25/06/2019 - Galatians 5:1 ‘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.’
Does anxiety plague you? Does it keep popping up at every corner? Have you tried to do battle with it, only to fall flat on your face again and again? Maybe it has such a strong hold on you that you have accepted that it is going to be your constant companion till the end of your days. You are fed up with it, angry, resentful – it seems such a waste of life.
Maybe your issue isn’t anxiety but guilt. You just feel bad – all the time. You deal with one thing and up pops another. It is relentless. It is all made worse by the fact that when you are struggling with any of these issues, you think, do and say things that are not you. Your responses to life are determined by your fears about yourself and that, in turn, proves to you that your fears are well-founded. That is not a happy place to be.
Why not look at it like this? You have spent years demonstrating that living in that place simply doesn’t work. It is miserable and not how you want to spend the rest of your life. Perhaps during that time, you have had brief glimpses of what it could be like to live in freedom. You have experimented, and the experiment demonstrates that living in that negative place is not the place to be. The good place feels very good but seems unsustainable. Let’s use an illustration:
There you are, trapped beneath the water, down in the murky depths, scared, angry, wondering how you got there. Every attempt to reach the life-giving air above the surface is hampered by the seaweed that has wrapped itself around you. It just feels hopeless. Is that what it feels like when guilt, anxiety or self-doubt combine to keep you from living in the freedom that other people talk about? But you are running out of oxygen. Every instinct within you is fighting desperately to break free from this downward pull. Life itself depends on it. That is the point we need to get to. We need to be so fed up, so desperate, that now we are prepared to take the risk of drawing a line in the sand, seeing all our fears and guilt left behind and refusing to go back to rummage through the rubbish. We need to break to the surface, gulp in the life-giving air and never go down to those depths again.
Our verse tells us that it was for freedom that Christ set us free. When he died on the Cross for us, he took our guilt, our need to fear or be anxious, and he buried it in the depth of the sea so that we could live above the waters in joy and freedom. We need never go there again. Anything we have missed is covered, forgiven and dealt with because we are in Christ.
Now, the challenge is that at the heart of all this is a decision. As Christians, we can choose where we live – down in the rubbish or in the fresh air. This isn’t about cutting out our feelings but rather cutting out feelings that are not consistent with the Spirit of God living within. We need to reach a point where our ability to decide to live by the truth is stronger than the effect of the powerful emotions that are trying to drag us away from that truth. Those negative emotions can come from nature, nurture, or both, but we can learn not to heed them but to remain firm in our resolve to not go back across that line. We will be sorely tempted. We will think we have laid issues to rest, only for them to pop up in a different guise. We will have new situations arise that will test our resolve to remain guilt free and not to revert to fear and anxiety. If we remain firm in our resolve the process will strengthen us. Of course, there will be times when we make our mistakes and we will hold our hands up – but it will be easier to do so when we have dealt with that underlying background noise. Likewise, from that place of clean, clear air we will have greater clarity to distinguish between what we do need to deal with and what is false guilt and unnecessary concern.
One more illustration. You are standing by the seashore and, in the distance, you see the most massive wave imaginable. It is certainly big enough to engulf you and everything around you. That is what your negative emotions can feel like. Every instinct is to run. Imagine the inner strength you will need to stand firm, believing that there is no truth, no strength in that apparent tsunami. You stand firm; the wave diminishes and turns into a little ripple at your feet. Gradually it dawns on you that there is nothing to fear or feel bad about. Learning to stand firm is how we grow. If we were not taught how to handle our emotions as children, then our Heavenly Father is having to do it now. He gave us our capacity to feel, and he wants our emotional life to be devoted to him so that we are free to experience joy and to serve him with the whole of who we are.
On 26/06/2019 Nicky wrote: Thank you John for this powerful Bible Insight, with vivid illustrations to help us to relate. I can relate to all these situations you've described and just want to thank you for all your patience throughout these past 10 years, helping me to live more and more in the freedom of God. Each time I crashed, I felt a failure, as if I would never get there; it's a long journey but I'm definitely making progress and am eternally grateful.
On 27/06/2019 Mike wrote: Such strong and helpful words! As one who lived on the North Cornish coastline for 9 years I've seen that imagery for real and felt the power of the sea up close - and yet if you stand your ground when that destructive force reaches you all it does is melt away into nothing and it gently washes around your feet.
On 2/07/2019 John wrote: Thank you, Nicky and Mike for your comments. I was recently asked , 'How do I know the difference between emotions that I should be looking at and ones that I should leave the other side of that line?' That's a good question and I will soon be writing a response, so watch this space!
Following on from this Insight, John offers practical guidance on how to really establish ourselves in that place of freedom in his next Insight - 'Staying in the freedom'.