Over time, we settle for what is easy and familiar. When you have lived with stress, depression, or pain, you get familiar with it and it becomes your companion; a measure by which you judge your life. There was a time in my Christian walk I was hiding behind a ‘good Christian’ façade, but I believed I was too broken, too sinful, or too damaged to expect anything more from life. The freedom I heard other people talk about was for them, not me. This was my lot and I was going to try and be content with it.
In the middle of mental illness, emotional pain, addictions, or even physical illness, it can be nearly impossible to imagine what it would be like to be completely free and joyful. Freedom is so much more than just being out of captivity or having a slight improvement in your circumstances. It is embracing a future that God plan especially for you and growing as a person and following your dreams.
My captivity at the time had been a combination of my past; my depression, my comfort zone, my religious beliefs, my addictions, and my low self-worth. I was a slave to these things. I could not move forward, but instead was held back in every area of my life. I was worn down by the struggle and the fight against my own inner demons and this kept me from seeing my potential.
I spent so much of my energy and time fighting to ‘break free’ from my addictions, my past, and my sin. I was fighting to fix myself and to do it through my own power. I was trying to earn my redemption when it was a gift God had already given me freely. I was wasting so much of my life pursuing the past rather than striving forward.
If we are not free, then we are captive. The world keeps us captive by telling us that we’re not good enough as we are; that we need to have more or do more. Jesus wants to turn everything on its head. Instead of making demands, he offers rest and recovery and to live freely and lightly.
My past had clouded the message of the Gospel. I just had to be more of everything and then I would feel ok and enough. I didn’t understand that what I did had no impact on God’s response to me. Grace is unearned and undeserved and God’s love and grace are abundant. That was the point of Jesus’s sacrifice for me, because of the cross I was accepted and loved. I could not do anything to make God forgive or love me more.
True freedom comes from an understanding of the total undeserved acceptance we have through Jesus. I never felt accepted or loved growing up and I never felt good enough. Even as a new Christian, I felt that the love and grace of God was based on my performance, on the things I did for God and the church. If I was just more attractive, smarter or more knowledgeable I would be worthy of love and acceptance. It was not enough for me to be just good, I had to be the best or perfect.
The freedom Jesus offers doesn’t come with special conditions. You can come to Jesus just as you are now. We do not need to ‘get our ducks in a row’ or try to make ourselves better before coming to Jesus. He wants us just as we are, warts and all. God loves me, not because of anything I did but because He created me. He knows all my very worst secrets and hidden weaknesses and loves me anyway.
As Christians, we are not promised to be slightly free or less burdened but totally free.
That change can happen quickly. It doesn’t need to be a long-drawn-out experience, freedom is instant. Your moment can occur right now. You don’t need to wait until you are at the end of your own strength to accept the strength of God in your life. In the New Testament, as Jesus travelled, he healed many people in an instant. In an instant you can choose to take that leap of belief and in an instant Jesus can change your life and free you forever. The Bible puts it plainly and simply: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36) Jesus sets you free and you are indeed completely free without conditions. He knows you, He loves you, and He has a plan for your life, to give you hope and a future.
Hope, joy, peace, and freedom are all things that do not depend on our circumstances, unless we allow them to. We can decide every day to live in freedom and joy, because we hold on to the hope for the future as we trust God’s plans for us.
Except from book by Staci McLean ‘Soaring out of the darkness’
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