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Faith Versus FUD

“Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.  People often become more committed to a familiar discomfort than they are to an unfamiliar new possibility.” Lisa Nichols

Today I want to address the issue of fear, which has so many dynamics that it would be nearly impossible to cover it all in one blog post. After meditating on the topic for this post, I referred to google to see if my initial key phrase actually made any sense. In my search I came across the acronym FUD meaning “Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt” which was a term used in the early 20th Century to describe the marketing strategy of the well-known IBM computer company. It is speculated by its first competitor, that this strategy was used by IBM’s sales team to instill disinformation in the minds of potential customers who might be considering a new competitive product.
American software developer, Eric S. Raymond wrote:
“The idea, of course, was to persuade buyers to go with safe IBM gear rather than with competitors’ equipment. This implicit coercion was traditionally accomplished by promising that Good Things would happen to people who stuck with IBM, but Dark Shadows loomed over the future of competitors’ equipment or software. After 1991 the term has become generalized to refer to any kind of disinformation used as a competitive weapon.”
I am convinced that just as it is in the natural, so it is in the spiritual realm. Isn’t it interesting how the adversary uses fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) as a competitive weapon against the children of God? He plants seeds of doubt by creating the illusion that the obstacles or setbacks that we can see are more real than the promises that God has spoken over our lives through His word. I guess he knows that in our finite human intellect, it is a lot easier to believe in the tangible (seen or proven) over the intangible (unseen or unproven). His ultimate goal is to replace our faith with FUD. If he can get us to believe that staying in the comfort or safety of what we know will protect us from unforeseen failure, then he has successfully created fear thus producing stagnation. And the enemy knows full well that that is not a spiritual environment conducive for our faith to thrive.
Trust me, I speak from years of experience in this area but I am about to tell you how I was able to conquer my fears, uncertainties and doubts.
One of my favorite writings by the Apostle Paul is found in Hebrews 11. Whenever I need a boost in my faith I go there, it never fails! He outlines the precedence of some of the greatest miracle stories in the bible to sum up faith in action, but the part that resonates most with me is verse 6 when he said:
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
So if our faith pleases God, and the absence of faith is fear, it suggests that the enemy’s plan has dual purpose! He knows that once he can get us to become doubtful of God’s promises, fearful and uncertain of the unknown, not only do we ultimately derail God’s divine plans for our lives, we also displease God by the very presence of our fear. I can guarantee that there is nothing the devil loves more than to feel like his plans have succeeded over our trust and confidence in our Heavenly Father.  Let me remind you  that his strategies are as old as time; he has been using FUD since the very beginning of mankind. Case and point: Adam, Eve and the apple!
I think Paul recalls the stories of all of those ancient saints to prove to us that God’s plans always prevail once we put our faith into action.
Let’s look at verse 7 and 8:
7 “By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.”
Wow! So here we have a man who in holy reverence to God builds this massive ship on dry land proclaiming to his family, neighbors and friends that a flood was coming. Now bear in mind that this floating vessel was the first of its kind back then. They knew nothing about The Titanic or Royal Caribbean’s Symphony. Additionally, their world had never experienced a flood before so I’m pretty sure to his native people, Noah looked like a walking talking lunatic! He came up against incredible opposition during the building process of this boat. I would imagine as a normal human-being although he maintained his faith, he still went back to God a few times just to verify that it was really God’s voice that he had heard. After weeks of building, with no sign of rain, he was probably tempted to give up. However, after being laughed at, scorned and ridiculed, his character beaten down and his self-esteem completely deflated, each day that he woke up to make his way down to that building site he made a conscious decision to maintain his focus on completing the work that God had entrusted to him.

