What if _______?

What if __________? How many times have we said this to ourselves or asked someone else this same question and filled in the blank with an unthinkable fear or event? As I look around the news today it seems this blank is being filled in by horrific and tragic events every single day. Some of it is avoidable by choice and some of it, I believe is unavoidable. But when these things happen, how do we respond so that when the blank is filled in by something else, our response is better?

It is no secret that fear permeates every area of my life and I work each day to remove it. Fear is not from God. When I fear then I’m displaying a lack of trust in God. Each time fear enters my mind, I must remind myself that my faith is in Jesus Christ and He will protect me from that which can harm me. My fear of seizures, my fear of living the rest of my life dependent on others, my fear of never being able to work again, my fear of the stigmas that surround epilepsy…these are reasonable. Oh, and my fear of Target…totally reasonable. But, when I look at these things that I fear, and I look BACK on them, I see how these things that I fear “drove me” to the places I have been over the last 8+ years. All those years, God was protecting me and seeing me through life.

My life circumstances took me to a cross roads many years ago. I had to decide whether to continue working in full time ministry or walk away. In some ways I felt I was giving into the seizures, but most of all I heard God telling me it was time…time to go onto something better, in a supportive environment of love and understanding. Leaving full time work for no job may seem insane, but when I heard God tell me it was time for my family and for me, I knew He would protect me from harm. In the years that followed my Mom successfully battled cancer. She needed me, and God had seen to it that I would be there. I spent 6 years caring for my Grandmother, an experience that changed my life forever. Had I not known, had I not seen, had I not experienced the dependence that she would feel and need, I never would have been able to care for her the way I did. Those 6 years with her brought many tears of pain, but more tears of joy and laughter as we both accepted each other just the way we were. We never wasted time putting on a fake face and it was common for both of us to lower our glasses and see eye to eye in any given discussion or decision. She was from a different generation where the words epilepsy and seizures were never said. Strange how all those years she referred to “that thing you have” because she just couldn’t say it. Maybe she never accepted it, but we both knew that “it” gave me time for her. God had allowed me to go to dark places so that I could shine His light where she was.

I will NEVER forget the sheer joy my oldest had on his face, as a 3rd grader, when I told him there would be no more after school care for him because Mom would be at home. He stood in disbelief, making sure it was not a cruel joke and then he erupted in bliss. This would be good. Seizures brought me home, God protects us from harm and gives us better, WHEN we put Him first.

Now, this life change has been no bed of roses. Don’t misunderstand me. My point is that I can not fear. Notice I put this in present terms, and not past terms. For me, this is a daily practice that I must do in present terms! BUT, my past experiences have proven time and time again that I should not fear. God will protect me from harm, BUT I must trust Him first. “He must increase, but I must decrease.” I must work and learn and devote time to increasing Him in my life and decreasing myself. This, I have learned is the key to overcoming the fears that surround us.

There are valid things around us to fear. The unthinkable and the unspeakable and the unreasonable happens around us everyday. As believers, we are called to center our focus on God. He will help us through. I have witnessed this and I have no doubt that only God protected. HE must increase, but I must increase. I must make God my target; yes I realize what I just wrote. When He is my focus, then He gives strength. No, He will not tell us why, and no he can not take away the pain. With God as our focus He will protect us and see us through the challenges of life.

What if …I increase Him, and decrease me? What if you increase Him, and decrease you? What if we challenge those around us to do the same? I wonder what news we might hear…?

Copyright © Gatewood Campbell, June 2015

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Channeling Fear

Fear. We all have it. The question is how do you and I overcome fear? Some fear heights, some fear swimming, some fear tests, some fear death and some fear the unknown. There are things all around us that can, and if I’m totally honest, we should fear.

I don’t believe fear is a bad thing. As with so much in life, how we respond to it determines whether it is a bad thing or a good thing. Fear can keep us from trying new things. It can also keep us from making the same mistakes repeatedly, because we already know we should be afraid of the outcome. It is not a secret that I am afraid. I am afraid I will never be completely healthy again. I’m afraid of trying new meds because I have learned that nothing comes without a side effect I despise. I see the fear in my sons’ eyes when my husband says “watch Mom for me for a minute”. I have read of the fear my son experiences when he chose epilepsy as his graduation topic and began writing from his personal point of view about how epilepsy changes lives. I believe it is reasonable to fear there will never be a cure for this. I’m working very hard to overcome the fear that I may never drive again. That kind of independence may risk my life and others. I’m learning that fear takes us to a deeper level of understanding, trust and faith.

Last week was a hard week. I don’t know why, it just was. I was afraid and I was lonely. I called a friend and as we sobbed together about both our life situations I realized that fear led me to call her. Fear took me to a safe person, and guess what? She needed a safe person too. We talked, cried and laughed for over an hour, encouraging each other in ways that only she and I understand. I tend to channel my fears within, thinking everyone is too busy, they don’t get me, and everyone has their own issues. News flash! Everyone does have their own issues and I wonder what would happen if we were honest with the world and said it out loud. I keep looking at the advertisement of the women with the signs of how much they weigh and wonder what might happen if we each help up a sign and said THIS IS MY ISSUE.

Each of us have so much in common, but we are unwilling to share because of past hurts and hangups. Look, I am right there in the middle of it with you. I don’t share because I was betrayed, but because one or two betrayed me does not mean everyone will. Above all else He is with us. This morning I was listening to the radio and the song “He Is With Us” came on. I began to absorb the words, really ABSORB the words, into my marrow, as Beth Moore teaches us. The song reminds us “We can trust our God, He knows what He’s doing….Our faith is sealed, Our hope is real, Come what may, We’re not afraid”. Oh boy, so much easier said than done, but every opportunity of fear IS an opportunity for faith.  Faith IS real and hope IS real. My Bible says so, does yours? Does my life say it? Does yours?

I have incredible friends. They are not incredible because they have done things for me or with me. I have incredible friends because I can WATCH them practice faith everyday. They teach by example. They lead their lives by faith, trusting that, above all else, God is with them, holding on, never leaving….always with us. When I fear, I remember…my fear is nothing compared to the fear Mary felt when her son, Jesus was brought to Calvary. When I think of this I am embarrassed to have fear. Jesus died that I might not fear ANYTHING! HE did not fear! In that we can all trust! Mary did not know Jesus would come again, but she trusted. Her own fear and desperation also displayed her faith.

He Is With Us reminds us “when your hope is lost and faith is shaken, when you wonder if you’re gonna make it, There’s a hand stretched out through your deepest doubt. We can’t pretend to see the ending or what’s coming up ahead….But we can stay close to the ONE who knows”. Psalm 56:3 says “When I am afraid, I will trust you.” That is my responsibility…to trust. Every moment of fear is an opportunity to trust. Fear = Trust.

Fear will come to us, probably each day, in one way or another. Sometimes we may not recognize it as fear, but we may call it something else. Recognize this, whatever we fear, trust CAN overcome. Now I am by no means an expert in trust. I am a student, and fortunate enough to have examples from which I learn. We have to learn to trust Him everyday, every hour, every minute. We don’t know what the future holds, but He does. I am responsible for channeling fear into trust.

He Is With Us says “We believe there is purpose in everything, We surrender to His leading. He wants nothing more than to have us close”. Jesus wants us to remain close to the One who knows. He knows our fears, He knows how many hairs are on our head and He… above all else, wants us to trust Him. “It might hurt now, But He’s holding on to you and me and He’s never gonna leave”.

Copyright ©  Gatewood Campbell, June 2015