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There is one woman who knows what it's like to live completely free from worry. The book of Genesis tells us Eve was made by God and in His image and likeness. Genesis 2:25 says, “The man and the woman were both naked, and were not ashamed.” I’m not sure about you, but just picturing my own premenopausal body (with battle stripes from bearing four large babies) stripped naked, “lounging” in a garden with my husband, sounds nothing short of a total nightmare. (The mental image is enough to give me hives.) 

But as scandalous as Eve’s naked escapades seem, there’s even more to her beautiful story that amazes me. The Holy Scriptures tell us that God Himself walked in the garden with Eve and her husband. Eve was literally rubbing shoulders with her Creator. In God’s presence, she was fully exposed yet unconditionally loved. When God created Eve, her primary job was not to wash dishes, or work hard at the gym to fit into her skinny jeans (naked people don’t need these by the way and neither do women who have birthed 9-pound babies), or keep a stellar Instagram hashtag. God designed Eve to walk in total intimacy with Him and with her husband. That was her primary purpose. 

Three things stand out to me about Eve in the beginning of her existence, before she was tempted to take her eyes off the God walking beside her. First, Eve was rested. Second, she was fully present with the people around her. And third, Eve was not trying to control or manipulate things that were in God’s charge. 

But what happened? Eve fell into a trap of doubting God, and it started with her mind believing one destructive thought. And because Eve chose to engage those toxic lies over embracing the truth, she took a giant step toward self-reliance and a giant leap away from fully trusting God.

Genesis 3:8 describes what happens next: “And they heard the sound of the Lord God WALKING IN THE GARDEN in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife HID THEMSELVES from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (emphasis added).

One fig leaf at a time, Eve started putting up heart defenses from the very God who wanted to walk in total intimacy with her. She began covering up pieces of her body and her heart. Eve fought to take control out of God’s hands. Enter the birthplace of worry. 

I’m curious, what worry are you hiding today? What is causing you anxiety? Give yourself permission to take a few quiet moments to say what is really on your heart. What is worrying you today?

That enemy that tempted Eve with the lie that God was holding out on her? He is out for you too. But God gives us what happened in Genesis 3 as game film. Father John Riccardo says the enemy runs the same play he used on Eve—over and over. Why? Because it works.  

The enemy tells us God is not for us. He whispers God is not trustworthy. That it’s not worth pursuing total intimacy with Him. The enemy wants us to turn to things other than a relationship with God to find our heart’s happiness. The evil one waits until we are weary; he distracts us from being fully present with the people He has invited us to love, and convinces us to become totally consumed with things we have zero control over before he pounces with the lies.

Our spiritual enemy wants us to feel trapped in a swirl of anxiety because his goal is to distract us from full intimacy with God. Just like he distracted Eve. 

This is how St. Ignatius described the way the enemy of our souls loves to derail people who are pursuing God: “It is proper to the evil spirit to bite, sadden, and place obstacles, disquieting with false reasons, so that a person may not go forward.”

The enemy wants us to live STUCK. But we have a choice. The enemy can whisper lies, but we get to decide if we believe them. He has no power over our minds. Because we know the truth. We know who we are. And no lie, no matter how cunning, can change our core identity. 

This is why, to battle the lies of the evil one, we need to daily center our hearts and minds on God’s Holy Word. Walking with Purpose Bible studies, like Grounded in Hope, remind us who we are and why our Creator made us: 

During those dark times when feelings of inadequacy rush in, when you wonder if you are unloveable, when you question your worth, remember this: 

You are the daughter of the star breather (Psalm 33:6)...
He calls you His “beautiful one” (Song of Songs 2:10)...
You have a fresh start, every morning, because of His limitless mercy (Lamentations 3:23-24). 

Straighten your crown, daughter of the King. Go forth in His power not your own. Rest in your true identity. You are the beloved.[1] 

Eve lived out what David declared in Psalms 91:2: “God alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.” Let’s become women who do the same.

—Jodi

[1] Lisa Brenninkmeyer, Grounded in Hope (Walking with Purpose, 2019 ), 211-212.

Read more from Jodi on her blog, The Irreplaceable Mother, which encourages women to serve first and best where they matter most.

 

 

This post originally appeared on our blog on March 1, 2015.

As I carried the overflowing laundry basket up the stairs, it occurred to me that its weight felt nothing like the heaviness that was sitting on my heart. I had been reading about world news this morning, and article after article brought me to prayer. ISIS, human trafficking, so much suffering…and it was just getting layered on top of the stories that were really the greater issue for me. These are the stories of the people I love who are in the midst of real trials and pain right now, in this very minute, and I feel helpless in the face of it all. The worry feels like it has wrapped itself around my mind and woven itself into the fabric of my heart. It’s a lead weight. It’s sapping me of strength.

