God is Not Finished Fishing

You know those fears that you hate to admit to but can’t seem to get past? Cool, me too.

One of the most annoying fears that I have is of fish. Although I can eat most of them with no problem, when I see a live one my toes curl into a ball and I start to do this awkward dance scream thing. I know, it’s weird. But there is a reason for this madness..

Four score and seven years ago, my family packed up shop and headed to Minneapolis, Minnesota for a good ol’ week-long family vacation. On this trip, my parents decided it would be fun to partake in a guided fishing tour on the Boundary Waters. Sweet! It would be just us, the open air, and some quality family bonding. How could this go wrong?

So we are heading down this river and I am just in awe; the scenery was beautiful, the water was calm, the birds were chirping, and I was borderline too small to paddle so the exhaustion was non-existent. I guess you could say things were going great but then it came time for fishing and oh yes, this is where it gets good because out of nowhere my father pulls this 10-foot long pike (or so it seemed) out of the water and plops its squirming body right below my feet. And don’t let my family fool you, this thing was NASTY. He was big. He was slimy. He had long dagger teeth; he was no friend.

It was just me, this fella and no space to move. So I did what any normal, relaxed person would do: freak the freak out. I screamed. I panicked. I almost tipped the entire canoe; I was the joke of the trip.

So you ask, why is she telling us this story?

Well, the other day I went fishing for the first time since that incident and it hit me, we do this every day, don’t we?

When life plops a big, slimy, scary thing right below our feet, we panic. We scream. We allow anxiety to rush through our blood; we overreact. And no matter how hard we try to tip the canoe or move that small or big fish, nothing works.

But everything was going so well? The scenery was beautiful. The sun was shining so high. I was secure in my little seat; how could this happen? What did I do to make this happen?

From one anxiety stricken friend to another, I completely understand. You didn’t mean to let things get out of control. You didn’t mean for the anxiety to creep in. You didn’t mean to overreact; it just happened.

And before you know it, this fish has doubled in size.

You are letting yourself believe that this fish is going to affect your self-worth, how people see you, how the rest of your life turns out, how your love life will look; it is the center of everything. But maybe, just maybe this fish wasn’t supposed to be bad?

Sweet friend, I want to let you in on a little secret: the changing of a current is not always succeeded by a storm. And if there is a storm, it is not without a rainbow at the end.

God’s job is results and His results are much better than we could ever imagine.

“Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail or forsake you…” (1 Chronicles 29:16)

And there is nothing that you could have done to change this storm. No path you could have taken, no word you could have said, no movement you could have made; this is not about you. It is about Him.

Because the fish, the storm, the trial: it was never meant to be something that destroys you. It was never meant to grow bigger and bigger. It was never meant to eat you.

It was simply there so that you may grow in relationship with Christ because what brings us to Christ than a greater need for Him? An actual need.

You are not weak. You are not unlovable. You are not unworthy. You are a masterpiece. You are chosen. You are infinitely loved. You are a child of God.

So with whatever path the storm directs you towards or fish are thrown into your boat, trust the captain because you are not in control. He will never let you drown. He will never let the fish eat you (no matter how much you think it’s dagger teeth are pointing right at you) and He will certainly not let the waters overwhelm you.

“For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 13:10)

Have you asked God what His intentions are for the storm that you are in? Let Him whisper wisdom into your soul and truth into your heart because storms are not bad. Sometimes they are exactly what is needed for the grass to grow and you are no exception.

God is always in the works. God is always protecting, preparing, and teaching.

This storm, this fish, this trail: it is not what defines you and it is not what is going to end you.

God has not yet finished fishing.

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5)

Anxiety: Putting “I” in The Middle

Anxiety.

One word. One disorder. One life-long battle.

But, a different meaning for every single person.

Anxiety has been part of my life since I can remember. In middle school, I had anxiety about losing my entire family to a car accident and about forgetting to turn my straightener off and accidently burning the house down (side note: I used to call my house phone, just to be sure that if it went through, my house would still be intact. I know, I’m crazy).

In high school, I had social anxiety. Always worrying about the people around me, how I acted, whether my grades were good enough to get into my dream college, whether the boy liked me that I had already been dating for years, whether I looked as good as the girls I roamed the halls with, whether I was thin enough, whether I was ever good enough; it never ended.

During my first year of college, I thought that I was starting to get over my anxiety. I had just moved away from home. This was it. I was free. I was independent. I had re-kindled the Jesus furnace. I was starting to hang out with good people. I was starting to pray more, read the bible more, and understand myself as a newly single woman. But, it wasn’t enough. It was back to square one.

