Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Navigating this Roller Coaster Ride with Grace

The last couple of months have been a roller coaster ride for all of us. When it first started, I experienced overwhelming anxiety and found myself feeling cold and shaky, which evolved into mild anxiety when I hear or read conflicting information. I've experienced deep grief as we closed down support group meetings, as I watched grandchildren abruptly leave school, when I realized I couldn't be more supportive of a dear friend going through lots of hard, when I miss my church, and as I gave up face to face conversations with people I love. I have felt anger when trying to figure out what to believe about this virus, as I observe the insensitivity of some politicians towards those losing jobs and trying to figure out how to pay rent and buy groceries and medications needed. Many of us have experienced fear and rightly so. We're facing a virus we know little about, may not be able to purchase foods or goods we need, fear getting sick, or fear dying alone. We may even fear all of this has been a ruse to strip us of constitutional rights, including the freedom to of corporate worship.

I've experienced several traumas in my life that surfaced fear. As a child, I tried my best to keep a lid on it. It wasn't until I was pregnant with my third child, that fear could no longer be contained. I woke up one night with a stranger standing over me and was so paralyzed with fear I couldn't scream. I finally groaned loud enough to wake up my husband who chased the guy out of our home. Because I had already experienced trauma, the break in caused PTSD and I had flashbacks or woke up screaming believing the man was back. This startled my little guys. When bedtime came, the oldest often said he was afraid the bogeyman was in their room. I watched my husband gently take our little men to their room and look under the beds, in the closets, and in the toybox to prove the bogeyman wasn't there. He then sat down with them, reminding them God kept us safe when the man broke into our home and then pray with them, asking for God's protection over them as they slept.

Because my emotions felt so crazy, I ordered tapes from a tape ministry and listened to well known pastors' sermons on how to manage emotions. Until that point I thought all fear was a sin and a sign that one lacked faith and was shaming myself for experiencing it. One of the pastors pointed out that fear was a common human emotion and it helped us stay safe. He also pointed out that when Moses died the Lord directed Joshua to enter the promise land, telling him not to be afraid but to be strong and courageous because He would be with him and would not leave him or forsake him. Around that time a friend came up to me at church and handed me a piece of paper with a Bible verse on it. She explained she had never experienced someone breaking into her home, but God had laid it on her heart to pray that verse for me every night. When I got home I looked at the verse she had written out and it said, "I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety." I committed that verse to memory and went to sleep every night meditating on it, comforted by that fact that my friend was praying the verse over me.

As I processed the verse and the sermon on fear, I began to view God's command to not fear differently. Before I had believed God was always displeased with me when I experienced fear, but when I put the command in its context it seemed like God was speaking to me in the same way my husband spoke to our boys when they were afraid of the bogeyman. Instead of avoiding God in shame when I experienced fear, I began to acknowledge it to Him and then focus on His attributes and His care for me. Several years later I told God I knew He was with me on the night of the beak in and asked Him to give a vision of where He was that night. Immediately I saw Jesus dressed as a soldier, standing at the head of my bed watching over me. When I think of that night I no longer experience fear, I simply see Him standing guard over me.

I pray we will be gracious to those who have been or are still struggling with fear as we navigate this pandemic and the reopening of our country. There is a time to confront fear, but we would be wise to confront it the way the Lord does with reminders of His continual presence and His lavish care. We want to remember some came to this pandemic with unresolved trauma. For those who grew up without enough food to eat, for the ones who have lost loved ones to horrible diseases, for the ones who were abandoned as children, or those who were harmed in someway this pandemic may surface strong fears that need to be honored and patiently worked through so they, too, can continue growing in their ability to trust God in the hard.

I have had to continue to take my thoughts captive to Jesus' truth during this time, reminding myself this pandemic was no surprise to God. For while He was forming me in my mother's womb, these days were already written in His books. I know my God knows my history and isn't angry when I experience fear. He is reminding me He is right here with me. His presence means even on my loneliest days, I am never alone. It means when I am feeling anxious or afraid, He can give me the courage I need to face the day in a way that honors Him. It means when I am weak, He will give me strength to do what needs to be done. It means when I am confused, He will give me the wisdom I need to navigate the hard. It means when I am feeling powerless, He is all powerful over all that pertains to me. It means when everything feels out of my control, He is in fact in control of it all. It means when I am struggling with sin, His perfect righteousness covers it. It means when I am feeling unsettled, He is my perfect peace. Oh, I hope that we would navigate this roller coaster season with His grace.

Isaiah 41:10 brings me great comfort these days:

"Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am you God.
I will strengthen you, 
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!