7 ways to overcome discouragement

7 Ways to Overcome Discouragement

Normally I am an upbeat, happy-go-lucky, very positive person. But this past holiday season, I battled discouragement something fierce.

I am not sure if you have ever experienced times like these where you felt like you just couldn’t shake that feeling. That icky, I don’t feel like myself, but I don’t know why feeling?

In my case, it made me want to start isolating myself; steering clear of social gatherings. I wanted off social media because watching everyone’s life was only making matters worse. All the while I was praying, reading my Bible, and attending church. But, nothing I was seemed to do could shake off how I was feeling. I was stuck in a battle with discouragement and I could not fight my way out.

It was frustrating. Lonely. And emotionally draining.

So what happened? How did I overcome this overwhelming feeling of discouragement to start being able to be engaged in the world again?

Here are the seven ways I overcame discouragement:

  1. Tell someone. First of all, I took a leap of faith and confessed my emotional state to someone I trusted.
  2. Let them share the truth. Sharing how I felt with someone else allowed that individual to speak truth to my situation. As I shared my fears they reminded me my emotions do not determine my actions, nor do they always align with God’s truth.
  3. Encourage your faith. That, in turn, encouraged me in my faith in a God who was bigger than my circumstances in the moment.  In recognizing, God was able to overcome my situation, regardless of my emotional state, it led me to number 4.
  4. Make gratitude a habit. Discouragement is the exact opposite of encouragement. I knew God had done a lot in the last year, I journal about it all the time. However, when I started keeping a gratitude journal it helped me keep the highlights rather than making me dig. I have praise reports accessible and easy to access for the days that aren’t as rosy as others.
  5. Speak God’s Word over your circumstance. The Bible says “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” (Proverbs 18:21, KJV). As I read God’s Word and found promises of who I was or what He was capable of doing, I started speaking God’s Word over me and it caused me to believe God despite my current emotional state.
  6. Let them pray. A huge turning point for me was when I made a confession of my struggle to my team at work. Once I shared how I had been battling this for some time, and what felt like a very lonely place, they surrounded me and prayed over me. I believe God responded to my humility and brokenness with His love for me through the prayers of His people.
  7. Learn who God is. I decided at the end of the year to embark on reading the entire Bible in 2018. I have never accomplished this before nor is it a goal I usually set. I like to consume slowly and leisurely rather than for the sake of hitting markers. However, I decided if I was going to take this one it was going to be for one reason, to know God more. When I started reading the Bible to get to know God, my emotional state changed. The way I approached my day and the people around me shifted. I was no longer consumed with thoughts about me, but rather consumed with God.

So there you have it: Seven ways I overcame the battle with discouragement and you can too.

Overcome the battle with discouragement with these 7 tips. #hope

What do you think? Do any of those ways help you in your struggle? Comment below to share which one(s) help you the most.

Check out my last few blog posts:

Why I am A Professed Approval Addict

Hope: How Badly Do You Want it

Want to get updates on when my book, Like Me or Not: Overcoming Approval Addiction (Worthy Publishing, 2018), will be released? Subscribe to my email list.

How I Quit Complaining

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?

Want to Overcome Your Fears? Then You’re Gonna Have to Fight

The other day I was traveling with a friend in the car when she started talking about the reality of her panic attacks. It didn’t take long for another friend to chime and share about hers. They spoke of how it felt so real. Each woman explained how it came on out of no where and was uncontrollable. They spoke of the shame they felt when they were finally able to calm down and gain perspective back again.

I know those feelings. I have had those same experiences and know the weight of the shame that can consume you after the anxiety fog lifts. It’s horrible. Though my times with these panic attacks have been few,  these two ladies have had them for years.

It reminded me how our fears can feel huge to overcome all-consuming. They are very real. And it can be very hard to know what to do.

So what do you do?

We are now on week 4 of our series on overcoming fear with just two weeks left. My goal is to help you tangibly see how pursuing God with everything you have can help you to not only overcome your fears but ultimately live the life that Jesus promises in John 10:10.  We have talked about overcoming fear with peace, with surrender, and with pursuing Him through His word. This week we are going to move a little out of our comfort zones and talk about fighting.

When I was in the 11th grade I was asked to walk home with a girl who hadn’t been particularly nice to me in the past. That day she was scared for her life because apparently she gave some “looks” to the “mean” girls in gym class. When I say mean, what I am getting at is, these are not the girls that you want to pick a fight with unless you are prepared to actually use your fists. She had made them pretty mad that day and they caught her at a time where she was pretty vulnerable. All her friends were off doing other things, and she still needed to walk home. I was the innocent victim she asked to keep her company.

