If you grew up in the sixties and seventies like me, in a Christian home, you might have listened to Unshackled radio program. It is a ministry of the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago. I can still hear the dramatic organ music playing as the scene changes. Recently I was listening to the organist at church and it reminded me of this program that I hadn’t heard in several decades. Then last month I was listening to the Christian radio station in the car and the familiar music began playing. I couldn’t believe it. After all these years, it was still going strong. It took me back to my younger days, sitting on the floor of the living room, spell bound by the stories of redemption. When I attended college at Moody Bible Institute (God Bless the School that D L Moody founded, firm may she stand though by foes on earth surrounded …) , some of the students were given the ‘privilege’ to ‘volunteer’ at the Pacific Garden Mission! It was a REAL place. Who knew?!
Shackles can be associated with our life before Christ or our life after Christ, depending on what the chains are. Before Christ, the shackles could be our sins, like in the old Pilgrim’s Progress book. But I have been praying that I would feel unshackled in my spiritual life. I love the song that Mandisa sings, “Shackles”. The words say,
Take the shackles off my feet so I can dance, I just wanna praise You.
I can feel very bound to this earth by my trials. I can feel handcuffed to my trials – or just everyday life. My kids. My single parenting. My past. My future. My present. My…My…My…Whew, where is my focus???
Every thing that could go wrong all went wrong at one time, so much pressure fell on me I thought I was gonna lose my mind. But I know You wanna see if I will hold on through these trials But I need You to lift this load ’cause I can’t take it no more.
I like this. Seriously, it seems she sings this to me. So many things have gone wrong over the last 2 1/2 years in my life. So much pressure fell on me I seriously felt I MIGHT lose my mind. Have you ever encountered pressure like that? I know many of you have.
The pressure from the outside to live a certain lifestyle. Pressure from the inside to look better than you feel. The pressure from within, Others. Books. Radio. Hollywood. But…
But I KNOW…
What do I know? I know God wants to see me struggle and fail? No. I know God wants to see me blow it again? No. I know God wants to see me hold on THROUGH the trials. Through. That gives me great comfort to know He wants me to make it out of these trials stronger. Wiser. More mature.
When you watch your kids growing up, don’t you want them to succeed through their tough classes? Through the difficult recitals? Through the painful games? We don’t want them to crater. As parents we understand what perseverance is and we want to teach it to our children. We see the big picture and the offspring just see today. Similar to God. He sees the big picture. I love that. It comforts me. He doesn’t just see me struggling today. He sees how far I have come in this 2 1/2 years. He sees where I need to be in the next few years. I KNOW. I know…
But here is where the song gets honest. Please God, lift these trials a bit. The load is too much for me to bear. Too much to handle. Too much to understand. I have prayed this MANY times lately. And God hears. How do I know? Because of YOU. You have helped lift my load. You have been beside me. You have taken my kids to the zoo. You have brought us dinner. You have wiped my counters. You have worked in my flower beds. You have prayed and prayed for us. You…You have lightened my load. Thank you. You are a gift from God. You are an answer to my cries to God to lift my load just a bit so I can grab a breath before I go under again.
You broke the chains, now I can lift my hands, And I’m gonna praise YOU.
There it is. God is the One Who does the breaking. I can’t really do it myself. I can’t do it for my spouse. Although….I can sure try to ! That is why I can praise Him. Because He did it. He broke my chains so I can praise Him. So today I am unshackled because of the work of Christ on the cross. He paid for my sins. He rose and conquered death. He refines me. I have to live in obedience to His Word even when I feel shackled by life’s trials. I can feel weighed down by all that life throws at me. But I can get through my trials by relying on God’s strength and not my own. By letting those around me reach out to me and help. By trusting His promises to be true.
In August last year, God broke through my spiritual fog and shook my foundation. He has only spoken clearly to me just a handful of times in my life. And this was one of those times. He instructed me to change my prayers. From praying my plans and asking God to do them, to “Not my will but Yours”. ugh. That was so difficult. I have great plans. They might even be biblical. But I changed my prayers. Not my plans, God, but yours. Yikes. But no, it was an unshackling of my faith. I had total peace. I was UNSHACKLED. I began to say those words through gritting teeth at first, then through a smile. Then praise to Him. I was finally set free of controlling everyone and everything around me. I was able to finally lift my hands, free of the chains. My feet were able to dance unfettered. Praise God.
So with God’s help, I will keep praying those words, those five little humbling words: not my will, but Yours. Unshackled. Free to dance. Free to praise. Free to accept help from others so I can give it to another someday. Free to forgive. Free to love. Free to _______. What has your unshackling given you freedom to do? I want to be unshackled.