Needless to say, the flood came and it not only solidified Noah’s confidence in his ability to hear God’s voice; it also reassured his faith in God’s protective and redemptive power because he and his family survived the storm and God eventually restored everything that had been destroyed. As for the mockers, sadly enough the flood proved to be dooms day for them because of their disobedience and lack of faith in a God they could not physically see.
8 “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she[b] considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.”
Now here is another phenomenon that required much faith. Here is a man that left everything that he knew to go to an unknown place under the instructions of God. Imagine leaving the comfort of your birthplace to wonder around in a strange land in hopes that you will eventually reach this never before seen “promised land”. With no map, compass or directions, travelling thousands of miles on foot, horse and donkey as a means of transportation, this scenario would’ve definitely spelt disaster and defeat for most of us living today, but not Abraham. He had tunnel vision to continue on his journey in hopes of reaching Canaan; BUT his path was by no means clear cut. It consisted of many unexpected detours, obstacles, and opposition along the way that would’ve otherwise create FUD. In the process of travelling to Canaan, he had to overcome exile, abuse, hunger, family disagreements, and the list goes on.

This is the same man whose wife, through a promise made by God, did not bare him a son until they were both well in their 80s. Now if that isn’t faith in action, I don’t know what is! And to top it all off, God later challenged Abraham to sacrifice the very son that had been promised and given to him after 80 years of waiting! Though saddened by the strong possibility that he would have to kill his own son out of obedience to God’s instructions he goes up into the mountain still believing by faith that God would provide a way out. And just in the nick of time God steps in to save Abraham’s son from death by his own father’s hands! Can you imagine what level of faith it must have taken for Abraham to come so close to killing his own son all because of His desire to obey and please God?

So in essence what Paul was telling us is that with all of what Noah and Abraham endured and still maintained their faith, then it gives us more than enough ammunition against the tactics of the enemy!

Nowadays, we are no longer restricted to a horse or a donkey with only the stars as a guide if God gives us instructions to move. The advancement of technology has given us computers, navigational systems, cars and airplanes to make the process a whole lot easier. You may say, but what about the resources needed to do what I need to do? Like Abraham, it is important to see beyond the limitations of our present circumstances, to block out all doubt and dispel the fear by activating our faith to action. Sometimes making the first step though small it might be, could very well be the step in the right direction to seeing those plans come to fruition! The resources may not be readily available yet but perhaps writing the vision will lead to the next step and then the next until God makes the provisions or the way clear for the next level.
I can attest to the fact that every time I faced an obstacle, whether it was the loss of a job, a broken relationship, a failed endeavor or a disappointment from derailed plans, God always provided a much better outcome than I could have ever planned on my own. I have seen God provide for me in the most unconventional ways. He has used people and avenues that I would least expect to come through for me during my times of need. So as time progresses, it becomes easier to handle each setback or curve ball with a degree of grace because my faith stands on the foundation of the last miracle and the one before that. I had to train my mind to interpret every single obstacle, detour or delay simply as a temporary setback for a permanent set up.

Now with that being said, I have also come to realize that sometimes our greatest battles are not the illusions (external factors) created to look like failure, rather they are delusions (internal wellbeing), battles of the mind, which is of far greater concern. Delusions are internal beliefs, that have been proven to be wrong but is still maintained by an individual. How you view yourself, those around you and the world at large can create a degree of fear, uncertainty and doubt. This kind of obstacle, in my opinion can be considered as a strong hold that requires both fasting and prayer to break free from this mindset.
It is also very important to create an environment that in conducive to growing your faith. You cannot meditate on the words of pessimistic, negative people and expect to maintain a healthy faith life. Remember the enemy also uses people’s opinions as a target to destroy your faith. Whether you are receiving those opinions directly from family, friends or foe or indirectly through various media streams, be mindful and vigilant of Satan’s craftiness. Make a conscious effort to surround yourself with those that will provide encouragement and solutions rather than ridicule and unfavorable outlooks. Feed your spirit with positive and uplifting material that flush out any thoughts of fear, uncertainty and doubt.
I encourage you today, that whatever obstacles, detours, setbacks or oppositions are staring you in the face, know that it is only an illusion to what is ahead. It is up to you to remain focused, obedient and prayerful. Remember that having faith without action is just as detrimental to our growth as having FUD. See those setbacks as an obstacle course if you may, allow each disappointment, delay, or set back to build the endurance that it takes to push past the fears of the unknown, building up your spiritual muscles and bringing you closer to the finish line.  Make the first step in the direction of your desired outcome, practice patience, learn to be sensitive to God’s voice, so that you know timing, when to move and when to be still. With these components, I am confident that in due course, God will reward you for your diligence.

