Fiercely Faithful Relationships: Lakewood Pastors Clayton & Ashlee Hurst & Writer Alli Worthington
Today’s episode features two sets of guests who have similar perspectives on life and marriage and how they get through the rough times every relationship faces. Clayton & Ashlee Hurst are marriage pastors at Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. They share personal stories of communication pitfalls in marriage and how they keep Christ at the center of their relationship. Alli Worthington is an author, business coach and the co-founder of Blissdom, who, with her husband, faced job losses, homelessness and chronic illness. She shares how she was able to loose the grip fear had on her during these difficult seasons, and where she found the courage to overcome her anxieties.
Fiercely Faithful Relationships: Lakewood Pastors Clayton & Ashlee Hurst & Writer Alli Worthington – Jesus Calling Podcast Episode #82
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. Today, we speak with two sets of guests who have similar perspectives on marriage and how to get through the rough times every couple faces. Clayton & Ashlee Hurst are marriage and parenting pastors at Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. They share personal stories of communication pitfalls in marriage and how they keep Christ at the center of their relationship. Alli Worthington is an author, business coach, and the co-founder of Blissdom, who, over the course of her marriage, faced job losses, homelessness, and chronic illness. She shares how she was able to loose the grip fear had on her during these difficult seasons and where she found the courage to overcome her anxieties.
Prepared for a Wedding, But Not for A Marriage
Clayton: We are the marriage and parenting pastors at Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. We’ve been on staff at Lakewood for a little over 13 years, and we started with the marriage and parenting ministry in 2014. We have three kids ranging from 17 to two, and we’ve been married for 21 years.
Ashlee: Clayton and I both grew up in East Texas. We met at our home church there, and so I come from a family of very loving parents. My parents have been married for almost 46 years and our house was just… it was a great house to grow up in. My parents loved each other deeply and that made me feel safe. So I knew I was always going to go home to a very happy home, a very love filled home, and that just brought me so much peace and security. And I’m so grateful to my parents for modeling that for me that I can now pass on to my kids.
Clayton: I grew up in a very similar situation in a small town in east Texas. My parents now have been married for over 55 years. I have a brother and a sister. It was the same type of environment. My parents loved each other. I very rarely, if ever, heard them argue or complain. I thought they had the perfect marriage. It was it was really our normal. We were rambunctious kids. I think I was the most. We make a joke that my brother and sister are the perfect ones and then came Clayton. But my parents had a great marriage. They loved each other, and I learned a lot. And I think that’s what we thought marriage would be like: everything would just be smooth sailing for us when we get married.
We have two different perspectives I think on how we met. We first met at church through some church friends. I had about five friends of mine come up to me in the course of a week that said, “You have got to meet this girl at church.” I had just come back from college, and they pointed her out to me at a church service during a midweek service. And from a distance, she looked incredible, and as as I got closer to her, she looked even better.
Unfortunately, my attention went off of God and onto her at that moment because she was really close and she was gorgeous. That’s what drew me in. And I think right after that we started to date after some friends of ours introduced us. We went on dates pretty consistently and about a year and a half later, we got married.
We prepared a lot for our marriage…well, not for our marriage but for the wedding day. And I think that was our challenge. All the details that come with the wedding we prepared for, but we really didn’t prepare for the days after.
The Challenging Early Years of Marriage
Ashlee: So one of our pastors did our premarital counseling. And I think we met once, and we were like, “Oh, we’ve got this. We don’t really need this. We have great families and great parents. We know it. This is going to be a breeze. We like each other a lot. This will be no problem.” How little did we know that we would have a lot of issues. You know, it started out with just funny things he would do that I was like, “What have I married?”
For instance, he blew his nose in our towels…
Clayton: You don’t need to tell them this.
Ashlee: Because he thought the tissues were too rough on his nose, and I found out the hard way.
He wanted to buy a…how big was the trash can?
Clayton: It was a 55 gallon trash cans that I had had in college. I had roommates, and in a guys’ apartment, we just knew that the bigger the trash can you could stuff it in there, and you wouldn’t have to take it out to the curb as often. So I thought, “Hey, it worked for us.”
Ashlee: It took up half the kitchen. He wanted to put this trash can in our kitchen to take up half the kitchen so that he wouldn’t have to take the trash out as much. And so I just was like, “What have I married?” And, of course, he was expecting me to be this amazing cook like his mom, and I think I tried to make like an egg casserole or something one time and it was green. I don’t know. I was a bad cook.
