Facing and Chasing the Lurker

by Shirley Brosius

Fear lurks in the shadows of my life. As a child, I was afraid of the dark. Fortunately, I shared a bedroom with an older sister. Unfortunately, she liked a radio program called “Inner Sanctum.” When I heard the ominous tones introducing horror stories, I huddled under the covers—and listened.

At bedtime, my father sometimes read ghost stories to us. My four older siblings loved hearing about chains rattling on staircases. But those sounds echoed in my head, and I refused to go upstairs alone.

So how do I prevent The Lurker from grabbing me by the throat like the ghost story villains of my childhood? Scripture helps me focus on The Lord and paralyzes The Lurker: “The LORD of hosts, Him you shall hallow; Let Him be your fear. . .  He will be as a sanctuary” (Isaiah 8:13-14a NKJV).

God is in Control

Moses sent 12 men to scout out Canaan, the land which God had promised to the Israelites after leading them from bondage in Egypt. They found a country with clusters of grapes so huge it took two men to carry them. But Joshua and Caleb were the only men who encouraged the Israelites to forge ahead and conquer the land.

The ten other men were afraid of the giants inhabiting the land. They didn’t trust God to do what He had promised (Numbers 13). And their disobedience started them on a 40-year journey through the wilderness. Except for Joshua and Caleb, only the Israelite children got to enter the Promised Land.

Joshua and Caleb trusted God to live up to His Word, and I am learning to do the same when faced with giants of fear. So, when I’m up in the middle of the night because of physical distress and I fear becoming hospitalized, I turn on a television station that offers scripture and songs throughout the night. I’ve memorized the hymn “Be Still My Soul,” and when worried, I sing it to myself.

I read the book of Philippians. These verses remind me to settle down, talk to God about my worries, and wait for His answers. While that answer may include hospitalization, I know that God controls even this experience.

God is with Me

After Moses’ death, Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land. Since he had scouted the land, he knew they faced giants. But God guaranteed Joshua success: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9 NKJV).

God is our powerful ally. God’s presence inhabited the ark of the covenant, so the Israelites knew God was with them. We don’t have that ark, and when we face giants of fear, we often want someone with skin on. So God may touch us through Christian spouses and friends, through caregivers and pastors.

God is for Me

The Lurker is an unwelcome intruder. But God is stronger than our fears. We know He is in control even of world affairs. We know He walks with us. And we know He is for us. Knowing this doesn’t change our circumstances, but it does change us. We learn to rely on God rather than cower under the covers as I once did.

In Romans, Paul reminds me God is on my side (8:31). God loves me so much He sent His Son to die for my sin (John 3:16). Nothing. . . nothing. . . “shall be able to separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:39 NKJV).

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Shirley Brosius is a writer from Millersburg, PA. She loves to read, write, watch the flowers grow, and keep up with five young adult grandchildren. She is the author of Sisterhood of Faith and coauthor of Turning Guilt Trips into Joy RidesWebsite: shirleybrosius.com and friendsoftheheart.us.

Join the conversation: How do you deal with fear?

In the Dark and Loving It!

by Penelope Kaye

Fear. We have all experienced it with various levels of trepidation. Regardless of the particular phobia, it can cripple us and keep us from enjoying life, enriching our community, and embracing our future. Not the abundant life Jesus promised.

My fear of the dark began as a child watching scary movies at the local theater. Later, Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” resulted in complete terror of the night. Even during my marriage, I wouldn’t let my husband turn the lights off until I was in bed with the covers pulled over my head. Taking the garbage out, reading past midnight, using the bathroom in the middle of the night—no matter what activity—darkness caused a pounding heart, sky-high anxiety, and a racing pulse. I knew someone or something waited around the corner to do me in!

Not until after I committed my life to the Lord did I receive deliverance from fear, especially the dark. However, being free from fear of the midnight sky did not leave me enamored with it. That all changed one August night. A night orchestrated by God.

