Do you feel chained down? Strapped? Confined? Bottled up? With all of the stresses in life and the many decisions we all face every day, there are few who can say that they don’t, at some point, feel this way. And it can be very confusing to go to church, listen to praise music, or even the advice of loved ones telling us of our freedom in Christ; only to find that, daily, we end up facing the restraints of our circumstances and relationships. Why are so many of us stressed when we know that we are supposed to be experiencing freedom in Jesus Christ? There are so many resources, biblically, to draw from concerning this freedom we are meant to have. And yet, if you have spent any time in Christian fellowship, then you likely are well “versed” in these references. The most direct is from our Lord Jesus when He says, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:30). Another very helpful reference is Christ’s teaching about anxiousness in Luke 12. Properly, any good Christian Brother or Sister should point to these in order to reroute us in our stressful, confining, human ways. But I think that we are meant to do more than receive this sage advice. We have an obligation to be poised and ready for it.
Today, there are many distractions in our lives which may lead us to either not listen to what the Bible tells us or to quickly forget it when the next arrow comes. To be specific, we have to get out of our own way in order to receive the guidance of what Jesus so clearly tells us. Praise the Lord that we are not alone in this. The Holy Spirit works in us and molds us. He is our given counselor. And yet, we still have choice. So, the question is, what can we do to prepare ourselves, amidst the chaos, to be receptive of the Lord’s guidance? Here are three tips:
1) Sanctification properly carries repentance with it. We must always keep with us the repentant acknowledgement that the reason we live in a fallen world is because of sin. Our repentance must accompany our desire to grow in Jesus. However, if repentance becomes self-loathing, then there is no freedom in Christ. Therefore, we must make great efforts to constantly live with hope while never forgetting where we came from as mere men and women.
2) We must acknowledge that we are not a finished product. We are a work in progress and that involves going through the hard times in order to be sanctified. Simply recognizing this can take such a distracting burden off of our shoulders because it is extremely hard to see straight when we are always looking behind us, lamenting that we are not perfect.
3) Feeling better may sometimes come as a result, but it cannot be the purpose. When simply feeling better is our goal then our development in Jesus Christ is not what we are after. We are seeking after our own benefit. When anxious, we must acknowledge and know in our hearts that God has a plan, He is in control, and all things will work to His glory (which is to our good too!)
In closing, let us remember that freedom exists not simply in the ability to choose whatever course we want, but it is the ability to exist securely knowing that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:35-39).