So there were things that we had to get used to that we didn’t know to expect because we’d never lived together. And so it just kind of slowly went downhill from there. We didn’t know how to communicate with each other. We didn’t understand the differences between men and women. We didn’t know how to show love to one another. We showed love in different ways, and we didn’t receive it the right way. So slowly, by year five, we found ourselves in a place of hopelessness because we didn’t know how to communicate. We had just had our first child. I went through a lot of postpartum depression during that time, and I didn’t have him to talk to because he had hurt my feelings so many times that I just decided that I would I just wasn’t going to share anything with him anymore.
“By year five, we found ourselves in a place of hopelessness because we didn’t know how to communicate.”
So, yeah, those early years for us were very challenging and very difficult and was one of the biggest reasons we wanted to write this book: to help others because the more counselling we’ve done the more we’ve found that a lot of couples find themselves in the same place we were at just not knowing how to communicate with each other and not knowing how to share thoughts in your life and difficulties and how to forgive. So that was really one of the biggest reasons we wrote the book.
Clayton: I think that’s very true because, you know, whenever you come into a marriage, you’ve kind of had this normal for so many years as you come into it.
Well, my normal looked completely different from her normal. I remember in the early days of our marriage we even had arguments over how to fold bath towel. My mom folded it a certain way and her mom folded in a certain way. It was just little petty things, but that was kind of the communication gap between each other. I didn’t know how a woman processed information. I didn’t know how she then turned it around and shared that information. I didn’t know how to do that. When I would come home and we hadn’t seen each other for a while, she would barrage me with questions. I literally thought I was being cross examined in a jury trial. But what she wanted to know was that she wanted to be a part of my day, and those little things were so critical for us. Like Ashlee said, now we’re starting to talk to other couples and realize that people need to hear this, even people that have been married for a while need to hear these things that that the book offers.
Ashlee: At Lakewood Church, we oversee all of our volunteers and teachers in the marriage ministry. We have ongoing marriage classes every week on Sundays and Wednesdays for premarital classes as well as ongoing marriage help, and then we also have a class for marriages that are hurting. We put on a yearly conference every year called Spark where we bring in marriage experts from all over the country. It’s a great event that we do in August. We also do marriage retreats every year, and then we also have marriage groups that go on around the city.
Finding a Place at Lakewood Church
Clayton: What led us to Lakewood was in 2003, I was a children’s pastor at our home church, and we just both felt like that our time there was drawing to a close. I had some friends of ours that lived in Houston. They attended Lakewood, and we decided to come down for a weekend just meet with them, pray, get some wisdom, and just see what God was saying.
By the end of that weekend we both fell fell in love with the church. We loved the message. We loved the heart of the people and really felt like that this was the place we were supposed to come and get plugged in.
“We loved the heart of the people and really felt like this was the place we were supposed to come and get plugged in.”
Ashlee: It was about a year later that we came on staff in the children’s ministry, and we thought we were coming to minister to other people. We didn’t realize how much we were going to be ministered to. You know, we still had some issues in our marriage that we were still working out, and we just found hope.
Prioritizing Faith, Family and Life
Clayton: It’s so important to me to prioritize time with Ashlee because we can always get busy. I’m busy with ministry, with family, and with everything else that we have going on, but we realize that it’s so important to prioritize that time to have date nights. I realize that it’s important that I continue to pursue her, to go out on dates, to do the things that I did to attract her, to do the things that I did to woo her whenever we were dating before we got married. It’s so important to continue to do that. So I make it a point. I remember a pastor telling me one time: “Your first church is your family.” You know, if I do everything at Lakewood, and I do all the ministry that needs to happen and help a bunch other people but my wife isn’t taken care of them, my kids aren’t happy and aren’t taking care of, then I really feel like I’ve failed as a husband and as a father. For me, God’s first; my wife is second; my kids are third; and everybody else is fighting for fourth. It’s important for me to prioritize that time on a daily and weekly basis.
“Your first church is your family.”
