification and the biblical imperatives that would require change. I am not denying certain personality characteristics, but no classification of certain emotions and behaviors makes them exempt from the authority of God’s Word…A careful reader of the Bible will conclude as indefensible any view that says, “The emotions are off limits.” Unless we are going to become lexical reconstructionists and change the semantic range and meanings of words, we must acknowledge that just as God authoritatively commands our moral decisions, he also authoritatively commands our emotions. God tells us how and what we should and should not feel. Our emotions are a part of our humanity that needs to be sanctified and brought under the authority of God’s Word and into conformity with God’s Word. (See scripture references in the previous post for examples of this.)

The redemptive process is for the whole person; the emotions are an inherent part of what it means to be a person. There are sinful emotional expressions that need to be repented of and put to death. (Worry, Anxiety, and Sinful Fear to name a few.) There are Christlike emotions that need to be brought to life and cultivated. (Like Joy, Love, Tenderheartedness and more.) As we grow in grace, our emotions will increasingly reflect our new biblical values and evaluations. As godly emotions are cultivated, they will exert a powerful influence on our motives and our conduct.

John Piper has accurately pointed out that the Bible commands all kinds of emotions.

End quote.

Friends, this gives me such hope to realize that God cares about my emotional state, commands what to do with my emotions and hopefully, next time, we’ll see how to begin obeying His loving commands concerning our emotions and thus, become more like our beloved Christ.

Enjoying this lovely icy, cold, gray day in the Lord with you.

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Do My Feelings Overrule Faith? Pt. 1

What feeling controlled you this morning? 

Who has impacted your life today in a negative way?

What emotions have you felt so far today?

Have you ever contemplated the fact that most of us live almost entirely by our feelings? Or that we blame our little emotional outbursts on our personality types? Oh, we may not think we are emotionally driven beings, but let’s look a bit closer. Many of us unknowingly give our feelings free reign over our day to day lives which often leads us to venting, or more graphically, vomiting our feelings all over anyone in our paths. And we often feel justified in this simply because we have ill feelings at the moment or we think “That’s just how I am”. Just like when we contract a stomach virus, we often feel better temporarily after we have spewed out what’s inside. And woe to anyone who stands in our way! We have been wrongly taught that our feelings are always valid and even good, regardless of what they are, just because we feel them. Therefore, we believe it is always a legitimate practice to spew them in a noxious way out of our minds and mouths and onto others, when actually all the sinful ones are good for, is to be flushed and removed far from us. This diseased lifestyle is not the manner of life to which God calls His children.

“We are under the illusion that we can’t help how we feel; our emotions are considered the foundation of who we are,” says Chris Tiegreen in The One Year Devotional: Walk with God, p. 16. With this belief, many Christians have been led down a relationally destructive path where debris falls behind them at every turn. Verbal hurricanes flow from their mouths leaving nothing and no one standing in its wake. No wonder family and friends run for shelter when the storm hits and even when they see the storm rising on the horizon. We often contaminate and destroy those we love most when we live by our feelings rather than by the Word of God. “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Prov. 4:23

God commands us to do and abstain from many things. But He also commands our feelings and what we do with them. The Bible commands all manners of emotions such as joy, forgiveness, fear, love, various desires, kindness, tenderness, mourning, and more and God commands that we exercise self-control over all these. Is this a new idea to you? Does it seem impossible and maybe frightening? Does this turn your stomach just a little or seem repugnant to you? Take heart! The God who loved you when you were His enemy and died for you while you hated Him can make this a joyful, delightful and even relief-filled truth for you. But for today, I just wanted to introduce this idea that we are responsible for our feelings, that some feelings are sinful and that the expression of our temperaments and feelings can contradict the Word and let you pause and meditate on this for a while. For proof of these statements please see the scriptures listed below. Then find hope and a bit of the solution to this dilemma in this quote from Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in Spiritual Depression, p. 101.:

     I have already been at pains to emphasize that all our temperaments are different, and I want to emphasize it again. But at this point I would say that although our temperaments are different, our temperaments* should not make any difference at all face to face with the task. Now here is the miracle of redemption. We are given our temperaments by God…but it must never be true of us as Christians that we are controlled by our temperaments*. We must be controlled by the Holy Ghost. You must put them* in order. Here are the powers and capacities and here is your particular temperament that uses them, but the vital point is that as a Christian you should be controlled by the Holy Spirit. What is so tragically wrong in a Christian is that he should allow himself to be controlled by his temperament*. The natural man is always controlled by his temperament*, he cannot help himself; but the difference that regeneration makes is that there is now a higher control even over our temperament*. The moment the Holy Spirit enters in, He controls everything including temperament, and so He enables you to function in your own particular way through your temperament…Temperament*  remains, but temperament* no longer controls. The Holy Spirit is in control.     

