Fighting the Fear of Living a Life You Didn’t Expect

I am so grateful to have my friend, Mary O’Brien, share with you today. Mary will forever be one of my saving graces because when I first met her, she came to my rescue!

I was at the National Religious Broadcaster Conference trying to carry 6 foot banners and a box of things for my boss’s book table. Suddenly a woman comes right by me, pulls on my dress and nicely said, “I’m sorry your dress was riding up, and your hands were full.”

How can you not become friends after that! I met up with Mary again at a conference her church where my boss was speaking. Mary is someone after being around her, it makes you want to live better. It truly is an honor to have her as a guest blogger today. I know you will enjoy what she has to share!

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I grew up in a loving yet dysfunctional home. As I have aged – I realize that my younger years were wrought with fear of outcomes I could not control. If I could control a situation, then it hurt less or caused less stress. But that simply was not often possible in my home.

Faith was ever present, but it was not until college that I came to have a personal relationship with Christ. I came to know that God wasn’t a far off God, but a God who loved ME and was intimately involved in my life. He used a very traumatic incident in my 20’s to break me free of my false sense of control and fear of “what ifs”.

I was a single 27 woman when out of the blue I was diagnosed with bacterial endocarditis (an infection in the lining of the heart) and hospitalized. A few days later I was told I would need open heart surgery to repair the damage. I was in shock. I had gone from a normal, healthy young woman to being told I would have congestive heart failure within the next year if I didn’t have this surgery. Within a few days came another blow:

“Did we mention that depending on the outcome of the surgery you may not be able to have children?”

Um no, no one had mentioned this.

My mind was racing. Who would want to marry me if on the first date I had to tell them: Oh! By the way, I cannot have children and I have a foot-long scar down my chest.

I went into control mode. How can I be sure to manage the options so that is not the outcome (there were a few extreme options available to me that might have prevented this possible outcome).

As a believer who had just begun studying the Word seriously for a few years, I knew enough to know I needed to run to God and His promises. But this was so hard (I was still learning about God’s sovereignty and His goodness).

I thought maybe I could handle this better. There were several Scripture passages that really ministered to me at this time…

Psalm 27:1

The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?

The LORD is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 139:16

Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Hebrews 13:8

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

As I explored my options, the Lord confirmed to me that what I needed to do was let go and trust Him. Trust that whatever the outcome of the surgery was – He was good and faithful, and nothing was outside of His plans for me.

I recall kneeling by my bed a few nights before surgery and through tears just telling Him that I was giving this to Him. I was trusting Him. I knew that He loved me deeply and no matter what happened, He would see me through it and had a plan.

I woke up to good news- the valve had been repaired perfectly and there was no need for the strong medications that may have altered my health and ability to have children. I was so comforted in many ways by this. And, in my limited vision, I saw this as His promise for what life would hold for me.

However, years later, at around 39, I was in a place of striving against where the Lord had me as a single woman with no children. I just didn’t understand His plans or why my life didn’t look like I thought it was going to. In a place of fear – what if what I always thought my life would be doesn’t happen – I recall saying to the Lord that I felt a little bit tricked by Him. Why did you do that with my surgery only to NOT give me children. And in such a loving way I recall Him revealing to me that what He did was for my good, for my best. He took the best care of me with an outcome that allowed me to have a perfectly healthy life with no further concerns or issues. He never said it was about kids and marriage, but I had wanted it to be about that. He was simply taking the best care of me as a loving Father and blessing me with that outcome.

Around 42, he did a big work in me. He released me from the striving, and frankly the shame I had of being an older single woman whose life didn’t look most everyone else’s. I began to see His sovereignty and faithfulness in a new way.

Fear is natural, but the more we recognize the character of God the more we rest in knowing we have nothing to fear. He gave His Son for us. He knows every hair on our head. He knows the ugliest parts of us and loves us, graciously working to refine us and call us out of shallow waters into deep ones with Him. I love that I can look back on these times in my life when I start to get anxious about a situation and recount His goodness and that I have nothing to fear when He is in control.

Who Is Writing Your Story?

I sat in church yesterday as the pastor stood up and gave an invitation.  He said, “When will your story become His?” That struck me. To me that sounded like an invitation for everyone.

Isn’t making His story our story an ongoing process?

I know I wrestle with how God writes stories. I have and do wrestle with how He’s been writing mine.

I can get stuck on asking “why?”. Why is this chapter of my life so difficult? Why can’t there be an end to this? Why has this or that not happened? I sometimes wonder if I am doing something wrong.

About a week ago, I saw a video by Michelle Qureshi. If you don’t know, she is the widow of Nabeel Qureshi, a well-known author, and apologist. He passed away last month at age 34 from stomach cancer. Together, they have a 2-year-old daughter. In the video, Michelle said, “I wrestle with why God chose this, but then I’m reminded that I probably still wouldn’t understand all this because I have a finite mind”.

Today I came across John 16:12. Jesus is telling his disciples about him leaving and how the Holy Spirit will come. But the disciples still don’t quite understand. Verse 12 says, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear”

Michelle was right. Oftentimes God’s story doesn’t make sense and we cannot bear it all at once. Because God created us, He knows how much we can handle.

Let’s be honest: God’s story often requires us to walk on difficult roads.

If we are called to walk as Jesus walked (1st John 2:6) our story will be hard. I’ve been reading the Insanity of Obedience by Nik Ripken and he frequently quotes Matthew 10:16, “”I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

“Sheep among wolves?? That sounds like a losing battle to me.

Jesus is described as the Lamb of God in John 1:29. Jesus is described in other names, but when it comes to being a sheep, He set the example for us. When tribulations come, when suffering comes, I can look to the Lamb of God who blazed the trail before me. This life is not easy and there will be trouble. There will be heartache. We will be sheep among wolves. Sometimes, part of me wants to be like Jesus, you could just take me out of here whenever (sooner often sounds better than later), but in John 17:12 Jesus prays this, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.”

There is a purpose for all this- even if you or I cannot see it right now.

In my search about the Lamb of God, I remembered in Revelation 12:11 it says, “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.”

It doesn’t say, “And they (believers) overcame him (Satan) by the blood of Lion of Judah, or the blood of the King of Kings, or the blood of the Lord of Lords”. No, it says, “by the blood of the Lamb”

Jesus was gentle and kind in the midst of suffering. He, as the Lamb of God, set a precedent for us sheep to follow. His story looks like he lost. His story looks like life and people got the best of him. It looked like Satan won, but he didn’t.

Revelation 17:14 says, “These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.”

It’s by the blood of the Lamb that we overcome.

This side of eternity, our stories may look like we’ve lost. But in Romans 8:18 it says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” There’s a better story coming, that we cannot even compare to our story now.

So, as a human, I will wrestle. Yet, my prayer is for God to write His story for my life. As challenging as it might be it will be worth it. It will be a story of overcoming. Everyone loves the underdog story. Everyone loves a comeback story, and being a sheep among wolves would definitely fit into that category.

If we’re going to let God write our story, we’ve got to surrender the pen.

 

Song of the Week: Write Your Story, by Francesca Battistelli