Ashlee: As a very busy wife, a mom of kids ranging from 2 to 17, and a minister at Lakewood, yeah, my life can get a little crazy, but it is so important to me to have quiet time with the Lord everyday. For me, it works when everybody’s out of the house or when I’m able to find a room to get alone because I just need that quiet time with God to just refill my tank. I can’t do it without Him. He is my everything. He helps me to have a better attitude about my day. He helps to give me hope for anything I’m going through. I can’t function very well without my time with Him. His word is so inspirational. It just fills me up, and the scriptures just speak so much life into me. So that time alone with the Lord is what keeps me going. It’s what keeps the joy — the joy of the Lord is my strength — yes, I need the joy of the Lord a lot of days to get everything done that I need to get done, and I’m just so grateful that He gives us that time. What a gift… what a gift it is to spend time with Him.
Clayton: Jesus Calling is such a great resource. I personally use it every single day. It’s a part of my devotional time. To me, in my time with the Lord, when I read through Jesus Calling it really helps almost put skin on the Word. It puts it in such a personable way. It allows me to see it almost from a conversation that’s happening outside of it, but then it really draws me in to where I’m having that conversation with Christ. You know, I’m having that conversation of how I’m feeling and what’s going on in me. It really allows me to take a closer step into a relationship with the Creator of the universe that maybe I wouldn’t have before. It’s been paramount in my walk with God every single day to go through Jesus Calling, and it’s helped us as a couple as well.
“[Jesus Calling] really helps to put skin on the Word. It puts it in such a personable way.”
Ashlee: It’s so personable, and I love that. I mean we’ve even done Jesus Calling for Kids with our kids, and they love it. It’s just on a level that they can understand. Even though they’re short every day, there’s so much meat, and every day it’s something that we can then take and talk and have conversation about. And so, yeah, we love Jesus Calling.
Time With Each Other, Time With God
Clayton: Ashlee and I have found out it’s so important to spend time together praying and studying the Word. We realize how important it is, and really, that is such an intimate and personal time. When we can pray together, I hear her heart of hearts. When I pray, she hears the very innermost things that are going on inside of me. So really, it’s the most intimate thing a husband and wife can do is to pray together and to study the Word together. There’s no one that knows me better than Ashlee.
“When I pray, she hears the very innermost things that are going on inside of me.”
She’s my helpmate. She can point out those things in a gracious and hope-filled way to say, “Hey, Clayton, when you’re doing this… “ you know. Or, “Let’s pray about this.” Or, “Let’s look at this.” Or even how I respond to the kids or how I handle the situation, she’s my best friend, and when we spend time together and praying, that really comes out and that can really help us. It helps me to be a better husband and father and helps me to be a better person overall.
Ashlee: You know, God loves relationships. He placed himself in an eternal relationship with Jesus and the Holy Spirit. You can see throughout the whole Bible how important relationships are to God. So of course, a husband and wife is going to be one of the most important relationships there are. In Ephesians 5, Paul talks about Christ and the church, and his parallel example of that is the bride and the groom. So that relationship with Jesus and His bride is so important to Christ. It’s just as important as our relationship together. So for us, we’ve got to spend that time together with the Lord. It’s what makes our marriage.
“We’ve got to spend that time together with the Lord, It’s what makes our marriage.”
God created marriage. He’s the one that brought it into being in Genesis. It was the very first institution that he came up with. It’s so important to us. But how can a marriage work that God created without God in the midst of it. So we have to spend that time with the Lord, or our marriage will not thrive.
Putting Down Pride to Raise Up Marriage
Clayton: The most common problem we see when we counsel couples is pride. I know that was my issue whenever we were early on in our marriage. Humility is such a mainstay in every marriage and so needed in every marriage, but that pride always wants to come up. We were born as really selfish individuals. One of the first words you learn as a kid is “mine.” Everything is “mine.” But I think it’s so important to lay your pride down. In Ephesians 5, where God is revealing the role of a husband and a wife, before He talks about those roles, He say, “Hey, if you want to be successful in this, submit one to another.” That means lay your pride down.
Ashlee: We have talked to so many couples where we’re like, “Okay, well why don’t you try this or that,” and they are like, “Oh, I can’t do that.” Well, like that’s so prideful. I mean, the Bible is very clear about pride. Pride comes before a fall. You are going to fall on your face if you continue to be prideful. But the Word says if you humble yourself then God will lift you up in honor.
“You are going to fall on your face if you continue to be prideful.”