Where I have placed an *, please re-read the paragraph above and put the word “feelings” in the paragraph. This is what I believe Dr. Lloyd Jones was saying in context. Also, the bolding is mine emphasizing that while we are definitely enabled by the Spirit to live self-controlled lives, we often ignore His Spirit and live according to our feelings rather than faith. 

Take a little while to think about any ways you may have “spewed” today or this week. is this a godly way of life? Did you dishonor the Lord in any of the ways you expressed yourself, even with facial expression or sighs or body language? Have you had sinful feelings? if you find that you have sinned in how you have felt or expressed yourself, please know that the sacrifice of Jesus has paid the price for your sin as a believer in Him, and all you need to do is repent and confess to God (and any people involved) and you will find cleansing for your soul. 

All these passages command us to feel or not to feel in certain ways, quite contrary to our normal ways of thinking: (I have purposefully not typed out the passages because I find there is much more value in each of us looking up scripture for ourselves, especially when the topic is a difficult one than in all of it being typed out for us.)

Matt. 5:12

Ps. 110:2

Rom. 12:8

1 Peter 1:22

Roma. 12:10

Luke 12:5

1 Peter 1:17

Col. 3:15

Rom. 12:11

1 Peter 2:2

Eph. 4:32

James 4:9

2 Tim. 1:7

Acts 24:25 and many many more!

Stay tuned for more on the topic of faith and our feelings and what God says about how we are to feel and live. Blessings to you on this lovely day.

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Is God Loving Me Today?

“It is good…To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, and Your faithfulness at night.” From Psalm 92 vss. 1 and 2.

This morning, whatever has happened in your life up to this point, whatever God brings today, no matter how your evening plays out, God will have been right there with you loving you through it all. Even if you don’t think about His love, feel it or want it, He will be loving you passionately, intimately, in ways crafted just for you, beloved child. And He will faithfully continue nurturing His love for you for all eternity. He won’t get tired of you, be aggravated with you or simply ignore you because you ignore Him. No, He will love you. Today. Tomorrow. Eternally. If you belong to Jesus.

Tonight, when you look back on your day, and reflect on the good and bad you acted out, how, perhaps, you forgot about Him, rebelled against HIm, depended on Him by His grace but took credit for that, you WILL be able to say, “God was faithful to His Word, His promises and to me today.”  Even if you weren’t faithful to Him, He was there being completely, attentively faithful to you. You can praise Him tonight and thank Him for His heart-felt faithfulness to you.

Verse 4 says, “For You, LORD, have made me glad through Your work; I will triumph in the works of Your hands.”

You can be glad this lovely day because God will be loving you through it and He will be faithful to you. If you have failed Him in some way, let that not push you away from Him, but draw you closer to Him knowing He has already paid the price for your sin through Jesus, will grant forgiveness as soon as you ask and will restore you to a right relationship with Him. Even your sin on this lovely day can be used by Him to bring you into more intimate fellowship with Him. That is a God who ever loves and is ever faithful!

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Sight and Lies vs. Faith and Truth

We all do it and we all are harmed for it. There is never a good outcome nor is anything helpful produced. In fact, it drags us down and traps us in fear, worry and unbelief. It is a slough of despond, murky waters filled with evil and despair. What common malady brings such dangerous things to our hearts?

It’s focusing on the seen rather than the unseen. It’s walking by sight rather than faith. It’s believing lies rather than truth and this rampant peril flourishes wildly in our day.

But it is not a fresh, new danger thrust upon us by our technological world or Satan. No, even ancient psalmists struggled tremendously with this human problem.

Look at Psalm 10. In the first 11 verses, the psalmist is observing evil around him, lamenting over it, panicked about it, accusing God of ignoring it. He’s walking by sight and believing lies about God. He’s fearful over the evil he sees, as well he should be, if God isn’t present and active. But then, he remembers something vital.

In verse 12, he remembers to pray; he remembers to Whom he should be praying and in Whom he should be believing. He asks something of God. This brings about a tremendous refocusing of his practice of viewing only the dreadful situation, and feeling panic and fear.