I had anxiety about not having friends. I had anxiety about not being able to get all of my homework done. I had anxiety about whether or not this college was the best fit for me. I had anxiety about my family dying, again. I had anxiety about our house burning down and my dogs being trapped inside, again. I lived in constant fear.

Anxiety so bad that I would call my parents almost every day, at 19 years old, just to make sure that they were alive.  And boy oh boy, lemme tell you, if they didn’t answer the phone immediately I was like a hangry ape without it’s bananas; craziness. What if they got in a car accident? What if one of them had a heart attack? What if they rushed to the hospital and forgot to call me? My hands would sweat. My mind would race. I wouldn’t be able to stop thinking about them until they replied.

Anxiety is a very large part of my life. I’ve given myself panic attacks. I’ve spent late hours in the night searching about all of the diseases I could be dying from. I’ve gone countless nights without sleep because I would live in fear of not waking up. I’ve even made myself believe that the inanimate objects around me were not real. It controlled me.

I am not the only one that suffers from anxiety and I know, people have it MUCH worse than I do. Some may have severe cases and some may have minor cases but, whatever walk of life you are on understand this: you don’t stop here.

Your path doesn’t end here. Your life doesn’t stay as you are now. There is hope.

And that hope, that gift of grace, that mercy, that wonder: that’s Jesus. 

I still suffer from anxiety. I have not completely demolished this lil’ stinker that I so desperately wish to get rid of (heck, I got anxiety with this blog post) but I have gotten better and how you may ask?

I stopped putting “I” in the middle of my life.

Because when you truly step back from your anxiety and look at the bigger picture, you see it. You see that the only thing that is separating you from experiencing joy, hope, peace, and grace is “I.”

Anxiety. One word. Seven Letters. But, only one thing separating it: “I.”

And I am convinced that this is no accident because when we put at the center, we begin to focus on I. Always worrying about what I have to do next, what I have to do tomorrow, or a month from now, or a year from now, or who I am, or what I look like, or what I do.

But you are not the focus. It is all about Jesus.

“But Jesus is perfect” “He has no idea what I am going through” “He wouldn’t understand”

He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee (John and James) along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

Matthew 26:37-39

So, you mean to tell me that Jesus, the Son of God, was overwhelmed? That he let himself get to that point? That he was just as I am? YES. He understands!

The definition of overwhelmed is actually: to give too much of a thing to (someone); inundate.

So, maybe, just maybe, you’re overwhelmed, controlled by your anxiety, and living out of fear because you aren’t meant to handle what you were given. Maybe God has given you too much of a thing because he wants you to realize that you are not meant to handle it, by yourself.

God wants to have a relationship with you. He wants to hear your prayers and your worries. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 peter 5:7)

Because when you stop putting yourself in the middle, you put God in the middle. And God turns fear into awe, anxiety into peace, temptations into a story, and a storm into a swimming pool (and I mean one that you can enjoy with floaties and a fruity drink in hand).

There will always be something to worry about. Always something that has yet to be done. Always something to plan for. Always someone that is better looking than you or thinner than you or whatever it may be. But there is also a God that is always seeking, loving, protecting, and waiting to carry those burdens for you.

You know that good ol’ Jansport backpack that you have been carrying full of anxieties about tomorrow, stress about work, people to look like, and things you have yet to do? Throw it away and never look back because “tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34). And truth be told, we were never meant to carry the weight on our own two shoulders (too bad rolling backpacks are no longer in style (dang flabbit)).

God has a plan and that plan is always better than ours. He begs to listen to you. To carry that weight for you and take on life with you. You are free. You just have to be willing to leave those worries at the door.

You are not a child of anxiety or doubt. You are a child of God.

“So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” Hebrews 13:6

Drop Your Sword. Trust in the Armor of God

If anyone knows me, they know that I do not have the greatest luck with cars (and no, it is not because I am a girl. Thank you very much). When I was 16, I got my first car and it was a 2005 Malibu. It had a white body, coffee-stained gray interior, and a sick scooby-doo sticker that was stuck to my steering wheel from the previous owner. This car endured many a’ road trip and stuck with me even after the many solo jam sessions (although I felt like Beyonce, I know for certain I did NOT sound like her). Oh, did I mention his name was Marley? Very important.

One winter afternoon I was driving Marley home from soccer practice and decided that I was going to play Nascar within my neighborhood. Long story short, I am not a Nascar driver, nor will I ever be. Sliding across the ice and into a street sign that was on the corner, I smashed Marley’s front left side. Ouch! This one wasn’t going to bode well with my parents and boy oh boy, was I right. Although I pleaded my case and cried my eyes nearly dry, my parents decided that Marley would not be worth fixing. So, for almost three years after the accident, I drove that guy around (mistakes and all).