I had driven to Portland, Oregon for a writers conference and was on my way home. My plan? Cross the treacherous Lookout Pass on the Montana/Idaho border before dark. But the day had started early and was ending long. Unfortunately, pinpoints of light dotted an inky sky by the time I reached it.John 8:12

Slowing to maneuver yet another curve, I suddenly realized I had no fear. The headlight beams allowed me to see only the path ahead, not the dangers around me. With a laser focus on the light, I was totally oblivious of any risk.

In a flash, God dropped a revelation into my spirit. As long as I focused on Jesus and His light, I didn’t have to fear regardless of how much darkness surrounded me. Joy bubbled up and I started to laugh—I was in the dark and loving it!

A paradigm shift had taken place.

Laughter took over. The joy of the Lord became my strength. I rejoiced in a new-found delight of my former terror.  What key led me to laughing at the enemy of fear? A change of focus from my darkness to His light.

You can experience the same freedom, whether it’s fear of spiders, fear of heights, or any other phobia. Make the shift to look to Jesus, the Light of the World. He’s the only one who can turn quivering dread into a celebration of praise—something He delights to do!! He, more than anyone, wants us to walk out of darkness into His marvelous light. Regardless of the phobia, when we move our focus to Jesus, the Light of the World, the victory belongs to us.

Trust Him to make the paradigm shift. And then let joy bubble out as you laugh in the face of your fear.

“. . .I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” John 8:12, NKJV

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

Making Crooked Places Straight: A Spiritual Warfare Journey to Become Shining Stars in a Corrupt World by [Penelope Kaye]

About the author: Author of the award-winning book, Making Crooked Places Straight, Penelope Kaye’s new book, Land Media Interviews Without a Publicist releases in October. A teacher who loves to write, she pens poetry, picture books, and adult non-fiction. Her teaching career spans decades, including writing courses for the local adult community education center. Her devotional, In the Dark and Loving It won “Best Devotional” for the Oregon Writers Cascade Awards.

Join the conversation: Has God delivered you from a fear?

Life with Jesus—Travel Light with Arms Linked

by Jennifer Slattery

If the past two years have taught us anything, it’s this: Life will be tough, and you can’t plan for everything. We can wear ourselves out trying by filling our brains with information we hope will help us stand firm through the next recession or global pandemic. Or we can travel light and alert, releasing our fear and expectations, with our arms linked and our hearts set on Christ.

That second option is the only way we can truly run this race well, and we’ll need God’s help to do it. May He inform our prayers and our steps.

Like many of you, I’m anticipating a busy fall, and honestly, I’m feeling a bit nervous. I know God is leading me and is more than sufficient for all I and my team might need. But I also know I’m going to be more dependent on Him, and potentially, others, than ever before. I know, if He doesn’t “come through,” I’ll fail–in so many areas.

And yet, I’m determined not to evaluate my time and assignments through my abilities and limited perspective. Instead, I’m trusting God to lead me step by step and to give me all that I need.

He’s been so faithful. Each morning, as I open my Bible, He lovingly, gently, speaks to my soul, encouraging and preparing me for all that’s ahead. Alerting me to challenges, those obstacles and storms I can’t yet see but He can.

And in response, He urges me to unite myself with His mission-minded children, and to pray, as He instructed His disciples when He sent them out in pairs to preach His truth.

Scripture says, “Now after this,” (“this” is likely referring to when He sent out the 12 in the chapter prior), “the Lord appointed seventy-two others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. And He was saying to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore plead with the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Go; behold, I am sending you out like lambs in the midst of wolves.Carry no money belt, no bag, no sandals, and greet no one along the way’” (Luke 10:1-4, NASB).

Jesus wanted His disciples to travel light and remain dependent on Him, but He didn’t want them to journey alone. Not only did He pair them up, thus providing them the support they’d need to stand confident and firm when surrounded by “wolves.” But He also told them to ask God to raise others up to help further His mission.