I have to chalk that up to one of the scariest times in my life. I think the hair stood up on my neck nearly the entire walk home, because as we walked the group of “mean” girls walked only feet behind us, taunting her and reminding me to mind my own business. We went a few more blocks and the intensity of their mocking increased. She started to tell them to leave her alone, but her words only spurred them on more.  Before I knew it they were on top of her attacking her and she was trying to fight her way out. A neighbor came out of a nearby house and scared the girls off. I know she felt scared, hurt and ashamed. It was the first time I had ever seen a fight like that and I glad to say it was my last. I will never forget that day.

Our enemy is much the same as those “mean” girls. The Bible says that “the devil schemes”(6:11b). The definition of schemes is a large-scale systematic plan or arrangement for attaining some particular object or putting a particular idea into effect. That means the enemy is devising this incredibly divisive plan using every tactic he knows how to in order to essentially tear you away from God. Fear is just one of his many tools to do that. How do I know that…read Ephesians 6:12-17:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

One of the enemy’s tactics is fear. Fear against anything you will come up against. If it were not, why would Paul urge you to become like a warrior and put on the full armor of God? He knew that equipping you with the tools you need would help you guard against your enemy so that you can stand firm against his schemes. Essentially, you are going to have to learn how to fight. And fight well.

When I got serious about the calling God had on my life, I realized I was going to have to go to battle with all my fears. Which included things like: the fear of telling others about this crazy vision I had, and the fear that they may think I am ridiculous and disapprove. The fear that I could be wrong, or that I would look like a fool. And the worse fear of all, the fear of failure. Oh the enemy knew me and my patterns well.  He knew that I longed for peoples’ approval and people not agreeing with me would slowly defeat me so the first few times I shared the vision that is exactly what happened.

They said stuff like:
“Great vision, Dawn…good luck” or
“That may happen but not by a woman, not in this town” or
“That could never happen here”

I felt defeated, confused, and ashamed. It wasn’t until I got into the Word of God and realized all I was feeling was not from God, but rather from the Devil himself. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph 6:12)

So with my armor on, and with all the faith I could muster up I put one foot in front of the other and started to pursue the vision God placed on my heart. That vision was to unify our community by loving the poor into life transformation. I had to conquer my fears one at a time. First I shared with one person. Then that one person, had me share it with a few more. Then I was to share it with a few more. Almost every time I shared I had to either fight back or wipe away the tears…that was how scared I was. Next, I acquired a few board members. Then we took steps to seek to become incorporated through the state of Alabama for “The Link of Cullman County, Inc.” Before I knew it I was fundraising and then getting to attend a Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) conference in Chicago. I was going to be trained on becoming a Christian Community Developer.

The more I watched my Father in Heaven do miraculous things, the bolder I got. The bolder I got, the more I wanted to kick fear in the tail and keep on going. My mantra became “I’d rather stand before man and be deemed a fool for believing God, than stand before God and be deemed a fool before Him.” Yes I was scared, but I did it anyway. Yes, at times it felt like crazy radical faith, but I did it anyway. It didn’t always happen quickly and I learned patience along the way. But the more I believed in Him the more I got to see Him do miraculous things. (One day I may do a post on the miracles He has performed and is still performing.)

So here is what I have to say to you today. If you truly want to overcome your fears you are going to have to learn how to fight like you mean it. The only way to fight like you mean it is to put your armor on and then do whatever it is that gives you fear. I do encourage you to start small. For instance, if you are deathly afraid to speak in front of people…you can start by seeking God for all the strength and courage you need, then you can put on your armor and you begin by speaking in front of some folks at work for the first time. No matter how it turns out…you praise Him. Then maybe the next time you are asked to speak, you say yes…even though it scares you to death. Then you praise Him for the opportunity to gain more freedom. And you do the same steps…. pray, put on the armor of God, and do that thing.

Can you see me giving you a virtual fist pump? I am! I promise you defeating your fears becomes invigorating. Why? It’s taking steps forward towards freedom. You are starting to live what Jesus said in John 10:10, “I came to give life, a life that is full.”

