The “Gift” of Worry

I am really good at worrying. It’s also pretty common for me that when my stress level increases, so does my worry and anxiety. I’ve been feeling the weight of that this morning.

I pushed myself a little too hard this week, and I woke up feeling the physical effects of my “keep-going mentality.” So, I stayed home from church to rest and spend time with the Lord while lying in bed. And surprise, surprise, my mind wouldn’t rest. My to-do list raced through my head. When I attempted to read the Bible, my mind reminded me of the laundry to get done, the emails I need to send, the travel plans to solidify. I stopped reading because I couldn’t concentrate, and I again picked up my phone to add more items to my “To-Do” note.

And then came the kicker, when God asked, Are you resting?

No, I replied reluctantly. I need help.

Let’s just say that it wasn’t the easiest of battles. But finally, I put my phone and iPad aside, made tea in my edelweiss Switzerland mug, and climbed back in bed to start over. I searched for sermons to listen to, and found one by John Piper on fear and anxiety. That seems fitting; I bet I need to hear this.

It wasn’t a typical sermon on Matthew 6, about storing your treasures up in heaven and not being anxious about tomorrow. (That passage is really great, and I highly suggest you check it out.) But instead, Piper focused his message on Isaiah 41, and particularly Isaiah 41:10.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

But in order to understand verse 10, we need to understand who God is.

In the verses leading up to Isaiah 41:10, Isaiah speaks about characteristics of God — God as Judge of the nations, God as the Ruler over all rulers, God as the Creator and the First, and God as gracious. This is so crucial in understanding that our God is not like the idols spoken about in the passage. God is not one who was created by human hands. He’s not one who is lifeless or weak. He is real and personal. He is righteous and just. He is love and grace. He is the holy and perfect judge over the nations, He is more powerful than all worldly powers combined. He is the alpha and omega.

And even more than that, God says in verse 9, “I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are My servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you.”

God promises that verse 9 is true of those who have accepted the gift of life through Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. If we are in Christ, we need not fear. We need not be anxious because God says, “I am your God. I am with you. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you.”

This is amazing news! Not only did Jesus willingly sacrifice Himself so that we can have a restored relationship with God, but God promises that all who receive Him and believe in Him are His. He promises that He is our God, that He is with us, that He will strengthen and help us, and that He will uphold us.

If this is true, why am I so worried or anxious? Why am I so afraid? Ultimately, our fear and anxiety come from unbelief, idolatry, or an incorrect view of God. We worry and stress because we want control and we forget about who God is. Or when we attempt to find security in temporary things, we are basically saying that these things will save us.

Everything in this world is temporary, except for a relationship with God. So, when I’m tempted to worry or fear or be anxious, which is a lot, I need to remind myself of the truth of Isaiah 41:10: that I am His, I am secure in Him, and that He is always with me.

What tempts you to be fearful or anxious? How can you allow the perfect peace of God calm your spirit?

 

For some other passages on worry, check out Matthew 6:19-34, Luke 12, Luke 10:38-42, Philippians 4, II Corinthians 4, Matthew 11:28-30, and 1 Peter 5:6-7.

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“In order that we may bear fruit for God.”

After meeting to worship with my teammates last Friday morning (9/27), I walked through the chilly autumn air to Zvezda, a café with wall-to-wall windows showcasing the main street of Ljubljana. I sat towards the corner of the room, still able to see the street and the entrance at a distance. I began taking out my journal, Bible, devotional, and iPad, eager to start my “Day with the Lord.” I ordered my lemon and honey-infused rooibos tea. I adjusted my chair and sat up straight. I took a deep breath. This is my day with the Lord, I thought.

Sipping the hot, sweet, lemony tea, I prayed with expectation. Lord, teach me what you want me to know. Open my eyes and heart to see what You want me to see. I want to know you better today. It’s just You and me.

As I scribbled prayers in my journal, more and more people began to come in. The once quiet room slowly grew noisy. One man started to laugh very audibly. Why is it so noisy in here? I thought. It was just silent and peaceful. My frustration increased with the noise level. This is supposed to be my time.

And then my selfishness smacked me in the face. Whoa, I actually think that my relationship with God is all about me. But that is a personal relationship, isn’t it?

When I share the Gospel, I always talk about what it means to know God personally or have a personal relationship with God through Jesus. It wasn’t until that moment in Zvezda that I truly thought about the deeper implications of the phrase “personal relationship with God.”

As I thought my about this phrase, my devotional Comforts from the Cross, took me to Romans 7:4. Paul writes, “Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.”