It wasn’t until one day that I realized this: on that snowy afternoon, I put myself as the ultimate controller of my car. I put myself in control of the gas, the breaks, the steering wheel, and the lives of those that were in the car. What happened when I believed that I was in control of the car? I crashed.

I think we have all done or thought this way before. That by our strength, we can see ourselves through the day. That we do not need help from anyone. That through our might, our knowledge, and our pride; we can drive our lives.

But, listen if it’s okay, I’d like to share a little secret with you: you are not in control of your own life.

I know this firsthand and that is why God spoke to me one night when I was driving home from my university and said, “drop your sword. Trust in the armor of God.”

In Ephesians 6:10-18 my homie, the apostle Paul writes:

13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

Ephesians 6:13-17

First, I want you to understand what God was not telling me. He was not telling me, “ayo Danni. I think you should drop the word of God. It’s pretty cool and it’s got a ton of wisdom inside but like, let’s just throw it out. I don’t really like it anymore.” No. The Lord was not telling me that.

But, what He did tell me was that I should drop the literal sword that I have been clenching onto my whole life. The thing that holds me back from being vulnerable. The thing that constantly tells me that I have to be perfect and that no one else is struggling. That I can defend myself. That I am capable. That I can drive really fast around a corner, even though there is a pole in my view. That when I feel the slightest sense of harm, I have to hold my sword up and be quick to be defensive.

Maybe there is something controlling your life, right now. It could be paralyzing anxiety. It could be an addiction that started simply by curiosity. It could be lust. It could be fear. It could be pride. It could be jealousy. It could be your past mistakes. It could be comparison. It could be grades. It could your boss. It could be anything. And maybe you’re holding onto this sword or whatever controls you and you keep fighting with it. You keep coming back to it. You keep telling yourself that it’s not controlling you. That you can stop anytime. You are fine. There is nothing that you cannot do because you are capable.

And yes. You are strong and beautiful and wonderfully made but you cannot live in fear. I understand this, I thought I could do it alone, too. But if you keep fighting your own battles, you will only swat the air to miss the enemy. Only to end up weak, depleted, drained, and controlled by your fears. But listen to this, you are not alone.

Before you put on your clothes for the day or fake that smile or put on that make-up that you think you have to wear, the armor of God is bestowed upon you. And guess what, you wear that each and every day. 

But, why is it that we put more trust into the sword than the armor? It’s almost as if we pretend that the armor is non-existent and that the sword is the only thing that we have. That we can fight our own battles and we can do life alone.

But, “I’m fine.” “It’s not a problem.” “I don’t need help.”

Oh really? So, what happens when your sword fails you? Because it will. What happens when you become too weak? Because you will. What happens when anxiety paralyzes you so much that you cannot even hold the sword up?

You will still win because why? Because you are wearing the armor of God. And regardless of your inabilities, He will equip you because you do not need to be the strongest or smartest person in the world to win. You just have to trust the armor and realize that you have always been wearing it.

Because when you fell into temptation or let your human desires take control of the wheel, He saw you through it. Regardless of whether or not you realized it.

If you place your faith, belief, confidence, and dependence on the armor — He will see you through this battle. He will help you endure and He will help you defeat.

“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

So, whatever you may be battling, let’s learn to trust in the armor of God. Let’s learn to drop our pride, our fears, our anxiety, our worries, and our doubts. Let’s learn to open up to other people, reveal our anxiety to God, and trust that He will see us through. Let’s pray. Let’s tell others our story. Let’s conquer these battles, together. For when we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we can move mountains. Not by our might, not by our will, not by our strength, and not by our confidence, but by His.

“When we clench our fists, we cannot received the Lords blessings.”

-Pastor Steven Furtick

When I hold my sword up to fight my battles and clench my fist around the handle, I lose, I crash my car, and I do not allow myself to receive His blessings. But when I drop my sword, open my hands, and trust in the armor of God, I conquer. And so can you. Not because we are perfect or equipped because believe me, this girl is the farthest from that but because we have faith that God will see us through.

Drop your sword. Trust in the armor of God.

Extra goodies that may be helpful to further express my thoughts:

Elevation Church sermon by Pastor Steven Furtick: The Power of the Pull
Scripture: Philippians 4:13, Romans 8:31-39, Nehemiah 8:10, Psalm 46:1-3, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, and Isaiah 41:10