Most of us don’t realize the chains we bear, until we are broken free of them. Choose today to start walking in the freedom that Jesus came to give you. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”(Gal 5:1)

This week I have a challenge for you, I want you to pray the armor of God on every day (Ephesians 6:13-17) and then I want you to come back here and tell me how it went. Did you feel more powerful? Did you defeat any of your fears? Let’s champion each other on in this battle against our enemy to scheme against us. He does not have the last word in this, the Bible tells us that we are over-comers and so as such we will live.

My Plans < His Plans… Confessions of a Control Freak

I have a confession to make, I can be a bit of a control freak.

(I just heard some of you chuckle, you know who you are.)

I have a tendency to like things a certain way. I am a planner and it’s important to me that I know what’s going to happen next and exactly how it’s going to happen. I think I know what is best so, I have a tendency to want to make sure it goes a certain way…my way, to be exact.

If I am in control, I am also able to know what is coming next and how to handle it. Right? It makes sense.

But here is the truth. I am not in control, and either are you. Believing we are is a lie from the enemy.

In my first blog post, I mentioned John 10:10 and how our enemy, the devil wants to kill, steal and destroy everything in our life. He wants us to believe we are in control of our lives because when he achieves that he can steal away all the plans God has for us. He can destroy us from ever experiencing what it says in Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

 But what do God’s plans have to do with fear? Oh my friend, EVERYTHING.

From where I sit, God’s plans have been SO incredibly different than my own and it’s in that place of fear I have learned to surrender my plans for His to do the very thing He has called me to do. To accomplish that calling every day without being overcome by fear, anxiety and worry, I have to be totally surrendered to Him.

Last week I talked about overcoming fear with peace and how Philippians 4:6-7 became my mantra through some really challenging experiences. If you have not read that post, you may want to go check it out here. The enemy would love nothing more than to keep you paralyzed in your fear than have you walking in perfect peace.

But fear is just the emotional reaction to the real root of the issue. If we dig deeper we’ll see the true root of all of this is not fear…it’s a lack of trust or to put it bluntly, a need for control.

Our fear is based in our need for control because when we are in a place where we cannot physically see or know our outcome it produces fear.

For years, people spoke Jeremiah 29:11 over my life. It was said with such frequency to my husband and I it almost became our running joke. When and who would say it to us next.

Well, the joke was on us.

Because we had it all wrong when it came to this verse. We had totally twisted this verse to sound more like this:

“For I know the plans I have for me”, says Dawn/Chris, “plans to prosper me (the way I want to prosper, especially as it pertains to finances and work) not to harm me (no physical harm will ever come to me because this would mean God really doesn’t love, care, or have concern for me), plans to bring you hope (everything I ever hoped for will be mine, no matter the cost…my relationship with God or others) and a future (the one I have already designed in my mind that seems perfect to me.)

How’s that for a dish of truth? Anyone find themselves in the same spot?

We don’t mean to do this; some of us really do want to allow God to give us His good plans. But somewhere along the lines of life we began to believe our plans were better. But at some point we started to believe He stopped listening or He didn’t really care. Or maybe it was, whatever we wanted our plans to be didn’t work out the way we thought they should have, even though we prayed and asked Him to be in the midst of them. So we took the reigns and got back in the drivers seat.

I have been there with you in those. Believing for a certain job, in the desire for children and having a miscarriage, after miscarriage and infertility in the midst of it. In praying for someone’s behavior to change and they never did, or a circumstance to be different than it was and it felt as if I my prayers were reaching the ceiling and falling back to the ground. It was hard, really hard.

Honestly, I would still probably be thinking the same things if God hadn’t stopped me in my tracks and taught me the truth. And here it is…

We are not in control.

We like to think we are, but we are not and the tighter we clinch our fists around it the harder we make it for ourselves and for God to do what He needs to do in our lives. So how did I learn this truth, you ask? Well, I am glad you did. I learned it the hard way of course, as if any other way would have truly gotten my attention.

If you recall from last week, I was learning about overcoming my fear through a carotid body tumor. In doing so, He taught me to trade my anxiety for peace. When I had my surgery, He had a new lesson for me.

My surgery was scheduled for June 1, 2011. We showed up very early in the morning at the Vanderbilt Clinic in Nashville, TN. While I was being prepped for surgery, the doctor reassured us this would be cut and dry.

“The surgery should be no longer than 3 hours. We are going to go in and take out the tumor, use a vein from your thigh to graph the artery back together into your neck. There is nothing to worry about, we’ll be in and out in no time,” he assured us.