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Your Pain Has Purpose

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10

Let’s be honest, Paul sounded crazy! Why would anyone in their right mind delight in pain?! Furthermore, why would a merciful, compassionate, sovereign God allow insults, hardships, persecution and difficulties to be inflicted on those that he loves and calls His children? How could a God that claims to love us so much, in his infinite power foresee our pain and not block it from happening?

Oxford dictionary describes pain as:
• highly unpleasant physical sensation caused by illness or injury.
• Mental suffering or distress.
• Great care or trouble.
• An annoying or tedious person or thing. (informal)

Pain takes on many faces and does not discriminate against age, gender, color, class or creed. It is a fact of life, an inevitable occurrence for every single breathing human being. And if you’re anything like me, the pain that I have experienced in my life has taken on all of the facets described in the list above. Now, before I continue, let me be the first to admit that, yes, some of that pain was self-inflicted. My decisions to “figure it out” on my own rather than allowing my life to be guided by the word of God resulted in much of the adversities that I faced during my early adulthood. And, if there is anything that I have learnt along the way, it is that violating natural and spiritual laws can have negative effects on one’s physical, financial, mental and spiritual health and stability.

What do you mean by that Simone?

Well, for argument sake, let’s say a chain smoker overtime developed lung cancer, one would conclude that their illness was as a result of the direct violation of the natural law that says “Smoking can lead to cancer”. If someone ate at least three cheeseburgers a day and washed them all down with 16-ounce bottles of coca cola soda and overtime developed a heart disease, it is safe to say that they have violated the natural law that dictates “the excessive consumption of certain foods causes high cholesterol which leads to clogged arteries and ultimately heart problems”.

If at the end of every month I took my salary and went on a shopping spree and neglected to pay my monthly obligations, the laws and policies of the companies for which I owe would automatically take effect, no? So wouldn’t it be hypocritical of me to pray to God for a miracle when the electricity company comes to disconnect my electricity for none payment because I decided that having that designer bag or shoe was more important? I can go on but I think I’ve made my point.

Those were some examples of how violating some natural laws can lead to self-inflicted suffering. This same theory holds true even in our pursuit of finding our true north or moral compass; there are always consequences for every decision that we make in life, both good or bad. For every action, there is a reaction. People less spiritual tend to refer to it as karma, but it is the simple principle of seed, time and harvest.

The reality is, because we are human and subject to human error and failures, through the gift of grace God makes provisions for such shortcomings. So despite our disobedience, God’s love for us as a father, protects us from ourselves, to the point that although we may feel the sting of our own actions, he does not allow it to completely destroy us. However, God has also given us all free will, so in order to receive total deliverance or healing from our strongholds, it is up to us to first come to ourselves, take responsibility for our actions, change whatever those habits are that is causing discomfort in our lives and then take the necessary precautionary measures to ensure that we do not repeat the same mistakes again.

Ultimately, God is able to turn what was meant for our destruction around for our good but also for His glory. By that same token, not only would we have grown from the experience but we would’ve survived it to provide moral and spiritual support to others; cautioning or advising them against such behaviors, and encouraging them to take a more progressive approach in their future decision making.

One may ask, “Ok, I understand all of that but what about the pain that I know I didn’t deserve?” This seems to be one of the most challenging questions in the life of a believer. “God why?” Many people have suffered loss, be it the loss of a loved one, a job, material possessions, broken relationships, broken marriages. Some are facing poverty, various illnesses and infirmities for which they did not bring upon themselves and they question why God would allow them to go through what they are being faced with. There is never an easy response to that question because the answer always sounds so cliché but I am a firm believer that God does not place on His children more than He knows they are able to handle. The question then is “How can we truly know the strength of our abilities or the depth of our faith, if they have never been tested?”

