Exchanging fear for faith: #priceless

I have spent my entire life in a big “shadow of doubt” created by insecurity that developed at a very early age (Swope, p. 21). Insecurity arising from my perspective of how others’ viewed or valued me, which in turn, determined my self-worth  and has continued to do so. That shadow always looms, as the insecurity manifests itself in many ways and many situations — its symptoms are not pleasant — fear, anxiety, depression, defensive and offensive behavior and caustic speech, to name a few. I have desperately sought to get rid of that shadow and its consequences in a variety of ways — some of which I am not terribly proud of. I have tried, over and over, in many different ways and many different arenas to prove that I am “perfect,” or at least well above average, when in reality I am flawed, and average. I have pretended that everything is fine, and that my life is going well and that I am satisfied, because some of my “successes,” by most standards should have been enough. The pretense has been very costly at times. So, I now take great comfort in the fact that “because His love is perfect, I don’t have to be (Swope, pp. 29-46).”

I have been seeking to prove my worth to and through others, through my jobs, promotions, new cars, new technologies and gadgets — and it hasn’t worked. I love my family and friends, and I know that they love me. But, I still keep seeking, “what a person desires: unfailing love (Proverbs 19:22).” So, I want to believe that, as Renee Swope (2011) states, “[I] was made for love that isn’t measured by my last accomplishment, but marked by God’s measureless grace (p. 62).”

There is indeed an emptiness in my heart. No amount of validation from others, no single accomplishment (or even a compendium of all of them), no possession, no career path, promotion, accolade has or will give me value or a true sense of significance — nor will any of these fill that emptiness. Why? Because I guess I finally realize that material goods wear out or lose value quickly, and performance-based measurement of my worth, is dependent upon the opinion, action, or behavior of others (who are likely seeking their value in the same fashion). I also don’t like who I am very much when I seek my worth in this fashion. The realization that the emptiness can ONLY be filled by God, because reliance on any other validation will never provide the abiding love and acceptance marked by His grace is a big, and welcome “wake-up call,” at a time when it is much needed. It implies that “His love will not fail, even when I do (Swope, pp. 47-64).” That type of love is #priceless (Pure; Redeeming; Inexhaustible; Comforting; Energizing; Liberating; Enduring; Supportive; and Sustaining)!

In my quest for #AConfidentHeart, I want to move from “fear-filled thinking to faith-filled believing (Swope, p. 228).”

The following When I/Then He statements address my “Top Ten” doubts and insecurities — they serve as a basis for replacing my doubts and insecurities with His truths:

  1. When I find myself seeking validation of my  worth through the 4 Ps (people, performance, possessions, or position); Then He will remind me that what I really desire is the unfailing love (Proverbs 19:22) that can be found through the 3 Gs (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).
  2. When I feel as though life has filled with adversity and has become too difficult; Then He will remind me that He is with me in times of trouble, that He will rescue me, and honor me (Psalms 91:15).
  3. When I sense doubt creeping in and worry becoming all-consuming and non-productive; Then He will remind me that he cares about me and I can surrender my cares to Him (1 Peter 5:7).
  4. When I think that I have no strength left to face the latest trial; Then He will remind me that through His strength I can do all things (Philippians 4:13).
  5.  When I perceive that others are against me and feel beaten down, or defeated; Then He will remind me that no one can be against me if He is for me (Romans 8:31), and that I am a conqueror through His love (Romans 8:37).
  6. When I start to worry about finances, and finding a job that will provide the basic necessities; Then He will remind me that He knows what I need, and it will be provided (Matthew 6:32).
  7. When I begin to feel as though I will never find a sense of peace and contentment; Then He will remind me that I can find peace and confidence in Him (John 16:33); and can learn to be content in any situation or circumstance (Philippians 4:12).
  8. When I am tempted to pretend that things are fine, when in reality I am FINE (Frazzled, Irritated, Neurotic, and Exhausted (Swope, p. 31)); Then He will remind me that He can give me rest (Matthew 11:28), peace, and confidence (John 16:33).
  9. When I feel as though I don’t know what to do next; Then He will remind me that I simply have to ask him, and He will give me wisdom (James 1:5).
  10. When I find myself feeling uncertain about my next steps or my purpose: Then He  will remind me to rely on Him to guide me (Proverbs 3:5-6); and that His major goal is that I enjoy the full riches of complete understanding of the divine truth. (Colossians 2:2).

References

NRSV translation of The Holy Bible

Swope, R. (2011). A Confident Heart, Grand Rapids, MI: Revell Publishers.

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Love your neighbor

Today’s Truth

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:9, NIV)

Exploration

In times of trial, it is easy to get so mired in your own situation, that you completely forget what you have learned, heard and seen, and to lose sight of what you have received. Self-absorption makes it difficult to put this particular truth into practice.

What’s more, if you’re at all like me, you need to realize that the initial response of anger or placing blame for a situation on others is completely misplaced and contradicts everything that you try to accomplish as you seek God’s perfect love.

He clearly tells us:

Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs. (Proverbs 10:12, NIV)

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:35-36, NIV)

My Story — Reflecting Outward in Thanksgiving

Love is the key! From Him to me — from me to Him — and from me to others.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.  (1 Corinthians 13:1-3, NIV)

There are specific times when I not only need these reminders, but I need a good swift kick to help me refocus.

Yesterday, a light bulb went on that made me realize that I had become so absorbed in my own situation, I hadn’t given others much of a second thought lately, yet I have experienced such an outpouring of prayer, from close friends, and from those I barely know — simply because I reached out. Because these prayers have been so powerful my family was truly blessed — (my significant other, whom we feared had a recurrence of cancer, got a clean bill of health after extensive testing). This is coincident with the completion of an intensive effort on my part to ask Him for what I needed — fortitude to deal with the consequence if the worst were true, and fervent hope and intercession that it was not so. The good news that we received reminded me of the power of prayer and made me humbly grateful to those who followed today’s truth. It also made me realize that those who are praying for me also have unfulfilled needs, are going through situations where they need prayers and intervention from Him, and that I need to “pay it forward.”

And then the doubts crept in and I faltered. While I was initially ecstatic, I quickly thought about the other issues that I am dealing with, and without the exercise of patience and faith, I began to question why only part of my prayers have been answered.  In my self-reflection — I chastised myself more than anyone else ever could for such thoughts.

So, my challenge and resolution for today is to recognize and give thanks for the gift I have been given, to ask for patience in regard to all other matters, and to move to apply today’s truth.

Inspiration/Affirmation

In addition to the other truths, I also look to the following to help me meet my goals:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40, NIV)

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8, NIV)

Reflection and Prayer

Almighty Father, when my mind becomes filled with doubt, please remind me that I have a responsibility to You and to others to put in practice everything that I have learned or received or heard from You, or seen in You in order that I regain internal peace. When heat begins to stir dissension and I start to blame others for my misfortune, please remind me that loving my enemies and others without expecting anything in return brings great reward. When I start to become self-absorbed, please remind me of the greatest commandments in the Law — to love You with all my heart, soul, and mind and to love my neighbor as myself — because love covers all wrongs, and no matter what I do, if I don’t have and give love in this fashion, I am nothing.  I ask this through Jesus, Your Son, my Redeemer. AMEN