The psalmist focuses on truth. He remembers the truth of the scriptures. He ponders truth about God as is found only in the scriptures. He reminds himself that God does see every evil and every good event. He reminds himself God has all power to take these situations and turn them around, to punish the evildoer, to make right from wrong. He reminds himself God is the One to whom the helpless go, for He helps those in need. He reminds himself God is the helper of the orphan. He is compassionate and loving to those who are dependent upon Him. These true thoughts help him overcome walking by sight, fear and despondency. And they successfully combat the lies he’s believed about God.

In verses 16-18 He recites truth: The LORD is king forever and ever; the nations perish from his land. O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.

Compare his final words above to his beginning lament from verse 1: Why O LORD do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

Do you see the drastic change that has taken place in his heart? Hopelessness was defeated by truth. Despair was overcome by truth. Looking only at circumstances was changed to looking at the Changer of circumstances. Focus is everything!

Today, do not let your heart be troubled. Believe in God and His Son. Do the hard work of focusing on truth as found in the Word of God, not your circumstances. The One who calls you His own, if you believe in His Son, is present, king forever, listening to your cry, able to strengthen you in this trial, will execute justice and will ultimately remove all those who strike terror into the hearts of His children. What a lovely day that will be!

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Meekness and the Second Blow

Matthew Henry says, ” Meekness teaches and enables us patiently to bear the anger of others … Commonly, that which provokes anger is anger, as fire kindles fire; now meekness prevents that violent collision which forces out these sparks, and softens at least one side, and so puts a stop to a great deal of mischief; for it is the second blow that makes the quarrel.” From The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit, p. 31.

The second blow makes the quarrel. How true this is. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Romans 12:18 How many arguments, fights, and blown tops would be avoided if Christians would refrain from striking the second blow? And turn the other cheek? How much bitterness and divorce and estranged relationships would never occur if we trusted God with the words others speak to us rather than immediately rebelling against them. I think sometimes in my life, when I pop back at someone, it’s because I don’t believe God will use my assailant’s words for my good (Rom. 8:28-29) nor do I believe that the other person and I are equals (Romans 12:3). Somehow I’ve become superior to him, know more than Him and don’t deserve to be treated in this manner. Ha! I am not superior to anyone; God always knows more than I do about the situation, has it under complete control and has only let these words be spoken to me for my good. As far as deserving to be treated better. No. I deserve hell and someone railing against me is infinitely less than what I deserve.

Shimei cursed King David, hurled stones at the Lord’s anointed, insulted him in front of his mighty men and was generally a nuisance. Slander, attempted murder, stalking a king: All crimes for which David could have easily and justifiable hung him. But he didn’t. He was encouraged to wipe Shimei off the face of the planet. Mighty man Abishai said, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Please, let me go over and take off his head!” Shimei enraged David’s band of dedicated warriors, but David responded meekly. Not as a wimp or a man with no power. No, he too was a warrior and mighty man, not to mention a temporarily deposed king. Neither did he respond as a coward or fool. He courageously fought the battles put before him by the LORD and wisely led a nation. But he responded to Shimei as a man who absolutely comprehended God’s sovereignty even in the words flung at him by the heathen. David  says, “Let him curse, because the LORD has said to him, ‘Curse David.’ Who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?'” and “Let him alone, and let him curse; for so the LORD has ordered him.” 2 Samuel 16:5-13

David responded meekly because he was certain God was in control, even of the tongues of men. He trusted that God would allow only what was best for him. That’s why he could refrain from throwing the second blow. If we trust God loves us (1 John 4:10), only lets situations come into our lives that are the best thing at that moment for us, and will use them for our good, we too, can respond meekly when tempted to fight anger with anger. We know that’s a battle we will lose to sin anyway when we fight fire with fire, but to have the Spirit’s control, the confident expectation that God is in this, is to be meek and respond in a Christ-like manner to all people. What a lovely day that will be when we all love and practice meekness!

~In case you are interested in what eventually happened to Shimei: When David was reinstated as King, Shimei showed up at the coronation, begged for mercy and it was granted to him not to die, but to be ” imprisoned” in a particular city where he could freely live, but not leave. He complied with these regulations for a time. 1 Kings 2:44-46 explains what eventually happened to Shimei. God says, “Vengeanace is Mine, I will repay,” and He does. Romans 12:19

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What Are You Doing Here?