Job is a perfect example of someone that reflected the epitome of righteousness but yet God allowed Satan to destroy all that He had so that Job’s faith might be tested. He lost everything, his family and his wealth, but the story didn’t end there. The end result was that God gave Job double not only for his trouble but also for his faithfulness. Thus proving to the devil that Job was in fact an overcomer and He had the final say.

As Mothers’ Day approaches, I am reminded of the pain that many people who have lost their mothers will be faced with this weekend. For some, the wounds created by their loss are still fresh, while for others, this weekend of celebration bares with it the bitter sweet memories of old times coupled with the old wounds that followed their passing. It is a constant yearly reminder that she is no longer here on earth to celebrate another Mothers’ Day with them.

This coming Sunday will mark the 4th Anniversary of my grandmother’s passing, but it wasn’t the day that her breath left her body that I remember most about the painful experience of her death, it was the days leading up to it. Let’s face it, she was 92 years old and had well exceeded her promised years here on earth. I had long been preparing my heart and mind for the inevitable but absolutely nothing had prepared me for the toll that caring for my ailing grandmother would have on me. For ten years I watched the once, healthy, vibrant, independent, proud, poised statue of a woman slowly deteriorate to the frail, helpless, completely dependent and now bid ridden structure. I remember in the final hours of her life, walking into her room and becoming overwhelmed with a feeling of total helplessness. I stood there for what seemed like forever and watched the life slowly drain from her body. It had been days since she had eaten, she was rapidly losing weight and slowly she was becoming more and more unresponsive. Completely incapacitated, her breathing faint, unable to move, speak or even comprehend anything that was going on around her; it was more than clear that it was only a matter of time.

I remember in that moment turning away, walking back into the kitchen and bursting into tears, as I asked the question, “God why?!” And it was not a question of “why was this happening?” I knew full well that it was her time to go; she had lived a full life but mine was just starting and I was already mentally and emotionally exhausted from the journey. My question carried a far greater weight for which I did not have the mental capacity to fully articulate at the time.

Someone once said “Sometimes you don’t realize the weight of something you’ve been carrying until you feel the weight of its release.” You see, the passing of my grandmother did not just signify the loss of a mother; it was symbolic of the end of an extremely long season. As her primary caregiver and only blood relative living in the same country, that season carried with it, an incredible level of responsibility that at times felt like a massive load that I was far from equipped to carry at such a young age.

However, along with its pains and challenges came also an equal amount of skills, a wealth of knowledge and an uncommon level of wisdom gained, that could not have been obtained any other way than through that experience itself. It also forced me out of the comfort of dependency on others to think and to do for me what I thought I never could. I had to learn very early on in life to become independent in everything that I did. The responsibility of caring for someone else gave me a sense of courage and commitment. I was forced to keep moving and to be strong even when I didn’t want to because someone else’ life depended on it.

I have learnt that the pain of life’s experiences acts as a catapult to some of life’s greatest achievements. It is the bridge that connects our weaknesses to that of our strengths, the scale that balances our confidence to that of our humility. It is the ladder to which every step upward symbolizes another weakness conquered.

So it turns out Paul wasn’t so crazy after all, he was on to something. In Romans 5 he again reiterates this same notion:
“ Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we[b] boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we[c] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 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.”

The revelation that pain does serve a purpose became even more evident during the birth of my son. I was excited about finally meeting the little person that had been sharing my personal space for the last forty-one weeks; but I was just as relieved to finally be rid of the extra weight that I had been carrying around for the last nine months. My sleeping pattern had become increasingly uncomfortable, as my bathroom trips forced me to get up multiple times throughout the night because of the pressure of the baby’s weight pressing against my bladder. Moreover, normally I was most comfortable sleeping on my stomach but by the third month my options were limited to left side or right.