If you decide to humble yourself — which is so hard to do sometimes — God will lift you up in honor. Our pastor, Pastor Joel, said recently that humility is the first step to healing in a relationship. And I think that is so true. I feel like when we are counseling couples, that’s where we end up. It’s like, “Okay, you need to lay that down. It’s pride. It’s pride.” If people could just grasp that more… just, “Okay. That’s pride. Lay it down, and humble yourself.” It would transform relationship I feel like.
“Humility is the first step to healing in a relationship.” – Joel Osteen
Clayton: We come across couples that in their relationship and maybe in their marriage, they’re really unbalanced. One is really excited for the marriage that they’re bending over backwards to make the marriage happen, and the other one’s just kind of fading off in the distance and not really putting in the effort and the time that it takes to have a great marriage.
And, really, the ones that we talk to are the ones that are gung-ho, they’re willing to do whatever, and I think what we tell them consistently is, “The greatest thing you can do is get on your face before God because God will give you the insight and the direction that you need — the wisdom that you need — on what to do and when to do it.” I think there’s even the importance of what to say and what not to say… times when you really want to give direction to your spouse but maybe that’s not what God has intended for you. A lot of times it’s just staying the course, being consistent in your time with God because God so faithful, and He will give you the direction that you need to have the marriage that he longs for you to have
With God at the Center of Marriage, Anything Is Possible
Ashlee: What led us to write Hope For Your Marriage is we have seen so many couples where we were at year five with bad communication and very prideful and so many hurt and unforgiveness that we just want to get the word out on what we’ve done and what has worked for us and other couples at our church. And it’s just a book of hope.
There is not one marriage that’s hopeless. Not one. Every marriage can be saved if both parties are willing to work and put in the effort that it needs. You know, you go to college to get a degree. You’re working really hard because it’s really expensive right. Well, why don’t we put the same amount of effort into our marriage? Marriage takes work, but there’s hope there. There’s hope. You’re not lost. You can do it.
Clayton: In writing this book, we really wanted to express what we had gone through and talk about the challenges and get to a raw place of: “Here’s where we were, and here’s what we expected, and if God can turn our marriage around, He can turn anyone’s marriage around.” There truly was hope deep down inside of us to come out. And I think that can happen for any marriage.
Ashlee: We were very vulnerable in our book. We didn’t want to hold anything back. So we shared a lot of the hurts and pains that we went through in our marriage because we wanted to help. What good is it to have a testimony if we don’t share that testimony with others to help them as well? Our hope and prayer is that this book will be a testimony of God’s faithfulness in our life and His mercy and grace on our marriage and that it will help others get out of that pit that we were in and have the thriving marriage that we have now.
Clayton: When we sit in front of a couple and they’re ready to throw in the towel and get a divorce, we always go back to the same question. It’s actually the first line of our book: “Are you willing to do whatever it takes to have the marriage you’ve always hoped and dreamed of?” And it’s really a question of, “Are you willing to lay your pride down and allow yourself to do whatever it takes?” And if they are, it’s amazing how God can take that pliable heart and that pliable spirit and change from the inside out. And it seems like when people are willing to do that, anything’s possible.
“Are you willing to do whatever it takes to have the marriage you’ve always hoped and dreamed of?”
Narrator: If you are looking for support resources in your marriage, please visit Lakewood Church.com and visit the marriage and parenting section of their ministry page. Ashlee & Clayton’s new book Hope for Your Marriage: Experience God’s Greatest Desire For You and Your Spouse is available now on Amazon.com.
Narrator: Stay with us for the second half of our program after this brief message from Audible.
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Narrator: Up next, we visit with Alli Worthington, an executive, business coach and consultant, wife and mother of five sons. She is also author of Fierce Faith: A Woman’s Guide to Fighting Fear, Wrestling Worry and Overcoming Anxiety. Today, she shares about the ups and downs of her life as a mom, a wife, and a businesswoman, and how she faced her biggest fears by submitting them to God.
Alli: I’m Alli Worthington and the mother of five boys. They’re ages 9, 11, 13, 16, and 19, so our house is as loud and crazy and a little bit smelly as you can imagine. My husband and I live outside of Nashville, Tennessee. We live with the only golden retriever who refuses to retrieve, but we love her anyway. She’s also the only other female in the house.
