Some Things to Help in Your Fight for Joy

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The other night, a friend called. She struggles a great deal with fear, anxiety and depression. So, she called to talk. To ask questions. To hash things out. To be prayed for.

The thing is, she called me at one of my lowest points. The last few days had been hard for me, too. I’d been bombarded by the same sort of struggles and emotions and I was fighting for my own joy. I let her know right from the get-go that I wasn’t sure how encouraging I’d be. It occurred to me, though, that she wasn’t calling to hear a 10 point lecture on how to overcome fear and conquer anxiety. She was just needing to walk through this with another human being who could understand her and help her in her own battle. Mostly, she needed to know that she wasn’t alone.

So, I stepped out the back door and paced up and down barefoot in the yard as she asked questions. Good questions. Prayerfully, I gave answers. The best I had. And there at the end, we prayed for each other. Because that’s what Jesus-following friends and sisters do for each other. We share what’s really there on our hearts and then we go knocking on heaven’s door and ask God for the things He intends for us to have through relationship with Him. Things like peace of mind and courage.

I wanted to share little pieces of our conversation here with you, in case it could help. I’ve set it up sort of like a question and answer time. Of course, since then, I’m done more reflecting and more praying, so I’ve elaborated here on my thoughts. But, my prayer right here and now is that Jesus would encourage you and strengthen you in your fight for joy.

So, Maggie, what does it look like when you’re struggling? You know, like with fear and depressing thoughts?

Well, I go through these little seasons when fear and anxiety have crept in and I feel a fair amount of turmoil on my insides. Maybe I’ve read too much of the news, or watched a film that got me to thinking about the end of the world (why are all the movies about that these days?) or maybe I’ve experienced some personal set-backs and I just start to feel seriously afraid. Like, all the world will come crashing at any moment. I lose my peace. And I get restless.

Do you ever just have a thought that sends you reeling for days?

Oh, yeah. So, my mind is where the battleground is. I’ve learned from Jesus that I can’t believe everything I think. And not all my thoughts are helpful or even true. What Jesus teaches me to do is, instead of listening to my thoughts, I actually have to direct them. (2 Corinthians 10:5) It requires a good
amount of effort, too. If I do nothing at all, well, that’s when I sink.

So, when I have a discouraging or despairing thought, I take it to Jesus. I march it right up to Him and I have this little chat with myself there in the presence of Jesus that goes something like this:

“Is this thought true? Or lovely? Or good? Or noble? Is it just or pure?” Jesus gives me a list of things to measure my thoughts by in Philippians 4:8, and He encourages me to think on those kinds of things.

Now, if the thought doesn’t measure up to that good and healthy standard, then I kick it out. And I replace it with something that is lovely and good. The glorious thing is that we all get to choose what we dwell on. So practically speaking, I thank God for something or a whole string of things and I pray about the thing that’s bugging me.

Do you ever get so anxious that you don’t want to eat?

Um, no. I always want to eat. I really like food. And I’m pretty much always hungry. I’m sorry I’m not relating with you on this one. Ha!

Does it feel hard a lot?

So, since you’re asking this right now, while I’m in the middle of my struggle I’m prone to say, yeah, it’s stinkin’ hard all the time. But, that’s my feelings talkin’ and they’re always tricking me.

A lot of times, for me, I just need to go eat a sandwich.  And then the world is not so grim. But, often, it’s way more complicated than that. The thing is, Jesus said that He came to give us life. Not just a coping sort of existence. But, abundant, full-flourishing life. (John 10:10) So, there’s a certain quality of life available to us broken human beings, through relationship with Him. It’s worth the effort.

Has anything helped you through the hard part of this struggle?

Yes– on my journey toward joy and peace, I’ve found a few things that help pretty significantly:

1. Praising God.

I know, it sounds cliché, but there is something about being completely enraptured by a Being all full of light and love that helps me forget about my troubles. God is not egotistical. Praising Him is something that’s good for us. It’s like medicine for our souls.

2. Private prayer.

A lot of times that just looks like yelling for help. “Lord, help!” There’s nothing unspiritual about little bitty desperate prayers. And Jesus is very happy about the faith in us that it takes just to look up and ask for something that we don’t have.

3. Prayer with others.

So, about six or seven years ago, I started meeting with two other friends once a week. We pray for ourselves, our family, our neighbors and the needs of the world. When I hear the earnest, faith-filled prayers of my friends for me, I’m strengthened. Their prayers have assuaged my fears like no other.

4. Meditative reading of Scripture.

God gives us this mother-load of comfort in His Word. We just have to crack it open and spend time with Him. There are some days when I just have to get a pen and paper and write out certain Scriptures over and over, until they get under my skin and deep into my bones.

When His Word becomes an actual part of me, I can believe it better. And trust God more.

5. Rebuking the spirit of fear.

God says that He didn’t give us a spirit of fear. But He gave us a spirit of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7) And the Scriptures paint a pretty vivid picture of the cosmic battle going on in the places that we can’t see. We have a real enemy, and those spiritual forces of darkness are gung-ho about stealing our joy, killing our peace and destroying the abundant life that Jesus intends for us. So, in our fight for joy, we have to do battle.

