Just over one year ago, I wrote a post which I now believe may have been a premonition. On one of the last days of 2015 I wrote No Fear Campaign, 2015 and I have thought back to that post as well as revisited it so many times throughout this past year.
I was fueled with courage at the beginning of the year, but I had no idea why I would need it. And then the bottom dropped out of my life and I REQUIRED that courage more than ever. I suffered so much loss this year, I made a huge transition, fought a difficult battle, saw several new doctors, visited the hospital, started physical therapy, home care, and have been exposing myself to many new faces, new experiences, and could never have imagined any of this just one year ago. It’s true that this year, I’ve been in constant crisis management. But it’s also true that I’ve been managing my own crisis. That might seem like a given, but illness doesn’t always allow us that luxury.
Last year, the messages to be courageous seemed to jump out everywhere: Have no fear, do not fear, I am with you, be not afraid. If God wants you to hear a message, you will see it constantly whether it is on Facebook or Twitter or television or out of your home or in your Bible- if you feel like there is something that keeps popping up in front of you repeatedly, that message is JUST FOR YOU! Truth finds you. You can try to ignore it, but if God wants a message in front of you, He will repeat it and confirm it. It’s not a coincidence. And I am so thankful I grasped the message to have courage when I did. It truly saved my life this year and courage continues to change how I move forward.
Things are so hard now, SO HARD. But I’m planning to beat fear once again, and go to my sister’s wedding… in 7 days. This is possibly one of the scariest things I have ever attempted. And yes, I am afraid. As it comes closer, all of those I CAN’T thoughts are terrifying at times.
These posters were made around the end of last year. Around the same time that I wrote No Fear Campaign, I wrote a few other, fearless-themed posts. In one piece, I said: “The strength comes for the step you need it, not days or months ahead.” That is what I am counting on for this wedding adventure. And it helps give me peace that God will strengthen me and my body to do what needs to be done when the time comes, for my sister, and for me.
Whatever trials wait for you tomorrow, and paralyze your heart with worry today, I hope you feel comforted remembering you can call on that added strength and courage at the moment you need it. You aren’t walking your path alone.
~Peace be with you~
“Freedom lies in being bold.”
― Robert Frost
Do you remember that old children’s Sunday school story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego? I hadn’t really thought about it much myself over the years, but the type of pain CRPS causes- brings up the idea of fire so often… these guys popped into my mind recently.
So, the story goes that King Nebuchadnezzar was way jealous of God and created a big sparkling golden statue. He was super proud of it and forced people to bow down to it. If not, he would chuck them into a pit of flames, historically called “the fiery furnace.” Every Sunday school kid learns that 3 guys go and stand up to the king. When they get thrown into the furnace, an angel appears and they aren’t harmed at all in the fire.
I was checking this story out in Daniel recently to see if there was something I might have missed when I was…ya know…five?
So, the king was forcing all of his top political officials to bow down and worship his big new statue. They were the typical “yes men” that we are used to today- politicians, eh? It was no big whoop for them to bow down, but some tattle tale told King Nebuchadnezzar there were 3 Jewish men working in Babylon… Snitch.
Do you think Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego heard about “Furnace-Gate” ahead of time and the 3 friends were discussing or even arguing how to handle it? I wonder if they prayed asking for strength or guidance. Maybe Meshach got cold feet and his friends had to give him a pep talk. Who knows…
What we do know is that they were dragged in front of the king while officers of the courts and politicians were all around to witness what the 3 Jewish clerks would do. Bow or burn? They didn’t JUST say “No.” These guys had major guts! They told the hotshot king that they wouldn’t even defend their reasons because having faith in their God was reason enough: “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
Boom goes the dynamite! Oh no you didn’t! And the king was so enraged, the furnace was turned up 7x hotter than normal. The flames were so intense, a few of the king’s servants were killed just opening the door! Imagine how scary that must have been to watch other men incinerated right in front of you… These 3 guys have so much faith that God can and WILL deliver them that they just double-dog-dared the wild king Nebuchadnezzar in front of all of his most loyal men to throw them into the pit of flames. As they were being tossed into the fire like lowly criminals, hands and feet bound, a room of satisfied eyes watching… do you think they wondered why God hadn’t delivered them already? As they felt the heat and flames blinding them, they might have thought, any time would be good, Lord!
