December 9 – Anxiety – The Weight of Anxiety

Read Proverbs 12:25

Nearing the end of my college career at Ohio State, I had my first engineering position lined up and was extremely excited to be graduating and moving out of state for this new endeavor. Things had lined up really well with accepting a job offer at my 1st choice employer prior to graduation, making the last half of my senior year low stress. 

At least, so I thought, until the latter half events of my senior year started to unfold.

During 2003, the conflict and unrest with Afghanistan was increasing and the United States was beginning talks of intervening. The situation was one I monitored closely as I enlisted in the Ohio Air National Guard coming out of high school and served during my college career.  As my enlistment was scheduled to complete in March of 2003, the unrest in Afghanistan was high, making my near-term future very unclear.  Needless to say, there were many anxious days and nights, waiting to see if God would change my life direction towards serving in the Middle East or continue my intended civilian career path.

Today’s text summed up my emotional state quite well during this time:

“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up”.

All of us have had their fair share of anxious times during the last year, fighting through personal, family, work, and just stressful times in our country.  If you’ve had a chance to be encouraged by a friend via text or a phone call, you know what that can do to lift your spirits and ease those anxious thoughts.  Anxiety is our soul’s prompt that it’s time to pray and only Jesus can provide the ultimate relief to our uneasy situations. 

God guided my path in college and, as my enlistment ended, 3 days later the U.S. entered into Afghanistan. I had prepared my mind and heart for whatever His plan was but not without anxious thoughts of the unknown path.

Two quick takeaways for those anxious thoughts this week:

  1. Reach out to a friend and tell them about what’s causing anxious thoughts for you and seek prayer support, but also ask what is on their mind that you can pray for them. Never underestimate what praying for someone else can do to help change your perspective.
  2. Pray in the morning, evening – giving Him thanks for the good days and presenting your concerns in the midst of conflict.

Jesus is there to listen to our fears and anxious thoughts, give them all to Him today!

Drew Hilty

December 8 – Anxiety – Trusting God

Read Isaiah 26:3-4 and Proverbs 3:5-6

Peace.

The very thought of peace brings with its expectations of unhurried serenity. It is freedom from the pressures and anxieties of life. Peace is not necessarily the absence of howling winds of turmoil that might surround us. It is, however, the calm that is possible in the eye of the hurricane. Most all of us yearn to experience more peace. But real peace is not the result of changing our circumstances. Instead, it is the byproduct of changing our focus and attitude.

Isaiah describes it like this:

“You will keep in perfect peace
    those whose minds are steadfast,
    because they trust in you.

(Is. 26:3)

According to Isaiah, God is the source of peace. If we try to generate it by controlling our environment, we will work frantically and, ultimately, in vain. Although God can use the insights and counsel from others to calm our anxious thoughts and wandering hearts, He is the definitive source.

Isaiah also outlines a description of those who receive His peace. They are those who trust in Him. These are children of God confident in the care of a loving Father (1 Jn. 3:1), Who gives good gifts to His kids (Matt. 7:7-12). Those who receive peace recognize that even adversity gives way to the good that God is working in them (Rom. 8:28).

But the trust required here is a steadfast conviction. It is a relentless posture where the person’s thoughts continuously come to rest on the immoveable and reliable Rock eternal. He alone can sustain us. He alone can calm our fear and infuse peace in its place.

So, what is the rock on which your mind comes to rest? I am not proud of the fact that my mind regularly seems to settle on the most recent concern about the unknown and fears about the “what if…” I must discipline myself to focus on the promises, character, and goodness of my Heavenly Father. He alone is the Rock eternal whose peace can replace my anxiety.

What about you?

Steve Kern

December 7 – Anxiety – Birds and the Lillies

Read Matthew 6:25-34

As you look back over your life, can you identify moments where you thought your circumstances were much bigger than they actually turned out to be? Can you recall thinking that you were sinking when God, in turn, had no such plans to allow that to happen?

Several years ago, I was changing our 18-month old son’s diaper when I got a call from Kelly telling me that she had just lost her job.

“Uh, what?” I question as I fasten the straps of Mattie’s diaper and place him on the floor.

God has this habit of blessing me with peace in crazy moments. I encouraged Kelly and told her that we would talk when she got home. Once I hung up and sat down in Mattie’s rocker, the tears started to come. As Mattie is crawling around the room, I think to myself:

“How on earth are we going to make it?”

“The budget is already tight. Is this even possible?”

“How am I going to stay strong for Kelly and lead my family?”