Those who are in Christ have died to the law. The law no longer has power over us. Jesus conquered the law of sin and death, so we could have freedom in Christ. What a beautiful thought that we are no longer enslaved to the law as a means to earn God’s favor. We have this favor, because Jesus paid our debt. And now, we belong to Jesus, the only One who gives life and fulfillment.

While this part struck me, God put a greater emphasis on the second part of the verse.

“… So that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.” I stared at those words. In order that we may bear fruit for God. The more I stared at those words, the more I realized that I was created specifically to bring God glory by bearing fruit for Him.

By God’s grace, I now have a relationship with Him through Jesus. For some reason, I took pride in that, when in reality, I should be humbled. Having a relationship with God is not only for my good, but it’s ultimately for His glory to be displayed and for the purpose of bearing fruit for Him.  How selfish I am to think that it’s all about me! God uses those who believe in Jesus as a trophy of His grace to show that He makes dead things come alive, to show His power in being able to change lives and His power over Satan and death, and also to bring others to Himself. This is bearing fruit for God.

This was a wake up call to me. My purpose in life is to bring God glory, not simply to have a relationship with Him through Jesus. So often, my focus is on myself. I constantly obsess about how my relationship with God is doing or how much/how little I’m growing. (I think it’s good to be aware of how you are doing with God, but obsessing over this shifts focus from God to self.) Too often my prayers focus on my needs, as opposed to those around me or those of the world. Ultimately, my eyes are often set on what I can get from God, instead of how I can most glorify Him or share Him with others.

What God revealed to me during my Day with the Lord, which is a day I take once per month to refocus on God, is still an ongoing process. With His help, I’ve noticed a change in my thinking, but I still have to fight against my selfishness constantly. Through this, God has also been opening my eyes to see what He’s doing in people’s lives around me.

A few days after my Day with the Lord, I began to attend a Slovene church. It was amazing to hear Slovene believers singing praises to God in their language. (I even recognized some of the songs!) And it was humbling for me to think that God doesn’t only speak English. It was fitting that the pastor spoke about the difference between living for your decisions now and living for eternity. (We had a someone translating the message into English.) Then the pastor asked a few significant questions to get us thinking.

Are you living for now or eternity? Does your life display the joy, truth, and mercy of Jesus? Are you sharing what God has done in your life?

Jesus tells us in John 15, that as we abide in Him and as we fix our eyes on Him and not on ourselves, that He will bear fruit in our lives. This fruit comes in the form of allowing Jesus to uproot sin from our lives, emanating His love and grace to those around us, and sharing about what He’s done in our lives. This brings Him glory.

So, here’s a prayer of mine this week, that I would shift my focus from myself to God, that I would fix my eyes on Him and what He’s accomplished for me, and that my decisions and actions would bring Him glory.

Fighting for Joy: It Continues (Update Part 2)

“It’s a miracle I’m here,” I thought as I stood worshipping to hymns amongst 400 fellow missionaries during STINT briefing in Chicago a few weeks ago. These 400 missionaries, or STINTers (Short-term International), are going to 40 countries on 6 continents.

It’s really a miracle that I’m going to Slovenia. These words rang through my mind repeatedly throughout briefing, a 6-day conference through Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ) that prepares STINTers for a year overseas sharing the Gospel and building student lead movements (SLM) on college campuses. The conference was such a wonderful experience for me because I had the opportunity to hear from regional and national staff with Cru about what this next year overseas will look like. I met all of my teammates for the first time (pictured below), and I spent time with other STINTers going to Eastern Europe and Russia, learning about the history and spiritual background of our region, as well as ways to adapt to the culture. To end the conference, we had a night of Commissioning, where we listened to wisdom from Cru President Steve Douglass. That night, we were introduced by region, given encouragement from Scripture, and then prayed for “Korean style” (everyone prays out loud at the same time).

While our region stood in front of the crowd of fellow missionaries, our director Scott Matthews told us to look at our feet. He proceeded to read Romans 10:13-15, “‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” I can’t imagine a better way to be sent to Slovenia!

Outdoor STINT Photo

From left: Anna, Katie, Melissa, John, Mike, Hilary, Andrew, and myself

But why was it a miracle, you ask? Three years ago, I began to experience pretty significant health issues that spilled over into every area of my life. I suffered with chronic fatigue and infections, insomnia, depression, no energy, and multiple other symptoms. But last fall, the Lord provided a doctor who was finally able to give a proper diagnosis (lead and mercury toxicity), as well as a detailed treatment plan. In January, I started an intense detox process through medication, supplements, and a strict organic diet. When I began treatment, I had no idea if I’d be able to leave the U.S or even how long the healing process would be.