They were thrown inside of the fire to die. The door was closed behind them. I can only imagine that there were smug celebrations from the peanut gallery. Colleagues, now toasting to their own survival by placating the king. Can’t you just hear the laughter from Nebuchadnezzar’s lips? He had won. He was stronger than the God he was so tired of competing against for attention.
But wait…the king looks inside of the furnace to find no suffering, no screaming, no pain, no death. “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” the king asked. “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”
That’s right, not only were they completely unharmed in the fire, they were hanging out with a messenger of Heaven! Right in front of the King and everyone to see. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were removed from the furnace, their clothing, skin and hair inspected for any sign of burns or injury by the king and the officials. The king was completely amazed. For the first time in his life, the king praised God. He was so impressed by the faith of the 3 men so willing to give up their own lives than serve any other false idol. And the king was so overwhelmed by the magnificent miracle he had just witnessed- it changed the hearts of so many in the land.
Imagine how much courage it took for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to hold to their guns. These guys were just every day men. They weren’t prepping for a day like this. They were yanked out of work. What an act of bravery and faith! They had to have been so petrified. Choosing between their lives, their families, unsure of what would happen after they are gone, and knowing they might be burned alive… but it was all worth it for what they believed in. Their faith and passion was so strong. They boldly waited on an unknown miracle to save them. They believed it. Yet, they were still willing to die for their faith. Willing to risk it all because their beliefs were too important.
I keep thinking of the moments going into the furnace; they must have been wondering when the miracle was coming. God could have intervened at any point in the day to spare the guys from such a terrifying and humiliating ordeal. But, God waited until Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were in front of a room filled with top level politicians and a king, AFTER they were thrown into a pit of fire… then an angel appeared. Because of the courageous choices of 3 men, God was able to use their lives to create a domino effect in all of the land.
Sometimes life feels like being thrown into a pit of fire. We start out with full faith, completely sure there is plan for us, but then, like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, the flames increase by 7 and we don’t understand where God is. It’s very scary- horrifying! The scripture doesn’t say whether or not they were frightened or worried. They were just people, so I’m thinking this was absolutely the scariest day of their lives! In the most difficult time of your own life, remember that God’s intervention and timing is perfect. You might be in the fire with the flames rising all around you, but He will be with you. At times, you might have people watching you, scoffing, but He can help you use your story to change lives and hearts. It might not be the life you planned for, but He has something even bigger in mind for you. Who knows, you might end up being a legend too!
Something I really soaked in this past year was that God is passionate about calming our fears. I grew up in church, and actually, many pastors do a great job of instilling more fear into people instead of inspiring courage. The opposite of what the Bible reiterates. This isn’t a tirade on the way some churches use fire and brimstone to scare their congregation into submission, however. I am not against the church as a whole.
I grew up afraid of a lot of things. I won’t tell you all of the things I worried about and feared as a child; those fears were not my church’s fault. As a teen, I had anxiety, panic attacks, and insomnia. No one realized it, but my mind was spinning with worries and fears all the time (not unlike so many teens). Now that my chronic illness is at the point where I’m no longer able to go to church, I have found reading scriptures on my own and journaling about them has been an excellent learning experience.
I’ve stumbled upon so many verses throughout this past year regarding fear. PS, the Bible has a lot to say about not being afraid and having courage. The biggest realization for me is that most of these verses are not only discussing fear, God actually COMMANDS us not to be afraid. That’s pretty major, don’t you think? I think so.
I was going to do an entry listing verses like this, but someone told me there are 365 “Fear Nots” for every day of the year. After researching, God tells us not to be afraid of life and then gives us a different reason for each one 103 different times. But fear is discussed over 500 times throughout the Scriptures! God really wanted to send a message, don’t you think? You might be wondering: if He did not want us to fear, then why create us to be such scaredy cats in the first place? Well, He didn’t. The Bible says that we were not created with a spirit of fear or “timidity” but of power, love and self-discipline. (2 Tim 1:7)
However, He also knew ahead of time that His children would live in an increasingly frightening world. We would have so many terrifying prospects to face every day, so many things to worry about in the future, and we would be petrified when going through risky, unfamiliar circumstances. We are reminded to have faith and not to be distracted by all of the anxieties that fill our minds with doubt.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deut. 31:6
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Josh 1:9
Three years ago my health and pain conditions got so much worse than I could have ever anticipated. I spent the first 7 years worrying about what the worst case scenario might be. I protected myself from so many things, hiding from potential threats to my “deteriorating” health- things that might make me worse which anxiety had cooked up in my mind. Yet I never could have foreseen what has happened to me; fear did not help me at all. And I’ve now been through worse than my fears ever prepared me for. Seriously, I’m SO over being afraid!