Can you relate to what I’m talking about? Have you been waking up in the middle of the night with worry and then can’t get back to sleep? Is it following you around all day and becoming a filter that clouds everything?

How can we get out from under this thing? God has commanded us not to worry (“Do not be anxious about anything” Philippians 4:6), so it must be possible to bring our thoughts under His control. God never asks us to do something that He doesn’t equip us for. In 1 Corinthians 10:13, we’re told, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.” So we’re not alone in this struggle. St. Paul goes on to say, “And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” So that’s what we need to discover. What is the way out for us? What do we have to do to get to the escape door that frees us from the pit of worry?

Friends, I’m preaching to myself here. So lean in as this fellow worrier tries to remember the things that she’s been taught by people wiser than she. And then let’s pray for each other that we would apply these truths.

1. God calls us to live in the present moment.

When I am worrying, I’m projecting myself into the future and envisioning how things could turn out. The problem is, God is not there in my “fantasy worst-case scenario.” The majority of the things we worry about will never happen. The truth is, the present moment is rarely intolerable. What’s miserable is to have your body here, right now, but your mind dwelling in the future. This dichotomy is unsettling and robs us of peace.

If we can get it through our minds that all God is asking is for us to obey Him and love like Christ for these next five minutes, we realize that step by step, we can move forward. It reminds me of the proverb, “Worry is like a rocking chair—it gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” Which is really a description of being stuck. Far better to stay in the present moment and ask the Lord, “In this moment, are you asking me to act: to do something specific, or are you asking me to accept: to acknowledge that my current situation is beyond my control and therefore needing to be placed in Your hands?”

2. There is no divine grace provided for our worries.

God provides grace and strength for us to do what He asks us to do. He does not provide grace for worry. This means that when we are dwelling in the land of “what if’s,” we are envisioning an outcome without the miracle, without the inexplicable peace that passes understanding and without the divine strength that enables us to persevere beyond our normal limitations. God is faithful to step into reality and transforms bad circumstances into something beautiful. God does not step into the worries in our heads. When we focus on our worries, the best we’ve got is our own solution to the problem. And if we’re worrying, we’ve probably already realized that our own “best solution” is either out of our control or simply not good enough. As Linda Dillow wisely wrote in her book, Calm My Anxious Heart, “Worry doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” And we need all the strength we can get.

3. The only One who can handle the weight of these burdens is the same One who can fix it all.

Pass the burden over to God. If you have to do this 10 times in one minute, then do it 10 times in one minute. The human heart isn’t strong enough to carry it all. The weight gets to be too much, and the heart begins to despair. Each time we pass the burden over to God, we are making an act of faith. In doing so, our faith is being strengthened. God is faithful to honor your act of faith.

The solutions to our problems do not lie in our heads or in our hearts. God holds the solutions, and only He can see the whole picture. Only He can see the way in which the trial of today is a part of a grander story. If we could see the whole thing, we wouldn’t worry. So let’s pray for one another to trust God with the larger plan that He is utterly in control of—a plan that He promises is ultimately FOR OUR GOOD and FOR HIS GLORY. God is not limited by time or space. He is already in the future, taking all the threads of our lives and weaving them into a beautiful tapestry.

With love and prayers for you,

Lisa

My 77-year-old mother is a model of efficiency. When she has news to share with her three children, rarely will she make three phone calls. If you ask my mom, email is sufficient for most communications. She also seems to doubt that group texts actually work. But group email? That’s her game. And the most recent email she sent to my brother, sister, and me read exactly as follows:

“The doctor called. I have the virus. Quarantined for 14 days after symptoms go away. Mom.”

Unfortunately, this was not the first piece of news I had received informing me that COVID-19 hit close to home. Over the past couple of months, a steady stream of texts and phone calls has revealed to me that someone tested positive, someone else was hospitalized, someone else passed away, and so on. I live in the NYC suburbs, and I need two hands to count the number of close friends and family members who were seriously affected by this virus. 

However, the email from my mother was the first piece of news that kicked my anxiety into full swing. It was the first time in my life that I had to come to terms with the possibility of losing a parent.

At the same time, my high schooler was completely ignoring his remote learning, my husband was stressed out at work, and thoughts about Walking with Purpose had been keeping me awake at night. COVID-19 cancelled all the WWP spring events and impacted Bible study sales, and as the director of marketing, I’m constantly thinking about what I can do to support the ministry.

