Reflections

The Freedom in Chains

“Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the Gospel.  As a result, it has become clear…to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.”  (Philippians 1:12)

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My struggle with anxiety – that ever present ball and chain – has come to the surface again lately.  It’s so frustrating when it does – I can see it coming, like dark clouds moving in on the horizon, but there is next to nothing I can do to stop it.  There are lots of reasons that I think anxiety is just one of those things I will have to deal with; I won’t list them all.  Suffice it to say, though, that while I know better now how to deal with it, anxiety will still happen.

The only variable, for me, is what I will do when those storm clouds DO roll in.  Because they will.  They do.  The skies may be blue right now, but that can change…and if I can be so bold to say so, it will.  The clouds will come back.  The only question is this:  How will I respond to the storm when it comes?

The enemy of my soul, I am sure, wants me to cower.  He wants me to retreat.  He wants me to flee.  He plants all kinds of ideas in my head, telling me how invalid my case for Christ is when I am still struggling under this burden…how my witness is compromised by my weakness…how the power of the Gospel is weakened when I’m not strong enough to pull myself up and out of the mess.

I’ve come to realize something this week, though.

To claim that Christ’s power is negated by my weakness is like claiming that because my shoes got wet in a thunderstorm, the rain is somehow not wet.

What?!

Exactly.

When I am helpless…floundering and drowning and going under…unable to hold my head up and over the water any longer…when the rains coming down are nothing compared to the ocean of rolling waves already smothering me…THAT IS WHEN CHRIST IS STRONGEST IN MY LIFE.  My weakness doesn’t change who Jesus is.  My reaction to the weakness changes who He is IN MY LIFE, and alters the power of the Gospel OVER ME.

The storm doesn’t change the One who is by my side as we ride the waves.  The waves don’t change the One who holds me tight so I don’t go under.  The darkness of the storm doesn’t change the Light guiding me out.

So I made a choice this week.  I renewed my commitment to rejoice in my weaknesses.  To enjoy my struggles as much as I can.  To celebrate when I’m in a hard time because ultimately, those are the things – the times – that will make God’s light shine brightest and His strength be known.

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  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 12:8-10)

If my struggles somehow make Christ be more clearly seen in my life – by me and by the people around me – then I will embrace them.  After all, it is my prayer every morning that Christ would seize my life and use me however He sees fit.  What kind of disciple am I if I pray that and grumble when He does it?

So yes…those dark clouds will roll in.  The skies are blue today, but I know they won’t be blue forever.  There are rainy seasons when dark clouds are all I see every day…so what will I do?  I can cower…allow the storm to overtake me.  I can sit pitifully, allowing the rain to saturate my clothing and my spirit.  I can refuse to fight or even go out swinging.

I could do any of those things…

…or I could rejoice.  Dance.  Celebrate.  There is something ignoble about floundering…but how noble it is to rise!  I will grab on to the outstretched hand, trusting that He is strong enough to get me out. 

It will storm.  There will be waves in this ocean of life that are higher than my head and stronger than I am.

It is going to happen.

The question, friends – for me and for you and for all of us – is this:  Will we dance in the rain, or will we hide?  Will we relish the storm because of what it can show us, or will we dread it?

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I wrote this poem about 5 years ago.  I never imagined sharing it, but here it is:

 

I open my eyes to a new day.

The possibilities are endless, but the sky looks grey.  Dark clouds in the distance as another storm rolls in.

The world has been sunny.  Bright.  Optimistic. 

My memories of the last storm seem to have faded.  What was it like.

Violent.  Scary.

I see the clouds moving, the wind blowing, and the first heavy drops of rain.

The next storm begins today.  And the day will go on.

 

I could change my plans.  I could just stay inside.

I could hide, unwilling to face it and fearing the worst.

Afraid of the darkness…

I could curl up here, alone and weak, scared…excluding myself from the day.

One storm could kill me and make me disappear.

I could hide.  I could be afraid.

 

But God, I remember something about a storm.

How You’d be here with me when things look dark and scary.

How You’ll never leave me or hurt me.

How there’s always a reason and a plan, and

How if I’ll let you, You’ll change me and carry me and make it okay.

That’s Your promise to me, Lord…but I can’t see you and the darkness is real.

And so is my choice: to listen to You, or to hide?

 

Or I could brace myself, dressing for the weather.

Grab my raincoat, my umbrella, my rubber boots.

I could struggle and fight, unwilling to get wet.

Afraid of the water.

The rain is cold and the thunder is loud.

The wind looks so strong and the lightning so bold.

I could fight it and run and resist the storm’s power.

I could brace myself.  I could fight it.

 

But God…I remember something about a storm.

How You’d be here with me when things look dark and scary.

How You’ll never leave or hurt me.

How there’s always a reason and a plan, and

How if I’ll let You, You’ll change me and carry me and make it okay.

That’s Your promise to me, Lord…but I can’t see You and the darkness is real.

So is my choice: to listen to You, or to fight?

 

Or here’s an idea…something different.

Why hide from it?  Why fight?

The water is from above where all good things are…

I could run headlong into it, full force, high speed.

Okay with the water and embracing the wind.

Laughing at the thunder and admiring the lightning.

Soaked through and through, somehow different outside and in.

The clouds are so dark, with a strange beauty…wonderful mystery.

So I could take off.  Take the plunge.

Refuse to hide and refuse to be afraid.

No need to brace myself and no need to fight.

I could let it all happen.

 

Because God, I remember something about a storm.

So please be here with me, because things are dark and scary.

You’ll never leave me.  You’ll never hurt me.

Even this has a reason, a part of Your plan, and

So I’ll let You change me and carry me…make it all okay.

That’s still Your promise, Lord, even though the darkness is real.

And that’s my choice.  I’ll listen to You in the storm. 

And as I open the door I think about how there’s something about a storm that makes me believe.

 

(Jessica Bolyard, 3/2006)

 

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1 reply »

  1. Jessica, I am so sorry you are going through this. I had a lot of problems with this years ago and I can’t say I have outgrown it but maybe just live with it. I will be praying for you each and every day. I am happy to know that you have turned to God for help as we know prayers are answered – but never the way we want them to be. I have always had to live with the thought “there is a reason for everything, even if we never know that reason”. Just keep God in your life and He will always be there when you need Him – just like the poem “Footprints in the Sand”. We love you and God loves you.

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