God keeps reminding us to be courageous, commanding us not to fear, and instilling a sense of His own strength in us. In the coming year, throw some caution to the wind! Take risks. Worry less. Go on more adventures. Say YES more! Give more. We have a God who promises to be with us always and an awesome afterlife waiting…
Several of my friends deal with anxiety, panic attacks, OCD, and are looking into the coming year with a feeling of doom brought on by fear bombarding their thoughts. So many I know are awaiting very scary test results that will determine all they will be dealing with in the coming year, and it feels impossible to shoulder. If you are living in a constant state of terror now that you have been diagnosed, or will be facing major surgery or multiple invasive procedures this year, I would like to leave you with a few verses to take with you which also are a comfort to me. He knew fear would be one of the most overwhelming and distracting emotions for us and wants us to live a good life, focused on things that can help ourselves and others grow, not live bogged down by stress and dread; otherwise, why would He have been on such an anti-fear campaign?
Have a Happy, Fearless New Year!
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
“Do not be afraid. I have set you free. I have called you by name. You are mine.” Isaiah 43:1
“For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13
“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:5-6
“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13
“Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” 1 Peter 3:13-14
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18
“When I am afraid, I will trust in you.” Psalm 56:3
“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.” Prov 31:25
(Trigger Warning: Addresses thoughts of death.)
Before a sprained ankle which turned into the chronic pain disease they call Complex Regional Pain Syndrome changed my life at 22 years old, I never knew anyone could feel that much pain. After the doctors told me that this would be PERMANENT, I thought, “I cannot go on like this.”
When I learned that the pain of CRPS can spread all over the entire body and into the organs, I said, “I refuse to live that way.”
Other survivors told me of their broken un-moving bodies from the damage and spreading of CRPS over time and I knew: I would never be able to endure it.
Even in all of my pain, I knew there was so much more to be had. If I was at my breaking point of what I could tolerate then, the future I was promised would never be one I could shoulder.
Fear and doubt spread into me like the pain biting into my body. The fire in my bones was a kindling waiting to ignite the rest of the forest. The pain living inside of me was a monster whispering promises of pain and ensuring me a future of horrors. I knew I could not live through it.
All of my nightmares came to visit me. More, in fact. The years I spent in fear of the pain to come could have never prepared me for the obliteration of my senses which would ensue in these recent years. I cannot say I am still standing, but to say I am still here and just to be coherently typing this is a tremendous miracle, celebration and gift. Yes, even in worse pain than ever before, and much worse than I could have ever imagined- it is still a gift.
The thing about pain is that most people see the other side of it. You go through the hard parts and crawl out on the other side feeling stronger. But what if the worst pain you ever felt was a only a promise of more terrible things to come? That is what some illnesses like RSD, CRPS, MS, ALS, Chiari Malformation, and Arthritis often are: degenerative, debilitating and extraordinarily painful.
I thought I saw into my future of pain, but I could never have foreseen exactly THIS.
This journey has been unique to me as now I realize everyone’s is. I so feared my future because I believed mine would look like someone else’s that I had read about online or was told of in a doctor’s office, but no one’s life is so simple. I have met more unimaginable monsters– but I have survived all of them when I once was sure I couldn’t bear my first few years of chronic pain. I used to live each moment in fear of the future and now that the future has come to pass, how can I continue living in fear? I have fought worse monsters than I was preparing to battle, and I am more grateful to be living now and less fearful than ever before.
Don’t expect the worst. But if your worst comes, don’t assume you know how you will weather it. The strength and resources come at the step you need them, not years or months ahead. Have faith. You are so much stronger than you know.
“Those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.”
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
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