On Worry | Part 3

It all came back. Not in the force of the dark thoughts that I had before. This was totally different, but it had the same effect. These new thoughts twisted my gut and imprisoned me. I didn’t expect it. I hadn’t dealt with an onslaught like this for a long, long time. But, it came. Fast and sure, and plunged me back in the depths. Even though I’d climbed out before, I didn’t know how to crawl out now. I felt trapped. I felt broken. I felt dark.

worry3I had succumbed, dived deep, and here I struggled again. Frustration and heartbreak overwhelmed me. This all over again?! The earlier darkness hadn’t returned but worry plagued me, thick and suffocating.

If only…

What if….

Maybe if I…

How come I didn’t…

It circled endlessly, tearing at my heart. As I backed away from social media, talked to my husband, and worked through these personal struggles, I realized the root of my worries. I also began to apply, once again, Scripture truths to my life.

I asked myself the hard questions. Who defines my worth? Christ. Is this____ true about my life? No. Is this____ real in my life today? No. So, what is true? What is real? I did the hard work once more. I wrote Scripture on 3×5 cards. I prayed. I even started re-reading Loving God with All Your Mind by Elizabeth George. (I highly recommend it!) I combated the wrong thoughts and chose to cling to real things and the truths of God. Once again, I found freedom from worry, from unreal things that didn’t matter. I found refuge in God, His Scripture. I’m 21 and anxiety, worry, what if’s, and unreal thoughts still come back to shake me to my core. I am imperfect. I get ragged and I fall back into the depths easily. Anxiety will follow me for the rest of my life.

BUT–

 There is hope. There is always hope for me and for you!

I have a sure way to fight this darkness. I know I hold the victory as I meditate on God’s truth, throwing out the untrue and unlovely, and embracing that which is real, honorable, and true. A lifetime struggle can look discouraging, but that is where I have to pause.

Am I facing the future right now? No. Is the future real right now? No.

What is true? This moment, right here. I can choose God’s truth or my own worry. What is real? The victory I have in Him. What do I need to think on? The truths of God.

Doesn’t all of this sound redundant? It is! We are experts at repetition. We just have to learn how to meditate the right way!

Perhaps, today you face discouragement because, after months of a worry-free mind, it has all come back. You crumple, not expecting this. The force of worry consumes you.

It buries you.

It pushes and pulls you.

It pierces you deeply.

You are not alone. It just happened to me. I am sure it will happen again.

BUT–

Decide to think on the truths of God. Ask yourself the hard questions, banish the unlovely and dark thoughts, and focus on real and true ones. Bathe yourself in Scripture. Experience refuge in God all over again.

Don’t despair! Rather, bask in the knowledge that God has the power to rescue you every time you fall! Every time! God will not refuse helping, comforting, and rescuing us — even after the 100th time you fall back into deep worry.

You will know freedom as you know Christ.

And you will have victory again!

Don’t dwell on the anxiety you may face tomorrow, two weeks from now, or next year.

What is real today?

The victory you have when you remain rooted in God.  

What do you need to think on today? 

The truths of God.

In Christ,

Sierra Straightforward

If you missed them, catch Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

On Worry | Part 2

Last week, we talked about the depths of worry. (Don’t miss part one.) We discussed verbally admitting the struggle and touched the surface of freedom from darkness. By now, you know that I fight some deep, perplexing issues. We all do! We may struggle differently, but we all struggle deeply. This is a safe place for us to talk about it. So, let’s dive right in. If you haven’t written Philippians 4:8 on a 3×5 card yet, you will definitely want to by the end of this post!

worry2
 

For the rest of this article, you’ll read what I like to call the Truth Process. This process is hard and easy all at the same time. But the good news is that one can live free of worry, even when it doesn’t feel possible. I can’t express to you the depths of my worry. Maybe if we sat over a cup of coffee, I could adequately describe how far I sank, but we aren’t face-to-face, and I’d rather show you the way of HOPE than drone on about my own past darkness.

Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” 

As a teen, I began the process of thinking on truth. I memorized this verse. We often say it’s too hard to meditate. But if you’re the anxious worrier that I was (and still can be sometimes!), you are an EXPERT at it. In other words, we excel at meditating! But the problem comes in dwelling on the wrong things. We focus on what could be, what might be, what I might do, what I didn’t do, on dark things, on lies, and on destruction.

So how do we use our expert meditating skills the right way? Let me share three practical ways (aka–>the Truth Process) to change those bad habits.

#1. Write Philippians 4:8 and other Scriptural truths on 3×5 cards. 

Be sure to write down Philippians 4:8 (one of the most helpful verse for freedom from anxiety), but also study Scripture to find other verses that give you comfort, strength, and hope. Remember, God wrote these truths for us! He gave His Word to help and sustain us — to tell of His love, His care, His power! Keep that in mind as you look for Scripture to write down.

After you compile 3-4 verses, carry them with you wherever you go. Read the card(s) every time you walk through a doorway, pass a trash can, look out a window … you get the point! Pick a daily action that you do frequently, and when you find yourself doing that action, read the verse as well! Just do it. You will be amazed at the subtle changes you’ll begin to see. The invasion of truth in a dark, battered mind makes a huge difference.

#2. Ask yourself, “Is this True? Is this Real?” 

We can’t just read Scripture and be done with it. We have to apply it as well. When you read Philippians 4:8, pull your anxiety parallel to God’s Word. Is this _____ true about my life? Is this _____ real? Is this ____ lovely? Continue asking yourself if these thoughts line up with Philippians 4:8. If you can’t say yes to any of these questions, then you have to throw the thought out.

How can you throw out a thought? How can you stop thinking it? Restructure the questions above. So, what is true? What is real? What is lovely? Answer those questions after you reject the untrue, unreal, and unlovely thoughts that we are so apt to focus on. You’ll begin to see a huge change!

#3. Do this over and over and over and over again. 

You won’t see much change if you don’t continually think on truth, discard wrong thoughts, and think on truth some more. It took a lot of the same dark thoughts to plunge you into despair and anxiety. It’s going to take daily, hourly, minutely meditation on truth for you to live free from anxiety. You have to keep reading Scripture, memorizing it, knowing it, and then applying it.

Ask yourself the hard questions, throw away the untrue, unlovely thoughts. Next, think again on what is true and real. You will find that God’s truth overrides darkness every time. You will find freedom from despair.

Perhaps you say I’ve had victory before, but I’m ragged again. What do I do?  Oh my dear, I understand. I recently went through a whole struggle myself, but I’ll talk about that next week. You are not alone. Keep thinking on truth and come again. We will find truth and comfort together.

In Christ,

Sierra Straightforward

P.S. Consider reading Loving God with All Your Mind by Elizabeth George. While I wrote this article in my own words, I’ve taken the advice from her!

On Worry | Part 1

I washed my hands all the time. I fretted about everything. I cried easily. Anxiety plagued me. I lived in prison — a prison of my own making. My struggle with anxiety increased in my early teens. I feared stealing, lying, cheating, killing myself, and so many others things.

Today, I open part 1 of my journey through worry. I hope you’ll stay for all of it.

worry1

A life of constant worry lead to exhaustion. I felt stuck in a black hole, unsure of how to climb out. How could I go from chains to freedom? How could I break the cycle of questions and torments, especially when trapped so deep? Would it ever happen? Or would I always live like this?

These feelings tormented me.

As a young girl, this did so much damage. Such thoughts always lead to deep damage. Eventually, I voiced my twisted, dark thoughts, because I couldn’t cope alone anymore. It wasn’t hard for those close to me to know I struggled, but it was hard for me to verbally admit it.

