Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it.
I imagine the cold sweet. "Drink" the bitter edge that brings delight to a dry throat. "Savor" fleshy bits that burst in the mouth and tell a sultry season, an airy porch, gathered loved ones, childhood innocence, and tall tales.
I have not made lemonade all summer. A first for me. No lemons in the house all season. Not even a mix. And the now steamy days of a southern August are begging for a cold pitcherful of the sweet and sour that loves to quench thirst here in our humble home.
Such neglect speaks of simple chaos. Almost three months of wonder, wander, waiting, and worry. The latter is painful to speak. But one health scare after another with my husband finally pressed me to fear, yet stopped short of sheer panic and anxiety.
I knew the nearness of God's presence. I did not want for the staff of my Shepherd. With His staff, He pulled me near to His pierced side. Drew me close. So I could hear.
I knew the voice of my Beloved. He whispered. I listened. Closely. And words spoken were so gentle. Their soft strength stays now.
"Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted."
With a new season soon to be in the making, and a difficult season behind, I crave fresh. The crisp and cool of a soon-to-come fall comforts my own dislike for summer's heat. Yet, part of me dares to dote for the impossible. To win back days lost to dread. To return with 20/20 vision and walk with hind's feet, climb with greater faith. Breathe pure air of only belief. Stand only bold. See only good. Speak only joy.
Part of me desires such reliving. Only a part. A small part. The greater part speaks louder, and sees God in the 20/20 now and the obscurity of then.
Rests with new vision. With comfort of a trial done. With hindsight of personal need. With humility that looked in the mirror and saw insufficient. Realized the lack of self-ability. Accepted the uncontrollable. Faced doubt. Looked in. Looked around. Looked up. Looked beyond. To this now moment taught us by Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:13. The ultimate time in a trial when we have escape from adversity.
Thank God for his enduring of my doubt and fear and His understanding of my humanness. For bringing me to my knees and causing my soul to reach deeply and dig steadily for faith most precious. For giving opportunity of holding, clinging, trusting found treasures of our Creator's testimonies.
When I was teaching tenth grade, a short story's theme opened a door of reality. Through that story, a personal journey of a truth from God's treasures began. It was not a major literary work. Just a simple side story that told of a boy hero who faced fear. In his awe, he did not turn but held fast and proved himself brave. The little hero conquered fear by acting boldly despite his feelings.
I don't remember the title of the story, the name of characters, or plot development.
What I do remember is the theme. I memorized it. And have never forgotten.
"Courage is the willingness to do something even though you are afraid."
I have clung to these words because of my Christian faith, not because of a mystical, buried human strength that ends in self-gratification and egotism.
So often, we feel we have failed when we have fear. Maybe it is only my personal experience, but I feel rather sure there are others who have felt the nagging pain of guilt and defeat from anxiety, fear, stress, or trauma. We long to be among the super godly who are unaffected by life's jolts, stabs, and bruises.
God's word, however, does not demean our fear or distress. Rather, scriptures reveal a compassionate heavenly Father who greatly exhorts our faith and lovingly encourages us to take heart, regardless of past, present, or future pain. We are compelled to overcome. To cast fear away and hope and believe in God's saving power.
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go" (Joshua 1:9).
"The LORD is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life - of whom shall I be afraid?" (Psalm 27:1).
"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline" (2 Timothy 1:7).
We can take heart because of His promises. And without fear of failure, admit our need. God is for us just as He was for Abraham; for the widow of Zarephath; for Daniel; the wedding company without wine; the woman who hemorrhaged for twelve years; Mary, Martha, and Lazarus; the 120 in the Upper Room; the Apostle Paul.
We live by faith. Not by sight. Not by what we wish. Not by material things. Not by abilities or tangibilities. As Christians, sons and daughters of the Most High, we live because Christ lives in us and through us.
But we can find ourselves locked in a dark room with only the unknown around and His word in our hearts. We then make a choice. Succumb to doubt or hold to His word hidden within. When we choose to stand on scripture, God honors our faith! We yet wait. We may yet feel fear. We may not yet know deliverance or have an answer. We may yet battle worry. We may yet stumble. We may yet even fall.
