What Fears Are Shaking You?

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This snake and I surprised each other on a West Virginia trail!

My husband and I were enjoying the day in West Virginia with a hike. There were many sunny spots on the trail, but this one in particular stopped me in my tracks. The snake directly in front of me was enjoying the same day by soaking up the summer sun.

Of course, the snake was bigger in my mind’s eye than in reality. I am not embarrassed to admit that I have a fear of snakes. I know this because of my reaction. I didn’t scream or run in the opposite direction as I was taken by surprise. I simply froze in place and began to shake uncontrollably.

Rational thinking does not change my response nor eliminate my fear of snakes. I know that snakes exist in the mountains of West Virginia. I understand that most likely I will not encounter a snake. In over 25 years of visits and hikes in West Virginia, we have seen only a handful of snakes in their natural habitat. Despite the statistics, stepping on a snake is my number one fear when we hike. Fear doesn’t have to make sense.

For many years, I was not interested in hiking the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area of West Virginia. I can trace my reluctance back to a casual comment from my husband’s grandmother. In her younger days, Grams picked blueberries (huckleberries) in Dolly Sods and occasionally would see a rattlesnake or two. Since 2015, my husband and I have explored Dolly Sods with day hikes. It is now my favorite place to hike when we are back for the yearly family reunion. Fear affects my choices.

Snakes are not my only fear. As an empty nester in a later season of life, the unknown future can instill fear. Will our money run out in retirement? Will our health hold up? Fears are a part of life. Yet, we don’t have to be afraid of fear. Fear doesn’t have to control us.

Fear is real, but God is even more real as we recognize His presence and lean into His reassurance. Fear doesn’t have to define us. Fear doesn’t have to steal our joy.

Scripture shows us how to handle fear in our lives.

Seek God.

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

Trust God.

 When I am afraid, I will trust in you (Psalm 56:3).

 Live out your identity in God.

 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15).

And a personal reminder for me: Stand and not be shaken.

I have set the LORD always before me.  Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken (Psalm 16:8).

 

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What Do You Do With Fear?

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There is a reason why fear is a four letter word. It hangs in the air. It expresses what you can’t put into other words. But what do you do with fear? It is always there. Sometimes, you don’t even notice it. Other times, you trip over it. On those rare occasions, it knocks you to the ground, making you gasp for air.

But what do you do with fear? Do you go there, cracking open the door? Will it suck you in and lock the door? If you face it head on, will you be able to find the escape route out again?

The more important question is what does God do with our fear? God conquers fear! God shows up and the fear begins to subside. Fleeting moments of peace are felt but can easily slip through one’s grasp. Eyes are opened to recognize the smallest gifts of God’s unconditional love.  Answers to prayers that weren’t asked yet miraculously appear.

The shaking stops as you believe God’s promise that the sun will rise and set, again and again. Life can go on despite the real threat of fear. God enables us to stand in the midst of any circumstances and praise God for the simple reason that He will always be present in our lives.

I choose the strength of Jesus Christ over the emptiness of fear.

Psalm 56:3

When I am afraid, I will trust in you.

 Isaiah 43:2

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

 

 

 

The Hour After The “C” Word

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It was the hour after I first heard the “c” word. The doctor seemed so confident in his conclusion that the lump was breast cancer. I reminded myself there was still the possibility that he was wrong. Hearing the first mention of cancer and my name in the same sentence stopped me in my tracks. The “c” word, biopsy, ultrasound pictures, and unasked questions played over and over in my mind.

In the hour after I first heard the “c” word, I still needed to run errands. Life had to go on. First on the list was picking up high school graduation pictures. As I drove to the photographer’s place, my mind was racing faster than the car.

I picked up the pictures, happy to see my youngest son handsome and all grown up. Would I see him graduate from college? What did my future hold? Breathe. We don’t know anything for certain. Relax. There is so much that has changed since my mom had breast cancer. I knew that I was being a pessimist and going to a dark place. There may be a very good logical and benign reason for this lump. I just wished the lump in my throat would go away too.

My husband called to ask about the doctor’s visit. It wasn’t a conversation I wanted to have over the phone alone in my car. I wasn’t ready for the tears to begin yet. I wanted to be held and know that we would get through this: whatever this turned out to be.

The doctor commented that my husband would want me to have the biopsy as soon as possible. I refused to schedule for the earliest date: my birthday. The diagnosis of breast cancer came two days after my birthday.

My cancer journey had begun. The diagnosis was my introduction, well, actually a painful reminder of how truly vulnerable we are in this world. Cancer was the motivation to draw closer to my God and depend on Him for everything. In that hour, God began to reassure me how strong He is and remind me how strong I can be in Jesus Christ.

Deuteronomy 31:6

Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

Psalm 18:1

I love you, O LORD, my strength.

 

The Contrast Found in John 20:19-31

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In John 20:19-30, we find the disciples behind locked doors after the crucifixion of Jesus. This passage relates the disciples’ first encounter with the resurrected Jesus. Ultimately, it is a true story about overcoming fear and doubt to discover genuine joy in Jesus’s presence.

What the World Gives Us:

  • Fear (Verse 19: The disciples were behind locked doors for fear of the Jews.)
  • Doubt (Verse 25: Thomas would not believe until he saw Jesus, scars and all, for himself.)

 What Jesus Gives Us:

  • Peace (Verses 19, 21, 26: Three times Jesus says, “Peace be with you!”)
  • Joy (Verse 20: Jesus’s presence in our life results in joy to overflowing.)
  • Calling & Commission (Verse 21: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”)
  • The Holy Spirit (Verse 22: Jesus inside of us.)
  • Power (Verse 23, Implied: An equipping to do God’s work.)
  • Belief (Verse 27: The substance of faith that crushes doubt.)
  • Personal relationship with God (Verse 28: “My Lord and my God!”)
  • Life (Verse 31: Life in Jesus is for the present and carries into eternity.)

 

John 20:26-29

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among then and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”