I’m struck by how often I get this backwards. When I see a large assignment, I tend to take off running, recruiting people to help along the way. But notice, Jesus told His disciples to pray first, and not just to pray but to “plead” with God that He would raise up allies and coworkers. This reminds me of the importance of the mission and how much I need co-laborers. I’m to pray for them with the same desperation as if I was praying for myself.

I’m left wrestling with this: When was the last time I felt that level of urgency for those who don’t know Jesus? When did I last surround myself with those brought to tears over the condition of someone’s soul?

How might you answer those same questions?

Lord, help us to live with deeper dependence: dependence on You and one another, because we know this mission of breaking through darkness with light is too big and too important for us to race forward alone. Touch our hearts afresh. Draw us so close to Yourself that our hearts and prayers resembles Yours. Raise up Your children. Ignite our souls, link our arms, and mobilize our feet. 

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

Jennifer Slattery

About the author: Jennifer Slattery is a multi-published author, ministry, and the host of the Faith Over Fear Podcast. Find her online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com, find her ministry at WhollyLoved.com, and find her podcast at LifeAudio.com and other popular podcasting sites.

Faith Over Fear (podcast) - Jennifer Slattery, Jodie Bailey and Shellie  Arnold | Listen Notes

In her new podcast, Faith Over Fear, Jennifer helps us see different areas of life where fear has a foothold, and how our identity as children of God can help us move from fear to faithful, bold living. You can listen by clicking on the link below or by visiting LifeAudio.com.

Join the conversation: Are you working in tandem with others?

Safety in the Middle of God’s Will

by Ginny Dent Brant

And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him! Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.                                    Luke 12: 4-7 (NKJV)

As a trustee of the International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention, I was privileged to spend several weeks with IMB workers at the Jibla Baptist Hospital in Yemen in July 1997.

When I arrived, I was like a fish out of water. Sweat rushed out of every pore in my body, when I was nearly caught smuggling Bibles across the border. After clearing customs, I noticed that all men and boys were walking around with jambeas (curved daggers) draped across their chests and machine guns proudly displayed on their backs. This was beyond the Wild Wild West. Welcome to Yemen!

Walking through the city with the field leader, I quietly stuffed my fears deep inside my gut and chattered as if nothing was different. The next night after arriving at the hospital, he updated me with alarming news. Rabid dogs were loose in the village, malaria was spreading, and terrorists threatened the hospital. Before I went to bed, he shared one last bit of news—the airlines had gone on strike. I was stranded. They had me at RABID DOGS! Sweet dreams!

Early the next morning when I heard machine gun fire outside my cave-like dwelling, I catapulted from bed and rushed into the young nurse’s room with whom I was staying. I had reached my FEAR FACTOR!  “Nothing appears safe here to me. What’s your definition of safe?” I asked.

Calm as a cucumber, she replied, “Safety is being in the middle of God’s will.”

I never forgot her words. When living became dangerous, these workers would pray and continue the work. I was ready to run and hide. Most did not fear for their lives. Why?  They were more concerned about submitting to the will of their loving heavenly Father, who determines their eternity and values them, than fearing what any man could do to them.

In Luke 12:4-7, Jesus is teaching his disciples while the multitudes are gathering around them to fear God first. We tend to fear what the world says about us and what man can do to us, but Jesus is warning his disciples that they have a mission to fulfill. The fear of powerless men should not be their greatest concern. Their greatest fear should be NOT fulfilling God’s call and purpose in their life. In time, most of these chosen followers would be martyred for spreading the gospel. Their eternal reward would be great.

The missionaries in Yemen taught me much. They were not afraid to give their lives for the cause. They humbly bowed before their loving God who cares for them deeply and only wants the best for them. He was preparing a place for them in His eternal kingdom.

When I turn on the news and see all the unrest and danger for Christians in Afghanistan, I remember the faithfulness of the missionaries in Yemen. Safety is being in the middle of God’s will. But when in Yemen, I carefully placed my foot in the tracks of their feet just to make sure!

