A day of celebrating liberation from oppressive forces, and of remembering with bowed hearts the unthinkable sacrifices made to secure that very freedom we enjoy today.
But can you imagine a scene where the liberating troops came marching home to find those for whom they fought remaining in bondage? In fact, insisting on living war-torn lives even after their freedom has been won?!
After all the wars that have been fought, so many do continue to live such defeated lives. On the surface they might appear normal, even productive. But if you were able to look a little deeper into the dark crevices of their minds or could hear the silent cries of their hearts, you would at once come to know the terror of their imprisoned lives. Maybe this is a picture of your life right now, free but still at war within yourself.
Who are their invisible oppressors? What are the names of these terrorists who war against us? They are called by many names: worry, anxiety, irrational fear, underserved guilt. Their cousins are apathy, greed, bitterness, and selfishness. How many other of their names come to your mind?
Our eternal victor has flung open the prison doors, having won for us peace, joy, calm assurance, real purpose for living meaningful lives, and satisfaction beyond what we could imagine. But here we remain imprisoned alone in our self-locked cells, insisting the war rages on within us. It is as Pascal said: “All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.” Jesus has won the war over our sin. He’s overcome the grave. He’s given us his own Spirit to teach, comfort, convict, and empower us, and to remain within us always. And yet we sit in a cell as if we were all alone.
He has given us what Victor Frankl called that miraculous and wondrous “freedom within.” It is the freedom to allow a space between what we see with our eyes and what we know in our heart. It’s the freedom that allows a space between what happens to us and how we respond.
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
No longer does a hurtful word spoken in haste have the power to demand my own hurtful response. No longer do past hurts dictate my future joys. No longer does worry and constant anxiety command authority over the self-chosen peace afforded to me by the assurance that God really does hear my heartfelt prayers. He does in fact see us where we are. He has truly written our names on the palms of his hand. He catches ALL our tears in a bottle and so pain, while it demands our attention, is not wasted.
True, it sometimes appears as if I’m losing the battle, but even the pain that wars within my body this very moment cannot silence the truth and grace that our good and loving God speaks to my spirit and soul. My desire for a comfortable life of having everything my way is strong, but it cannot compete with the desire to see others experience this same freedom within – to choose to be thankful and find hope even when circumstances offer only sorrow and despair.
Today can be your Independence Day. Believe the victor Jesus for all he has accomplished, not only the forgiveness of sin and eternal salvation, but also for your present and future joy.
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1