My mom had come in from Virginia for the surgery, so she, my husband, and my in-laws sat in the waiting room. Three hours past. Then four. And five. At about the sixth hour mark the doctors came out and told us the team was almost done and shared how things were a little different when they got into my neck then what they had thought.

“The tumor was alive and sticky,” my doctor told my family, “we couldn’t see that from the CT scan. We had to give her 4.5 units of blood and it took us a bit longer to peel the tumor from her arteries. She now has one artery instead of two and we’ll need to check in with her to make sure it stays clear. She’s also going to have quite a bit of nerve damage as we had to severe a few, but they should grow back over time.”

My stay in the hospital was originally scheduled for three days, one in the ICU and then two on the step down floor. I spent three days in the ICU and then ten more on the step down floor. Those first few days of recovery were hard. It didn’t take long for us and the doctor’s to realize the damage done from the removal could be life threatening. I could not consume food or liquid, unless the liquid had a thickening agent in it and even then it was in small doses. My voice was badly damaged, my leg on the mend. I was on a regular diet of pain meds and nutrients from an IV. Things seemed to go from bad to worse, as the doctor’s concerns grew over my inability to consume food. The talk of a feeding tube became a daily conversation and it was the very last thing I wanted, but I could not get myself to be able to eat.

Here is what I wrote on June 11, 2011 in a blog post about the experience:

“God has been teaching me a lot over the last 6 months about what it means to fully trust Him.

Before going through this surgery, I sensed Him saying to me, “Are you going to trust me in any circumstance?”

Because of that I had a feeling I’d be thrown some loops in this process. Just wasn’t sure what.

This past Wednesday, after a secondary surgery, I was having a rough morning. Swallowing was more difficult than before and my voice was in worse shape. I had a swallow study scheduled and I knew my outcome. A feeding tube was going to be in my near future. Unfortunately, I was right. The speech pathologist put me on a strict liquid diet and was recommending a feeding tube. My mom and I were devastated. We cried all the way back to my room and then sat and cried while we prayed in my room listening to some Christian worship music.

Mom had left me for a few minutes and I just felt God saying to me, “Do you still trust me Dawn?”

I did. I still do. I surrendered my plans over to him yet again and I felt a peace come over me. The same peace I spoke of before the surgery. I knew in my heart whether or not I got the feeding tube, God loved me just as much. In fact, I had came to the conclusion getting the feeding tube may be the most loving act He could do on my behalf right now.

After a few hours visiting with a friend, I tried to eat my lunch. Before I knew it I had finished my strained chicken vegetable soup and drank down a whole bottle of ensure. It was a breakthrough I know many had been praying for. It was my first full meal in a week.

The doctor came up to see me that evening to insert my tube and to his surprise, and ours, he left the bag and tubing on my tray table. There would be no tube inserted that day. He left the bag for my motivation, as long as I ate my dinner there would be no tube and I could go home the next day.”

And I did.

It wasn’t until I surrendered my plans and trusted in Him that I received peace. He is in control and His plans are to prosper me and not to harm me, to give me a better hope for the future, the one He has planned for me.

Here’s one other interesting fact about Jeremiah 29:11. God is speaking to the Isrealites through the prophet Jeremiah in the middle of the Isrealites going into captivity…again. God is saying to them…”If you will trust me, do what I say, stay true to my word, I am going to bless you, even while you are in bondage for the next 70 years.” If you don’t remember this, go back and read Jeremiah 29, it’s really eye-opening. I believe God is saying the same to us today. If you trust me (aka give me control), no matter what your in the midst of right now, I am going to bless you.”

So now when I find myself wanting to control things, I stop myself and walk through these steps:

  1. Repent – I repent of believing the lie that I am in control. I am not and to be honest, I don’t want to be. Not anymore. I know His plans are good and I can trust Him. So I want to get out of the way. The only way to do that is to repent and get aligned with Him.
  2. Renew my mind – I need His Word to do this. I will use a scripture verse to remind me of His will, whether it’s Jeremiah 29:11 or Proverbs 3:5-6 which says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
  3. Release – Sometimes we need a physical example of our loss of surrender and so what I often will do is think about the thing that I can’t seem to let go of and mentally put that thing in my hand and the clinch my fist around it. Once I have it there, I’ll start praying to God asking Him to take it from me and helping me to release my control over it. When I get to a point in my mind where I can start to let go, I literally start letting go, releasing my fingers from my clinched fist until I find my hand or hands completely open and then I worship Him.
  4. Obey – You have to put action to this, it can never be just a change in your heart. To truly overcome fear, you have to practice the act of obedience because this is us not just saying we are going to do what He says, it’s showing it too. Sometimes this can be really scary and I have to repeat this process, but eventually I get to the place where I know Jeremiah 29:11 is truth and by obeying Him and taking Him at His word, I gain one up on the enemy. And instead of him stealing my future, I get one up on him and in doing so experience more of the abundant life that Jesus told us about in John 10:10.

