Over these last few weeks, we've been noticing how a completely fearless life is quite unattainable this side of heaven.
Scripture calls the enemy the father of lies.
When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. - John 8:44
One of his favorite tactics is fear and he's gonna keep using it.
So this side of heaven, fear will be something we all face. While we may not live fearless lives, we can fear less.
I so hope you've been as encouraged as I have with these stories of learning how to fear less with the power of Scripture and worship. This week, I'm honored to introduce you to another friend of mine as we dive deeper and see how the attitude of our hearts can help us fear less.
Kaitlin Garrison's heart beats to see others living in intimacy with the Father and in partnership with Christ and His Spirit. She is learning how to live a life of “let go”– saying goodbye to a life of striving and YES to the freedom that the true Gospel offers us through Christ.
Her first book will be released August of 2022 (yes, let's all cheer wildly with her!), so go ahead and give her a follow! You're gonna want to read her book and those to come, I promise you that!
“I have got to pull myself together,” I mumbled through a quivering voice and burning hot tears.
This particular fall morning, I had two minutes before 18 rowdy second graders came bursting through the doors of my newly decorated classroom before I had to put my game face on. The stress, the unknowns, the feelings of drowning in inadequacy had all become way too much for this first-time teacher. Each morning as I walked into this new classroom, it seemed like I was walking into a battlefield facing the giant of anxiety, who stood ready to pounce and take me out. Again.
I tried all the things they say to do when you’re caught up in a spiral of anxiety: exercise, eat right, spend each morning reading the Bible, pray, talk through my fears, etc. Yet, each morning, the same unwanted guest plagued my mind and my heart, clouding every good thing in my life.
Maybe you're nodding your head as you read these words because, you too, have experienced a season where you've felt:
swallowed up by anxious thoughts
paralyzed by feelings of inadequacy
convinced that you had to follow every command given by the voice of fear
How do we fight back when fear wages war within us? What weapon do we wield when the world is spinning, when our thoughts spiral and everything feels out of control? Right in the middle of one of the most popular verses about dealing with fear, we find an unlikely antidote that hushes anxiety and makes fear bow to its knees.
An Overlooked Preposition
During this fear-ridden season, I had verses like Philippians 4:6-7 plastered all over my closet wall. This verse 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)
I remember pleading with God to give me this “peace that passes all understanding” that Paul talks about in this verse. Even though I’d seen and read this passage a million times, one particular morning, I realized I had been glancing over a very important prepositional phrase: with thanksgiving. This overlooked phrase would make all the difference in how I fought fear.
I had the prayer and supplication down, no problem.
Without question, I was certainly bringing my requests to God to just make this all GO AWAY.
Thankfulness was nowhere in my prayers. There were zero ounces of gratitude leaving my lips because all I could see were holes - my world peppered with the things that I lacked.
I lacked experience. I lacked confidence.
I lacked boldness.
I lacked peace. I lacked time.
I felt lacking in every area of my life.
What I didn’t know was that the practice of thankfulness actually changes the way we see. It changes our minds and corrects our sight to see God’s provision in our day-to-day lives. But when our eyes are laser-focused on what we lack, we can’t see what we’ve already been given in Christ.
However, when we thank God, we no longer see our world full of holes with the things we lack. Instead, we are reminded of the goodness of God. When we call to mind the places we see him working and give thanks for what He’s done, we become more aware of the fingerprints of God in every situation. As we make a practice of thanking Him, our hearts grow more and more convinced that God is greater than every fear, inadequacy, or anxious thought. The peace that passes all understanding floods our heart as we call to mind who is taking care of us and who is providing for us.
Thanksgiving is perhaps the most powerful weapon we can wield when anxiety wreaks havoc.
When fear barks threats, we can fight back with thankfulness.
Habits that Heal
During this season of anxiousness, I picked up One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp where she documents her thankfulness journey. Every day, she carried around a journal and wrote down every single thing she was grateful for - every gift she received from God that day: brisk morning air, colorful sud bubbles in the kitchen sink, His provision in the tiniest things. She kept track. So I started keeping track, too.
I was amazed at how this simple practice of physically writing down the provisions of God put my mind in a different place. As soon as I walked into my classroom each morning, I ran straight to my little blue journal on my desk and wrote down things I was thankful for. I could breathe again. I could see clearly again. Fear became less of a threat as I remembered who was on my side.
As it turns out, thankfulness isn’t just a thing to do in November, but it is a habit that actually heals our hearts. If anxiousness is driven by dwelling on our deficits and the possibilities of depletion, giving gratitude for the ways God has filled our lives is the perfect antidote.
What would it look like to make thankfulness a daily habit in your day? Perhaps it could look like:
Keeping a small notebook and writing down the gifts you see each day
Making a file on your phone where you document God’s provision in your day
Designating your 15-minute drive to work to thanking God out loud
Plastering your closet with sticky notes, documenting all the ways God has come through for you
Be creative! Think about what outlets would be most beneficial to you. Making a practice of thankfulness will look different for all of us, but here’s what I know to be true:
Thankfulness puts our eyes back in their rightful place - staring at the goodness of God, dwelling on His faithfulness, concentrating on His character. When we are looking at him, fear doesn’t seem so loud anymore. Threatening thoughts can’t get a foothold. As one of my favorite songs “Peace” by Hillsong says, “All anxiety bows in the presence of Jesus the keeper of peace.”
This peace is available to you and me today, right here - right now. May thankfulness be the door that leads us to fix our eyes on the King who stands ready and willing to flood our hearts with peace that passes all understanding.
As Kaitlin has so powerfully reminded us, gratitude is not a nicety but a necessity. If we're going to live as overcomers, we must be intentional and actively seek gratitude. We must lead our hearts to thankfulness to overcome the tactics of the enemy that threaten to kill our joy, steal our peace and destroy our purpose.
Let's find strength in His word to bring our prayer requests with thanksgiving. Let's find joy in the power of His Spirit dwelling within us and peace as His presence floods our hearts and minds with the love of Christ. May we find freedom and rest as we fear less when we reframe our anxieties in the power of the cross.
The good life, well it starts with a good day. Then another. Then another. Let's choose to live #TheGoodDay one day at a time.
I love hearing from you, so go ahead. Leave a comment. Be brave. Maybe your comment will speak life into someone else!
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