Tag Archives: anxiety

Review: Grace for the Good Girl, by Emily P. Freeman

Grace for the Good Girl, by Emily P. FreemanGrace for the Good Girl, by Emily P. Freeman (Revell, 2011)

This is a book for all the women whose honest desire to be good sets up impossible expectations and leads to hiding behind facades and fearing to be found out. Anxiety grows, and we struggle in our own strength instead of learning to rely on God. Hence the subtitle: “Letting Go of the Try-Hard Life.”

The author says, “Somewhere along the way, I got the message that salvation is by faith alone but anything after that is faith plus my hard work and sweet disposition” (page 13). Many of us fall into that trap, and Grace for the Good Girl can help us reset.

One of my favourite lines is about giving ourselves “permission to sit down on the inside and live like I have a God who knows what He’s doing” (page 65).

The book is in three sections: the hiding (in which we find out how we’re not alone in this after all), the finding, and the freedom of being found. It ends with a small group leader’s guide for an eight-week study.

Emily P. Freeman writes with transparency and candour about her own struggles, and shares the stories of other “recovering good girls.” The book is easy to read and encouraging. It points us back to relying on the character and grace of God, and to learning to live by faith instead of by feeling. It addresses core issues like anxiety, identity, emotions, and self-reliance, and while you likely won’t recognize yourself on every page, don’t be surprised to relate to at least a few of the stories.

The “try-hard life” is exhausting. Grace for the Good Girl points to freedom. Emily P. Freeman has also written A Million Little Ways and Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World. For more about the author and her ministry, visit emilypfreeman.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Testing our Thoughts

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7, NLT*

Chances are, if you haven’t actually memorized this verse, you recognize it when you hear it. I’ve always understood it in the context of not allowing fear to keep us from serving or obeying God.

Paul is writing to Timothy, a young leader who seems to be struggling with this. As such, I’ve taken it as an admonishment to be brave and not give in. I’m sure it’s that, but now I see something else as well.

It’s a partial description of our two natures: the natural self and the Holy Spirit-led self.

With that perspective, the verse can be used to test our responses. Am I feeling fearful, timid, anxious? That’s my old nature, not God. I don’t have to accept/ obey/ believe it. I can ask the Holy Spirit to be power, love, and self-discipline in me.

Then, of course, I have to choose to accept/ obey/ believe what He gives. Building up the spiritual muscles of our new nature takes consistent effort.

In decision-making, sometimes God will hold us back. We can never quote this verse blindly and forge ahead over our fears into obvious trouble. But God’s way of reining us in is more like a check in our spirit, or a knowing. It won’t be that timidity or anxiety that besets us too often.

For me, using this test makes me stop and think. I know the anxious feeling isn’t God, but somehow if I don’t take time to evaluate it, I automatically believe it must be true.

Because of what Paul’s trying to say to Timothy, this verse focuses on what this anxious young man needed. If you face different areas of weakness, you could easily use it as a template. Just fill in those natural weaknesses in the “not” category, and in the Bible, find the Spirit’s corresponding strengths for the “yes” side.

Our God, we thank You that You have given us Your Holy Spirit to live in us and guide and grow us. Help us learn to distinguish between our old ways and Your ways, and align us with  Your Spirit so we can become all You have for us to be.

Here’s a song from Big Daddy Weave: “Jesus, I Believe.” It doesn’t talk about today’s verse specifically, but it looks at the choice to set our minds on what Jesus says instead of what we may feel.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Contentment’s Secret

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
Philippians 4:12, NIV*

Paul goes on to say that his secret is to rely on Christ’s strength (verse 13), a verse many of us have memorized. He trusts that God is enough in the moment, and he doesn’t waste mental energy with what-ifs.

Our guest speaker on Sunday challenged us that anxiety comes from dwelling on the future, but contentment comes from living in the present. Now, a person can do a bundle of complaining in the present without Paul’s attitude of God-reliance, but anxiety does feed on the unknown future.

What could go wrong? Will we have enough, be enough? What if we don’t like what happens?