How have you struggled with control before? And what have you learned from your experience that could help others?

Photocredit: @wisdomfeed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 Ways You Can Overcome Fear with Peace

“You could bleed out.”

Those words rung in my ears as I sat in my ENT doctor’s office.  It was February of 2011. My doctor  was telling me how the carotid body tumor in my neck needed to be removed and the reality of it’s removal could be, well…death.

About 7 months before that my husband and I, with our 10 month old son in tow,  moved from Hamilton, OH to his hometown of Cullman, AL to start a local church…or so we thought. It didn’t take long for us to realize, God had other plans. In fact, the church launched in August and by November we had decided to shut it down in order to seek God for what His plan was…we had decided we must have missed that along the way, because what we thought would be a successful ministry opportunity turned into a closed door. I had blogged about our experience, and you can read more about that here.

This moment in the doctor’s office was pivotal for me. You see up until this point I would not have consider myself a very anxious person. I didn’t think I had a lot of fear and for the most part, would have been willing to try new things…well, most new things.

But at this moment, of seeing the prospect of death, well, this was a game changer. From this point forward, nothing in my life was the same.

And from it you are going to learn what I did, 6 ways to overcome fear with peace, that you can use moment by moment, as you struggle through the very thing  you fear the most, even death.

But before we go there, let’s travel back in time a bit to early 2011 where  God was clarifying a vision for what I thought was for Chris to follow through on to help unify our community by bringing together local non-profits in order to meet needs in our community. I felt with everything in me God had given us that vision and I was convinced that Chris was the one who was supposed to carry it out. He was from Cullman, he knows people, he could lead a ministry like that.

And I was convinced I was the very last person on earth that could lead that vision. I wasn’t from Cullman. I am a Yankee, in a southern town, and at that time knew no one. I am also a woman, in a very conservative place where most leadership positions are held by men. Did I mention I am also a Yankee. I am the last person to be leading a ministry to meet the needs of the poor in a way that brings unity to a community that I did no grow up in.

But, God had another plan. Those words, “You could bleed out”  were the first of what started me on a path of learning about fear.

Fear like I have never felt before.

Fear that paralyzed me and gave me terrors in the night.

Never in my life did I ever experience the feelings of fear that I had days and weeks after those words were spoken over my life.

Over the next months we traveled from doctor to doctor praying we could find the one who could conduct the surgery on my tumor . And while we prayed and sought him for direction, I started to gain perspective. I started to hear Him through my scripture readings and found Phillipians 4:6-7 which says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in prayer and petition, with thanksgiving bring your requests to God. And the God of peace will guard your heart in Christ Jesus.”

Those words were like salve on my anxious mind and were used many nights to usher me to sleep.

Because the reality is my life had to keep going on, regardless of the fear.

It was April  when we finally located an ENT with more experience with my very rare tumor than any other doctor and it would be months before the surgery was scheduled. So I do what any person who wants to remain in control of their life does, I went on doing my day job and pursuing what I thought God had for me as a calling. At that point I believed with everything in me I was called to write and speak to women.

In May of that year, I went to a Christian Writer’s Conference in Colorado (talk about getting over fears) where I was mildly successful in engaging a possible agent in a book idea I had pitched and making some great connections with publishers and editors in the Christian Writing Market. This was HUGE for me as God was redeeming a story that was laden with death words like “you’ll never be a writer” from a college professor and “you might as well forget about writing professionally, no one would ever publish what you write” from the same man. God had already been re-writing that story for me and the Writer’s Conference was just  another way He was taking what the enemy meant for harm (remember kill, steal, destroy from last week) and offering me a life of abundance.

So I truly thought…this was my calling. This is what God is going to have me do…and that other vision…well that was for Chris.

But Chris had other thoughts.  When I  originally shared that vision for him in the early parts of 2010, his response was very realistic.  He knew this community better than I.