But at last, I told my Mom the struggles I faced. I was tired of the endless darkness. My Mom gave me the first shreds of hope. She wrote Scripture on 3×5 cards for me to read over and over again. She also bought me Loving God with All Your Mind by Elizabeth George. This book pointed me to Scripture and showed practical ways to break out of my self-destructive thinking patterns.

However, it isn’t easy reaching this point. Admitting one’s struggles takes courage. It’s hard to share the dark thoughts inside us or to say, “I’m afraid I’m going to kill myself.” If I could travel back to my life as a young teen, I’d tell myself three things. Continue reading “On Worry | Part 1”

THANKFUL: I Am Now a Slave to Righteousness

Romans 6:16, 22

16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?…22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.

A few years ago, I had a drchainedhandseam. I dreamt I was a slave.

In the dream (set in the 1700—1800’s), the master was looking for me. I could sense that he was about to rape me. So, I ran down stairs! I had planned to escape once I got downstairs, but the “master” was right behind me. As I stood at the bottom of the stairs, I could see the front door, which was a screen door. Through the screen door, I saw nothing but pretty water, greenery, and sunshine.

But the door was locked. I couldn’t get free!

Then I turned around and saw the slave master standing behind me and I anticipated he was going to rape me so I screamed “Don’t!”

And I woke up. It terrified me.

Even recalling it now sends chills up my spine.

Looking back, that dream symbolized a lot of things going on with me at the time. Perhaps even now, many of you reading this may be able to relate. Why? You recognize 2 things:

  • At some point or another, all of us were slaves to a master of some kind; maybe several.
  • Whatever we submitted to, often became the domineering source in our life which made us…slave.

 

Something and perhaps someone, at some point was your master. You obeyed. You did what you were told. You responded a certain way. You behaved a certain way. You did things when you didn’t  want to (but yet something made you feel like you had to), yet you didn’t  know how to say no. You didn’t  know that  you could. Maybe you thought it was something you had to live with for the rest of your life.

For me  – my masters were my own foolishness, disobedience, giving in to deception and being enslaved by my passions and pleasures (Titus 3:3-7).

I didn’t say no. I thought I couldn’t  live without my masters.

As Titus goes on to describe, I lived in malice and envy – hating people. (Don’t know if I was hated though ☺)  However, when the kindness and love of my God and Savior appeared, he saved me. It wasn’t  because of righteous things I had done, but because of his mercy.

    • My foolishness resulted in purposely putting myself in dangerous situations where I didn’t know if I would be safe and secure.
    • My disobedience resulted in me purposely ignoring God to pursue my own agenda.
    • Me believing the lies of the enemy about my value resulted in me pursuing all sorts of relationships and activities while also compromising my worth.

I didn’t  reap any Godly benefits while a slave to my sin. Nothing I was doing was leading to holiness and eternal life. NOTHING.

My ungodly passions and pleasures kept me in bondage for years, yet I didn’t  want to let them go because I liked the way they made me feel. Those passions and pleasures made me temporarily forget that I had deeper issues (that I didn’t want to confront), yet I found myself after those passions and pleasures passed – still very empty and broken.

Years ago, when I had that dream about being a slave –  I had just rededicated my life to Christ and was baptized. I felt so free. My thought process was being adjusted and I could sense that I was spiritually maturing in a way that I had never known. I wanted people to begin to experience the feeling that I had just found—that joy.

But right after that dream, I shared it with a trustworthy person at the time. She had news for me.

She said that dream was the enemy’s way of telling me he wanted me and that I would never be free from the issues I had. I was to be his slave. He wanted me and planned to keep me by any means necessary.

That pretty greenery I was seeing through the screen door represented my life once I was no longer under his control. She then told me to war and to tell the devil that I had a new master – and his name was Jesus.

I did just that and haven’t looked back since. Why would I?  I found a love and He was too good!

He loved me for who I was…He was the one who made me and forgave me.

Beloved, as you reflect this week and even on this month, remember to be thankful for the Lord setting you free from whatever has you enslaved.

John 8:36 says it best:  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Forever in HIS freedom,
Katrina