Identifying Your Dreams
I grew up in East Tennessee. My father passed away when I was almost three. So as I grew up it was just my mother and I. I was a nerdy little girl. I loved our trips that we would take to the library on the weekends. I think I was the girl that caused the library to put a limit on how many books you could check out at the same time. I didn’t get books about horses and fiction like normal little girls, though. I used to check out nonfiction books. I was the encyclopedia reader. So I was I was kind of a nerdy kid. I’m sure I was a blast at parties.
I would be the kid who would say, “Did you know a platypus is the only mammal that that lays eggs?”
I continued to be relatively nerdy in terms of my love of facts and love of knowledge in high school and college. However, I was a terrible student. What I didn’t realize at the time was I had ADD, so concentrating in a classroom full of other students who could distract me was never a good idea. So I kind of labeled myself that I wasn’t smart and that I wasn’t good at learning things. But at the same time, I would go to sleep every night with four different books on my bed because I was learning things. So it was a really fascinating time for me where I loved everything, but I couldn’t figure out what I was good at. In fact, I remember in college going to the career center and taking all these tests, and they said. “we’ve never seen anyone like you. We’re not quite sure what you should do, but you do rank that you could be a florist.”
I’m not sure that I should be a florist, but okay. So I ended up majoring in psychology because I’ve always loved the study of people and how we interact with the world and how we think and our emotions. But when I met my husband on a blind date, we we fell in love. Within like five months we were married, and we started this life together. I remember when we were engaged, he said, “Well, what are your dreams?” You know, we had the dreams talk, and I said, “I would really love to be your wife and have a big family and be a stay home mom,” and he said, “That’s fine if that’s what you want to do, but just make sure you keep your interests up.” That was always very important to him. He grew up kind of watching his mom for a period of time lose her own interests, and it was a great nudge for me.
When Our Plans Get Wrecked
I loved being a stay home mom. I homeschooled the kids for a few years and just had a great time at it. At the same time as I’m I’m staying home with the kids, the Internet is kind of blowing up, and because I was — for it for some of those years — kind of a relatively lonely stay home mom because we moved quite a bit from my husband’s job, and in the winter, if one little kid gets sick, you’re home for a week. I discovered that you could find real community on the Internet with other moms while staying home. So it was just it was a neat evolution of my life with my family.
When I was pregnant with my fifth child, my husband and I faced the biggest shift that’s ever happened in our adult lives… he lost his job. He had been out of work for about six months. He used to run hospitals and hospital laboratories; so he would go into a hospital laboratory that wasn’t doing well, and he would turn it around. That job would always last two or three years and then we’d move to a new state or new part of the country. It was just part of what he did. So going for six months without finding a new hospital to move to, that wasn’t unusual, but I dug my heels in the ground and said, “I’m not moving this family again.” I had had each one of the boys — all five boys — in a different city or state, and I was just tired of moving.
Unfortunately, what also happened at that same time is the market began to crash. We had our house on the market for a year and weren’t unable to sell. It ended up there was a short sale on it which turned into a foreclosure because the short sale that didn’t go through, so we lost our home. We didn’t have any money in the bank and had gone through our savings. And five weeks after I had my youngest child, we were homeless and without a job. We moved in with my grandfather. It was terrible. We moved in with my grandfather while Mark, my husband, is interviewing for other jobs, and eventually he did find another job. Thank goodness it was in the Nashville area, so he got to stay in the same area. But at that point, that was my wake up call. I thought, “I love the internet already. Is there a way to leverage the internet to be able to build a business so I can help my family and can provide for my family?”
Facing Fear to Take on Something New
We live in this special time in history where we can learn anything we want to learn. We can do anything we want to do, and it is absolutely magic. There are no gatekeepers. You don’t have to get permission from anyone to succeed. You can go online and learn anything you want to do. I like to say, “With God and Google we can take over the world.” And so I simply would stay up late at night googling how to build a business, what I needed to do, and all the topics that I needed to learn. I just fell in love with it.
“We live in this special time in history where we can learn anything we want to learn.”
So starting a business, whether it’s your first business or your or you’ve had successful businesses in the past, is always terrifying. I think we think if we have a great idea or we have a great plan we’re going to feel secure and feel like we know what we’re doing, but what I’ve learned over the years is it’s always terrifying. Now my first business, way back in the day when I was first starting it, I was so desperate to get something started, I didn’t have that much time to be afraid because I had already been through worse case scenario with my family losing everything. So that period of my life I just stayed busy and focused to try to build it. But it’s so interesting now, I’m 10 years past that, and every time I move into something new in my life, whether it’s personal or business, the fear always pops up.
