Thursday, February 25, 2016

Victorious

In church on Sunday morning, our associate pastor posed three questions: What are you struggling with in your life? Do you believe you can let go of your "baggage"? Can you trust God to help? These questions, along with a skit that involved my friend Dan describing his "baggage" and giving it to God, have stuck with me all week.

I have been thinking about what happens when I try to give all my stuff to God. After the skit ended at church, I kept waiting for the moment when Dan would come running back to try to pick up his baggage again. Because that's what I do. I give something to God, but after a while I go pick it up again. How can I release it completely?

Since I began asking that question, I feel that I have gotten some answers.

*****

First... while it's important that I put down my baggage, I realized it is also necessary to pick up something else to carry. I recall the story Jesus told in Matthew 12, in which an impure/unclean spirit comes out of a person, but later it returns and finds the house "unoccupied, swept clean and put in order." So it moves back in and brings along some of its buddies, and the person is worse off than they had been in the first place.

What this is saying to me is that I cannot expect to simply drop whatever my "baggage" or other issues are; there is more that must take place. If I release all these things and walk away with empty arms, it is far too easy to pick them back up. After all, I am accustomed to carrying them, so I find myself looking for something to fill my arms. Thankfully there is something else, something better, for me to carry. In Matthew 11, Jesus says, "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." I can pick up his "yoke" instead. In other words, I can fill my empty arms with his freedom and love. 

*****

But even after coming to that answer, I still found myself wrestling with it. Sometimes I find myself drawn back to the very things I've tried to release. And yes, this is partially because I am accustomed to them, but it is also partially because I feel like I can't resist them; they are stronger than me.

In 2 Chronicles 20, when Israel was about to be invaded and attacked by a vast, powerful army, Jehoshaphat admitted that they did not have the power to face the army, and he prayed, "We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you."

And God responded, "Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s... You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you."




My baggage may feel bigger and stronger than me, but the battle against it is not mine, it is God's. The things that tempt me, weigh me down, or hold me back... these things are actually not stronger than me-- because God is in me. The one who fashioned my heart (Psalm 33:15) and empathizes with my weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15)... he is in me, and he has defeated them all. They may feel incredibly weighty and overwhelming to me, but they do not have power over me unless I give them that power.

Can I trust God to help me let go of my baggage? Yes, because he is the one who can be trusted to emerge victorious. 

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