Over the past few weeks we have been discussing a variety of ways we can overcome our fears. It’s been so exciting for me to see how you have responded to my posts and how many of you have resonated with what I shared. You have no idea how comforting it is to know that what God has taken me through can offer hope to someone else. This journey has not always been an easy one for me and there are days that I still struggle , but I am better equipped now more than ever to deal with the things that can cause me fear.
However, the next thing we are going to talk about may seem a bit counterintuitive to you. If you will stick with me and put what I suggest into practice I promise you it will yield the results that you are looking for. Fair enough? Great.
Let me begin by sharing a little truth about me. I can be a bit of a complainer.
I am the type of complainer though that does most of the grumbling in my head and only sometimes to the people who are closest to me. Can any of you relate? (I am going to assume that you are not an outward complainer, cause who likes to be around someone who complains all the time, right?)
I can make it seem like I have it all together on the outside but inside I am failing apart feeling things like anger, frustration, impatience and sometimes even bitterness. In reality, I can not only fool you but I can also fool myself into justifying my inward emotions by comparing myself to others. “I’m not as bad as so and so.” “At least, I didn’t say that or do that.” “I am justified in the way I feel, what struggles does that person really have?”
Oh, let’s face it folks. Our insides are full of some pretty dark stuff. Most of us would be mortified if our true thoughts were placed on a movie screen for the world to see. Me included! Gasp!
But what does complaining have to do with fear? Well, at first glance it may seem like two different issues. But to offer a bit of an explanation let’s go into the Bible to the Book of Exodus. The Book of Exodus is one of my favorite books of the Bible because it is the home of a character that I feel like I relate so well to…Moses. Moses and I have so much in common…with the exception of him being a male and me a female, I wasn’t put in a basket to float down a river only to be picked up by a princess, though I would argue my mother is royalty, and I wasn’t a prince. I didn’t kill anyone and I have not been a shepherd to real sheep. But besides that, we actually have a lot in common. HA!
We both messed up big time and was in need of a Savior, we both felt God calling us to do things that were way beyond what we could possibly do on our own or even what we thought we had capabilities to do, we were both called to speak and felt ill-equipped to do so, and we both were given visions that were bigger than our little minds could fathom. But here’s the really big one, we both made excuses as to why we were the last people on planet earth that should do whatever it was God was calling us to. So, yeah…I get Moses. If you haven’t read Exodus you totally need to because it’s full of adventure, intrigue, drama and excitement. This is not a book of the Bible that you sleep through, this one will keep you on your toes.
Exodus is the story of how God used Moses and his brother Aaron to set the Israelites free from 400 years of captivity to lead them into the Promise Land that God had promised to Abraham years and years ago. Where I want us to begin for our purposes today is in Chapter 16. So to fast forward you there here is a quick rendition of what happens: Moses grows into a prince, sees injustice and kills a soldier, flees to another land, marries a native becomes a shepherd (this is a riches to rags story), hears God from a burning bush, gives excuses, finally yields, talks to Pharaoh “Let my people go! ” Pharaoh says no way, God puts 10 plagues on the Egyptian people (frogs and bloody rivers and locusts, oh my!), with the last one killing all the first born children and creating the first “Passover.” Israelites are told to get the heck out of dodge and head to the Promise Land taking the longer route (per God’s instructions), Moses splits the Red Sea, Egyptians die, Israelites cheer! And now here we are wandering in the desert in Exodus 16.
God just accomplished all this amazing stuff, right? The Israelites just witnessed miracle after miracle you would think they would be floating on cloud 9, singing God’s praises until the day they die. But here is what happens instead: (I am going to paraphrase here for brevity purposes)
Israelites to Moses and Aaron: (in whiny voices) We are so hungry. Why didn’t you bring us any food? How could you bring us out here just do die from hunger? Waah, waah, waah. We would rather be back in captivity to the Egyptians than die in the dessert.
God to Moses: I’ll rain down bread from heaven to provide food for them. They are to get what they need each day. Let’s see if they follow my instruction. I hope they listen to me.
Moses to the People: Really? You think you are grumbling to us…but you are really grumbling to God. Who are we? Are we your providers? Of course not, God is.
It continues on giving the account of how God provided manna and quail meeting their every need.
So let’s talk about this a bit.
Here are the Isrealites in the midst of the wilderness not seeing any end in site. Not knowing where the “Promise Land” was or how much longer they were going to have to walk to get there. They saw no food along the way and let’s face it, they were getting hungry but in not seeing a way for their hunger to be satisfied they also were afraid. They were afraid they got duped. They were afraid they made a big mistake in following Moses and God. They were afraid their better chances were back in Egypt. And they were afraid their needs were not going to be met.
How many of us fall into that exact category? You have a need… a job, a car, a spouse, finances, a healing, a decision on which way to go…you name it and instead of praying about it you find yourself grumbling in your head and before you know it out your mouth, to anyone that is willing to hear you. Your fear of lack of provision is real.
But let me suggest to you another way to respond, that Moses helps make known to us in Exodus 16. Instead of joining on the grumbling, he reminded them who they were actually grumbling too…not them (Moses and Aaron), God. He called them out on it, right there in the middle of the desert. And in doing so he reminded them who their provision comes from.
The same thing happened to me.
Sometimes when you ask people to pray for you God gives them insights into the things you are doing to help you get back on track. You see, I was in a rut just a few months back. I live with a heart infection called pericarditis. I have had it for 2 years now and in June I had my second attack in a two month period with severe discomfort, and when I say discomfort I mean pain, in between. I was tired of living in pain every day. Tired of feeling limited. Tired of the challenge of a chronic illness that should have been acute. I felt very justified in how I felt because of all I had already been through. I wasn’t necessarily making this known to anyone in particular. But God knew.
And in my case, my complaining was made known to dear friend (did you know that God tells secrets on you) and I was called out on it. She not only called me out on my complaining but she also shared this verse in Psalm 116.
“I will sacrifice a thank-offering to you and call on the name of the Lord.” (v.7)
Maybe my mind thinks differently than yours, but my mind went to “what in the world is a sacrificial thank offering and what does it have to do with my complaining.”
So I did what I know do to and I looked up the word sacrifice. Sometimes words that are common to us can become assumed or mundane. When I looked up sacrifice it said this:
” to surrender something as a possession as an offering to God, the act of giving something up, something that you want to keep especially in order to get or to do something else or to help someone.”
Here’s the thing about sacrifices…they hurt. They are typically something we don’t want to give up but the thing that maybe we need to give up in this case it’s giving thanks. Why? Well, to be honest, who feels like giving thanks when you are in the midst of complaining. I certainly don’t. But this verse, compels us to anyway.
What do we give thanks for? Anything really. But you could start with God. Thank Him for who He is. For His sovereignty (2 Sam 7:28). For being on His throne (Rev 4). For listening to your prayers (Num 20:16). For knowing the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4). For being your provider (Gen 22:14). For knowing what you need when you need it. (Matt 6:25-26)
Because when I started to do just this thing…my entire perspective changed. Not only did I stop grumbling, I got that perfect peace back again that reminded me of Philippians 4:6-7. And once I really started seeking God for my condition, He showed me all kinds of riches in His word about long-suffering and rejoicing in my circumstances. So instead of being ill and focusing on me, I suddenly started experiencing joy and only seeing Him.
I don’t know what your fear is that you are trying to overcome, but I do know, your Father in Heaven knows your every need. So, maybe you can start today by making a sacrificial thank-offering to God by calling on Him to meet you at your fear and in it’s place you’ll start to experience peace, joy and more of Him.
What else can you give thanks for besides the things that I mentioned above?