May God’s people in America, who’ve had it easy compared to some parts of the world, find safety in the middle of His will and His loving arms. And may we pray fervently for those believers in Afghanistan.

About the author: Ginny Dent Brant is a speaker and writer who grew up in the halls of power in Washington, DC. She has battled cancer, ministered around the world, and served on the front lines of American culture as a counselor, educator, wellness advocate, and adjunct professor. She served as a trustee of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1990-1998 and has done mission work in Yemen, Gaza, China, Romania, and The Czech Republic.

Ginny’s award-winning book, Finding True Freedom: From the White House to the World, was endorsed by Chuck Colson and featured in media interviews nationwide. Her recent book, Unleash Your God-given Healing: Eight Steps to Prevent and Survive Cancer, was written with commentary from an oncologist after her cancer journey. It has been featured on CBN, CTN, Atlanta Live, American Family Radio, etc. and has won four awards. Cancer prevention blog and more info at http://www.ginnybrant.com.

Join the conversation: Where do you find safety?

Death’s Sting—Death’s Victory

by Candy Arrington

And, when we are all redressed with bodies that do not, cannot decay, when we put immortality over our mortal frames, then it will be as Scripture says: Life everlasting has victoriously swallowed death. Hey, Death! What happened to your big win? Hey, Death! What happened to your sting? 1 Corinthians 15: 54-55 VOICE

Following a family weekend at the beach, we stopped on the way home to see my husband’s only living uncle and aunt. We hadn’t seen them since December of 2019 because of health issues and COVID precautions. At one point, I thought we should skip the visit. Our daughter and young grandson were with us, and our arrival at home would be late, but an internal urgency prompted both my husband and me to take the time to stop for a visit. I’m thankful we did.

The next day, a text message informed us my husband’s uncle was in the hospital. A massive blood clot had developed and was inoperable. Two days later, my husband’s uncle made phone calls to tell friends and family members goodbye. Those were hard calls, yet what a blessing to have the benefit of expressing love and thankfulness and to reminisce. A week later, this beloved uncle transitioned to his heavenly home.

Most of us don’t like to discuss death. It’s a subject we avoid because it places us face-to-face with our mortality. Yet, for those who have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, death is sweet release for the cares, concerns, pain, and hardships of this world. Still, death is difficult, even for Christians.

A family member once said, “I don’t fear what comes after death. I know I’ll be with Jesus. What I fear is the process of death.” His comment was reasonable and normal. Our human perspective often involves fear, even for the most committed believer.

How, then, do we look beyond fear and uncertainty and see the positive aspects of death?

Jesus provided a glimpse of the life to come. In John 14:1-3, Jesus encouraged us not to be troubled by death, and gave the assurance of preparing a place for us in his Father’s house of many rooms. As the daughter of a builder father, I identify with and take comfort in these verses.

The apostle Paul also addressed death in Scripture, instructing believers to take courage and to realize that when we are away from our earthly bodies, we will be with the Lord. So he urges us to walk by faith and be assured of our eternal home in heaven.

Are you frightened by death? Don’t be. Jesus has already claimed victory over death and secured a place in our heavenly home.

We know that our body—the tent we live in here on earth—will be destroyed. But when that happens, God will have a house for us. It will not be a house made by human hands, instead, it will be a home in heaven that will last forever. 2 Corinthians 5: 1-2 NCV

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Candy Arrington has written hundreds of articles and devotionals on faith, personal growth, and moving through and beyond difficult life circumstances. Her books include: Life On Pause: Learning to Wait Well (Bold Vision Books),  When Your Aging Parent Needs Care: Practical Help for This Season of Life (Harvest House), and AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B & H Publishing Group). Candy is a native South Carolinian, who gains writing inspiration from historic architecture, vintage photographs, nature, and the application of Biblical principles to everyday life. Learn more about Candy at www.CandyArrington.com, where you can also read her blog, Forward Motion: Moving Beyond What Holds You Back. Candy’s new book, Life on Pause: Learning to Wait Wellprovides insights on learning from and growing through a time of waiting.