I think if I have a fear or an Achilles heel, it would be that things are going to fall apart. And so when you have this fear that things are going to fall apart in the future, you want to stay busy trying to make everything perfect.
I believe busyness is really, behind fear, our biggest struggle in this generation. It’s behavior that looks so healthy at face value. We’re all busy, but there’s a big difference between living a full, healthy, productive life and busyness that comes down to burnout. I think it all comes down to finding your sweet spot and not letting the enemy use busyness and life to keep us distracted and not connected to Jesus because that’s what he does. We think we stay busy with with good things and with helpful things because we all have so much responsibility on our shoulders. But when the enemy uses busyness as a tool to keep us distracted and disconnected from Jesus, that’s when we get burned out.
“I believe busyness is really, behind fear, our biggest struggle in this generation.”
I love Jesus Calling. It’s so good, and it often allows me to find peace in the middle of a very full day. I have two copies of the books in different parts of the house, and I have the app on my phone. I love how such profound truth is packed in such short segments. Sometimes, I’ll open it up to the day and see what it says on the day, and then sometimes I’ll just flip through and find a devotional in the book.
Here’s a favorite passage of mine from Jesus Calling. It’s from December 21st.
My plan for your life is unfolding before you. Sometimes the road you’re traveling seems closed or opens up so painfully slowly that you must hold yourself back. Then, when the time is right, the way before you suddenly clears through no effort of your own. What you have longed for and worked for, I present to you freely as pure gift. You feel awed by the ease in which I operate in the world, and you glimpse My power and My glory. Do not fear your weakness, for it is the stage on which My power and glory perform most brilliantly. As you persevere along the path I have prepared for you — depending on My strength to sustain you — expect to see miracles, and you will. Miracles are not always visible to the naked eye, but those who live by faith can see them clearly. Living by faith rather than by sight enables you to see My glory.
Making plans so you can keep everything from falling apart, when we need to stay focused that the Lord goes before us. He prepares everything for us. We don’t have to fear the future, because He’s already there, and this devotional reminds me of that truth.
Never Give Up
I met another woman online who lived in New York City who had an idea to throw an event and wanted a partner in it here in Nashville where I lived. And I was just desperate or foolish enough to say, “Yes, I’m happy to help out.” I literally learned as I went. The first conference that I ever went to was my own. It was terrible, and it was ridiculous. There were 75 people. And I said, “You know, we know it’s biblical: don’t despise small beginnings.” But that small, little meeting we had for free of 75 women turned into multi-million dollar events down the road with thousands of women. But I had to be faithful and that little thing and go, “Okay, Lord, I think You’re opening the door for me, and I’m going to learn everything I can and stay focused on serving the women who are showing up.”
I think the key in life — whether, like I said, whether it’s something you’re doing in your personal life or your business life — is just to keep learning to stay humble and just don’t don’t give up.
I was in a bookstore, walking through the aisles, and I had this thought. I don’t know if it was an Alli thought or God thought. I have no idea, but I had this thought, “I should write a book one day.” Now, mind you, I have no idea what the book is going to be about. I just loved reading, and I love books. So I thought, “Well, I’ll go to Google and find out what the process is like.”
The next Google search result after that was: “If you have a blog and you’re able to show a publisher that people care about what you say, then you might have a chance.” So the very next Google search was: “What is a blog?” And that was literally how I dipped my toes into the online waters of writing at all.
So I wrote for years and years and completely forgot that original dream of writing a book. But, as my first book Breaking Busy came out, I realized it was launching exactly 10 years to the month that I originally had the first thought to write a book and Googled: “How do you write a book?” God is so faithful.
Like I said, the key is just not giving up and keeping your dreams alive. Sometimes it takes a little longer than you imagine at the beginning, but when that first book was coming out, those ten years seemed like nothing.
Every Woman’s Battle With Fear
The Lord put fear on my heart as a topic for this book a couple of years ago. And I thought, “Well, I will research everything in scripture about fear; and I’ll research everything researchers say about fear from a practical perspective; and I’ll put it all together; and I will help people.” Well, what I really didn’t know back then is I struggled with a lot of fear, so I was feeling way too big for my britches back then.