“What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Is this what Elijah is called to be doing – squatting in a cave in the wilderness? Apparently not and God used this question to bring him out of his misery and into God’s ministry. The same question can apply to us today. Are we hiding, fearful of something or someone who seems too powerful? Read on and see what God has for you.

Elijah was commissioned with a task too big for him to accomplish in his own strength. The LORD called him to confront the worship of Baal in Israel and declare the LORD God as the only true God. The leaders and kings worshiped Baal; the people worshiped Baal; Jezebel worshiped Baal. Only a handful of people remained loyal to God. Elijah was to warn and preach to the disloyal and destroy Baal worship. This was his task in the midst of Ahab and Jezebel expending great energy and military force in seeking to destroy him. They were following all leads in every corner of the country to hunt down Elijah. He was Public Enemy Number One at this point.

Then, Elijah boldly reveals himself to Ahab and challenges his false worship. Ahab doesn’t instantly arrest or kill him but accepts his challenge. 1 Kings 18-19 details this account where 450 prophets of Baal call on their god to send fire to consume their sacrifice, yet he never answers. Then Elijah calls on the true God to send fire to consume his sacrifice which has been doused with water so much that a trench dug around the altar is full of water, the wood and the bull are soaked and there is no natural way any of it can burn. But, God is the God of the impossible! He sends fire that consumes the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and all the water. It was such a decisive show of power the Israelites fell to their faces and said, “The LORD, he is God!” repeatedly. Baal’s prophets were rounded up and executed as the law (Deut. 13:1-5) demanded and Elijah’s commissioned task was well under way with this great victory. God proved He was with him, giving him what he needed, accomplishing the task for him.

But then Jezebel hears of her prophets being killed and says in 24 hours she will do the same to Elijah. So, he forgets God. (Wait. What? He just saw God act miraculously and a whole nation repent. He forgot? Yes. He was just like us. Ouch.)  He remembers only the current situation, his fear and has a human perspective on the situation. But, God is faithful to him. He comes to Elijah and asks, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” as he cowers in a cave hundreds of miles away from Jezebel and his mission.

Elijah doesn’t actually answer the question. He’s scared and he’s hiding. That’s what he’s doing, but he says instead, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 1 Kings 19:10, 14

God knows this but He also knows Elijah can’t spend his life hiding in fear, so He helps him overcome it by asking the question, “What are you doing here?” and giving him a task to fulfill. He makes Elijah think about the situation and realize when God is for us, who can be against us? Yes, Jezebel was “against” him, but her power, albeit mighty, was no match for God’s. Wasn’t that just demonstrated with the sacrifice? But, how easily we and Elijah forget.

All that history lesson was detailed to get to this point: Is God asking you, “What are you doing here?” Are you in a place that is sad instead of joyful? Depressed instead of thriving? Lonely instead of remembering the LORD is your Father? Relishing your hurt so others can extend sympathy? Not forgiving because you’ve been wronged so horribly? Simply afraid? What are you doing there, friend? God never intends for us to be in those places. He has a better plan for us! A much better plan.

Wherever we are, literally hiding in a cave or in our suburb, or figuratively crouching in a dark place, God is there with us. We need to discover what we’re doing in this gloomy place. Why aren’t we joyfully living for the LORD? Is something holding us back from serving God as we should be? What is it? And then a huge question: is God able to handle it? Is He bigger and stronger than this thing? Is He more powerful than that person, fear, or situation? Am I submitting my gloom to God? Do I trust Him to work this out for my good? Do I believe He is doing the absolutely best thing for me right now? Does this situation command His attention? Is He really concerned for me?

Of course He is concerned for you. He demonstrated His awesome, terrible concern for you at the cross where His Son took all your sin upon Himself and transferred His perfect record to you. That is not done in a vacuum, friends. Great passion motivated this act – passionate love for you, individually. You have been given the Holy Spirit to live in you and direct you and convict you and guide you through this situation. You have power through Christ to overcome this place you’ve been staying that is not where God would have you be.

Some repentance may be necessary if we have traded a trust in God’s big plan for looking simply at our circumstances. Repentance involves turning away from our sin, not just acknowledging it’s there. So some turning is necessary. Turn to God. Trust Him with this. Recognize where you’ve been living wrongly and trust Him to help you change. He will do it!

“What are you doing here?” is a great question for us all to ponder when life seems a bit overwhelming. Understanding our situation is a first step to changing it. Trusting our faithful God will take care of the rest.

Have a lovely day, my friend.

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