Join the conversation: What about death particularly scares you?

When You Need a Good Night’s Sleep

by Edie Melson

In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8 NIV

I rolled over, repositioned my pillow and tried to will sleep to come. But my mind was my enemy. The thoughts crowding my brain circled like vultures, diving with sharp claws and ripping away the fabric of sleep. The worst thing was that I couldn’t pinpoint the exact source of my insomnia. There were lots of reasons for me to be stressed, but no single one appeared to be the ultimate culprit. 

Finally I gave up, grabbed my Bible and settled into the recliner downstairs where my tossing and turning wouldn’t disturb my husband’s rest. I thumbed through the book of Psalms—my go-to place when I’m searching for a cure—and that’s when I found this verse highlighted. 

In the past I’d used it to pray while our son was away on deployment. That night I initially dismissed it as not really relevant to my current situation and continued to skim through Scripture. When those words wouldn’t leave my mind, I turned back. 

Could this passage be more pertinent than I’d first thought? Two words stood out: peace and safety. Peace was definitely something I needed. Safety, however, didn’t seem to fit my struggle. I couldn’t pinpoint any specific fears. I prayed, asking God to share His insight.

What He answered has stayed with me. He pointed out that I really was afraid—of many things. I was worried about not measuring up, not getting everything done, not being able to continue at my current speed of life. As each fear exploded into my mind, it felt like God whispered His provision over it. As He spoke, that particular worry vanished. I went through the entire list and when my mind was quiet, I found myself ready for sleep.

I learned that when I let my fears take up residence in my mind, they grow and multiply, pushing out the peace of God

Taken from Soul Care When You’re Weary, Bold Vision Books.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Edie Melson is a woman of faith with ink-stained fingers observing life through the lens of her camera. She’s a writer who feels lost without her camera and a reluctant speaker who loves to encourage an audience. And she embraces the ultimate contradiction of being an organized creative. As a popular speaker, she’s encouraged and challenged audiences across the country and around the world.

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Her numerous books, including Unruffled, Thriving in Chaos and the award-winning Soul Care series reflect her passion to help others develop the strength of their God-given gifts and apply them to their lives. She lives in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains where she spends time off hiking with her husband and her camera. Connect with her on http://www.EdieMelson.com and through social media.

Join the conversation: What do you do when you cannot sleep?

Love Isn’t Spelled W-O-R-R-Y

by Kathy Collard Miller @KathyCMiller

I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Philippians 3:10 NIV

I can still remember as a child hearing my grandmother say to me, “Kathy, I was worried about you.” I have no clue or memory what she might have been worried about, but I remember her comment—because I knew she was trying to say, “I’m worried about you! I love you!”

But what she actually said didn’t make me feel loved nor did I feel helped. I wanted her to say, “I love you. I prayed for you, and I knew God was helping you.”

It’s easy to think worry communicates love, but it doesn’t. It actually breaks down relationships. But telling someone we are praying for them communicates love, builds the relationship, and strengthens the faith of those we care about.

Prayer is powerful; worry is powerless. Prayer builds the relationship; worry destroys the relationship. God never says, “I’m worried about you,” but He does say, “I love you, and I’m doing the best thing for you.” The Holy Spirit says, “I’m praying for you!” (Romans 8:27).

Although I’m far from conquering worry completely, I have greater victory, because I can look back and see how my worry caused me to over-react. Worry not surrendered to God motivates ungodly reactions.

We know the scenario. Our daughter is late getting home from a date. It’s past her curfew and worry begins to rear its ugly head as horrible thoughts of her being raped, or an automobile accident taking her life, or …a thousand other fears. We know those kinds of things actually happen, and we’re afraid it’s now going to happen to our family!

So when our daughter walks in the door late, because she and her date ran out of gas and their cell phone batteries died, what is our reaction?! Anger! “I’ve been so worried! How could you put me through this? What were you thinking? How could you do this to me?”

