We all have things in our lives which try to hold us back. Some of these things are obvious while others are more subtle and hard to see, frequently disguising themselves as just a normal part of life or lurking behind the scenes of other more blatant problems. It is easy, in the face of these obstacles, to begin living life inside a cage. A cage has bars all around it…it must be keeping you safe. Yet that cage confines you. Whether you see it or not, locking yourself up only allows these things to control you more. This is not how you were created to live. God made you to live in a close and vibrant relationship with Him and for that connection to fill you and flow out of you in a passionate and radical way into the rest of the world. Sitting inside these walls – whatever they may be made of – does not enable you to run and fly like that.
The first step out is by trusting Christ as your Savior and asking His forgiveness for your sins. In that moment, His blood covers you, washes you clean, and sets you free from bondage to sin. The lock falls off of your cage; you can leap out of it any time! The second key to this abundant life is learning to leave your cage behind. It is a familiar place with familiar patterns, and sometimes those walls still feel like such a safe place to hide. But safe is such a boring life. What more wonderful things does God have over the horizon for you if only you will follow Him in His plan for your life? If He has given you His Spirit, you can now live boldly, for that is the rhythm of your new heartbeat. Don’t lock it away!
- “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
- “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”
– 2 Timothy 1:7
- “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light”
– Ephesians 5:8
Initially starting to leave behind those old patterns of your caged living, beginning to tangibly move out of the darkness and into the light, can be one of the scariest, but also the most exhilarating, leaps forward. The change and the unknown may seem like a huge risk, but as much of a risk as you may have to take, you are perfectly secure because Jesus is the one holding you as you step out. “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:35)
Jesus may ask you to do something uncomfortable, but no matter how far you have to lean out, even to the point where it feels like you might fall, He will faithfully catch you and help you to fly. There is no need to fear this change and the coming freedom. What a breath of fresh air it is to feel the weight lifted from you for the first time! You can finally run and jump like you never imagined possible before. Life has a new purpose and glow to it. This is how it was meant to be!
- “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
– Hebrews 12:1-3
After that big breakthrough, this high point of victory, we often find ourselves quickly overrun with challenges and voices of defeat. These may come internally or externally, but it stings badly after having such a wonderful moment just before. It may be tempting to ask why you ever took that step towards freedom. Was it worth it? Can anything really change? Will your past always define your future? Is everything going to fall apart if you keep pursuing this new path? Did you climb so high only to fall all the farther?
Don’t lose hope! It takes time and diligence to retrain the habitual patterns of your life and your mind. Just because you slip again doesn’t mean the fight is over. Keep in mind there is also an Enemy who does not want to see you walk in this freedom. As you are beginning to break free he will do whatever he can to try and convince you to give up and go back. The fact that there is this resistance is not a bad thing though! It is not comfortable, but it is good, and you are not the only one feeling this conflict. We are not called to float along with our natural tendencies and patterns in the world, so this struggle is indication that you are going in the right direction. And remember, no matter how great the battle may be and how overwhelmed you might feel, God is greater still, and He has overcome for you.
- “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.”
– 1 Peter 5:6-11
- “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
– Philippians 1:6
- “Unless the LORD had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death. When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your unfailing love, LORD, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”
– Psalm 94:17-19
This is that moment when you find out whose strength you are doing this in. If you are running on your own power and determination alone, you will be overwhelmed and quickly burn out, having no more strength to keep going. This is your moment of surrender. Maybe you don’t need to work up more strength in order to keep going. It is in acknowledging that you can’t do it yourself that you begin to find the ability to rise above what threatens to drag you down. You can rest in God’s ability to handle it since He has already overcome it all. Our goal then shifts from having to do better, and be better, and prove ourselves, and handle everything, to simply holding His hand and telling our heart to just follow Him.
The other beauty of this heart-surrender is that nothing is holding you back from doing so right now. You don’t have to wait for your circumstances to change or wonder if things will ever get better. You can turn it all around, even when things around you stay exactly the same, just by changing your focus. You aren’t at the mercy of your situation or your feelings; you have a choice, even today. You can look up. Look to Jesus; don’t grit your teeth and promise to get it right next time, because no “to-do” list will save you. It has never been about trying and keeping up. It has always been about allowing your heart to be led by Christ. This is when the real change begins to settle in. When you have nothing left to give, you can run to Jesus, because He has already given everything for you, and He will carry you on.
- “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
– Matthew 11:28-30
- “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
– 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
This is how you soar – not flapping frantically to stay in the air, and not leaping up and crashing back down over and over – but instead gliding on the air with openness and grace while at peace. When we rely on God’s strength and stability to navigate the difficult and persistent struggles of life, we find that we don’t have to live on a spiritual roller coaster anymore. We aren’t tossed around by the wind but instead are deeply rooted and can thrive no matter what may come. It doesn’t mean that everything will be easy and beautiful from here on out. It means that in the middle of the storms and when things seem to fall apart, we can still be okay. If we are in Christ, we won’t be overcome. Our life will not be perfect, but our peace can be.
It takes a lifetime to learn to walk daily in this way, but it can become more natural as time goes on and we don’t give up. Our hearts and minds are prone to wander, but God will continue to guide us, so we must learn to stop and listen to Him. He can renew our minds, mend our wounds, calm our hearts, steady our steps, make us brave and radiant, because He is the one filling us and shining out of us. This life is yours to embrace and give back to God: not just living less caged, but fully free! Will you run forward into it?
- “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD himself, is the Rock eternal.”
– Isaiah 26:3-4
- “I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”
– Psalm 16:8-11
- “but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
– Isaiah 40:31