When anxiety whispers, I remind myself, “Whatever happens, Jesus will be there.” Paul’s words suggest I should also be saying, “Here, in this moment, Jesus is here. His strength is enough.”

Christ, who strengthens us, help us rely on Your power in at work in our lives, to help us do the Father’s will and to help us live with surrendered, trusting spirits. Protect us from fear of the future, and protect us also from discontent in the present and regrets for the past. Help us live in You moment by moment, following Your leading and not relying on our own understanding.

Our song this week is the classic hymn, “I Know Whom I Have Believed,” sung here by the Antrim Mennonite Choir. The chorus comes from Paul’s words to Timothy, and it echoes his contentment.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

What Qualifies Us?

It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God.
2 Corinthians 3:5, NLT*

Paul has plenty of educational background and other accomplishments, which he elsewhere refers to as “worthless” in comparison to knowing the grace of God. It’s not that he’s not qualified, but that any credentials, official or unofficial, would not be enough if he didn’t also have the Lord’s anointing on him to do the job.

He’s writing here about his ministry, about sharing the good news of Jesus, and nurturing believers. This is serious Kingdom business.

What about you and me, in the daily details of our lives?

Who you are today, with the background and abilities you have… is there something you need to do that’s generating anxiety? Something that’s too hard, or it’s a stretch, or messing it up could cause problems?

Maybe it’s major, like Paul’s work, or maybe it’s smaller. Nothing is too big or too small for God’s notice.

I have a few minor things hovering around me this week, trying to sap my courage. Objectively, even if every one of them goes wrong, no major harm will be done. For you, the stakes may be higher.

What we need to cling to is this: it’s God who makes the difference. (And it’s God who works with us when we’ve failed, too. He’ll never leave us, and He can work good out of our messes.) He never intended us to do life on our own.

God our Creator and our Equipper, help us repeatedly choose to rely on You. You promise to give wisdom when we ask, so help us to ask and to believe. Give us what we need to conduct ourselves worthy of Your Name, and to carry out our responsibilities competently. Help us to not allow fear to rob us of our peace and to distance us from You, because You are the Provider of all we need.

You Raise Me Up,” sung here by Selah, is one of those songs that can encourage and re-focus us.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Not Obnoxious

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Philippians 4:4-6, NIV*

Steph Beth Nickel’s guest post last Friday was titled “Do Not Be Anxious About Anything — Even the Good Stuff.” If you’ve read it, you know she shared some hard-earned wisdom. (If you haven’t, just click the link.)

After I’d scheduled a tweet to share her post, I went to double-check it and I misread the title to say “Do Not Be Obnoxious About Anything.” This was near bedtime, and I found it funny.

But I think there’s wisdom there too. What do we do when we’re anxious or stressed? We tense up, speed up, put up defenses. Some of us get obnoxious.

What does Paul say here? “Let your gentleness be evident to all.” Why? “Because the Lord is near.”

God’s got this. Whatever this is. And whatever happens, He’ll be right there with us, able to work even in the worst messes.

Because God is near, Paul tells us to bring our concerns to Him. We can be confident that He already knows what He wants to do in the situation. It may not be what we want, but if we truly believe Him to be wise, good, powerful and loving, we can choose to trust Him.

As Stephanie said, it really comes down to a question of whether we trust God or not.

Holy and majestic God of the universe, it’s scandalous to even suggest You’re not trustworthy, yet You know our weakness and our doubts, and the fears that snare us, and You know sometimes we don’t trust You. Or we don’t act on the trust we think we have. Please forgive us and help our unbelief. Help us surrender the fight or flight reflex that can make us obnoxious. Teach us to rely on Your goodness and Your presence, so we can show others how good You are.

Our song this week is Mercy Me‘s “Here With Me.”

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Guest Post: Do Not Be Anxious about Anything—Even the Good Stuff

Do Not Be Anxious about Anything—Even the Good Stuff

by Steph Beth Nickel

In times of heartache and worry, I’ve often quoted Philippians 4:6-7, which says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (ESV).