We aren’t communicating love with worry, because fear enters the heart of our child from our reaction. And often our words can be interpreted as it’s really all about us—our pain and worry, not our concern for our beloved child.

We can justify our worry by saying, “I love her. I don’t want anything bad to happen to her!” But worry didn’t keep her safe and worry has now made her afraid of us. We don’t have to do it! We can trust God.

We will be strengthened to trust God more when we realize there’s a difference between fear, concern, and worry.

Fear can be legitimate when it’s about actual dangerous things. (Just think of that bear running toward you. You should be scared and take action).

Concern is legitimate awareness of a potential danger and we can take it to God who cares for us and everything we are concerned about (I Peter 5:7 NIV tells us, “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.”).

Worry is when we are no longer trusting God and believe we must take action without God’s direction.

Identifying which of the three you are experiencing can help you to take the right kind of action.

Remember my grandmother? Years later she said to me, “Kathy, I’ve been praying for you.” Not only did I feel loved, but I knew God’s effective power was taking place.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Kathy Collard Miller is the author of over 55 books, including Partly Cloudy with Scattered Worries from which this devotion is adapted. Her books include devotionals, commentaries and women’s Bible studies. She loves to speak at events and has spoken in over 30 US states and 9 foreign countries. She lives in Idaho with her husband, Larry. They are parents and grandparents. Visit her: www.KathyCollardMiller.com.

Her latest book is co-written with her husband, Larry, titled God’s Intriguing Questions: 60 New Testament Devotions Revealing Jesus’s Nature. This post is an excerpt from that book. Visit her at https://linktr.ee/kathycollardmiller.

Join the conversation: What do you do when worry overtakes you?

This is Not a Warning

by Deborah Maxey

I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high. Luke 24:49

Jesus said the above quote to His disciples at the end of His time on earth. They were to be witnesses of the things they had heard and seen while He was with them. But they would not be doing that alone. He would send the Holy Spirit to empower them to fulfill their role in spreading the gospel. So, they should stay in the city and wait for His arrival.

Unfortunately, I’m guilty of not “staying in the city until you have been clothed with power on high.”  Even when I know the Bible promises that “I am going to send you what my Father promised.”

And ironically, I am inclined to do this just when I need Him most.  In my head, I know He will empower me, but the higher my anxiety, the more likely I am to assume I am facing the worst possible scenario. So, I have no peace.

The enemy of peace roars like a lion but has no bite, only the power I give it through the energy of my thoughts.

I have two memories (yes, I’m a slow learner here; it took two) of being so horribly off-track that I mistook the fake roar for the Lion of Judah. The first time was when my hubby agreed to a cruise after years of my asking. His father had been a pilot and owned a small plane. I had not flown since early childhood. I boldly told him: I wasn’t afraid to fly. I was afraid to fall.

Our cruise necessitated a two-part flight to Florida to board the ship. Although I prayed, I became convinced that my anxiety was the Lord’s way of preparing me for the worst. Don’t laugh here…I had us update our wills and made sure I left our house spic and span. Just in case.

With trepidation, I boarded the first small plane while hubby reminded me it was safer than driving. On the first leg of our trip, we sat behind the pilots. With a white-knuckle grip on the chair arms, I asked things like, “Do you think they see that other plane at three o’clock?” (Erm…yes, it was loud enough for the pilots to hear.) When they pulled out a huge book I freaked, “Oh no! They had to get out the manual.”  I began looking for smoke on the wings, and finding none, I anticipated the landing gear was stuck. Turbulence scared me silent, but that’s because I was praying like a soldier in a foxhole.

When we reached Charlotte, NC to transfer, the pilot turned to us and said, “We’ve had you bumped up to first class for your trip to Miami.” We thanked him. I apologized. They told hubby, “Good luck,” with a sympathetic wink.

In first class my heart was settling. I saw God’s gracious care. I prayed, “Lord if you’re going to bring me home to you in a crash, please let it be after the cruise.”  

