“I am going to die.”
That’s what I kept telling myself on repeat as I talked to the OBGYN nurse over the phone. I tried to catch my breath but the tightness in my chest made it difficult to breathe.
“Don’t try to come here,” the she said. “Just go straight to the E.R. Tell them you just had a c-section.”
All my symptoms pointed to a pulmonary embolism, which could be fatal. I sat there in shock, rocking my newborn while I fed him and wondering what to do. Take him with me? Finish feeding him?
My mother-in-law and husband were the only source of calm in the room. I looked at them both, searching for answers to questions I didn’t feel capable of asking.
“Finish feeding the baby and we will take him. I will send Larry out for formula,” she said. The evenness in her voice steadied me for a moment. She didn’t seem worried. Perhaps things were going to be okay.
A Love that Casts Out Fear
When I look back this moment when my firstborn was just days old, I see a person who was wrecked by anxiety. God’s love wasn’t casting out my fear because I didn’t understand how to experience it. It was one of the scariest times of my life. All I could tell myself was to keep breathing in and out, from one second to the next.
I didn’t have a pulmonary embolism, but my anxiety and the side efforts from some medication I was taking contributed to my symptoms. Within a couple of days, the chest pains and shortness of breath passed, but the lessons I learned after those few hours in the E.R. would play out for years.
Sometimes God allows us to face our greatest fears so we see that there is no fear greater than his love.
Most of us would be afraid if someone told us we could be about to die. It’s the second most common phobia, with the first being public speaking. But what about those of us who live life scared, all the time? Scared of what people will think, scared to take that step of faith into the unknown, or scared to reach out to someone who may reject us?
For a large chapter of my life, this was my every day. I was terrified to truly live because I thought if I did, I would mess things up. What would I mess up? Anything that mattered. Relationships, career, kids, you name it. God’s grace was a gift I couldn’t fathom or recognize.
In the year following my experience at the E.R., God captured my heart in a way I can’t explain. A latticework of events that included a friend reaching out, a book I read at the right time, and many others all combined to reach my tired soul. Day by day, I realized: God’s love will drown my fear, if I let it.
For years, I read the following verse and thought I understood it, but didn’t.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears has not been made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18 NIV
I thought, “Well, that sounds nice. God loves me and watches over me. I need not fear.” And this is true, but then it hit me. If I’m living as though the words of this scripture are true, I must not only accept his love, but live in it.
When I live in God’s love, I know nothing I can do will separate me from him. I know other’s rejection of me doesn’t matter because he will never reject me, once I’ve declared my devotion to him.
Living in his love means I can walk forward without fear because I know even if trials, discomfort or tragedy lies ahead, he will be with me.
The trials are not punishment, but an opportunity for me to grow in his love even more. They’re when I declare his truth over me- that his presence goes before me, beside me, and has my back.
Living in his love means I can love others even if they don’t reciprocate, because the love Christ gives me is sufficient, complete, and unconditional.
Friends, his love changes everything. But for it to take a radical effect on our lives, we must not only say we believe it, but mean it in our core. A love like this captures every aspect of existence and makes us view it differently.
Fear looks at a trial or struggle and says, “How can this be happening to me?”
Love looks at it and says, “How is God still walking with me through it?”
How are we going to respond today? I’m still a work in progress and am far from having this whole thing figured out. But I’m learning. I grew up singing “Jesus Loves Me,” but it’s taken me half my life to believe it and become fully alive because it’s true. I don’t want to go back, but to sing it with its truth in my bones.
Do you have a crippling fear that is holding you back from experiencing the full life God has for you? Do you wonder why you can never seem to experience breakthrough in certain areas of your life? Friend, you are not alone. There are women, like myself, who have been exactly where you are, and we want to come alongside you and help you. This is one of the reasons I banded together with five other women who love Jesus, and we created the Breakthrough LIVE event. We know that community is one of the primary ways God helps us achieve breakthrough from fear, discouragement, and disillusionment.
My session is titled, You Have Everything Because of Him, and it is about how to break free from the lies of culture to live in the fullness of Christ.
You can find out more details about this event and register below.
Shift Your Focus in 2021:
If you need to shift your focus from negativity, disappointment and worry and see what God is already doing in your life, I encourage you to pick of a copy of my book, Shift: Changing Our Focus to See the Presence of God. I talk more about those seasons when it doesn’t seem as though God hears us, and how to see that he is working, even when we life doesn’t look the way we anticipated. Many people have sent me messages saying it is a timely book for this season. This encourages my heart so much. I pray that God continues to use it to touch lives.
Here’s what one reader said:
“Perfect read to start the year! I am thoroughly enjoying Shift, by Abby McDonald. The author’s conversational style makes this a great book for those relaxed reading days, but it also has many deep scriptural truths to explore for those times when I want to dig deeper into God’s Word. It encourages readers while answering that big question – how to experience God’s presence more fully. I highly recommend it!” -Kristine B.
You can pick up a copy of Shift by clicking the image below.