If we haven’t battled the demons of drug, alcohol, or sex addictions, we may not be aware of our own personal chains. We all compensate our pain one way or another. All of these compulsions start as an escape. Escape from neglect, pain, or sheer boredom. Escape to feel better in the moment. Then the next time, the next, the next, and eventually we feel dropped into the pit of despair with no idea how to function without them. Affecting children, marriages, friends, careers, a downward spiral. We’ve all heard the stories if we haven’t lived them. These testimonies are powerful, they get our attention, they warn us, and they open our eyes to what a powerful work Jesus truly can do in a life. Praise God for each and every one! But, if we don’t fall into these categories, it can leave us to wonder….what about me? What are my chains?
What are you dependent on? For comfort? For “normalcy”? What or who do you go to? What makes you feel better? If it is destructive, these are chains. We all have quirks, preferences, and interests, but at what point do they become destructive? This is a chain. We all need to eat, but food can be a chain. Overeating and anorexia. We all need to clean, but then there’s obsessive cleaning. We should all exercise, but there is also exercise addiction. We all need rest, but laziness can also turn into a chain. Relationships, friends, spouses, parents, and children are all wonderful, but if we turn these gifts into idols, they can become chains.
We all want to be loved, but people pleasing is a chain. The more I seek Jesus, the more He shines the light on this chain of mine. The chain of speaking up. The chain that my opinion doesn’t matter or is always wrong, just because it’s mine. The hardest concept for me to wrap my mind around is that it is possible to love others without pleasing them. My fear has always been that if I disagree, they will feel unloved by me or stop loving me altogether. So I freeze. I keep my opinions to myself. I feel like a don’t have a voice. After all, my thoughts on the subject must be wrong, so why voice them anyway?
Then, He reminds me that I am His daughter. Then, He reminds me that He died for me. Then, He reminds me that His love is greater than anyone else’s that I’m afraid of losing or hurting. And, it breaks. And, I’m free. Free to be me. Free to speak. Free to make choices. Free to admit how hard this is for me. Free. And, you know what I’ve also noticed? The ones who’s opinions I tend to fret about the most don’t seem to care one iota about mine. You see the chain?
This may not be a testimony that includes drug rehab, loss of custody, or Alcoholics Anonymous…but, to me, it’s powerful. Jesus is personal. There are some things only you and Jesus know that you struggle with. He will shine a light on your chains if you ask Him to. This is life changing, because once you begin to see His progress, you will be amazed as to how tied down you were.
Now, every time I speak my personal opinion or verbally disagree with someone else’s, I’m actually surprised. I still get scared of their reaction and don’t want to hurt feelings, but I realize more and more that my feelings and opinions are just as valid. This a chain that once broken, doesn’t stay that way. This is a heavy chain. My weakness. My struggle. My thorn. Oh, how I wish it would go away completely.
Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave 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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:8-9 (ESV)
Paul pleaded for his thorn to be removed, but He said the Lord didn’t remove it in order to keep him from being conceited (verse 7). To keep him humbled. To keep him dependent. To keep him face down in awe of His Savior. If our thorns keep us at the feet of Jesus, then praise God for them. And, Paul did just that.
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 12:10 (NIV)
Making us aware of our thorns (crutches, tendencies), the damage they cause, and the relief available through Him alone is breaking our chains. It’s interesting to me that broken people know the weight of these chains. Once broken, we look to Him in our weakness. We go to Him with our problems. We appreciate others who do. We recognize His power. We request prayer. We want Him first. Once broken, He becomes the light and love of our lives. Once our chains are broken, we want to help others feel the release of theirs. Only Jesus.