Overall, pregnancy was an overwhelmingly beautiful experience but I was more than ready to be done with it! The overnight bag was packed well in advance and it was time to serve the little person who had outgrown his shared space an eviction notice! He was doing well and was in full formation to make his grand entrance into the world but my body was very slowly dilating.

It seems, the advised at-home-remedy that I had taken just the day before had triggered contractions but didn’t work out quite the way I had anticipated. After settling in to the delivery room, four hours had lapsed and there was still no progress; I was tired, hungry but patient nonetheless. I had watched enough TLC Baby Stories to know that sometimes these things could take all day, but time was of the essence, so my doctor ordered the oxytocin to help speed up the process. Now, initially I had a birth plan that included an all-natural birth, free of any form of medicine or chemical. I was hard fixed on it for months but in the grand scheme of things, I had to come to the realization that a safe delivery and a healthy baby was far more important than my own dream of becoming a super hero. So when I saw that I had already passed the first half of the day, I was well aware that I needed reinforcement and with a narrow window of opportunity I ordered the epidural. I was done playing Wonder woman and I recognized that after so many hours of labor there was only so much that my physical body could take. I also needed to be well rested with enough energy to push when the time came and this chemical injection would make that all possible. So with birth plan now tossed out the window, I gladly surrendered!

The anesthesiologist came into the room and began making the necessary preparation to administer the commonly known miracle drug used by wise women the world over during labor. Prepping the area for the injection and insertion of the catheter, the words that came next held the most profound meaning of the entire labor day experience “I need you to be completely still, while I am doing this. Now, you will feel a very cold sensation around the spinal area but that is normal. I will give you a low dosage which is just enough to help alleviate some of the discomfort and relax the muscles but it won’t be enough to completely numb your system because you need to be able to feel some level of pain or pressure during labor. That pain is an indication that you are having a contraction and that you should push. If I completely remove your ability to feel anything at all then you won’t be able to bear down and push with the contractions.”
In the moment, although I understood what was being explained to me, the revelation of it all held absolutely no relevance until months later.

Needless to say, three doses and five hours later, it was time to push and sure enough there was sufficient pain to indicate exactly when I needed to do just that! I will spare you the gory details of what the next 30 minutes of the labor experience entailed but just know that for me it held one of the greatest lessons on the purpose of pain and the power of persevering through it all. During labor, my tunnel vision was in full effect! I had already been forewarned that if I didn’t get this done soon, the doctor would have to move on to plan B; and plan B was not an option for me!

Though exhausted from nearly eleven hours of labor, I knew that the pain that I was feeling was temporary and pushing through the pressure would ultimately give way to a much greater purpose. With my husband at one end of the bed and the doctor at the other, they relentlessly cheered me on with every contraction, both holding a leg. LOL! I was determined to get this right! I had failed at many things in my life but this was not going to be one of them! A life depended on my ability to push. So with everything that I had left in me, I pushed and after thirty minutes of pushing and a total of eleven hours of labor a healthy baby boy was born.

The analogy of childbearing maybe physical in nature, but I think in so many ways, it can be likened to most of life’s challenging situations. Most times, it is very difficult to focus on what is ahead when our temporary set backs are staring us right in the face. It is in those times that we must always remember that we are never in it alone. We might not always see them, but God is there every step of the way cheering us on as we push beyond the pressures of our present circumstances; he releases his angels of grace, mercy and protection as reinforcements during our weakest moments but it is up to us to call on Him during those times. Sometimes our plans get derailed because of circumstances beyond our control, but God in all of His infinite wisdom always provides for us a way out. His plans for us are always far greater than we can ever think, hope or even imagine. So when you are forced to tap out or give up, it is imperative to see beyond the scope of your current temporary situation. It is important to know that with every struggle that you face, pushing past the pain of that season will eventually give birth to a greater purpose. You might not be able to see it now but the reward for your troubles is wrapped in a beautiful gift yet to be unveiled.

“Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.”
― Lance Armstrong, Every Second Counts