Through the blurriness of my tears, I call my dad and tell him the news. Looking back, I guess I was reaching out for hope and the slightest hint of light that things would be okay.

Dad told me that God wasn’t surprised by this and would help us through this trial. He assured me that not only was God for them but they were too.

Simple but effective.

Our reading today provides such a perspective to our trials. When we really stop to think that God cares for and provides for animals and flowers…things that don’t further the Kingdom of Heaven in the slightest…it brings us hope.

“Are you not much more valuable than they?”

These aren’t Matthew’s words or any other disciple. These words are straight from the lips of Jesus.

Our reading tells us that if God cares for and provides for material things, how much more does He care for us?

When we are struggling with anxiety, it is very easy to think that our situation is unique. While it is unique for us individually, there are people all around us struggling. Some of the battles are known while many more are not.

In what way are you going to, first of all, live in God’s provision? What circumstances in your life to do you need to give over to God and allow His will to be done? Who do you know who is struggling that you need to show them this hope that we learned about today?

Several years have passed since I got that phone call from Kelly. I can confidently tell you that God took such good care of us. The best was yet in front of us and it still is today.

God is for you. He loves you. He will take care of you.

Jake Lawson

December 6 – Anxiety – Peace from God

Read John 14:27

I love this verse! Every time I read it I am flooded with peace. Let’s read it one more time, one sentence at a time.

Peace I leave with you”: His peace is already here. A gift already given.

My peace I give to you”: His promise to continue to supply us with peace.

I do not give to you as the world gives”: Who robs us of peace? The world does. Which is exactly why true peace cannot come from this world, not from anyone (or anything) in it. It must come from God.

Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” And if we can be strong enough to not just believe this verse but receive it, God is going to give us a peace to combat any circumstance or fear we face.

Do you feel peace right now? I do. It pours over me every time I dig into each line. It doesn’t change my circumstances but it does give me the strength to not allow my circumstances to change me.

There is so much fear, doubt, concern, anger and anxiety in our world right now and our Father’s choice of attack against this onslaught by the enemy is always the same: PEACE. But how do we test the voice we are listening to as we seek peace? Here’s a helpful comparison I once read:

God’s Voice: stills you, leads you, reassures you, enlightens you, encourages you, comforts you, calms you and convicts you.

The enemy’s voice: rushes you, pushes you, frightens you, confuses you, discourages you, worries you, obsesses you and condemns you.

“As for me and my house, we serve (listen to) the Lord”

Joshua 24:15.

What an easy way to serve the Lord!

The simple act of accepting His peace can change not just your life but it will become a calming beacon of hope to several lives around you. Take a moment and receive it. No matter how frustrated or fearful your circumstances are, the Holy Spirit is with you wherever you find yourself reading this.

Lord, let the reader feel you literally take the weight off of their shoulders. I speak healing and deliverance to their heart and mind. Calm their spirit. Deep breath. Receive His Peace.

Nate Torrence

December 5 – Anxiety – The Place for our Anxiety

Read 1 Peter 5:7

Over the last 12 years of my life and walking with the Lord, He has continually shown me that my safe place is at His feet. 

If you have ever read anything I’ve ever written, then you may already know that one of my favorite stories in the Word is 1 Samuel 1 and 2. 

The biggest reason I love reading Hannah’s story is because it is one of rawness and realness. It is one that shows just how safe it is to bring everything to the Lord, no matter the situation, circumstances or emotions involved.

Over the course of my life, I’ve learned that Jesus doesn’t just know about what I am going through but that He cares about them and me. I used to think that “taking my thoughts captive” meant I needed to suppress them and cast them aside. What Jesus wants is that we bring them to Him so that He can walk with us, hold us and show up during all that is going on. 

The root cause of my anxiety has always been the fact that I lack control. My thoughts and emotions run wild and I can’t think straight, but in circles and it seems as though I can’t calm anything down. In those moments, I don’t try to force myself to stop; I go to a quiet space, close my eyes, envision myself walking to the throne room and just sitting at the feet of Jesus. 

As I sit there, He, one by one, takes my cares and struggles and holds them for me. 

It’s in that moment that peace enters in and I’m able to see straight. I am able to determine what is real and what is not and I am able to surrender control. 

We have no way of knowing what Hannah said to the Lord in 1 Samuel 1, but what I can gather is that she was all over the place (to the point that Eli thought she was drunk) and she couldn’t seem to calm down. She had no control over her situation and had no way of fixing it so all she was able to do was go before the Lord and be raw and real with her circumstance and surrender it to Him. She literally had to give it over and walk away, believing and trusting that the Lord had her in the palm of His hands. 

