July 4, 2014

Happy 4th of July!

Today is Independence Day, the day we celebrate our freedom from the tyranny of British rule over the American colonies. I have always loved celebrating this holiday. As a child, I loved everything that revolved around the celebration. Growing up in Illinois, in a small town, this holiday was always especially fun. If the weather cooperated, we spent the day swimming at the local pool. Later, there would be backyard BBQs, followed by fireworks at the high school (and small firecrackers/sparklers in the neighborhoods). I remember being outside from dawn until very late in the evening. The fireflies would come out, and all of the kids would run around trying to catch them. Those are very sweet and happy memories for me.

As I think about Independence Day, I also am reminded of the freedom that I have because of the men and women who served my country and who fought to make us free/keep us free. I am thankful for their service and their sacrifice.

And, while memories of childhood celebrations and historical military service are important, I cannot forget to think about, to ponder, the spiritual fact that I am free today because of the actions and sacrifice of a loving Savior.

John 8:36 NLT: So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.

or in NKJV: Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.

I am free today because the Son has set me free. Indeed!

Freedom comes in all flavors, all colors. For me, I am set free from:
  • the penalty of my sin
  • the guilt of my sin
  • the future presence of my sin (praise God!)
  • the pain of my sin
  • the power of my sin
Jesus' death, burial and resurrection guarantee this freedom.  In this gift, I am able to experience this freedom every day of my life -- if I choose to do so. I can choose to walk in freedom or I can choose to remain chained to the pain of my experiences.

Earlier today, I had the blessing of watching a wonderful message posted to my Facebook feed. The message really spoke to my heart, and it addressed some of the things I struggle with most (anxiety, worry, doubt, and fear). I have blogged about my experiences with all of these things recently, but if you look back over the course of this blog, you will see repeated themes emerge. These are my *pain points* or the places where the enemy attempts to prick me and cause me to believe his lies so that I remain imprisoned in thoughts rather than to walk in the freedom of Jesus' sacrifice.

For me, I think all of my pain comes down to TRUST. I struggle to trust what the Lord says to me. I struggle to believe His Word, His Promises, and as such, I do not *believe* what I know is true. I should know better, you know, after spending so many years as a Christian, active in church, reading and studying the Word, etc. I should know better, but I don't always do what I know I should do (does that make sense?) Yes, I fail to exercise faith, and as a result, I often choose to limit myself, to allow myself to suffer needlessly.

It is not that I haven't experienced suffering -- it is just that I often choose to remain in that suffering long after the actual experience has ended. The message today touched on this point, alluded to it, and this is what struck me as most important. 

We all suffer. There are different kinds of suffering too. No matter what the experience, there is pain involved in the moment as well as throughout the extent of the incident. For example, seeing my marriage come to end in 2009 was not the start of my suffering. It wasn't the end, either. It was a climax in the middle of it, and while this moment was the most intense (and what followed), I cannot say that the crisis of a marriage ending for me started when I found out that my husband didn't want to remain married to me. The pain of an unhappy marriage, the sorrow of unmet needs, and the disappointment of a life filled with strife and struggle -- well -- these were all part of the pre-crisis experience. The moment of truth, when truth was told, was acknowledging the fact that my marriage had been in trouble for a long, long time. Moreover, the truth stung hard because I had chosen to ignore and to lie to myself about what was going on. I didn't want to face the truth so I hid my head in the sand, and chose instead, to believe that if I tried harder, I could make things better for us. My efforts didn't succeed, and in the end, I had to face the truth that I was unloved and unwanted.

For women like me who struggle with feelings of insecurity, facing that reality is devastating to your identity. How do you recover from something like this? Do you become bitter, angry, resentful? Do you curl up in a ball and pray to die?

I was angry for certain, though I prayed to not become bitter or resentful. I did want to die, however, and I admit it. There was a part of me that thought my life was over, that there was no hope for me, and I believed, incorrectly, that I was worthless. 

One of the reasons I shout out GOD IS GOOD is because this is the truth that the Lord poured into my life during this very difficult season. He came along side of me and gave me a new identity. He told me that He loved me, and He gave me reason to believe that my life was worth something to Him. The person I am today is not the same person I was then. I have been changed. I have been made new. 

The blessing is that I am a new creature in Christ Jesus. The difficult part to grasp is that in my mind, I still think those old thoughts. I know the truth, but I often allow myself to repeat the lies of the enemy. I often believe these lies and choose to remain stuck in the pain of the past.

I don't know how long it will be until I stop doing these things. I know that it is up to me to stop thinking this way. I know that I have the power to choose what to think, and I know that I can stop the thoughts before they take hold of me.

Romans 12:2 NLT: Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

One of the ways I can help control these thoughts is to follow Paul's advice and immerse myself in the Word. I like the NLT version of this verse because it says that God can "transform you into a new person by changing the way you think." This means that while I can choose to think other thoughts, it is God who does the transforming and the changing of our minds. This means that I don't have to come up with the thoughts; but rather, I have to be willing and agreeable and let the Lord come up with those thoughts, and then bring them to me. 

I am willing; I am agreeable. ---->  He transforms me; He changes me.

So today, as I celebrate America's Independence Day, I thank the Lord for the freedom He has given to me. I thank Him for transforming me into this new, this wonderful person. I trust Him to change the way I think so that I am no longer imprisoned by the thoughts that formerly controlled me. I am able to think good thoughts, positive thoughts, thoughts based on the truth of His word.

I agree with the Psalmist:

Psalm 136:1 NLT: Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.


Ken said...

We have a lot in common. This was a great message; thank you for sharing it.

Carol Hepburn said...

Thanks Ken! I am reminded of Gal. 6:2 - Share each other's burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. I am glad that God brings people to us who understand our needs and who can share in our journey so we do not have to walk alone. God is so very good to care about us in this way ☺.