Only in You, Lord, Am I Free
Often when we speak of freedom, we immediately identify it to be a fundamental right of every human being protected by the Constitution. The pursuit of freedom has been the cause of struggles and battles throughout human history.
However, we can observe in society that the freedom of some can mean the restriction of others’ rights. Even more terrible is the turn toward debauchery in seeking freedom because truth is considered subjective.
But freedom can be achieved only when we are aware of what it really means.
We, by ourselves, cannot achieve freedom, and we can’t offer it to ourselves. True freedom can be achieved only by accepting and internalizing the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Without Christ, our human inclination is to sin, which makes us slaves.
The nature of true freedom is spiritual—how Jesus cleanses us from sin and redeems us with His blood. He renews us through His Holy Spirit to be a new people who live in holiness, free from sin’s dominion.
For love’s sake, we were called to be free and to share that freedom with others. This beautiful freedom is possible if we seek to know and stay in the Word and delight in building a more intimate relationship with the Lord. It is seeking His direction through His Word. It is knowing how to face the challenges of life according to His heart; it is knowing His promises, which will be our sustenance amid the dark valleys of life when we feel completely alone.
Praising God in all circumstances also sets us free. Remember when Paul and Silas were in prison? Even then, they agreed to enthrone our Lord through singing His praises. Let’s also remember King David who, through the Psalms, offered praise amid his difficulties. What began as a simple exercise in faith and hope for these men became the tool God used to set each of them free! God desires that—whatever our circumstance—we raise our voices in praise and thanks to Him.
Believe + Trust + Praise God = Freedom
True freedom is living in sync with God’s Spirit. Freedom is being who I am as God made me—without the control of events or circumstances, without other people manipulating or nullifying what the Lord established when He created me.
Freedom is believing what my eyes do not see but knowing what is true through faith in God. Freedom is understanding and experiencing the sovereignty, fidelity, and care that the Lord always provides for you and me—because we are His beloved daughters. Freedom is, finally, living in complete trust and dependence upon the Father. For only in you, Lord, I am free!
“And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness” (Col. 2:6–7, NLT).
Freedom from Misplaced Hope
In January, America was hit with tragic news: the death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and several others. I was never into basketball, and those who know me know that I have no athletic bone in me. However, this news hit me deeply, because it reminded me of a tragic event in my life.
On June 1, 2015, my dad passed away. With the news of Kobe’s death, I was reminded of what had happened in my own life. I spent countless nights looking through old photos, crying out in deep pain, and days looking through my dad’s personal belongings. I spent many nights watching all the videos on my phone, wishing I had more of my dad. I also spent countless nights in prayer and months in professional counseling due to the trauma and pain it gave me. All the hidden pain I thought was unpacked was brought to light with the news of Kobe’s passing; I realized that I didn’t know how to unpack my pain. I felt hopeless and lost in my grief.
The dreams I’d had as a little girl of walking down the aisle at my wedding with my father will never happen. All the dreams of him witnessing the milestones in my life, such as becoming a missionary, will never happen. I realized during counseling that when my dad passed my “protector” had been stripped from me.
I spent 19 years with my dad, and within the blink of an eye my life changed completely.
I spent three days wrestling with God. I had started to feel set free from my grief. Now I found myself asking God to give me reasons to keep moving forward. Although it had been four-and-a-half years since my dad had passed, I felt like I was back to square one . Then in my devotions one day, I read 2 Samuel 7:12–13.
When your days are filled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
Israel put its hope in a ruler who would come through the line of David, one who would liberate them, set them free from all their oppression. They were looking forward to this promise being fulfilled.
In Matthew 22:4–46, Jesus has a conversation with the Pharisees that reveals His identity and their misplaced hope. The Pharisees wanted the kingdom that was to come and not the King himself. They’d been looking forward to the promise of this ruler, this son from the line of David who would set them free from all their oppression, but they’d forgotten about the King himself.