By late April it was clear to me that absolutely everything in my life was out of control. But friends, you will be relieved to know that I didn’t try to control it. If there’s one thing I learned from the Walking with Purpose Bible study Opening Your Heart, it's that God is in the driver’s seat.

But what to do about the constant anxiety? Yes, we can give up control and hand our struggles over to Christ, but I seem to have feelings of panic and worry that come on quite suddenly, triggered by stressful moments, no matter how much control I give up. When the Director of the CDC announced a week ago that a second and more difficult wave of COVID-19 was coming this fall, I uncorked a bottle of Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc faster than you can say quarantine.

Clearly, I needed better coping techniques.

In the Walking with Purpose Bible study Keeping in Balance, there’s a lesson that talks about anxiety as a barrier to contentment. It is such a helpful lesson that Walking with Purpose sent it out as a PDF to our email list last week (you can find that PDF here). In this lesson we are asked to reflect on 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, “Take every thought captive to obey Christ.” What I love about WWP Bible studies is how author Lisa Brenninkmeyer makes scripture passages easy for newbies like me to understand. Lisa says the way we take a thought captive is by “replacing the worry with a truth that builds [our] trust in God.”[1]

That right there? That is an action item I can turn to (in place of the wine).

Here’s the truth I came up with to build my trust in God: Christ is present in humanity’s compassion, and that compassion is so clearly EVERYWHERE these days!

COVID-19 has unified humanity into the most massive force of good that I think this planet has ever seen. Millions around the globe are doing whatever it takes to fight the virus. From philanthropists pledging billions to speed the development of a vaccine, to medical professionals risking their lives to save COVID-19 patients, and school children collecting canned goods for food pantries, people are overflowing with kindness, and I recognize God in them.

As I finish writing this blog post, I’m singing in my head, “...every little thing, is gonna be alright.”

PS: I’m sorry to keep you hanging about my mom. She battled the virus quite easily, actually, and pulled through quickly. Thank you for all of your prayers!

Love,

Jen

[1] Lisa Brenninkmeyer, Keeping in Balance (Walking with Purpose, July 2019), 151.

Walking with Purpose blogger bio

 

It's been said that worry is a misuse of the imagination. This resonates with me, probably because of my award-worthy ability to come up with worse-case scenarios and potential catastrophes.

The Wrestling, the second part of Fearless and Free, is all about getting a grip on your emotions and thought life. Writing it didn't come easy. There's no pontificating in those pages because I am 100% a work in progress. But I have found that God's words are life to those who find them, and they bring healing. I know this, beyond a doubt, from my own experience.

During a seemingly endless season when I walked alongside my child who was in a very dark place emotionally, fear had a grip on my heart and mind that was utterly paralyzing. No amount of praying got rid of it. It helped, but it didn't cause my mind to stop the endless loop of worry. I'd be praying, and all of a sudden I'd be worrying, and the next thing I knew I'd have wandered into a different room of my house without any idea why. There was no rest.

During this time, my dad bought me a little book called Praying Circles Around Your Children by Mark Batterson. In it, the story is told of a father who decided to pray every word of Scripture over his son's life. I committed to doing the same. I bought a new Bible, and began to read, underlining every verse with a promise to claim for my child. Then I wrote out a prayer claiming that promise in the margin. If there was an example to follow, I prayed for that. If there was an example of the opposite of what I wanted to see, I wrote down my prayer about that. Verse after verse, chapter after chapter, book after book, the Bible became filled with prayers for my child.

There is something incredibly powerful about praying God's words back to Him. We can be assured that we are praying within His will. A few months into this intense time of prayer, I saw the tide beginning to turn in my child's life. I do not believe this was a coincidence.

Something else happened at the same time. My heart calmed. The hours I spent reading Scripture were releasing heavenly power, divine weapons, to be at work in my child's life. But because Scripture is living and active, it was also doing a transforming work in my own heart. As I was saturating my mind with truth, the “what if” fears and lies swirling in my head began to grow quiet. The divine weapon of Scripture was more powerful than the fear and worry.

Another way we can wield the weapon of Scripture is by quoting it out loud. The enemy can hear us. When we speak out self-defeating thoughts and worries, he hears them. He stores them away for later use. He uses them against us later, and they ring true to us on some level because they were our thoughts and words to begin with.

So instead of speaking defeat, fear and worry, we can choose to speak truth. I call this the “I Declares.” I wrote them for various sources of struggle- fear of the future, pain from the past, suffering, and marriage. You'll find them within the pages of Fearless and Free, but I'd like to share the “I Declares” I speak the most often- the ones I battle with for the hearts of my children.