In my mind, we all just carried this weight of fear on us, and it was just trying to manage it. Like, I would never even admit that I had fear. I would just say that I was stressed out about things when, really, I was afraid.
And what happened in our family is about four years ago, my husband got sick. He developed adult onset asthma and had a very severe form of it. Any little virus the kids brought home would turn into severe bronchitis or pneumonia for him. My fear would revolve around: “Is he going to be getting enough oxygen?” “Does it does he need to go to the hospital?” “Can can we manage this?”
It was a very, very difficult season of life, as you can imagine, for him and for me and for the children. This one morning I was on the way to school for a meeting, and I was in the Starbucks line waiting for my coffee and the song “No Longer Slaves” came on. I love that song. Every time it comes on the radio, I sing it. I was on my way across the street over to Target to get a notebook for my meeting, and as the song was on, I wept. I was completely wrecked by the song. I’d heard the song 100 times, and I couldn’t figure out what was going on.
I ended up just sitting in my car, singing that song over and over again, crying so much that I never even made it to the meeting. I went home that day and called a friend of mine to explain why I wasn’t at the meeting, and she said, “You know what? I know why you reacted to that song that way. You are completely bound up by fear and worry and what you’re doing right now is you’re trying to make safety your God.” Now, in my mind, I thought, “Well, this woman is wrong. That isn’t what I’m doing. My life is just really hard, and I’m dealing with it.” But I didn’t realize that I was a slave to it and that I could actually fight back against it.
I didn’t even know what fighting looked like because I thought, “Well, Mark is sick. What does it even look like to fight back against this fear?” And so what that did for me is it was my prompting, I believe from the Lord, to go, “Yes. Fear is your battle. It is almost everyone’s battle, and it’s time for you and a whole generation of women to learn how to overcome it.”
Fear is Big, But God is Bigger
So I wrote Fierce Faith to be like a manual. You wake up, and you’re worried about something happening to a family member. Or you’re worried about betrayal. You’re afraid of rejection. You’re afraid you’re not good enough in a situation. You literally open up that chapter; you find it; and you follow the steps to overcome it.
Here’s what’s so interesting about fear: there’s there’s not a magic wand that makes all of the fear go away. And that’s what I was looking for. One thing that inspired me to write this book is I know that all throughout Scripture we are commanded to “Fear not.” And I went through this phase where I said, “Well, I know that I don’t have to be afraid. I know that Jesus tells us to ‘Fear not.’ I’ve heard 100 sermons telling me not to be afraid, but why do I still walk around with a ball of anxiety in my stomach?”
I secretly felt guilty and selfish at my own level of frustration and fear and sadness. I would say, “Well, I’m not the one who’s sick after all.” I would play this dangerous game of judging whose pain and suffering mattered more. But when we are aware of our fear, it allows us to be self-compassionate instead of self-critical. I believe that’s the way God wants us to treat ourselves: to be self-compassionate instead of beating ourselves up… to give ourselves permission to feel and acknowledge our true feelings. That’s the first step to overcoming the fear.
I believe our most powerful tools will always be prayer and worship. We know that spiritually, when we take everything to Jesus, the battle is His. We don’t have to fight for a victory from it, but the victory is already His.
“I believe our most powerful tools will always be prayer and worship.”
God has called you to be strong and courageous. The storms of life and the fear of the next storm coming over the horizon can leave us feeling helpless. I know. I’ve been there. But we know that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives inside of us.
I want you to begin to fight back, to talk to Jesus, to ask for a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit, to worship Him when the storm rages around you, and then stand up tall and fight back with a battle plan. You can do this. You are stronger than you know.
Narrator: To find out more about Alli Worthington’s new book, A Fierce Faith, visit alliworthington.com.
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling podcast, we visit with award winning singers, songwriters and authors Mark Lowry and Andrew Greer, the hosts of the film series and podcast “Dinner Conversations: Turning the Light On One Question At A Time.” They each share their thoughts on why they think conversations are an important facet of our relationships with others.
Andrew Greer: The reason why conversation, I believe—I think we believe–is so important is because it allows for this kind of equal opportunity communion to happen. We believe that Jesus is at the table. We just all get invited to sit around and then discover who He is.
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