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M³ 4Women


M³ stands for Military Ministry Milieu. Here at M³ 4 Women you can find blog posts that intersect faith, the Scriptures, and counsel in the military context for women."

What fears tend to keep you in their grip? Be honest! ALL of us have fears! In fact, those of us in the military context often have the same fears our civilian counterparts have, but they are often swirling in a uniquely complicating vortex. For instance, we may fear losing our loved one. However, the context for this common fear can be amplified because our loved one who is in the military is deployed to Afghanistan, or flies fighters & lands them on carriers, or is a special operator, or regularly works with explosives because she is an EOD specialist. When fear-inducing circumstances are constantly in our face, & those we love are consistently in harm’s way, how can we practically experience peace as Christians? How can we break free, or stay free of persistent, crippling, joy-robbing, fears?

Three Fear-Expelling Realities from Psalm 139

Meditating on God’s omniscience, omnipresence, and great sovereignty as depicted in Psalm 139:1-18 can expel fear & bring great comfort to our hearts. The first reality that we are reminded of from Psalm 139 is of God’s all-surpassing and perfect knowledge. In verses 1-4, the psalmist writes about the intimate, personal knowledge that God has for him. All of his movements, thoughts, and words are known to his Heavenly Father before they are even brought about. The reality of God’s perfect and intimate knowledge should encourage us, since God knows the very thoughts that are troubling us, when we stir or rise in the night, and even knows the prayers we may utter for help before they are on our tongue.

The second reality that we can meditate on from Psalm 139 is of God’s continual and abiding presence. Verses 5-12 make it crystal clear that God is in any and every location. Neither we or those we love, can escape from His continual and abiding presence. This should give us great hope and comfort as we meditate on the fact that God is present not only with us, but that God is present to bless and protect those we love, even if they are thousands of miles away at their place of duty.

The third reality to meditate on from Psalm 139 is of God’s sovereign and loving involvement. Not only is God lovingly involved and present in every location, but He is also lovingly involved in the details in the lives of His people & in all of creation. Verses 13-16 detail the amazing way God is involved in the creation of human life, and states that every single day is already known and planned perfectly by the Father before even one of them comes into existence. We can rest assured that absolutely nothing will occur to us or our loved one that is outside of God’s sovereign and loving plan. As we meditate on the intimate knowledge, abiding presence, and sovereign involvement of our Great God, our fear should give way to great praise, awe, and trust of our King who lovingly reigns on High.

Overcoming fear is not an automatic endeavor and knowing truths from Psalm 139 will not act as a miraculous panacea. We will find that it requires much effort, empowered by God’s supernatural strength, to move from fear to loving trust! In my next post, I will write about how to be victorious in the battle of our mind & detail how to take our thoughts captive for God’s glory. In the meantime, we can all be encouraged that God did not give us a spirit of fear or timidity, but rather one of “power, of love, and of self-discipline” (2 Tim. 1:7).

Ways to Reflect, Change and Grow in Light of These Truths

Memorize Psalm 139:1-18! God’s Word is a powerful antidote to fear. Hiding God’s Word in our heart pays dividends (Ps 119:11). Better yet, grab a friend & memorize it in a community! Having each other’s support, prayers, encouragement & accountability is a blessing on multiple fronts!

Get a copy of the pamphlet, “Fear: Breaking Its Grip” and read it. Lou Priolo does a phenomenal job of outlining seven characteristics of sinful fear. He then gives twelve guidelines for conquering crippling fear all in an easy & quick read that will re-orient our worship & restore peace & joy.

Andrew Selle, in his article entitled “The Bridge Over Troubled Waters: Overcoming Crippling Fear by Faith and Love” from The Journal of Biblical Counseling will help us name our fears, reverse our fears (by naming the idols on the flipside of the fear), pray about our desires, surrender our desires, and love God and others no matter the cost. This valuable resource gives us a birds-eye view into the life of someone who biblically overcame her crippling fears, and will encourage us to apply the Scriptures to our own struggles with hope.

Consider reading Ch#6 entitled, “Fear: Day & Night In Its Cold Grip” in “Ministering to Military Women: Biblical Help & Hope. In this resource I juxtapose secular solutions to fear with the Word of God. As an added benefit, I provide fourteen assignments to use in the fight against fear that can be used personally in your own life, or in your ministry to others.

Listen to the 2016 seminar entitled, “From Sinful Fear to Godly Fear.” This seminar will equip you to move towards greater love, peace & trust of God in the power of the gospel & union with Christ. A free audio of this seminar can be found here:

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Have you noticed the hidden and secret identity themes in many children’s stories? For instance, in Cinderella, the poverty-stricken and unloved character is the one with true nobility. Or seen a movie in which the hero or heroine suffers amnesia-like experiences and stumbles through their new life in the proverbial dark? They often forget key aspects of who they are, and as a result confusion and sometimes disaster results. I propose to you that in this case, real life is often on par with fiction. How often have you forgotten who you are in Christ and what have been the effects?

