Category Archive: Relying on God

How Do I Deal with Separation Anxiety …

I took my Sunflower Butter and raspberries to the checkout counter, where a tall, lovely African-American woman greeted me with a big smile. We chatted for a minute and I said something to which she responded, “I’m on your team there.”

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Prompted internally, I said, “And the biggest team I’m on is Jesus’ team.”

“Me too girl! I don’t wanna miss that team!”

Her joyful response prompted me to say that I thought she might be. We parted with big smiles and anticipation of seeing each other the next time I’m in that market.

With Shelter in Place we have fewer opportunities to communicate with others, to encourage them and be encouraged by them, to laugh together, to enjoy a shared moment that brings sunshine to both our souls.

Most of Don’s and my interactions have been with each other and our sweet Paigey; and occasionally with a family member we see, or an individual in a grocery store. I notice that with our masks on, shoppers look less at each other.

Perhaps because we can’t see each other smile.

Perhaps because we’re trying to keep as much facial distance as possible between us. 

So when we relate to someone, like a cashier, over our masks, eyes meeting, it is a gift. We are made to be in relationship. We need each other. We need to find ways to connect despite our social distancing, which separates us, increases anxiety and depression.

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At PsychCentral, Paula Durlofsky, PhD writes about ways to combat the emotional impacts of social distancing. I have edited and added my own comments to some of her points.

  • Record your feelings like a reporter – just the facts. This helps calm the emotions and allows us to reason more clearly.
  • Make a plan for reducing your distress, whether that is watching a funny movie, taking a walk or a warm bath.
  • Take breaks from watching, reading and listening to the news. A radio talkshow host told one listener who was feeling depressed that if she stopped listening to the news for four days she would feel considerably better. Wise counsel!
  • Eat well-balanced meals, exercise, get enough sleep, and avoid damaging coping strategies like alcohol and drugs.
  • Enjoy the times you can have with family. Playing board games, watching movies together, taking walks, and talking through your day all help reduce stress levels and enhance your relationships.
  • Stay connected via social networking sites and virtual platforms. Zoom and FaceTime can provide opportunities to see the other’s facial expressions while we hear his or her voice.
  • Spend time in nature, hiking, going for a run or bike ride.

And  I would add:

  • Make prayer and Bible reading a part of your daily life. In this pandemic we are not alone. We have family, friends, people of faith with whom to connect; and more, we have the God who is always Present and who loves us unconditionally. Reading the Bible helps me cope with some of those depressive and anxious thoughts that rear their ugly heads. Praying helps me give them to my good good Father – even if I have to do that multiple times a day.

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10 NLT

What strategies are you using to deal with or prevent depression and anxiety?

 

Wait–I Will Take Care of You

I recall a time when one of my staff members (let’s call her Betty) tried to stab me in the back in any way she could. She didn’t like it that I actually expected her to work! Because Betty was good friends with the company president and babysat his children, I was limited in how I could respond to her.

During that time I felt attacked and quite lonely. Just about every day I ordered a salad at McDonald’s, then parked in the lot across the street from a huge, beautiful oak tree. There I read the Psalms and prayed, asking God to resolve this issue, to guide me, to give me His grace to deal with Betty and her undermining. And it seemed every scripture, every word to my heart said “Wait. I will take care of this.”

To wait on God means to pause and soberly consider our own inadequacy and the Lord’s all-sufficiency, and to seek counsel and help from the Lord, and to hope in Him (Psalm 33:20-22; Isa. 8:17) … The folly of not waiting for God is that we forfeit the blessing of having God work for us. The evil of not waiting on God is that we oppose God’s will to exalt Himself in mercy.

John Piper

So I waited. I did require that Betty, who handled payroll, be transferred out of my department and into Accounting. Soon after the accounting manager discovered that this woman had paid herself three extra weeks’ vacation. Once the President learned she had stolen from him, Betty was fired immediately.

So waiting on the Lord was exactly what I needed to do and He resolved the issue, as He had promised.

But Betty’s termination was not the most significant outcome of my wait. God was doing His own work in my heart at the same time. I needed to recognize my inability to handle this situation, and entrust it to God. I needed to trust that if she turned all the other managers against me, my Father still had a plan for me. Had I tried to resolve this on my own I really would have missed the “blessing of having God work for me” (Piper).

I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor (woman) called, and the Lord heard (her); he saved (her) out of all (her) troubles.

Psalm 34:4-6

How often do we try to fix things on our own? We are such a self-sufficient culture. We avoid asking for help if at all possible. But in so doing, we miss seeing God at work on our behalf, and also miss the joy of seeing others come to our aid, of working together for a solution.

Oh, troubles will continue until we meet Jesus face to face. But that incident was a specific reminder to me of God’s watchcare over me. And now, with a pandemic, physical distancing, and national/global chaos, I try to remember His faithfulness in the past. His character does not change. His faithfulness remains in every situation.

Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!” The Lord is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord.

Lamentations 3:21-26

So, when in a difficult time, wait. Talk to God about your concerns. He loves you infinitely. You may need to talk to a pastor, counselor, or friend. Then wait with patience. Wait with expectation. Wait with praise. Wait with grace.

My Times are in Your Hands

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once talked about two kinds of faith, the “if” faith and the “though” faith. The “if” faith says “If God blesses me, I’m prosperous and healthy and happy, then I’ll trust God.”

“Though” faith is different:

Though things go wrong, though evil is temporarily triumphant, though sickness comes and the Cross looms, nevertheless I’m going to believe anyway and I’m going to have faith anyway.. Though the waters doth roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof, the Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Martin Luther King Jr.