Knowing that God had given me the desire to share the good news of life and reconciliation through Jesus, I decided to step out in faith and apply to spend a year in Ljubljana, Slovenia, helping to raise up a movement on the college campus there. Though I was accepted to STINT, I began to have doubts. How will I continue on my diet in Slovenia? How will I get bloodwork done? What if I don’t get better? What if I’m a liability to my team?

The same day the doubts started, my Bible reading plan took me to Luke 12. In verses 22-26, Jesus says to His disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”

Through that, God showed me that I had an incorrect view of His goodness and His provision. And this summer, I’m so thankful that He has been correcting that in my heart. In these past few months, God has provided physical healing. Though I’m not completely healed yet, Slovenia is probably one of the best places for my health to be restored because I have access to organic and local high-quality food. (I know the Lord worked that one out for me!) And He has provided all of my financial support, including extra funds to cover costs for my diet, all to be able to share the Gospel in Slovenia! Praise Him for His abundant blessing!

This year, like I said in the previous post, I had an incorrect view of God’s goodness and favor toward me. But the Lord has showed me this summer that He enjoys giving good gifts to those who are His.

In Matthew 7:9-11, Jesus says, “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!”

And the thing is, I did nothing to deserve these gifts. Nothing. Often, I think if I work hard enough or do enough good things that God will give me what I want. But that’s a lie. God doesn’t bless me or give me good gifts because I do things for Him. He gives me good gifts because I am in Christ. When Jesus died on the cross, He took on God’s just wrath (the wrath that I deserve for my sin), and in exchange, He gave me His righteousness (a right legal standing before God) and God’s infinite favor. This is propitiation according to Systematic Theology, “A sacrifice that bears God’s wrath to the end and in doing so changes God’s wrath toward us into favor.”

Romans 3:21-25 says, “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

What amazing words! I have God’s favor because of Jesus. And He wants to give me good gifts! I knew this truth before, but this summer, I really began to believe it true for myself.

I can’t wait to share this truth and the truth of life through Jesus with students in Slovenia! It’s hard to believe I’ll be there on Friday! I’m so thankful that the desire God planted in my heart my freshman year of college is finally coming to fruition — spending a year overseas sharing the Gospel.  I’m sure the Lord has so much to teach me this year, and I can’t wait to share that with you.

Thanks for continuing on this journey with me!

Fighting for Joy: It Continues (Update Part 1)

I’ve been pondering this post for a while, and honestly, I’m embarrassed for my 5-month writing hiatus. I’ve been learning a lot this summer, and I know it’s time for me to get back in the swing of things and start sharing my heart with you again.

So, what’s happened throughout these past few months? I last talked with you in March about my battle to see God’s goodness in the midst of my circumstances and how that fits into the greater battle of fighting for joy. I wish I could say that I’m done with this fight because I’ve mastered the art of finding joy. But that wouldn’t be true. The fight hasn’t necessarily been easier, but it has been different.

If you remember from my previous post about God’s goodness, I was struggling to see that God was not only sovereign and in control of my life, but also that He’s good at the same time. We tend to separate these two attributes of God, when instead they both make up who He is. For a long time, I’ve teetered on the side of God being in control, but with the idea that He’s just an angry disciplinarian. When I realized that, I started to pray that God would correct my view of Him, and that I would see His goodness.

In fact, I took my prayer from Psalm 27:13-14, which says, “I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

And the Lord really has been faithful in showing me that this summer. Honestly, I was surprised that He answered this prayer, but that’s just another sign of my incorrect view of who He is.

For the past few months, I’ve seen God’s provision in a multitude of ways, but these two are pretty significant (and they’re related).

First, my health.

For more than two years, I struggled with persistent exhaustion and a number of other symptoms, but every doctor I saw passed me off like nothing was wrong. Finally, in September of last year, I found a doctor who listened and was able to get to the root of the issue. He found lead and mercury toxicity. In January, I began my road to recovery by making drastic dietary changes and by adding over a dozen medicines, detoxifiers, and supplements into my daily routine. And by God’s grace, my body started to detox the metals, energy began to come back, I started to sleep well, and I was even able to start exercising again.

I can’t tell you how significant these seemingly small things are to me. Take exercising, for example. Prior to this treatment, when I exercised, I felt completely drained of energy afterward, I had a terrible time breathing, and I even had a metallic taste in my mouth. Before, running was completely out of the question. But now, in two weeks, I’ll be running my first 5K!