The Lord blessed her beyond measure. 

How many times in your life do you experience anxiety and try to just stop it? How many times in your life do you lack control of a situation to the point where you aren’t sure what to do or where to go?

The answer for all of it is Jesus. Jesus changes everything. It is in Him we gain peace and joy and are able to move forward, knowing that He not only knows about the things in our lives, but He cares for them and us. 

What cares do you need to allow Him to take? I urge you and pray over you that you go before Him, laying down at His feet all that you are and all that you have.

You will find, He is always there!

Kelly Lawson

December 4 – Anxiety – Prayer

Read Philippians 4:6-7

The goal is peace.

The kind of peace that pervades every corner of the heart, every inch of the mind. When life gets dark and the road ahead is full of fog, that goal is easier said than pursued. 

Like when the phone blows up with family conflict. And discussions about who is to blame for the world’s violence dominate social media posts. Then there’s the violence right here in our own land. And don’t forget the just plain busyness that fall brings as the holidays approach, the kids’ sports seasons are in full force, and work is an endless pit of long to-do’s with not enough people to pull it off.

Still, the goal remains.

The peace of God to guard those corners of your entire being in every situation. The thought of it truly passes all understanding because anxiety is a very real part of this world. That’s why God used Paul to help us navigate the stress and anxiety. In these two verses, Paul tells us how to deal with it, how to present your requests to God. And He gives us three tangible instructions to help.

  • Pray about it. No matter what the situation, talk to God about it. Your son is struggling with his math homework? Pray about it. Your prognosis looms dark and unknown? Present it to God as you spend time with Him. Seek His heart. Find intimacy with Him as you talk with Him.
  • Petition God. Don’t just talk to Him about it. Ask Him for clarity. Ask Him for healing. Ask Him to act according to His will, to make His will yours. Just ask. 
  • Draw near with thanksgiving. Because His character is good and everything He does is perfect, approach Him with gratitude for what He is doing, even in this circumstance. Even if He chooses not to change it.

I’m not suggesting it’s as easy as 1-2-3. But when we take these steps and make the move toward God, truly letting Him be in charge, He works un-understandable peace somehow. And He will use that peace to protect us and keep us, even in the stormiest, darkest, foggiest circumstances.

Bria Wasson

December 2 – By Faith or By Sight – Look Ahead with Anticipation

Years ago, we traveled by van to Florida. The anticipation was electric for the boys. We were on Burbank Road pulling onto the Dix Expressway (1 mile from home), when our youngest at the time genuinely asked, “How long until we get there?” We laughed…“22 hours, buddy!” For Abraham and Sarah, while the anticipation was real, the journey was long. Hebrews says, “By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:9-10)

Abraham, his kids and grandkids were all waiting to possess what God promised. We hate to wait, don’t we? Waiting in line for our food or even for the end of the pandemic. Abraham and Sarah lived in tents as foreigners who didn’t belong. They couldn’t wait to get there, wherever “there” was. For Christ followers, this is a picture of our life today. You were designed for a different destination. And this life is a journey.

But you know what gets you through a season of waiting? Hope. The confident anticipation of what is on the other side. For our kids, it was Florida. For Abraham, it was a destination that will not disappoint. Abraham was longing for a location that would last forever – a real place called Heaven. One second after you breathe your last breath, you will spend forever somewhere. There aren’t countless destination options. One is separated from God in a real place called Hell and the other is connected with God in a real place called Heaven. Abraham had confidence looking ahead. Do you? Real faith is confident that, no matter what problems you experience, the destination you expect is for sure. Hope in heaven drives peace on earth. Hope sets our minds on things above and things that last forever. What you set your mind on is what you live for.

What do you live for? Too often, our focus is on what doesn’t last, so we become disappointed when it disappears. Abraham was looking ahead with anticipation to what would last forever. To follow God fully in a season of uncertainty, we have to focus on what lasts. Will you look ahead with anticipation and decide to live for what lasts?