In the Old Testament, Job looked around and saw that everything had been stripped away from him. He couldn’t see the big picture. He just saw the losses stack up. Even his wife advised him to “Curse God and die.” Job’s response was “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.” (Job 13:15a).

So what kind of faith do you and I have? Can we say we have a “though” faith?

  • Though hate and violence rear their ugly heads in my country
  • Though all collapses around me
  • Though I get lonely and desperately want face to face people connections
  • Though people I love are experiencing grave difficulties
  • Though I lose loved ones to COVID-19
  • Though I fear for much of what is happening in our country.

Oh, we will grieve. We may be lonely. We may be fearful or depressed. But we still have a choice. Will we choose to trust God despite those circumstances, and as we work our way through them? Or will our faith collapse under the weight of the pressure?

This is Pentecost Sunday, the day commemorating the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on Jesus’ earliest followers. The Holy Spirit is referred to as Advocate, Helper, Comforter, Counselor. He is still with us. Let us trust him to help in our times of need, to give us strength to hold on, to share His love with those around us, and to trust that God is holding us when we feel we have no strength left with which to hold onto him.

Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. 

Jesus, in John 16:7 KJV

We still have His power working in us today to help us through these various challenges.

Psalm 31:14-15 tell us “But I trust in you, Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands...”

I have struggled with depression; I am grieved and angered by much of what occurs in our society; I don’t know what to expect next–do any of us? But I will choose to trust the One who holds my times in His faithful hands.

The Blessing

Like many in the midst of this pandemic, I am looking for places of hope. Pastor Rene Schlaepfer, at Twin Lakes Church in Aptos, California encourages us with the following thoughts from the story of Jesus calming the storm in Matthew 8.

In the midst of the WHAT is making us anxious, there is a WHO saying “Look at Me.” When our focus moves from the storm itself to the One who is with us on this journey, when our faith in someone surpasses our fear of the something, then we can be at peace. We will face storms–they will come into our lives unpredictably, unexpectedly, inevitably, and impartially.

  1. Jesus is close. In the middle of the storm, Jesus was right there in the boat with the disciples. And in this pandemic, He is here with us. Isaiah 43:1-2: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.”
  2. Jesus cares. The disciples said, “Jesus, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” He does. As hard as this is for some of us, we are to relax in His care. I Peter 5:7: “Cast all your anxiety on him for he cares for you.”
  3. Jesus is in control. In our Western culture we like to think we are in control. A pandemic like this shows us how little control we actually have. But we can rely on the One who is in control. Mark 4: “Jesus got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!'”

I rely on these truths for myself and for those family and friends who are ill, have lost jobs, are going through marital struggles, and are just feeling anxious.

I will leave you with a wonderful song by musicians from 25 churches in Hawaii, from six islands. Skip the ad and go to The Hawaii Blessing, hosted by Hawaiian Island Ministries (HIM).

May God bless you and keep you and give you His peace.

Where is My Refuge?

Pitch pipe on sheet music

Mom used to tell me how often God wakened her with a song in her heart, usually one that gave her hope or peace in a difficult time.

Don and I slept in yesterday. Our room was still in shadow, all the windows covered. Don got out of bed first and opened one of the blinds. The sun poured in, almost blinding. Immediately an old chorus popped into my mind. It goes like this. Do you remember it?

Chorus:
Oh there's sunshine blessed sunshine
When the peaceful, happy moments roll
When Jesus shows His smiling face
There is sunshine in my soul.

There is gladness in my soul today
More glorious and bright
Than shines in any early sky
For Jesus is my light.

I got up singing. It’s the first time in forever that I’ve had five consecutive nights of good sleep. I know people have been praying for me, and we’ve made some small changes to our daily schedule. But to waken with a song and feeling refreshed felt like a gift from my heavenly Father and my mother!

Hope is some extraordinary spiritual grace that God gives us to control our fears, not to oust them.

Vincent McNabb

Hope. Without it, we soon lose our way. With it, we can move forward through our fears, our griefs.

So how do we respond during this time of conflicting news reports on COVID-19, differing opinions on what kind of contact is or is not safe? Different states, and counties within states, have varying regulations. Individuals and families struggle with long-lasting illness and death. And we deal with fears, privately and corporately.

  • As we Shelter in Place, one of our biggest joys is going for a walk around our neighborhood, especially on a pleasant day.
  • Churches–and businesses–meet on Zoom or another platform (and thank God for technology that allows us this option).
  • Friends email, call, Zoom.
  • Visits sometimes occur through the windows of residential centers which cannot allow guests inside.
  • We delight in meeting neighbors out walking, retaining our distance but treasuring face time.

But we still have choices.

We can complain and be filled with negative thoughts, and pass those on to others.

We can trust that the God of the universe has not lost control, nor has He lost sight of what’s happening in our world. We can ask Him what purpose He has in this situation, how He is working out His plan as we are all reminded that ultimately, we are not in control.

I treasure this scripture.

The name (character) of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.

Proverbs 18:10

Don’t misunderstand. God is not promising bad things will never happen to His people. But He is promising the security of knowing He will be with us, will never leave us, no matter what circumstances we face. (Hebrews 13:5).

And we need to surround ourselves with hopeful friends who encourage and support us, who help us look to the source of our hope. If we keep our eyes on the problem we will despair, but if we keep our eyes on God, the problems take on a different perspective.

I need to keep returning to that source. It’s not at all a once-for-all thing. My fears resurface, motivation veers off course, and I need to drink deeply of the well of living water again and again. I’m encouraged by these verses.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.

Hebrews 12:1-2 NLT

What’s helping you walk with hope in this challenging time?