In partnership with Jesus (ii) The Freedom to be

Sep 5, 2023 | INSIGHTS

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)

To help us think of all that is involved in partnering with Christ, I have adapted a section from the chapter ‘Beyond Striving’ in Intimacy and Eternity, which speaks about certain tendencies that very much war against this.

Because Jesus gives us the freedom to do the specific things He has called us to do, it stands to reason that the enemy will hate the sight of us operating in the fulness of this freedom, and seek to stir up ‘enemies’ – both internal and external – to cramp and even snuff out this liberty. After all, it poses a real threat to his hellish kingdom!

One of satan’s most common tactics is to foster various forms of self-loathing, which cause us to pass judgements against ourselves for being unable to get the better of some repeated failing. These, in turn, fuel self-destructive tendencies that can bring all manner of disquiet to ourselves and to those around us.

No wonder publishers are so keen to bring out publications that emphasise self-acceptance and improved self-esteem, encouraging us to feel more confident about life, to think positively and to remember that even rejection itself can often serve as a call to redirection!

Many find these resources helpful, but it is important to remember that the real root behind much of our striving and restlessness often stems from not fully believing and trusting the good news that Jesus died not only to save us but to lead and care for us.

The more willing we are to surrender ourselves to Him, and to remember that He is working in everything to accomplish our ultimate good, the easier we will find it to thank Him even for the ‘thorns’ that so challenge our equanimity, and which can make us feel as though we are driving with the handbrake on.

Any suffering and disappointment is easier to bear when we refuse to let it daunt our trust. It is good to thank the Lord consciously for making us the way we are, lest we waste a great deal of time and effort resenting how we are, and the way things are for us – all of which make it only too easy to be envious of those who seem to be more favourably blessed and ‘sorted’ than we ourselves are.

The blind Scottish preacher George Matheson (1842-1906) realised one day that although he had often thanked the Lord for the ‘roses’ in his life, he had never thought to thank the Lord for the ‘thorns’ that had caused him so much trouble. As he put it, ‘I had been looking forward to a world where I should get compensated for my cross, but I had never thought of my cross itself as a present glory. Teach me the value of my thorns, Lord!’

Jesus has made each one of us unique, and to serve unique purposes during our time on Earth. However tempting it may be to wish away the circumstances of our life, and to run away from them, what good does it do to wish that we were someone or somewhere else? Are we not in danger of effectively rejecting the Lord if we reject ourselves?

Do you remember the ‘Barbar’ cartoon, in which the elephant king had been feeling his responsibilities so heavily that he wished he was no longer the king? Permitted to experience the lot of a commoner, he watched with horror as his successor imposed a tyrannical reign on the kingdom. The elephant’s influence had been far more beneficial than he had supposed – and so too may our own be.

In Barbar’s case the script writer was merciful, allowing him to be restored to his throne just in time to save the kingdom. In real life of course, only too many fall into all kinds of addictions and wrong practices, often out of a desire to escape from some sense of crippling shame or rejection. Whenever we seek happiness and meaning to life in wrong directions (often in the mistaken hope that this will involve fewer commitments and responsibilities) we greatly increase the chances of inflicting much further suffering on both ourselves and others.

The good news is that the Lord can restore and pick us up one more time than we can fall – and then, provided only that we are prepared to keep going, there is no limit to what His grace can accomplish.

John the Baptist’s reminder that, ‘A person can receive only what is given them from Heaven’ (John 3:27) is a verse I often find myself coming back to. Jesus does not expect us to be converting the world or exercising immense influence unless He has also given us the platform, the ability and the calling to do so.

It is good to have clear goals and visions to aim towards, so long as we do not allow them to fixate us on chasing great projects, so that our focus becomes more project-centred than concerned just to serve the Lord and others. For just as we can miss almost everything by too unfocused (‘he who aims at nothing hits it every time!) the too narrowly focused often missing the opportunities and responsibilities that are right there in front of them.

May the Lord help us to cultivate attitudes of heart that are restful, rather than competitive, and thereby be more open to receive all the Lord does have for us to be and to do from one day to the next. This, above all, will save us from the many miseries that ‘comparisonitis’ brings in its wake.

Let’s remember too what Jesus said of Mary after she had poured a jar of expensive perfume over his head, that ‘she did what she could.’ (Mark 14:8). What a powerful phrase that is to ponder – and what an antidote to those shafts of inner condemnation that do so much to weary and undermine us.

Here are a trio of tracks from Reawakenings CD2 that are full of beauty of both word and music that address this desire to preserve and deepen this inner freedom.
Comparisonitis
Our feet may well be pierced
And ‘All that You have been to us.’
If you have the time, settle down and feast too on this track: The Dance of Creation set to a hauntingly beautiful string quartet by Dvorak.

Photo by Ferdinand Stöhr on Unsplash

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