"Set me free from my prison,
that I may praise your name.
Then the righteous will gather about me
because of your goodness to me."
Psalm 142:7 (New International Version)
"Two [wo]men looked out prison bars,
One saw mud, the other stars..." Author unknown
Every so often, on my way to my children's school, I spot a group of men dressed in black and white striped jumpsuits with the word PRISONER in bold letters on their backs. They are usually cleaning up the road's ditches, filled with garbage that people have carelessly thrown out of their car windows. Each time I pass them, I wonder what brought those men to that point in their lives that they have lost their freedom. The plight of not being able to come and go as I pleased would be a horrible sentence to live under.
Girlfriends, are we behind prison bars today? You and I might not wear those tell-tale, humiliating jumpsuits, but we can be imprisoned as surely as those men are. The despair of our lives and the constant fear that we live in have isolated us from the world. How did we get to this place?
Yes, we can have the Holy Spirit of the living God inside us and be shackled in chains. How do we become bound and lose our joy? Our minds are so powerful. When was the last time we remembered all that we have to be grateful for instead of all that we have convinced ourselves is our right to complain about?
Seven times each day I stop and shout praises
for the way you keep everything running right.
For those who love what you reveal, everything fits—
no stumbling around in the dark for them. Psalm 119:164-165 (The Message)
How many times a day do I praise Him? Or are most of my exchanges with my God about all my needs and wants? Do I ever tell Him how thankful I am that He holds the universe together, that I woke up with breath in my lungs today, that I have a roof over my head and food in my pantry? Do I thank Him for a godly Christian heritage, that I live in a country where I can still worship Him without fear of torture or death? Do I thank Him for a van that drives me where I want to go, more than enough clothing in my closet, and a wonderful husband that loves me?
Or, instead, do I direct Him in what He needs to do for me? My bank account is at risk, my kids won't obey, and I didn't get to go on the vacation I wanted to last year. My fear takes presidence over my praise, doesn't it? I choose to forget that He is God my Peace, God my Provider, God my Righteousness, God my Banner and the great I Am. I disregard that He has promised me that all the riches of Christ Jesus are mine, that I have been given the mind of Christ for the asking, that He never has been nor never will be counseled by anyone else. I ignore that He is the Master of the winds and the waves of the storm that I am in. I choose to concentrate on this tottering boat that I am in, forgetting that He is right there with me.
What do you and I see from our prisons today--mud or stars? How do we get those iron doors to swing open on their hinges? We praise Him for exactly the situation that brings us so much anxiety today. Our God never leads us where He hasn't gone before. Does the thought of praising Him for all eternity sound boring and difficult to do? Maybe that perspective comes from our ignorance of the power of praise.
You and I have the same power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead living inside us if we have bowed our knee to Christ. Let's stop living as prisoners! The road to freedom starts with the praise of our God on our lips. Let's leave our prisons and believe and confess that we are the overcomers that we are.
Jesus, may I leave this prison of ungratefulness. It is for freedom that [You] have set us free. [May we]stand firm, then, and do not let ourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)