Do you feel like you are chained up right now? With everything from political pandering to the pandemic (plus non-peaceful protests), it might feel like we’re all tied up and imprisoned by events around us.
There’s a scene in Pixar’s movie, The Incredibles, where Mr. Incredible gets blasted by the villain (Syndrome) with these black sticky blobs. While the hero can overcome a few of them and keep going, eventually there are so many that – despite his super-strength – even Mr. Incredible gets stuck as he is trapped in dozens of blobs that completely cover him. I don’t know about you, but this year’s events can definitely make me feel like there is just so much gunk around me that I can’t stretch out my arms and live life like I want.
When faced with a situation like this, though, we have a choice. The easy choice is to succumb to the force of the junk that is being thrown at us by a fallen world, and stop all of our forward progress. I fear that some days this year, I have probably let the handcuffs and shackles of external constraints drag me to a stop. It’s easy to shelter in place, crawl under a blanket, and hide out with a marathon of shows on the Science Channel. (I’m not endorsing that channel in its entirety, but as an engineer, watching the show “How It’s Made” is pretty fun for me.)
The more difficult – yet more liberating – solution is to walk through the chaos, and remember that we can never be taken captive again by external forces once we have found freedom in Jesus. Empowered as new creations in Him, even the times when the news would try to keep us stuck in one place (like those little squares with a black dot in the Candy Land board game), we can still continue to love and serve others like Jesus did, and to shine the light of His good news even more brightly as the sinful world grows darker and dimmer.
Consider what Paul wrote while under arrest by the Roman Empire.
Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains. Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should.
Colossians 4:3-4 NLT
Note that Paul isn’t able to preach because God miraculously freed him from prison here (although God can do that – see Acts 16:16-40 and Acts 12:6-19). Paul is continuing to spread the good news about Jesus while he is imprisoned.
Paul’s perspective is key: He understands why he is facing obstacles. Paul’s imprisonment isn’t because he was a murderer (although he had been exactly that), or as punishment for some other terrible deed. Paul understands that he is being constrained because he is using his God-given opportunities to share the gospel (even to the palace guard at one point – see Philippians 1:12-14). And, Paul appreciates that even while external forces may limit his activities throughout society, his freedom in Jesus Christ remains unlimited. Paul is free from the weight of his sins, and he is free to serve Jesus wherever he finds himself.
So, if you feel “stuck in the muck” today, look within yourself, but not for your own “inner strength”. For those who follow Jesus, I invite you to look to the power of the Holy Spirit within you, and rather than trying to find something external to break you free, let the light of Jesus blaze out from your heart, your words, and your actions, as a beacon for those who need to find their way out of the darkness. And, if you haven’t yet accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, I hope that you will read about what He has to say, so that you too can find a way out of this mess.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
and steadied me as I walked along.
Psalms 40:2 NLT
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.