Symptomatology of Forgotten Identity

So what might be some signs in the military context, that we’ve forgotten our true identity? Perhaps you are that rare woman amongst a majority of males in your unit. In your desire to be accepted and esteemed by your male peers, you are consumed with your performance, or even compromise what you know to be right. Or maybe you are that man headed out on yet another deployment with your squadron. Not only do you train together and fight together, you also succumb to sinning together in the effort to fit in. Perhaps anxiety is your constant companion as you seek to effectively lead in command because the revolving thought, “What will they think of me…?” is constantly on your mind. Or, perhaps you see that your primary, God-given relationships are breaking down and know that it is time for a transition out of the military. However, you sign up for a few more years of service because you secretly fear a life without the salutes, the commendations and the uniform which have become your functional identity. In any case, you’ve forgotten who you really are in Christ, elevated your desire for acceptance to an idolatrous demand, and yielded to temptation.

Who Are You in Christ?

There are so many places we could go in Scripture, even beginning with Genesis 1! You are an image-bearer of the most High God (Gen 1:26-27). Your mission and purpose on this earth are all intimately tied to this, but let’s camp out in Ephesians 1. As a believer, you are a saint (Eph 1:1, 18). This means you are set apart by God for all that is holy and sacred, and are different from the common, profane, world. You are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms (Eph 1:3). You were chosen by God to be his very own before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4). You are God’s loved and adopted child (Eph 1:5). You are redeemed by his blood (Eph 1:7). You are forgiven of all of your trespasses (Eph 1:7). You are sealed with the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13). You are an heir to the Kingdom (Eph 1:14). You are God’s own possession (Eph 1:14). You are part of the church, his body (Eph 1:22-23).

How can your heart not sing in response to this? I’m very near tears typing up these simple but profound truths. You, my brothers and sisters are meant to mirror God’s image accurately to those you are serving with in the military. He’s given you all that you need to triumph spiritually for his glory. You don’t have to keep trying to measure up to others standards, because God chose you, loves you, and paid a high price to adopt you into his own family. You already belong and you’ve got nothing to prove! He’s bought your life with the precious blood of his Son, and forgiven all your sins in the past, present and future. You are the heir of an inheritance that will never rust or fade and will last long after you relinquish your duty title or take off your uniform. You are the Creator of the Universe’s possession and a member of his own body. Delight in who God says you are and joyfully reclaim your identity!

Ways to Reflect, Change and Grow in Light of These Truths

Repent of any ways in which you have forgotten who you are in Christ. Specifically confess the ways you gave into the idolatry of acceptance and fear of man.

Meditate on the truths of Ephesians 1. Then read through Ephesians 2 and write down everything you see about a believer’s identity because of our union with Christ. How might delighting in these truths about your identity be a ready tool in your fight against the idolatry of acceptance or fear of man?

Read about the military man and King, Saul in 1 Samuel 15. What were the circumstances around his demise even in the midst of a victorious campaign? What role did his fear of man or idolatrous desire for acceptance from his troops, play in his life? What were the results? What warning should you take from this in your own life?

Memorize John 12:43 and Proverbs 29:25. Hiding these words in your heart will help you remember who you should rightly fear and whose praise to ultimately seek.

Consider reading, “When People Are Big and God is Small” by Edward Welch. He faithfully discusses how and why we fear others. He then equips you to grow in your fear of the Lord, delight in who God says you are, and then practice biblical love towards other people.

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God has used the sufferings in my life, as the crucible in which a strong theology of suffering was birthed and continues to mature. While my pain and your pain are different and come in a unique vortex of circumstances, God has some common and clear things to teach us nonetheless.

Scripture has much to say about suffering and our response to it. For instance, all suffering, my personal experiences included, is directly related to The Fall and all the terrible after-effects of The Curse (Gen 3). Suffering is not a surprise to God & is one of the primary means by which he conforms me to the image of his Son (Isa 46:9-10, Rom 8:29). Suffering should not be a surprise to us! It is promised (John 16:33, Acts 14:22, 2 Tim 3:12)! I am to view all suffering and hardship as discipline from the hand of a loving Father. Not because I’ve done something wrong per se, but because he is working a harvest of righteousness and peace that can come no other way (Heb 12). Suffering is temporary and does not compare to the eternal weight of glory being stored up for me (2 Cor 4:16-18). In the midst of suffering, God provides comfort that I am to extend to others who suffer (2 Cor 1:3-4). Suffering reveals where my true hope rests (in the Giver of all good gifts, or the gifts themselves?). Suffering is a privilege in that it helps me to know the fellowship of Christ’s suffering just a tad more clearly (Phil 3:10-11). A Savior who intensely suffered, walks through my times of trial with me so that I am never alone. He is my mediator and High Priest, that has been made like me and understands my weaknesses (Heb 4:14-16). God’s strength is more clearly seen through my physical weaknesses. When I am weak, he is strong. His grace is sufficient (2 Cor 12:8-10). Endurance of suffering is directly related to hope and the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints (John 10:27-29). Nothing can separate me from the love of God, to include my infirmities & trials (Rom 8:38-39). My time on earth is the only time in which I can offer up praises in the midst of pain, because all suffering will come to a glorious and complete end (Rev 21:4)!