On September 2, I will be boarding an airplane with my hubby and our daughter. We will be taking our first trip across the Pond to the land of our ancestors. You see, my eldest son is getting married next to Loch Earn in Scotland, which will be followed by three days on the Isle of Skye (pictured) and various day trips.

Isle of Skye

The Isle of Skye [image courtesy of pixabay.com]

As I write these words, I’m very conscious of my breathing and my heart rate. Am I anxious? I guess I am. Am I afraid to fly? Not at all. (And hey, I’ll have hours and hours to read. Bonus!) Am I worried about meeting new people? (If you’ve known me for say—five minutes or so, you’ll know the answer to that one.)

Do I have issues with my future daughter-in-law? Actually, we get along really well. At Laura’s request, we went shopping for her wedding dress when she and my son were visiting for my hubby’s surprise 60th birthday party in March. And she found the dress in a local store I hunted up online.

Why be anxious?

Having purchased our tickets online (with a lot of back and forth and missed telephone calls, but that’s another story), I have to trust that there will be a place for us on the flight—three places preferably. I also have to trust that we will have all the necessary documents and will clear security—on both sides of the Atlantic—without incident.

Have I done my homework? Yep. Have I made an all-inclusive list of things to pack in our checked luggage and in our carry-on, of things to wear and things to have readily available? I actually started packing over two weeks before the departure date. Have I booked my daughter’s transportation home from the airport? I have. (She has to return after a week for work. Dave and I are staying for another seven days.) Hey, I’ve even watched a YouTube video on bundle packing. (If you are planning a trip, it really is a “must watch.”)

Even as I mentally check off the things I need to do, I’m still a little anxious. Can I flip a switch and experience instant calm? Well, not exactly, but there are certainly things I can do.

What to do when we’re anxious:

I can do what the Lord instructs in the passage I shared earlier. I can pray and thank Him for this amazing opportunity.

I can rest assured that He will fulfill His promise and grant me the peace that passes understanding, a divine peace that guards both my heart and mind. Wow! What a promise!

And a number of weeks ago I made a tremendous discovery. It’s like a game actually, a mind game called “Worst Case Scenario.” Based on the reason for my anxiety, the worst thing I can imagine is that we would get to the airport and not be allowed on the plane because of a mix-up with our tickets. (Yes, I know there are even worse scenarios, but they aren’t the possibilities that are troubling me.)

The question is do I trust God? Do I really trust Him? Do I know that everything that comes into my life is filtered through His love? Do I know that He has all the details worked out, even those that haven’t even crossed my mind?

As I ask myself these questions and come to the conclusion that the answer to each one is a resounding yes, I can take a deep breath and leave it all in His hands.

Beyond that, I think it’s about time I memorized the entire passage, Philippians 4:4-7. Those preceding two verses read like this: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand” (ESV).

Tweetable: God has every detail under control. There’s no need to be anxious.

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Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

Enough Time

My times are in your hands;
deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
from those who pursue me.
Psalm 31:15, NIV*

This is one of my comfort verses. The NLT translates “times” as “future,” and that seems to be the major meaning of the text in context of the danger from David’s enemies.

My “times,” then, are all the minutes of my life. God holds my future and no enemy can shorten it. He also holds my present.

Sometimes all that’s pursuing me are to-do lists and deadlines. I’m in the middle of a very busy patch right now, and what a treat to wake yesterday with this verse in my mind.

One of the to-do items was this post, and I knew God would provide one after doing so for six years, but I didn’t yet have it and I knew there wasn’t a lot of free time to find and write it before Wednesday morning.

Writing time is scarce for now, with some temporary employment, a kitchen renovation and being away last weekend. God knows all that. My times are in His hands.

To the best of my understanding, I’m only taking on what He has for me. As I take time each morning to commit the day to Him and pray to know and heed His presence in it, I can be sure He will help me best use the minutes and the hours. This is one of those stretches where there won’t be much left over for relaxation, but He even provides some of that. I had the most delightful stroll with a cone of gelato on Saturday.

