Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Fear of Man: Part Two

“The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trust in the Lord is safe.” – Proverbs 29:25.

In the book Stop Calling Me Beautiful, Masonheimer reminds us that this verse doesn’t say the fear of man is a snare, but rather the fear of man lays a snare. She calls the fear of man the trapper, not the trap. I’m paraphrasing here, but she basically says the trapper deceives, hides the trap, makes it blend into the surroundings, feels normal so you’ll feel safe to walk in that direction.


The fear of man is a burden I don’t want to carry anymore. It has weighed me down in some seasons more than others, but I want to be free. Don’t you?

What’s the opposite of being taken in by the trapper? Trusting the Lord. That’s how we stay safe.

As an example, I’m thinking about my writing, my platform, and the whole process of trying to gain the approval an editor.

I changed genres from what I first set out to write because someone in the industry suggested it—telling me my genre (women’s fiction / contemporary fiction) won’t sell and suggesting instead that the manuscript be something else. So I re-wrote that entire book to make it a romance because romance sells.

Fast forward seven years, and I just finished re-writing that book (again) back to women’s fiction because when I returned to God’s words to me, what He has spoken over me about my writing, I remember that He called my work to be real and relatable, to write about people, families, marriages that are authentic and flawed but so capable of being redeemed.

Of course, I love a good love story—and my work will probably always have some element of that because the gospel is the greatest love story ever written. But my heart has always been to write about women and overcoming their struggles within themselves and in all relationships—marriage, family, friendships.

I have also shied away from really writing some of the stories on my heart because I get so worried about other people’s opinion. I shared this with Howell for the first time last year when I told him, if I write about a failing marriage, will people assume it’s ours? If I write about sisters who hate each other, will people think I’m harboring some deep resentment toward my own sister? If I write about a mom/daughter or dad/daughter conflict, if I write about blending families or divorced parents, will people question my own family, my own relationships? Will people think I’m writing about them if their story is similar?

Maybe this is a normal concern for writers who are getting started, but I have felt so trapped by these fears for a while, and I think making the decision to re-write my manuscript last fall was my first step toward freedom.

But the fear of man is not just about my writing. I’ve entered a new season with a renewed desire to deepen the friendships I have—to invest in new ones and to return to being real and vulnerable with the old ones.

No area of people pleasing / people fearing affects me more than communities of women. Friendships.

This is not to say I can’t fall into the trap with my family or in my marriage, but there’s a certain level of security there, right? I have confidence in their love for me, no matter what I do or say.

The commitment to be friends—and stay friends—is not as certain.

And that uncertainty makes me feel insecure.

And insecurity makes me want to control.

And sometimes control looks like not engaging, because I’ll just get hurt.

Can you relate?

I like how it feels to be on the inside, but any reminder that I’m really just on the fringe makes me feel insecure. And the people I work the hardest to please and worry the most about disappointing are often not even really my friends. They’re acquaintances at best and strangers at worst.

I can sometimes get so caught up in wondering and trying to anticipate what other people want or think that I lose sight of what I even want or think.

And even more muddied from what I want or think becomes deciphering what God wants or thinks about me.

Isn’t that what happened with my writing and the back-and-forth genre struggle?

Isn’t that what happens when I shrink back from other women, when I choose not to engage, when I avoid getting hurt?

But if I listen to what God thinks about me, I would know He’s already pleased. I have his full approval. I’m accepted and loved. I have need of nothing else because nothing else can really top that.

The fear of man lays a snare, but I choose not to let the trapper trick me. Not this year.

I will trust the Lord. I will believe what He says about me. I will listen for his voice above the noise.

What about you, friends?

P.S. If you missed Part One, check it out here

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Peace or Fear: Part One

“I don’t want to die.”

These are my forced, barely whispered words between gasps for air as Howell and I argued (again) about whether to call an ambulance and have (another) visit to the ER.

It sounds dramatic, but even now, weeks later I can still remember the fear that gripped me.

I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t stand, couldn’t think straight.

Because the only thoughts running through my brain were 1) our hospitals are over maxed capacity; 2) if I go to the hospital, they’ll put me on a ventilator; and 3) if I go in, I might not come out.

Fear. Fear. Fear.

I was truly terrified.

Obviously, I didn’t die, though I did feel like death for a while.

And while I did have COVID pneumonia, my symptoms weren’t actually related to the virus.

And while all of this did lead to another surgery this year (after the almost baseball-sized tumor on my thyroid this summer), I did not have to stay in the hospital this time.

But I keep coming back to that moment, to those words, to that level of gut-wrenching fear.

What if I don’t come home? What if I never see Howell’s face again? Never hold my girl?

I can think of at least two other life-threatening moments I have experienced (this was not), and the stark contrast between my fear here and the peace I felt in those moments is astounding.

Peace or fear. I get to choose, right?

I have experienced and witnessed a lot of fear lately.

Fear falls into two camps, one related to our (potential) circumstances and one related to people. I’m hoping to dive into this second one in a Part 2 post, but for now—and for this specific situation—my fear was definitely about a potential circumstance. What might happen.

Years ago, Jackie Mize called FEAR False Evidence Against Reality.

Isn’t that so true? What we fear almost never comes to reality.

Kris Vallotton says it like this: “Fear is imagining the future without God.”

Let’s look at Jesus’s words to us in John 14:27. He says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled; neither let them be afraid.”

How can He tell us not to have troubled hearts, not to be afraid?

Because He has given us his peace.

We have the peace of Jesus.

We have the gift of the Holy Spirit’s presence at all times.

We have the promise of God’s goodness and faithfulness always.

What better news could He give us? His Word tells us that no weapon formed against us shall prosper (IS. 54:17).

But here’s the question… Here’s where we have to get real: Do we really believe His word? Do we believe what He says is true?

I have struggled with this question more in the last year than most recent years, specifically in the area of healing.

Because sometimes God doesn’t heal in the way we want or ask, no matter how firmly we believed or how repeatedly we prayed.

And because sometimes hard stuff still happens to us, even when we prayed it wouldn’t.

In these moments, it feels like God’s word isn’t true.

But we have to choose. We choose to say yes to His word, yes to His nature, yes to His character. We stand on His faithfulness in the past. We stand on His sovereignty and the good plans He has for us.

It’s okay to ask the hard questions. How are you being real with Him if you don’t?

Ask and listen—and then trust and believe.

And if you find your heart troubled by present or potential circumstances, don’t give in to the fear. Embrace the peace that is available.


p.s. If you need a pep talk for overcoming fear and embracing what God says about you, read Romans 8 every day this week. I promise you’ll be encouraged.