And if we do fall, we get up again. We stand, straighten our path, and prove God true. We may be propped up with strength, but we stand. We may cry with pain, but we stand. We may feel alone, but we stand. We have no place to turn, be confused, but we stand.
Even in weakness, we stand and are strong. Why? Our faith, that faith given to us and developed in us by God himself, is greater than our fear. For the One Whose word gave us our faith is greater than our weakness, failure, falling, disappointment, emptiness, sadness, guilt, hurt, pain, illness, or death.
Though in fear, we can stand in faith. Can choose God's word. Can trust His hand. Can know His presence.
We remember His mighty acts. We run to His testimonies. We grasp raw truth. We take courage.
Do you need courage? You're human. Are you afraid? God is near. Do others mock your fear? So what? Do you feel like a failure because you cave? Realize the source of your guilt and throw it away like a piece of trash.
God, dear one, understands your feelings, and He has divine remedy for all. Place your hand in His, go to His well, lean on His arm. Trust His name even though you are afraid. Believe, believe, believe in the Father's love.
Place. Lean. Trust. Believe. That, my friend, is courage.
Let's give the tenth grade literary theme a twist of Christian persuasion.
Courage is yielding to God's word and trusting in His love no matter what we feel, think, or see. It is choosing to ignore our fear and lean on what we know from His word. It is staying hope that is not swayed by our emotions. Courage remains and may even co-exist with fear for a time, but courage is God-given, through His word, and overcomes our circumstances and will always ultimately defeat fear.
As I write, I realize I could face another challenge before this day has ended. In fact, the enemy is already trying to stir fear in my heart as my son and his wife make plans for a missions trip to what can be a dangerous area of Africa.
More and more, I am realizing that our entire Christian lives are a walk of faith versus fear. We hear about it from so many preachers, teachers, speakers, writers, etc. They all speak encouragement into our lives. We leave their words feeling ready to tackle the enemy. Praise God for such ministry! But the personal realizing and living of it can quickly change "Amen" and praise to sweaty palms and trembling hearts that overwhelm and subdue belief when the phone rings, or a knock is heard, and fear says, "Hello, again."
Remember the basis of 1 Corinthians 13. The three lasting, remaining, elements of our Christian life are faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of the three is love! Also, remember 1 John 4: 18 tells us that perfect love drives out fear. "Perfect" here means mature, complete, and refers to labor and growth of moral character - i.e., our relationship with God. And "drives out" or "casts out" means to strike, throw down.
Dear friends, perhaps I am wrong, but I see from these scriptures one answer to our battle with fear and intimidation. It is not found in scripture alone, but in our walk with God. The more maturity we have in Him and the closer our hearts are to His, the greater our power to stand against the enemy.
"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us" (Ephesians 3:20). In this scripture, "power" refers to ability, abundance, strength, might; "within" refers to a fixed state; for the sake of, to give self wholly to.
May we grasp the fullness of these simple truths in our hearts. The closer we are to our Beloved, the stronger our standing. As we fall deeper and deeper in love with Christ, fear will have less and less influence on us. As fear loses its power in our lives, our faith will grow, and God's power and His word will blossom in our hearts.
A.W. Tozer sums it up far better than I can. His words can be taken in and bring nourishment and revelation to our hearts and souls:
The love of Christ both wounds and heals, it fascinates and frightens, it kills and makes alive, it draws and repulses. There can be nothing more terrible or wonderful than to be stricken with love for Christ so deeply that the whole being goes out in a pained adoration of His person, an adoration that disturbs and disconcerts while it purges and satisfies and relaxes the deep inner heart.
Praise God for such love! I am looking for the purging, satisfying love of Christ that will transform my heart and my faith. I am not looking for a "pie in the sky" God who gives me everything I want and always expects perfect faith . But I am so thankful for a heavenly Father whose daughter I am. Who cares. About every need. And wants me to develop hind's feet and eagle's wings. May my heart and hope hang in there and wait before Him all the days of my life.
May you go in the grace of God today and find His love at every turn.
All scripture is from NIV Bible.
Research is from e-sword.
*We will have lemonade in our cottage ere summer ends.
*Please forgive this lengthy post.