God who made the universe, thank You for giving each of us a part to play in it. Thank You for opportunities to serve You and to show Your love to those around us. Today and each day, help us resist anxiety and choose to trust in Your sufficiency. Open our eyes to see how to use the time You give us. Give us self-discipline to turn away from those things we’d like to do that aren’t on Your agenda for the moment. Help us find soul-rest in You

Casting Crowns shares the secret of how to live fully no matter our circumstances: “I Know You’re There.”

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Deconstructing Anxiety

Do you ever feel anxious? Under pressure, real or imagined? God has proved Himself faithful in my life, but my family would tell you I can still turn anything into a source of stress.

I’m guest posting today at The Borrowed Book, and I’ve shared what I’m learning about guarding (or reclaiming) my mental peace.

Interested? Click here: Deconstructing Anxiety.

Waiting Quietly

Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
for my hope is in him.
Psalm 62:5, NLT*

These words refresh my spirit and re-focus me on God.

David wrote them about a time of great pressure, reminding himself and his people to look to God for help instead of relying on others or on their own assets.

The “trust God” theme is so important that it’s written twice: before and after David’s list of troubles. (You can read the entire psalm here: Psalm 62)

Waiting quietly before God speaks to the state of our hearts and spirits – a choice to control what could easily be frantic desperation and to bring our fears to God instead.

It’s not passively sitting and waiting for God to fix everything, but it’s acknowledging that God will be the one to make a way and to protect. And it’s being open to recognize that way when it comes.

It’s also realizing whose power will ultimately bring victory – God’s, not ours.

Are you in a good place today? No particular stresses or battles? This verse is for you, too. Actually, that’s the place I was when the words first blessed me this year.

The sheep in the quiet meadow can enjoy it more when s/he fully trusts the Shepherd. (At least that would be true if sheep had thoughts, feelings and anxieties.) Happy, secure and restful times need an awareness of God just as much as the crises.

God our gentle yet strong Shepherd, whether we’re at peace or in turmoil, give us grace to choose to quiet ourselves and wait in hope before You. Help us to fully rely on Your love, wisdom and power, for our own sakes and so that others will see Your goodness.

I like this song from Aaron Shust: “My Hope is in You.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Do You Fear Bad News?

They do not fear bad news;
they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.
Psalm 112:7, NLT*

There’s an article in the current issue of Reader’s Digest that suggests the fear of future scarcity can affect our daily wellbeing. (“Can’t Get No Satisfaction,” by Rosie Ifould, August 2014)

We can end up living in tension, on alert, ready for something bad to happen, whether it’s financial, physical or relational. I’ve seen it in my own life; you likely have as well.

Fear of lack. Fear of loss. It creates an underlying anxiety that leaches away our joy and strength. It diminishes our daily quality of life.

If our vague fear doesn’t materialize, we’ve carried the burden for nothing. And if it does, our strength is too depleted to face it well.

God often allows pain struggles, and we can rarely see why. He’s also the One with the power and desire to carry us through such times. If we can rely on Him, we’ll have stories to tell of the difference He made, of how He met our needs. Of His faithfulness.

Things happen, despite our best care. Other things don’t, either because God intervened or because they were only fear-whispers from the enemy of our souls.

Our best defense is to position ourselves securely in the care of our God and Refuge. We need to draw close to Him and stay close. As we get to know Him, we develop confidence in His character and power, and we learn to delight in living His way.

It’s a life-long process, but the more we do this, the easier it is to do. We see evidence of God’s care and it grows our faith. In those moments when our faith is shaky, we can go back to one of my favourite prayers in the New Testament: “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)

God our Shelter in the storms of life, You know our needs and You know the plans You have to work for good in all things. As a shepherd cares for the sheep, please care for us. Help us to recognize Your voice and to trust Your care. When we waver, help our unbelief.

Be encouraged by Brian Doerksen’s song, “Your Faithfulness.”

*New Living Translation (NLT)Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.