She was a mom of three. She devoted herself to home tasks, which later left her feeling helpless after his trespass and abandonment. The home, a prison. Her children, shackles. Outside her window, a perceived freedom of women climbing corporate ladders–she faced having the electricity shut off; broke and broken. It was too much. She felt hopeless.
Another woman was recovering during a time that felt like a life sentence. The nurses were wardens and the rules were constricting, restricting punishments. She felt all freedoms had been stripped away. Every day was punctuated by offense, oppression, complaint. The days ticked past. She praised the Lord for what he’d done in the past, but she was unable to praise him in the present for the meal, the care, the provision. She felt trapped, like she was in prison.
I was tasked with duties without warning. A lifelong obligation. A tethering, and sometimes too heavy–the bombardment of negativity, of opposition, of uncertainty. I fought against my own complaint, but sometimes, and sometimes often, I still complained. I fought against bitterness, and when I felt its squeeze, I cried out–oh, not this heart, Lord. I remembered Paul. I thought of his chains.
Remember my chains. (Colossians 4:18b, NLT)
If he could find understanding and purpose in the worst of circumstances, could I find them in mine?
If I let him, could God use my circumstance to speak the Gospel? Could he use this circumstance to demonstrate his glory and goodness and sovereignty? What the enemy uses to break and beat down, could my God use to build upon and make new? Where an enemy declares an end, could God pronounce a beginning?
2 Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. 3 Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains. 4 Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should.
5 Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone. (Colossians 4:2-6, NLT)
Nothing is a surprise to my God, however it may surprise me. These things he knew before time. Tasks prepared in advance. Yes. Don’t let me miss it–that sometimes ministry is in the middle of mess and misery. For Paul, he was literally a prisoner in a prison, but for others, it’s circumstance that feels hopeless, punitive, imprisoning, endless.
17 And say to Archippus, “Be sure to carry out the ministry the Lord gave you.” (Colossians 4:17, NLT)
Archippus, did you? Did you carry out the ministry the Lord gave you?
Lord Jesus, you have been with me every step of this journey, and you know how hard it’s been. You know how desperately I begged to quit from the pressure. And whether the job was heaped upon, handed over, appointed–you knew. And you intend(ed) it for my good and your glory. May it be so. Fixing my eyes on you, author and perfecter of faith. You can bring beauty from ashes.
May God’s grace be with you.