Disembarking at home, I realized what I had done with a whack on the forehead, and created a phrase I’ve used many times since: “That is what my anxiety sounds like.” I realized before the trip I had not “stayed in the city” long enough to feel His powerful peace.

The next incident was before major back surgery. No escaping it. I had to have it. My mother’s discs had been like falling dominos with lifelong pain. Was I headed down the same path? When I prayed, I thanked God no matter what the outcome, not realizing I was listening to the roar and forgetting to “stay in the city.”  

When the surgeon met me in the prep room that morning, I was a comedian (anxiety does that to me). I laughingly told him, “I wrote you a poem: Don’t hesitate, Resuscitate. Resuscitate.” He didn’t laugh. He saw the real emotion. He took my hand and said, “Deborah, this surgery is extraordinary for you. But it’s ordinary for me. I’ve done it hundreds of times.”

I had done it again. I had taken an extraordinary God of abundance, grace, generosity, and peace and made Him as ordinary as my anxiety would allow.

Now when the deceiver roars, I say, “This is what my anxiety sounds like,” and pull up an extensive list I keep in my phone of all the times God was extraordinary in my life. I may combat anxiety, but I have an extraordinary God along with His arsenal.

All the deceiver has are my defective thoughts.

This article was brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: A licensed therapist, Deborah McCormick Maxey retired from her counseling practice in 2020 to joyfully invest her energy in writing Christian fiction, devotions, and her website that focuses on miracles.  

The Endling: A Novel by [Deborah Maxey]

Deborah’s debut novel, The Endling, is newly released! Native American Emerson Coffee is the last surviving member of her tribe. When US Marshals inform her she’s being hunted by a mob hit man, Emerson declines their offer of witness protection. But when three innocent children become caught in the crosshairs, Emerson must decide if she will risk it all—her mountains, her heritage . . . even her life—to secure their safety. 

Join the conversation: How do you rest in God when a challenge is approaching?

He’s Got Your Back

by Julie Zine Coleman

One evening, a few of us sat around swapping labor stories. I had to laugh—we are all well past childbearing age—but each labor experience was as fresh in our minds as if it were yesterday. There are some things you just don’t forget.

I sheepishly informed my friends: I wasn’t much on natural childbirth. In fact, I considered myself the president of the Epidural Club. I walked into labor and delivery each time and announced to all within earshot: My name is Julie Coleman. I want an epidural. Please have the anesthesiologist standing by. (This worked two out of four times for me. I had my twins naturally, but not by choice.)

Some of you childbearing-supermoms out there are probably offended. Please forgive me, for I’m no supermom. I hate pain. If you’ve never had an epidural, let me tell you, they are amazing. Once it is administered, you lay in your hospital bed, totally relaxed. Once in a while you notice the needle indicator on the monitor climbing. Wow, you calmly think. This is a strong contraction. Then you close your eyes and take a little nap.

Yes, I am a fan of epidurals. They render you totally numb below the waist. You see the contractions with your eyes, but that’s as far as the affect goes. Beautiful.

The writer of Psalm 91 had a similar kind of experience. “You will not be afraid of the terror by night, or of the arrow that flies by day; of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or of the destruction that lays waste at noon…you will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked.” The psalmist was no idiot. He was well-aware of the danger that lurked around every corner. But he was also aware of God’s protection.

Some danger we can see with our eyes. But there is a second kind of danger. Paul warns us of this unseen threat: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” The bigger threat to our well-being exists in the spiritual realm.

We may not be able to see it, but it exists, alright. We get a rare glimpse into the world of the unseen from 2 Kings 6. The prophet Elisha had offended the King of Aram, who angrily sent horses and chariots to surround the city where Elisha and his servant were staying. When the servant rose in the morning, he saw the city was surrounded. “Alas, my master!” the servant gasped. “What shall we do?”

