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Can We Really Live Free?

Jul 03, 2016 03:58AM ● By Bonnie Lyn Smith

I used to think I was really free. But I wasn’t. Not really. Not until my young son dipped into depression and my father took his final plunge into the depths of cancer.

Free? Under those circumstances? What does that even mean? To understand true freedom, we need to know the absence of it. Without Christ, many live in the absence of it, but even with Christ, sometimes we don’t grasp the full meaning. Having lived that way for so many years, only knowing partial freedom at best, can I tell you what a tragedy that truly is?

True freedom is being able to give everything to God and not take it back until He returns it. I could never do that before. It would be nicer to say I didn't know how, and that’s partly true, but honestly, I just didn’t want to. When God didn’t answer quickly enough or my way, yeah, I figured He needed my help.

Spoiler alert: He didn’t, and He still doesn’t.

I was bringing a friend a meal not long after my father died and some unfortunate incidents that took place around his death. She was barely on her feet home from major surgery, but as I stepped into her entranceway, she shuffled her feet over to me and pressed a tiny note inside my palm. Among other things, it had this verse on it:

Nehemiah 6:9, ESV, Ezra the Prophet speaking

For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.” But now, O God, strengthen my hands.

Along with the verse was this word, scrawled out in her beautiful handwriting: 


She and I had not exchanged more than a few emails of logistics regarding the time to be at her home. She did not know my full story.

But God did.

His message was so clear: In my messy, despairing brokenness, when the foundation under my feet quaked and crumbled, He was rebuilding.

And that was incredibly freeing because

I was not the builder.

I was the material.

My only responsibility was to look up and let Him mold and reshape me.

1. Freedom is knowing we are safely shaped within His hands.

Isaiah 64:8, ESV, Isaiah the Prophet speaking

But now, O Lord, you are our Father;

we are the clay, and you are our potter;

we are all the work of your hand.

That verse in Nehemiah? “But now, O God, strengthen my hands.”

That became possibility, hope, resource, empowering. 

I did not have to remain downcast and afraid—and neither do you.

How exactly did my son’s struggles and my father’s passing bring me to a place of greater freedom in Christ? 

They brought me to the very depths of myself, to my core, to the place of greatest desperation.

I wasn’t enough.

Friends weren’t enough.

My church wasn’t enough.

My husband and children weren’t enough.

My community wasn’t enough.

Only Christ could step in and create with the broken pieces of me. Sure, many people loved and supported me, but on their own, they could not bring me peace or fill the void. They could not break off chains. 

When I came to my own end and said:

“Jesus, I really have no answers or plan,”

it was as if He replied:

“Oh, good, it’s about time you got real with me. I was waiting for you to open space for me."

2. Freedom is crying out to God, knowing He hears, and trusting in His answer. It’s opening space and knowing He fills it.

Psalm 18:6, ESV, David speaking

In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.

3. Freedom is knowing that nothing I or others can do has the power to separate me from my Father in heaven because of Christ.

Romans 8:38-39, ESV, Apostle Paul speaking

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

4. Freedom is letting Him loose my burdens and dress me in fresh linens of joy in being His child.

Psalm 30:11-12, ESV, David speaking 

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

5. Freedom is not worrying that I can’t see the path before me. It’s trusting in each step He has me take, that my foot will not slip.

Proverbs 16:9, ESV, Solomon writing

The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. 

Psalm 121:3, NIV, David writing

He will not let your foot slip-- he who watches over you will not slumber;

6. Freedom is not having to heal myself or my son.

Psalm 147:3, ESV, unknown but possibly David writing

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

7. Freedom is not being a slave to my sin or circumstances but fully grasping that I stand to receive a beautiful inheritance, one I can claim right now.

Galatians 4:7, ESV, Apostle Paul speaking

So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

The beautiful truth of the Gospel is that He doesn’t need our help, only our yielded hearts. He can rebuild us with that. We don’t have to have the resources, power, strength, control, or knowledge of what’s ahead.

I am the daughter of a good Father. He has my back. I can be completely empty, and He’s more than enough to fill me and be my strength.

My friend was so right: He is rebuilding because I finally put down the hammer and nails to which I clenched so tightly and asked Him to do what I could not.

Are you living free? Are there any places you maintain a false sense of self-sufficiency or security that you need to put down so that Your Father in heaven can give you rest?

Wave the flag of surrender to Christ. I promise you it’s an Independence Day you will never regret.


Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about parenting, marriage, mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, the healing cloak of Jesus, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.

Her book, Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day, offers anecdotes on all of these subjects and Scripture for each situation as well as Book Discussion Questions for deeper exploration.

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