I declare that you who began a good work in my child will bring it to completion. (Phil. 1:6)

I declare that you can reach down from on high and take hold of my child, drawing him out of deep waters. (2 Samuel 22:17)

I declare that my work as a mother will be rewarded and that my child will come back from the land of the enemy. (Jer. 31:16)

I declare that there is hope in my future and in my child's future, and that my child will come back to her own border. (Jer. 31:17)

I declare that all your promises are YES in Jesus, and that not one word of your promises has ever failed. (2 Cor. 1:20 and 1 Kings 8:56)

I declare that you are able to accomplish abundantly more than all I could ask or imagine.(Eph. 3:20)

If you want to mature as a Christian, if you are tired of being tossed by waves and swept along by lies and worries, then grab hold of your Bible. Anchor yourself with the truths found in its pages. Go to it with the passion of a lover who longs to hear the voice of her Beloved. I promise you; the One who is called Faithful and True will meet you there, and He will never disappoint.

Blessings,

Lisa

As I carried the overflowing laundry basket up the stairs, it occurred to me that its weight felt nothing like the heaviness that was sitting on my heart. I had been reading about world news this morning, and article after article brought me to prayer. ISIS, human trafficking, so much suffering…and it was just getting layered on top of the stories that were really the greater issue for me. These are the stories of the people I love who are in the midst of real trials and pain right now, in this very minute, and I feel helpless in the face of it all. The worry feels like it has wrapped itself around my mind and woven itself into the fabric of my heart. It's a lead weight. It's sapping me of strength.

Can you relate to what I'm talking about? Have you been waking up in the middle of the night with worry and then can't get back to sleep? Is it following you around all day and becoming a filter that clouds everything?

How can we get out from under this thing? God has commanded us not to worry (“Do not be anxious about anything” Philippians 4:6), so it must be possible to bring our thoughts under His control. God never asks us to do something that He doesn't equip us for. In 1 Corinthians 10:13, we're told, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.” So we're not alone in this struggle. St. Paul goes on to say, “And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” So that's what we need to discover. What is the way out for us? What do we have to do to get to the escape door that frees us from the pit of worry?

St. Paul says, “And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

Friends, I'm preaching to myself here. So lean in as this fellow worrier tries to remember the things that she's been taught by people wiser than her. And then let's pray for each other that we would apply these truths.

1. God calls us to live in the present moment.

When I am worrying, I'm projecting myself into the future and envisioning how things could turn out. The problem is, God is not there in my “fantasy worst-case scenario.” The majority of the things we worry about will never happen. The truth is, the present moment is rarely intolerable. What's miserable is to have your body here, right now, but your mind dwelling in the future. This dichotomy is unsettling and robs us of peace.

If we can get it through our minds that all God is asking is for us to obey Him and love like Christ for these next five minutes, we realize that step by step, we can move forward. It reminds me of the proverb, “Worry is like a rocking chair-it give you something to do but it doesn't get you anywhere.” Which is really a description of being stuck. Far better to stay in the present moment and ask the Lord, “In this moment, are you asking me to act: to do something specific, or are you asking me to accept: to acknowledge that my current situation is beyond my control and therefore needing to be placed in Your hands?”

2. There is no divine grace provided for our worries.

God provides grace and strength for us to do what He asks us to do. He does not provide grace for worry. This means that when we are dwelling in the land of “what if's,” we are envisioning an outcome without the miracle, without the inexplicable peace that passes understanding and without the divine strength that enables us to persevere beyond our normal limitations. God is faithful to step into reality and transforms bad circumstances into something beautiful. God does not step into the worries in our heads. When we focus on our worries, the best we've got is our own solution to the problem. And if we're worrying, we've probably already realized that our own “best solution” is either out of our control or simply not good enough. As Linda Dillow wisely wrote in her book, Calm my Anxious Heart, “Worry doesn't empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” And we need all the strength we can get.

3. The only One who can handle the weight of these burdens is the same One who can fix it all.

Pass the burden over to God. If you have to do this ten times in one minute, then do it ten times in one minute. The human heart isn't strong enough to carry it all. The weight gets to be too much, and the heart begins to despair. Each time we pass the burden over to God, we are making an act of faith. In doing so, our faith is being strengthened. God is faithful to honor your act of faith.

The solutions to our problems do not lie in our heads or in our hearts. God holds the solutions, and only He can see the whole picture. Only He can see the way in which the trial of today is a part of a grander story. If we could see the whole thing, we wouldn't worry. So let's pray for one another to trust God with the larger plan that He is utterly in control of-a plan that He promises is ultimately FOR OUR GOOD and FOR HIS GLORY. God is not limited by time or space. He is already in the future, taking all the threads of our lives and weaving them into a beautiful tapestry.

With love and prayers for you,

Lisa

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