We have to rebuke the enemy away and the good news is that the One inside of us is far greater than the darkness that seeks to torment us in this world. Our Maker doesn’t leave us weak and defenseless in the face of our spiritual enemies. There’s some mighty awesome power in the name of Jesus.

6. Reaching out to someone else.

When I’ve been struggling with fear and anxiety for a few days, and that starts to turn into depression, I realize pretty quick that I need to turn outward instead of inward. Turning inward gets me nowhere but lonely and defeated. But, reaching out to someone else actually helps me forget about myself and see that other folks have needs that I can actually meet. I can meet their need for conversation or prayer or just help them with something practical. And that allows some joy to seep back in.

7. Getting some counseling/therapy.

I don’t know why we associate counseling with shame. There’s no shame whatsoever in tending to your heart and soul. It’s the one thing we’ve got that’s gonna last forever. Out of our heart, flows everything else that we deal with in life. I’ve been through plenty of counseling. I still have a counselor I call when I’m stuck. We all need each other.

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Do you feel like you’ll always struggle with these things?

You know, I actually have lot of hope in God for change. I’ve seen Him change me over the years and I’ve witnessed His work of redemption in others. He’s in the process of making all things new. (Revelation 21:5) Jesus doesn’t want us to despair about ourselves. Even though our outsides are getting older and slowly wearing out, our insides are being renewed day by day. (2 Corinthians 4:16)

As I walk here with Jesus, I’m not the same person as I was even yesterday. (Someone shout hallelujah!)

“The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, which shines ever brighter until the full light of day.” (Proverbs 4:18) That’s some good news right there for the follower of Jesus. We’re always growing. Always learning. Always becoming new again. We can breathe deep and rest in God’s good grace at work in this heart of ours.

Joy is a Person. Peace is a Person. He’s a safe place for turmoil-tattered hearts. He’s the One that makes our spirits brave and strong. And He’s standing right close by. (Psalm 46:1)

9 Comments

  1. by Melissa on July 15, 2015  5:31 pm Reply

    This was so great, thanks Maggie! I have struggled with fear and anxiety since I was a little girl. Now as a wife and Mama it is even worse at times since my fears and worries also involve my sweet ones and what could happen to them. I am learning and trying to turn to Him immediately when those dark thoughts creep in, or when I read a news article I shouldn't have. It can be SO overwhelming at times but I'm so thankful to have a Heavenly Father who understands and comforts us in a way no one else can. He is so so good ❤️ Thanks for sharing your heart and encouraging words!

    • by Maggie on July 17, 2015  7:59 am Reply

      Hi Melissa!

      So, I don't know if you've ever been able to find someone to pray with you or go through counseling over all those fears and all the troubling crud you've gone through in your life. But, my prayer for you this morning, is that the Lord will provide someone to work with you through those heart things. Keep leaning into Jesus. You're doing great! Thank you for sharing that Scripture verse from Deuteronomy with me. I love that one, too. Bless you, dear Melissa.

  2. by Melissa on July 15, 2015  5:34 pm Reply

    Forgot to share: just read this verse this morning and was so encouraged by it-- "Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you." Deuteronomy 31:6 Thank goodness we're not alone!

  3. by Patty on July 16, 2015  2:08 am Reply

    Don’t look for someone who will solve all your problems; look for someone who will face them with you. http://www.marcandangel.com/2012/06/08/60-quotes-change-the-way-you-think/

    • by Maggie on July 17, 2015  7:55 am Reply

      That's good. I like that. Thank you.

  4. by Trina on July 17, 2015  6:35 am Reply

    Hi Maggie, I am the mom of 3 grown children and 3 grandchildren. You post was so timely for me as I woke up from a dream that my oldest son died. That something would happen and I would lose one of my children has always been a fear for me and when I dream about it, my spirit feels crushed. And now a grandmother of 3 precious children, I look around the world and it feels doom and gloom. I am forever battling this along with my own negativity. I am going to go now and reflect on some of these scriptures you just posted. Thank you.

    • by Maggie on July 17, 2015  7:55 am Reply

      Hey dear Trina,

      Yes, I know all about that fear too. (I'm so sorry about those bad dreams.) Prayed for you this morning. May the Lord comfort you, especially as you take His Words in. May He fill you up with His peace and His Presence and rebuke all the fears away and help you to trust Him.

  5. by Julie Musil on August 3, 2015  9:43 pm Reply

    Oh, Maggie, I love your blog as much as I love your book! Thanks for sharing this encouraging message with us. Sometimes I feel like I'm the only crazy person out there who isn't in complete control of my life. It's nice to know I'm definitely not alone. My mind is definitely a battlefield, and I now strive to direct my thoughts in the right direction. Today I ordered Joyce Meyers' "Battlefield of the Mind." I'm sure it'll be helpful!

    • by Maggie on August 6, 2015  2:37 pm Reply

      Dear sweet Julie, you're so not alone. : ) I'm glad you got that book. I've heard good things about it. May the Lord bless you and keep you close to His heart. And may Jesus be your solace.

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