13 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.
14 He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart. - Psalm 107:13-14
The people referred to in this passage sit in darkness, bound by chains they don’t even see. They don’t even know what holds them down. We’re given hints as to what those chains are made of in verse 11: for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High. Simply put, they have unrepentant sin on their lives. The problem is the darkness hides their sin - they don’t really see their sin for what it is, they have somehow rationalized the sin away, or they just don’t view it in the same way as God views it. Because they can see it, they remain in bondage, often completely unaware of what’s holding then down.
When we’re in bondage, we may not understand what is holding us down, but the oppression we feels a result of those chains is undeniable. It comes when we can feel the pressure and the challenges in our lives, but we often can’t put our finger on what it is, or find a way out of it. We feel it when life is just hard at every turn, and we find ourselves frustrated, angry, or emotional often, but we don’t seem to really understand why everything feels like it’s going wrong. It shows up when we feel overwhelmed at our chaotic schedules or the growing number of responsibilities in our lives - none of which we can seem to let go of right now. We can feel it when we’re faced with those difficult decisions in life and we just can’t seem to figure out what to do. Or maybe we feel it on those days we can’t seem to get out of bed, or we can’t shake the fear and we’re paralyzed by the growing anxiety in our lives. We also feel the oppression when we can’t get on top of that sin issue we know is present in our lives, and we’re caught in the dreaded sin-confess-repeat cycle. We know we should have more patience, yet we find ourselves yelling at our kids every single morning; we know we should be the most loving, tender-hearted person that the people in our lives know, but our co-worker or our sister just knows how to push our buttons. Or maybe we feel it when we see that needy person call and we send her to voicemail because we just don't have the time or energy right now. We can feel it when we’re overwhelmed with guilt or shame at the way we keep failing, or we just seem to lack that joy for living that other people have. If you are not living life to the fullest, and you just keep feeling like something is missing, you’ve probably got some chains wrapped around you that need to be broken. If you lean in and look deeply into that part of your life that is weighing you down, you’ll find a sin issue underneath it all.
It can be hard at times to identify the sins that exist in our lives because we live in a world that continues to shroud our sin in darkness. Our culture rewards independent people who demonstrate strength over weakness, we feel more important or valued when our schedules are busy, we are encouraged to complain or take revenge when we have been wronged. Biblical values such as submitting to our spouses, practicing humility, or giving someone who has offended us our cloak, are in direct contrast to what the world teaches us. Our stronghold sins are bred into us through our upbringing and the culture we live in, often so deeply engrained we have a difficult time even separating them from who we are. All these lead to those chains continuing to hold in the darkness. But I’m telling you that finding those chains and breaking them is the most freeing experience you will ever have.
I’ve been through enough trials in my life to know He’s got chains to expose in this diagnosis as well. So, I keep leaning in and looking to what it is I don’t like about it - where is it hard for me? That’s where I’m finding my chains. I really don’t like that I am unable to work through this - I love teaching as much as I enjoy just about anything in life. Those who know me well understand my passion for my job, and how very much I miss it when I'm not there. When I dig deeper, and truly look at the reasons my heart is unhappy with staying home, I find a great deal of my value and identity tied to my job. Perhaps a little too much. So I’m surrendering that to Him, and He is replacing it with a deep sense of gratitude that I have a beautiful season of rest in front of me. It’s also been difficult for me to own the fact that not only am I restricted from serving others in the way that I love to serve, but I am now in a place where I need to rely on others to serve me. As I surrender the pride in that sin issue, He is replacing it with a deep sense of gratitude for the incredible number of supportive people He has placed in my life to walk this path with me. I seriously feel like I have an entire army standing beside me in this battle, and that’s a beautiful thing. Surrender is hard work, but when you lean in, you find such a gentle and glorious revealing of your sin issues. He holds you as He shows you what you need to let go of, and immediately replaces it with something so much greater than words can even express.
Press on ~ you are loved
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