In June, I was able to start adding foods into my diet (chicken, chickpeas, peas, corn, bananas, strawberries, lemons, limes, coconut and onions), which allows me to eat out occasionally now! It feels good to be somewhat normal again!! Just look at how happy I am…

Panera Chipotle

 

 

 

 

 

 

And in July, I saw a holistic dentist who specializes in mercury removal. I had five old fillings that had been depositing mercury into my system for about 15 years. The process of removal was really a surreal experience. I was hooked up to oxygen, I wore a hairnet and goggles, and there was a contraption in my mouth blocking the mercury from going into my body. Not to mention I had to drink a mixture of charcoal and water as a preventative measure. And the dentist and her assistant both wore full body suits (like haz-mat suits) and large gas masks to prevent them from breathing in the mercury vapor. I also had three vacuums placed around my mouth. This is how toxic those fillings are. No wonder I was sick! So, in two long, intense sessions, taking about five hours total, the mercury was finally removed. I got a pin to prove it!

No Hg

Though this strict diet is still ongoing, this whole experience with my health and diet has really taught me to appreciate the goodness of natural, non-processed foods and also taught me about how the body works. I’m so thankful for that. Now, I’m just waiting for the day when I can add cocoa, coffee, and spices back in. It’s amazing how much I’ve taken these simple flavors for granted!

One more thing, I celebrated my final round of extensive bloodwork on Thursday! And by extensive, I mean about 20 vials taken. I’ll have my results and follow-up with Dr. Waldo in 10 days.

(For the full-length explanation of my health issues and my treatment plan, check out these previous posts: Fighting for Joy: Discouragement and Fighting for Joy: Attitude)

This leads me into the other significant way I’ve seen God’s provision: Spending a year sharing the Gospel overseas. But I’ll share more about that in the next few days.

Fighting for Joy: His Goodness

It’s been a few weeks since I had the appointment with my doctor about how my body is reacting to the new diet and supplement regimen. The day of the appointment, I was scared, and to be honest, I was having a hard time trusting in God’s goodness. I was afraid that my body wasn’t responding. Over and over, my thoughts echoed lies. Sure, God is good, so why is He not being good to me? Why does my sanctification involve so much pain, exhaustion, trial, and sadness? The Lord could change my heart at His command, so why do I have to go through this? Things just don’t seem fair. My thoughts even went so far as, God doesn’t want to heal me because He wants me to stay in this spot. He wants to teach me; He wants to put me in the pressure cooker to see how I stand up.

After thinking on these thoughts for a while, God nudged me to pray. To pray that I would see His goodness despite the results of my blood work. To pray that my heart would be changed, that my attitude would change. That I would instead run to the Lord for comfort instead of running and hiding from Him in fear. Even to pray again for healing.

And what a distorted view of God I have! It’s something that I constantly have to fight for, to see His goodness. I so often trust in His sovereignty; however, seeing His sovereignty without His goodness is disastrous. (So is the other way around.) Seeing just His sovereignty causes us to think that He’s just an angry tyrant and we are His puppets. Seeing just His goodness causes us to think that He’s a senile grandfather who spoils His grandkids. But, He’s neither of those images. He is sovereign and He is good.

As always, the Lord didn’t allow my thoughts to continue down this dangerous path. He gently reminded me of what is true about Him. And as I think about it now, I’m brought to tears because I’m confident that He was fighting for me in those moments. If He didn’t care, my thoughts would’ve continued. The Lord reminded me that He is good despite my circumstances, that no matter what happens to me, I am alive because of Christ. And for that alone, I know He is good.

Ephesians 2:3-10 says, “All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.”

When I was disobedient and living for myself and the world, God made me alive in Christ through Jesus’ death and resurrection. I’m alive, not because of anything I did, but because the Lord was (and still is) gracious toward me. And because I’ve been made alive, I am a daughter of God. Because of this, God promises to give me good gifts, even when I can’t see it or when I don’t see them as gifts. This trial is a gift, and I constantly need to remember that.

In the end, the Lord answered multiple prayers that day, and He continues to answer these prayers. He showed me His goodness despite my circumstances. He allowed me to see joy because of Jesus. He changed my attitude and heart. And, as an added bonus, He started to heal me. Not only am I seeing changes in my energy level, but I also saw a change in the blood work. My body is responding, praise the Lord! I still have a long road ahead, but I know I’m getting better. Most importantly though, I’m seeing and experiencing the Gospel more than I ever would have without this process.

(And every time I hear this song, I am reminded of God’s goodness.)

My constant prayer is that God would be glorified in this and that others will see His Gospel through this. Though I often don’t know what God is doing, I’m thankful that He has revealed some of His glory to me through Jesus and what Jesus has accomplished for me. With that, I leave you with part of a Psalm I was reading today, Psalm 27. (I encourage you to read it all, because it’s so good.)

Psalm 27