Elisha could see the threat as well as his servant, but he didn’t blink an eye. “Do not fear,” he encouraged the trembling man. “For those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Elisha then prayed that the Lord would open the servant’s eyes so that he might see the reality of God’s protection. The writer of 2 Kings tells us: “The Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

Like the writer of Psalm 91 or a woman in labor after an epidural, Elisha looked with his eyes and acknowledged the danger, but the sight did not bring fear to his heart. Why? He knew there was more to the story than what his physical eyes could see. And this knowledge made all the difference.

We have an enemy bent on our destruction. Peter tells us that Satan is like a roaring lion, seeking whom he can devour. He goes after our weaknesses, finding any place he can use to gain a foothold in our lives. He purposes to extend our anger into bitterness, temptation into disobedience, and pride into narcissism. We give him an inch; he turns it into a mile. He is a formidable foe. He is aided in no small part by our own sinful nature, that part of us that relentlessly drives us to act in ways that oppose the God we love.

We exist side-by-side with things bent on our destruction. So how can we live without fear? The psalmist answers that in the last stanza of his song, giving voice to God Himself: “Because he has loved Me, I will deliver him… He will call upon me and I will answer him. I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With a long life I will satisfy him and let him see my salvation.”   

We can look dire circumstances in the eye with confidence. What we see with our eyes should not bring fear to our hearts. Why? God has our back.

“You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300

About the authorJulie Zine Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or crafting. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a revealing look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: Of what are you afraid?

Not My Nature

by Terri Gillespie

Blessed is the one who trusts in Adonai [the LORD], whose confidence is in Adonai. Jeremiah 17:7 TLV

There are those folks who are so confident in the LORD that no matter what happens, they know they will be alright. I have met a few of these souls and I’m both awed and convicted by their testimonies.

Why? Because I am not one of those blessed souls. At least, not by nature. When I’m caught off-guard by a trial or tribulation or testing, my nature is to fear. That default reaction of fear is caused from experiences in my past—scary things that happened to me and others.

If a problem arises, my nature is to seek ways to solve it myself rather than go to the LORD first. That first inclination stems from being so long accustomed to fending for myself.

When God asks me to do something, my nature is to either say that I can’t, or sadly, that I won’t. Or I attempt the request on my own without His guidance. That is my nature.

But that is not the truth of who I am as a child of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And it is not where I am confined to remain.

“Now what do you think? “A man had two sons, and he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go work in the vineyard today.’

The son answered, ‘I won’t,’ but afterward he had a change of heart and went.

The man went to the second son and said the same thing. But he answered, ‘I will, sir,’ And didn’t go.

Which of the two did the will of the father?”

“The first,” they [the ruling priests and elders] said.

Matthew 21:28-31 TLV

In this parable, Jesus recognizes our nature. Especially those of us with a past—sinful and broken. The first son’s response when asked to work in the vineyard, was, “No way.” But then later, he rethinks that default response and does what his father asks of him.

So, I have a choice. I can follow my nature, or I can stop, turn around and follow the truth. The truth that The Creator of the Universe, who went out of His way to make me His child by sacrificing His Son, loves me.

And when He asks me to trust Him that no matter what comes my way, I am still loved. That means, I must still act like His kid—not some wild person who follows their fears and emotions.

It’s a no brainer, right? Yet still I struggle.

That’s why I read and meditate and post passages of faith and truth that remind me each day, to be confident in this mighty, loving God who knows me. So that I can discern the difference between my nature’s lie and His truth. I know that even a mustard seed of faith and trust can move that mountain of fear or anger or anything that seeks to separate me from His love through Messiah Yeshua.

If my journey helps others, then I am doubly blessed.

Heavenly Father, May nature may say, “no,” but my nature lies. I chose to follow Your truth. Even if it takes me a while to get there. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Award-winning author and beloved speaker Terri Gillespie writes stories of faith and redemption to nurture souls. Her novels, devotionals, and blogs have drawn readers to hunger for a deeper relationship with their Heavenly Father, and His Son Jesus. Her newest novel, Sweet Rivalry, releases later this year. 

Join the conversation: What’s your nature?