They were trusting in the promise of God over God Himself. They were looking forward to liberty and freedom from their pain and oppression, rather than looking forward to Christ. They wanted the liberation, but not the liberator.
In my moments of feeling hopeless, I realized that I, too, had placed my hope in the promises of God over God Himself. I’d rejoiced that I would one day get to see my earthly father, which is a very good thing, but being reunited with my heavenly Father had become secondary. I wanted the liberation from this grief and pain, but not the liberator. My earthly father became the end prize of my race; I’d forgotten about the real prize, which is Christ.
Do not forget about Christ Himself. Love the Promise Keeper more than His promises. Love the one who sets you free more than the freedom.
This month marks five years and one month since my dad passed. Although I still may grieve, I no longer grieve hopelessly. I’ve been learning to trust in God. He may have given me my earthly father for 19 years to mirror Him as my protector and father, but God will always be my protector. My hope is now in someone who is everlasting and gives comfort in all seasons.
Stories of Freedom
Freedom. I’m not sure how that word strikes you. Perhaps it’s a reminder to pause and take a deep breath before tackling the rest of your day. Maybe it’s elusive—a word you’ve heard all your life and have longed to fully grasp.
Hearing the word freedom may even cause you some fear since it means surrender and surrender can be scary.
I don’t know your story, but I know what Jesus desires for you—He wants you to be free.
Labels were a big part of my life growing up and into my 20s. The ones I owned and wore most often were “too much,” “not enough,” “broken,” and “useless.” I didn’t particularly like any of them, but they were what I knew; I thought they defined me.
In my mid-20s I experienced a couple of major health crises. In the space of a year I contracted a rare, deadly bacterial infection. And I learned that my knees were severely deformed, requiring major reconstructive surgery to keep me out of a wheelchair.
A Dark Season
This was also a period of great difficulty for me in ministry. Leaders I had trusted had deeply wounded me. Their treatment confirmed that the labels I was wearing were accurate.
But in that season of darkness, at the bottom of all that I thought I knew and had planned, I found freedom. Freedom is often found where we don’t look for it.
Broken and defeated, I looked up and saw my Savior. He extended His hand, and I grabbed on with both of mine. I cried, I questioned, I was angry—but I never looked back.
In my brokenness I came to realize the labels I had been wearing were lies. They were comfortable for me because they were what I knew.
Swimming in the Deep
True freedom requires great courage because you must intentionally let go of all that is familiar and step toward the unknown. I knew my labels. I knew how to manage them, and I knew how to wear them.
Stepping into freedom means stepping into the completely unknown. I call it “swimming in the deep.”
I think most of us live our Christian lives on the shore of the ocean of God’s story. God can bless us on the shore because He is a kind and gracious God. However, swimming in the deep is where God desires us to be.
I was sick of living on the shore. I was sick of the labels that had defined me for so long. Like a messy toddler I ran into the ocean of God’s story—His promises.
I ran until I couldn’t touch the sand anymore and fear gripped me and yelled at me to turn back. I was tired of fear, so I shouted louder and told it to get out of my story. And I let my Savior take over—I found freedom in surrender.
A New Anthem
I clung to Bible verses about freedom, repeating them over-and-over again, until my mantra became my anthem.
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed,” (John 8:36).
“You … were called to be free,” (Galatians 5:13).
“ … I have called you by name, you are mine,” (Isaiah 43:1b, NLT).
“ … forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,” (Philippians 3:12, NASB).
Freedom is a daily surrender. It’s a moment-by-moment intentional flinging of yourself into the arms of your Father. It’s releasing control to the Holy Spirit and recognizing “all my humanness cannot accomplish the work of the Holy Spirit.” It’s taking a deep breath and knowing that nobody writes your story better than the Creator of you.
“I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and he delivered me from all my fears,” (Psalm 34:4).
*originally published in Great Commission Women’s Engage newsletter November