He said, “Dawn, as much as that is a great vision to unite the community by helping meet needs of the poor, that’s going to take a lot of collaboration on the parts of the churches and other organizations. They are very divided here. So the only way that something like that is going to happen is if something big blows through this town and shakes it up.”

We would never consider Chris a prophet…but it was literally only a few months later in April of 2011 that something DID blow through our town and shake it up. In fact, on April 27, 2011 we sat huddled in a basement of a friends house as a F4 Tornado tore up our town.  You can see video coverage of that tornado, here.

God shook up a lot that day. Our town. Our hearts. Our community served each other like never before.

It was beautiful.

Are you catching all of this. A tumor. Massive anxiety. A trip to a writer’s conference. A tornado. All before the surgery in June.

He was putting me in an uncomfortable  and vulnerable place, wrapped up in very uncomfortable experiences so I would have no choice but to trust Him and only Him. I had to surrender all my control and believe He knew what was best for me.

It was during this time that I learned what it meant to have peace that guards your heart.

A peace that surpasses all understanding.

A peace that speaks to you and says, “I am not finished with you yet.”

And you cling to it with everything that you have because you want it to be true. Because surgeries are scary. And no one knows when they go in, if they are coming back out.

Peace. It is what I clung to while I walked through during the scariest part of my life. So let me walk you through 6 ways you can overcoming fear and find this peace as well.

  1. Don’t be anxious about anything…yeah, like that is easy. I know this is the verse part of the verse, but really…I don’t think God thought we could do this on our own which is why He followed it up with “with thanksgiving, prayer and petition.”  I think these are the antidote to not being anxious to anything. However, you’ll soon see, these are wise words, encouraging words, and words we want to strive to live by.
  2. Give thanks to God – Who really wants to give thanks when they are dealing with anxiety and worry? I think sometimes I actually like being worried. It gives me something to think about. Something to talk to my friends and seek their opinion on. It can be a topic of conversation at lunch. But God has a completely different idea of what I am supposed to do with that worry and it does not include any of the things I just mentioned. Darn. Instead, he wants us to change our perspective.  The act of thanking is challenging but what He wants us to get our thoughts off of us on and on to Him. So what do we thank him for? We thank Him for Him being God. He’s in charge. He is in control.
  3. Pray and Petition, bring your requests – Again, this is taking the mindset off of us. Let’s face it. If we could fix the problem, figure out the issue, or in my case…remove and cure my own tumor, I would not be worrying. I need a God that is bigger than my stuff to run to when I get to the end of myself. I honestly believe He allows us to get here. To the end of ourselves… so we’ll pray, petition, and bring Him our requests. And when we do…that’s when the blessing happens.
  4. He is the God of Peace…Did you know this about our God? The bible says, He is the God of Peace. Not the God of Anxiousness. Not the God of Stress. Not the God of Worry or Ulcers or Nail Biting. But the God of Peace. So as you pray, keep this in mind. You are praying to the God who is Peace. Do you feel like you want to go back to  number 2 and thank Him?
  5. He surpasses all understanding – Say that to yourself again. Surpasses ALL understanding. Folks…hear me out on this. We are not God. We do not have the ability to think as He does. The word says, “His ways are above our ways, His thoughts above our thoughts.” We are human. He is our Creator. There are just some things we are not going to understand. And this may be the most important thing I share with you on this entire post…you ready for it.  When I surrendered ALL understanding to Him. When I finally said, “You know what God I am never going to get my head around all of this.” that is when the peace came. Flooding in like a river. It was sweet, it was rich, and it was what I needed more than anything else, except this…
  6. Guard your heart in Christ Jesus -Because that’s what peace does. It guards your heart so as you repeat this verse over and over to yourself moment by moment, day by day, week after week and still for me 5 years later…you start to realize that the worry and the anxiety, that’s all you. Giving thanks, prayer and petition and surrendering all understanding, that’s God. He is the guardian of our hearts. Oh, dear one, let Him guard your heart today, do not try to block Him by filling your day with worry and stress.

So that’s it. The 6 ways to overcome fear, all laid out clear as day in scripture for you and me. When I uncovered this secret, I learned what it took to overcome fear. And now you can too.

Now that you know the secret to overcoming fear with peace, which of these 6 ways to overcome fear do you think will be the hardest for you to do and how can you implement them in your daily life? Take a moment and then comment below. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!