"And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you." Ezekial 36:26
Walking in God’s promises really is life changing. There's so many aspects of my heart that have been transformed into something new and I hope to share as much of that as possible in the future. One of the struggles I have had to overcome was my intense sense of fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the future. Fear that screams "You're 31 and single!" - "All your friends are married and now having children!" - "When will you find the career path that's right for you?" - "When are you going to do something with your life?" Crazy, intense, fear.
It's easy to look at the way things panned out. See the mistakes I made highlighted as if made for a blooper reel that is stuck on repeat. It's even easier to believe that the things of the past have total control over what the future holds. But that was the old heart. That was before I found out the Truth.
Even though you may not realize it, God is using this pain for good. James 1:2 tells us “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters whenever you face trials of many kinds.” Because of this statement friends, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God” Romans 8:28.
You might ask how I could even rely on this as my hope? How these simple scriptures can change an outlook. If you are, then I’m glad, because this is the point I’m trying to get to. Even before I was a follower of Jesus, I always believed that everything happened for a reason. Without a doubt in my mind I could always look back and see how the pieces fit and why certain things had to happen the way they did. What my Savior has shown me is that I can also look ahead to see how the pieces will fit. He may or may not show me His plan, most of the time it will still be unknown. But we know that He works all things together for our good. We know that He’s seen our steps and already walked with us down every path before we even set out to walk.
Because of this fact we can consider it pure joy when facing our trials in this life, knowing that there is a purpose. That everything happens for a reason. Knowing that God is not only walking with us, but that he paved the way before us. He also promises that because of our pain He will bless us.
It’s in these trials He has given me this new promised heart and spirit. It hasn't been quick. Some days have been agonizingly slow and painful. Satan knows the Lord is working and so he will put any obstacle in my way to send me back to my former, comfortable self.
It is a blessing to say that I finally feel I’m over the breaking point. I wish I could give specifics that could show you just how my heart has been transformed. Having a new heart changes your attitude, it changes your reactions, it changes your thoughts, it changes your emotions, it changes your outlook, it changes your beliefs, and it changes you.
I've noticed a significant change in the way that I handle stressful situations as opposed to my old self. In the past immediately anxiety would creep up, I would be overwhelmed, panicky, and sometimes start crying because I just “couldn't deal” with it. Now when a stressful situation arises I find that more often than not I go to God first. I give it to Him and try not to think about the things in the future that I cannot control. I approach the matter with more of a sense of calm. But most importantly, I approach the situation with a hope rather than defeat. That has made all the difference in the world.
A dear friend gave me a book she owned for years and read countless times. It’s called 'Hinds Feet on High Places.' It’s about a young girl named Much-Afraid who journeys into the wilderness to ascend a mountain to the highest place where her enemies cannot harm her. She is handicapped and has relatives whose last name is Fear. She takes this journey at the promise of the Shepherd who vows to take her to the high places, to remove her lameness and give her feet like deer. This book really is incredible if you haven’t read it, I recommend it. The story outlines the journey each of us takes in our own lives [it may not sound like it would, you'll just have to trust me].
I marked off a spot in this book that I believe speaks to how we should deal with the unknown future. When I’m dealing with a situation that I think will affect the course of my life I can’t help but think of the worst case scenarios. It’s just always been what I do. When you are accustomed to bad things happening you begin to expect them. So this is a command that I've really taken to heart and tried to apply as much as possible.
“Much-Afraid, don’t ever allow yourself to begin trying to picture what it will be like. Believe me, when you get to the places which you dread you will find that they are as different as possible from what you have imagined, just as was the case when you were actually ascending the precipice. I must warn you that I see your enemies lurking among the trees ahead, and if you ever let Craven Fear begin painting a picture on the screen of your imagination, you will walk with fear and trembling and agony, where no fear is.”
What does the Shepherd mean that we will walk with fear in a place where no fear is? It means there is no fear in God. To try to predict the potential destruction of our future robs us from our trust in God and leaves us alone to worry. We cannot be both fearful and trusting in God. It just doesn't work that way. It's like oil and vinegar. They do not mix well.
"For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline." 2 Timothy 1:7 God did not create us to have fear. This is man-made, learned behavior. Our past experiences taught us to fear the future ones. Friends and family who constantly worry helped develop our fear. Watch the news for a half hour and try not to be fearful or worrisome about something. But in God we do not have to be prisoners to fear. God has given us a spirit of power, love and self-discipline.
Like Much-Afraid I’ve often predicted an alternative ending to how things actually happened. My imagination was always so much worse than how things turned out. Reminds me of lyrics from one of Sara's songs, "I miss the days that my mind would just rest quiet. My imagination hadn't turned on me yet." This is exactly what happens when our minds start racing. Our imaginations can literally destroy our hearts, allowing fear of the unknown to take over. Our “enemies” lurk everywhere waiting to grab hold of our earthly imagination. These enemies are not always people but can be situations, a bad diagnosis, an extremely low bank balance, talk of worldly affairs, and even someone else’s fear. We need to seek to get back to what we were born with. A mind that would just rest quiet.
I wanted to end with this well known quote from Franklin D Roosevelt's first inaugural speech;
"Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."
Friends, this is powerful. If you've never stopped to think about this statement, do it with me now. The only thing to be fearful of is the fleshly nature to be fearful, which occurs when we take our eyes off of the Creator who is in control. This fear paralyzes us where we are. It stops us from advancing forward in our lives. It catches a hold on us and does not let us go.
This is one place that I've felt transformed. Where I've been given a “new spirit” along with my transformed heart. It is a diligent effort to not let my thoughts run wild instilling fear into my heart. How about you? If you are walking with fear, trembling and agony then it’s time to ask God for help. Let Him take away the fear. Let Him be your comforter and your restorer. Ask Him to allow your mind to just rest quiet so that you can advance into your future with hopeful expectation.