During November my faith community is studying Philippians and camping on the principle of gratitude. This past weekend we covered Philippians 1 where Paul addressed the church in Philippi while holed up in shackles. He expressed with a thankful heart his love for the church and how he was convinced God would complete what he started in them. He goes on to share his thoughts on some posers who had betrayed him and reminded the church that it doesn’t matter what others were claiming, but what matters is that we rejoice no matter what our affliction. We fully expect and hope that God will use us no matter what the tension may be. While listening to the message and reading and rereading Philippians chapter 1 I’m reminded of a time where I found freedom amidst tension.
Awhile back I had moved to Preston, a college town near Manchester, England. The move was a dream come true and I fully expected the best years of my life were about to commence, but what met me as soon as I landed at Machester International Airport was tension, pain, and shackles. I had dreams of marrying the English prince charming, thriving in my new life in England, and living happily ever after. Instead I was left by the prince, alone, and lost the little I had. Every dollar was gone, hope was shot, my health suffered, and every dream felt as though it was crucified. I remember nights I would lay awake wondering how I had found myself in such a mess. I felt so betrayed and hurt and each day felt like an eternity. During this season I had a fair amount of time to myself and daily wrestled with two options, to throw myself under a bus or rejoice. Although tension found its way into my story I knew the story wasn’t over. In my decision to rejoice (which means to choose joy) came along freedom, peace, and a deep trust in Jesus, the author of my story. In tension I found a source of joy to conquer the defeat that seemed to surround me. My greatest encouragement during that time was Philippians, the ancient letter written by Paul to remind the believers that life is HARD but God is SOVEREIGN.
No matter what you are going through, no matter how grim your season may be, take courage and rejoice. Your shackles can invite freedom of the soul when you trust in Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:29 draws to a close telling us, “For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know I am still in the midst of it.”