Nick Cleveland

December 1 – By Faith or By Sight – Leave Your Past Behind

When Vicki and I moved here 18 years ago, we felt the uncertainty of not knowing anyone. Maybe you know that feeling of moving from the familiar to the unfamiliar. It’s precisely what Abraham and Sarah did, leaving friends, family, and ways of life when they responded to God’s call and moved. Hebrews 11:8 says, “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8)

Faith is more than just belief; it’s accompanied with action. To fully follow God, you must leave your past behind. We don’t always get a detailed description of what’s next. Faith is taking the first step when you don’t know exactly where the path leads. In Abraham’s case, that was Ur – his homeland. Ur was filled with idolatry- worship of created things and not the Creator. It was a place of selfishness. It represented security and comfort, but Abraham had to leave the past behind to fully follow God. And so do we.

We must leave behind our old way of thinking and living and journey toward a new way of thinking and living. Paul told the Corinthians that “if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation the old is gone and the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) God is inviting us to a new life and the journey begins by giving up our unbelief, selfishness, pride, sin and worship of anyone or anything other than God. Giving up our way of life for God’s way is the biggest obstacle to living by faith.

What do you need to leave behind? God’s way is the best way and He is calling you to leave behind your way and fully follow Him to a new destination.

Nick Cleveland

November 30 – By Faith or By Sight

Uncertainty.

We all face some level of uncertainty, don’t we? Life is filled with uncertain moments like…when you get that text from a boss or significant other that simply says, “We need to talk,” or the moment a test or exam is handed out in class and the only thing you’re certain of is your name. No doubt the phrase “uncertain times” has become a bit of a catch phrase to describe our current reality. No matter if times are certain or uncertain, there are only 2 ways to live life…one is by faith and the other is by sight.

Last year, I took my sons to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. We enjoyed our visit, but one experience stood out to us. It’s an exhibit called “A Game for Life” that features you sitting in a locker room, listening to virtual holograms of famous coaches like Vince Lombardi and players like Joe Namath. It’s a picture of what it’s like to live by faith in a world consumed by sight. When you live by faith, you can fully follow God even when life is uncertain.

In Hebrews 11, the author writes more about today’s central character than anyone else. While he lived thousands of years ago, I think you’ll be able to relate to some of his defining moments. His name is Abraham and he is considered the Father of Faith, because faith defined his defining moments. He faced many tests and they were turning points where he discovered that great opportunity is often hidden in the middle of great uncertainty. God makes a promise to him that is recorded in the opening of the Bible, “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’  So Abram went, as the Lord had told him…” (Genesis 12:1-4a)

Abraham’s response to God’s promise shows us 3 ways to fully follow God when times are uncertain:

Leave the past behind, look ahead with anticipation and live today trusting God.

Which one do you struggle with the most? We’ll take a look into each one of these in this week’s posts.

Nick Cleveland

November 29 – Following Jesus in a Jacked-Up Church – How to Find True Freedom

Read 1 Corinthians 8:1-13

“‘We all possess knowledge. But knowledge puffs up while love builds up.”

We don’t hear much about food sacrificed to idols these days. But it was certainly a thing for the church in Corinth. Heathens would offer meat as a sacrifice to the gods they worshiped. The fat of the meat was burned off on the altar, but the rest of it was either eaten by the idol worshiper or it was sold by the priest performing the sacrifice. So, it wasn’t uncommon for this meat to show up at a neighbor’s dinner party or even on the table of someone in the church. And, while some of them knew it was fine for eating, as idols are literally nothing in this world, others of them were scolded to abstain from such meat. 

Some of them knew that what they ate had zero effect on their relationship with God, and they lived in the freedom of that knowledge. Others, though, felt differently.

Their consciences wouldn’t allow them to eat so freely. 

So, when a grace-filled, knowledge-wielding Corinthian came across an opportunity to participate in something they knew might cause one of their spiritually weaker brothers or sisters to waver, Paul made it clear what they were to do.

Let love be the deciding factor.

Value their spiritual brothers and sisters more than themselves (Philippians 2:3).  Those living in lawful liberty were to base their decision on love, rather than on their knowledge. Because love builds up, but knowledge only puffs up. They were to build up their brothers and sisters instead of puffing up themselves.

Maybe you’re invited to hang out with a group of friends at the brewery after work and you know it’s just a place to spend time with your friends and that it will have no impact on your relationship with Jesus. But you’re also aware that one of those friends has recently given up drinking alcohol after deciding to trust Jesus alone with his whole life. He’s been convicted to live like this, and he is watching you as you follow Jesus. Let love be your guide. Value your friend’s growing faith over your own knowledge. Trust that God will use your loving consideration to build up and strengthen your friend’s new faith.

Let love be the guide as you follow Jesus through hard-to-discern choices. Don’t let what you know trump the love God is working in and through you.

Let Him use you to build others up!

Bria Wasson