While I ache to flesh out more details about some of what I’ve said above, I will narrow it down to three things that I would like to share as an encouragement to you as a fellow sufferer…

First, suffering is a gift. God is the giver of all good gifts and does all things well (Matt 7:11, James 1:17). He withholds nothing good from his children (Rom 8:32, Ps 34:10; 84:11). This means that I am called to train myself to view my suffering as his good and kind gift to me. He did not err in his gift. He is not withholding anything good from me. He supplies all of our needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:19). This means that if I needed my health to glorify him he would have given it to me abundantly.

Think back to a time when you were really excited to give a gift to a loved one or friend. Your gift was an expression of your love for that person wasn’t it? More than likely you studied your loved one intently and listened for clues as to what would give him or her the most joy. Your gift was designed to bring delight to the heart of your recipient wasn’t it? Our suffering is a gift from God himself. He knows what will ultimately give us the most joy and has designed the circumstances with that purpose in mind. He was and is motivated by love in the sovereign way your suffering has come to pass. While most of us would never choose the gift of suffering God granted us, we can know that it is a gift nonetheless.

Second, suffering is meant to be a stewardship. What types of things come to mind when I say the word stewardship? Perhaps issues of ownership and management come to mind. A steward has been entrusted with the care of something that is not her own for which she will give an account to her master. Do you remember the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30? God, the master in the parable, entrusted his servants with money with the expectation that they would faithfully steward and increase what they were given while he was away. In our suffering, we are like these stewards in the parable. God has entrusted some form of suffering to all of us. God is the Master and owner of all things. The time we have to faithfully steward and grow from what we’ve been given is temporary. Our Master will return. God will hold us accountable for how we grow and learn from what he’s allotted to us. When we face our Master in heaven, will we hear the commendation, “Well done good and faithful servant” in regards to how we “spent” the suffering entrusted to us?

Third, suffering is given for the edification of not just the individual, but for the entire community of faith. The Apostle Paul suffered tremendously for the sake of the gospel (2 Cor 11:23-29). Several times he wrote that God intended his personal suffering to impact the body of Christ in intense ways. For instance, in Philippians 1 Paul stated that his chains helped other believers become confident in the Lord & proclaim the gospel without fear. In 2 Corinthians Paul wrote that he was personally distressed so that the Corinthian believers would ultimately experience comfort and salvation (2 Cor 1:3-7). In the same text we learn that in the midst of our sufferings, God comforts us so that we in turn can share these same comforts with others who suffer. Later in the same chapter Paul talks about how he was in hard circumstances far beyond his ability to endure, but that in the midst of this suffering, fellow believers walked with him faithfully in prayer. As a result, when he was delivered, more glory went to God as countless others celebrated God’s gracious favor. (2 Cor 1:8-11) Sisters, our suffering is not our own! Our suffering is a means by which our local body can grow in faith, prayer, love, encouragement, boldness in the gospel, deeper reliance on Christ and so much more.

But there is another facet to this suffering in the midst of community. When we suffer, we enter into the fellowship of our Savior’s suffering in deeper and more profound ways. We have been called not only to believe in Christ, but to suffer for Christ (Phil 1:29). In order to know Christ we must participate in his suffering and become like him in his death (Phil 3:10-11). Our Savior came as a suffering servant and we are being conformed into his image (Isa 53, Rom 8:29). Our sanctification necessarily involves suffering, but never does it involve suffering alone! Our Savior Jesus suffered and died cut off from the Father as he bore the weight of our sins, so that we wouldn’t have to. When we suffer as believers, we can know with certainty that our Savior is with us in sweet communion, and that he has given us the gift of one another to bear the pain and sorrow of our suffering (Heb 4:15-16, Rom 8:38-39, Gal 6:2).

By God’s grace, the very things that have threatened to destroy my body and my vitality are being used by God as mighty tools of redemption and sanctification. By looking at our trials and suffering through the lens of Scripture and in this paradigm shifting way, we can be better poised to honor God in whatever hardship we face next. May we live well, suffer well and die well for the glory of God because he is worthy of such a response from his children.

Ways to reflect, change and grow in light of these truths...

Confess any ways in which you have not recognized God’s sovereign hand in your suffering or rebelled against his goodness because of your trials.

Read prayerfully and slowly about the lives of Job (Job 1-42) and Joseph (Gen 37-50). Note the details about how they suffered and why. How did God sustain them? God is the same yesterday, today and forever, therefore he will also provide for you no matter how dark or deep your valley (Heb 13:8, Ps 23). Meditate on his goodness reflected in these situations and allow this to encourage you in your trials.

If you are in the midst of suffering, or the suffering of your past still consumes your present, please reach out to a sister in the Lord who will go to the Word and encourage you with love and truth. Please don’t continue to suffer alone.

Consider reading “Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts” by Jerry Bridges and “Be Still My Soul: Embracing God’s Purpose & Provision in Suffering” by Nancy Guthrie. Both of these books will help you to begin to build a scripturally sound and strong theology of suffering.

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