Any athlete will tell you that victory isn’t easy.
And once you’ve won one victory, the next battle is just ahead.
You have to consistently discipline your mind and build your skills.
Over the past few months, God had opened my eyes to His grace and overwhelmed me with amazing and miraculous evidence of His loving nature.
He’d empowered me to win some awesome mental, spiritual and physical victories.
i was gradually being freed from so many debilitating ailments that had plagued me. i no longer believed He was cracking a whip. He had drawn me with His cords of loving kindness. My fears had begun to subside.
But old ways of reacting and thinking die hard. Even though i now knew many life-changing truths in my heart, my mind was still struggling with them.
Living and walking victoriously in new truths takes time, discipline, practice and a loving Teacher.
losing my peace
At this point in my journey — June 11, 2017 — i was experiencing a depth of love and relationship with my Heavenly Father that i didn’t even know existed. i couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. i felt like a woman who had been set free from a prison of lies, fears and painful illnesses.
i thought i was home free.
Until … anxiety started to creep in again.
Thoughts like, This is all really great and wonderful right now. But you are going to mess this up.
If you know the Truth about so many things now, and after all God has done for you, why do you still struggle with old thoughts and behaviors?
God might withhold His promises and blessings from you if you don’t get this new journey “right.” After all, look at all He’s done for you. You owe Him that.
i was in the midst of a mighty battle with these anxious thoughts as i sat in Tropicana Field with my teenage son, watching the Tampa Bay Rays battle on the field.
Throughout the game, i was overwhelmed and plagued with guilt and anxiety about the struggles i was still experiencing. i felt ashamed. And i felt that old barrier between me and God returning.
But i knew now that this was not what God desired for me. And i had experienced too much of this new view of His love and goodness to believe that or to go back to our old relationship.
i told Him, “Father, Daddy, i know you don’t want me to be tortured in this way. i know you are full of grace and mercy. i know i don’t have to earn Your love. But i don’t know how to this live out this new ‘grace thing’ yet. How do i rest in that? How do i rest in You?”
making a comeback
For most of the game, i didn’t hear any response. Only the roar of the crowd as our team was mounting a thrilling comeback after being down by three runs.
Then, in the final inning, God’s still, small voice broke through the noise and pierced my soul:
I care about your heart, Melinda. Your heart is humble, though imperfect, and wants to serve Me. But your heart is at war with your flesh and your mind.
i looked down at the day’s program, which i hadn’t paid much attention to before. i kid you not, this was the cover. Look not only at “Mind and Body” but the subtitle as well:
I began to process this new (to me) revelation. Yes! My heart! God sees my heart! This sounds so obvious, i realize, but i needed that reminder over and over again. i had lived my life for so long as if He only saw and judged my behavior. The old way of living was gone. A new chapter had begun.
i had been spending a lot of time in the book of Romans lately and God brought to my mind this passage. i quickly looked it up on my phone:
I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Romans 7:19-23
Like me, Paul wants to do what is right. As a very educated student of the Law, he knows what the right things are. He just doesn’t have the power!
Paul was desperate for victory and deliverance! So was i!
In verse 25 (the last verse of Romans 7), he gets it:
… Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.
He then begins Romans 8 begins with this triumphant declaration:
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. (v.1)
Like Paul, in so many ways, i was starting to “get it” too: Through His death, Jesus gave us access to the Holy Spirit, who empowers us to rise above our weakness. His grace covers us. We may still struggle with the flesh, but it doesn’t have to win anymore! We don’t have to live in defeat!
victory over anxiety? focus is key
As the final moments of the game ticked down, He began to bring it all together for me:
“Your mind and flesh lag behind your heart, Melinda. You will always struggle with doing and thinking the wrong things at times. Your mind will try to talk you out of things your heart knows. I understand that. Accept My grace. Focusing on performance keeps your focus on you. Remember, you can’t embrace the god of Performance and the REAL ME at the same time!
“Keep retraining your focus on ME. As you draw close to me, I will refine and remove the selfish parts of your heart, so it reflects Christ more and more. Ask the Holy Spirit to bring your mind into concert with your heart. Then you will have the mind and heart of Christ.”
Instant peace. Game over. Victory.
i knew anxious thoughts would come again, but i didn’t have to give in to them. Deep in my heart, i knew the truth. The truth would set me free.
As we walked out of the stadium, this video played on the Jumbotron. My smile was back and i couldn’t wipe it off my face. God has such an incredible sense of humor: