From The Outside Looking In...

06/10/2004

Iíve written about what it is to be locked away in a "cell," bound there by chains of anger, resentment, envy, unforgiveness, and many other reasons. We have all been there, gone there willingly of our own choice. Someone makes us mad, someone hurts us or stabs us in the back when we are least expecting it, or weíve been disappointed, and so we turn away from those who have hurt us. We shut down and lock ourselves away.
Weíll show them...

Yes, we all know what it feels like to sit alone in our distress and self-pity, even if we canít see the invisible bars, but how does it look and feel like to those on the outside looking in? What do they see as we sit alone in our cells waiting for something on the outside to change or for someone on the outside to apologize to us for how weíve been "wronged?" And what is our responsibility if weíre the ones on the outside looking in? What role do we play in anotherís emotional freedom?

First off, I guess it depends on our part in the whole scenario. Have we hurt someone, done them wrong, stabbed them in the back, or any number of sins we might have committed against them? If we have knowingly hurt someone, disappointed them or caused them harm, we have a responsibility to apologize and ask for their forgiveness. That is our part. When we see that they are locked away and hurting because of an error in our ways, we must go to them and offer a hand of reconciliation. That is our responsibility! No doubt about it!

But what is normally seen from the outside looking in? Not much!! Most times outsiders can be oblivious to anotherís pain and the hurts that have taken place. Most go on with their lives as if nothing has happened, while those "locked up" live in a cell of misery, waiting for someone to rescue them.

Because of that, those on the inside must never wait for another human being to rescue them--that day may never come! When tempted to become a "prisoner" in an emotional cell, we must start to refocus every thought immediately on Godís escape plan and get out of there as quickly as possible before the devil gains a foothold in our life!

When Jesus was being accused, beaten, whipped, spit on and crucified, He did not retaliate with hatred, slander, bitterness or anger. He focused His thoughts on His Father and asked that those who were hurting Him be forgiven. Why would He do this when He had every right to complain and claim His innocence? Because He knew Who He was and He knew what He was here to do and He knew they didnít really have a clue what harm they were doing. He was not distracted with the failings of those around Him because He understood their fleshly nature and how the Enemy works. His only concern was obedience to His Father--anything less than that would have been allowing the Enemy more power than he deserved. Jesus might have been in a physical cell, but emotionally He was free!

Why do we end up in emotional cells?
Because we "feel" we have been wronged and we want it "righted."
Why was Jesus free even in His chains and upon the Cross? Because He knew there was a purpose in all things, even when betrayed by the kiss of a friend in Judas. He was not bitter, but accepted it for what it needed to be. He knew His Fatherís plan would prevail.

What good would it have done Him to be angry or resentful?
What good does it do any of us?
Do we really think that those on the outside looking in at our misery are going to be able to rescue us? The bottom line is, our peace and happiness is not anyone elseís responsibility! If those on the outside looking in do attempt to carry out the "wounded" from behind their bars, what have the "prisoners" learned in the process? Have they gained any strength in the ordeal, or have the "rescuers" only enabled the "prisoners" once again to blame their unhappiness on someone else, on the error of anotherís ways, or the raw deal this life is giving them? What does God say? He says:

Trust me in your times of trouble,
and I will rescue you,
and you will give me glory.
Psalm 50:15

God knows we will end up behind the Enemyís invisible bars from time to time because this world WILL hurt us. God has a plan for our rescue, but we need to reach out to Him, and Him alone. Then in the end, God alone will get the glory--not the problem, not the earthly solution and not the one who supposedly rescued us from our pit of self-pity.

If we give way to self-pity and indulge in the luxury of misery,
we banish Godís riches from our own lives and hinder others
from entering into His provision. No sin is worse than the sin
of self-pity, because it obliterates God and puts self-interest
upon the throne.
O. Chambers (May 16) "My Utmost of His Highest"

A favorite preacher of mine says that God tests us, and if we fail the test, then we have to go around the mountain again, and weíll keep going around the same mountain again and again until we pass the test.

Are these emotional cells we end up in a test? Is God trying to get our attention when we feel alone and miserable and forgotten and betrayed? Is God asking us to find our satisfaction in an apology, a reconciliation, or any form of human action, or is He asking us to come to Him and seek our freedom in Him?

I have to believe He is asking us to come to Him with all our troubles because if we ever depend on this world to satisfy our needs, to mend our hurts, or to cure our broken hearts, we have focused our attention in the wrong direction. We will more than likely be disappointed. This "world" will never be able to rescue us fully, and even if it feels good for a moment, it will only be a temporary Band-Aid on a wound that will be reopened time and time again in the process of life. Life hurts, people hurt us along the way and none of it is fair. Our only true, right and sure method of living free and happy and contented is to keep our focus on the only One who offers us peace in the storms...Jesus Christ our Lord.

How do we get to a place where this is even possible? What do we do to build up our stamina so that when the Enemy attacks us where we are most vulnerable, in our hearts, we find the strength we need? I think it has to do with exercise. Not a physical, sweat-producing form of exercise, but exercising our faith muscles by spending as much time with God as possible, and as much time in the Word as is necessary to keep the Truth alive and active in our lives! Then if we get wounded, we will have already started an IV of Godís Living Water--it will have been steadily flowing into our body strengthening us.

Watching "Emergency" years ago, it seemed when anyone was hurt, they started an IV with Ringers Lactate...I have no idea what that is, but it sure seemed to be an important part of the patientís recovery. The EMTís knew what was needed for physical wounds, but our Heavenly Physician knows what is needed for our emotional wounds!

Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wivesí tales.
Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness.
Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much
more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next.
1 Timothy 4:7-8 NLT

Do you know what spiritual fitness provides for believers? A strong heart for God! It keeps us on the outside of those invisible bars. We will not end up an emotional mess and no one will be on the outside looking in on our misery!
We will be living free!
There will be nothing to gawk at!
We will not be some crazed animal in the Enemyí zoo, with passers-by mocking us. We will be a child of the King. We wonít be depending on the strength of those on the outside to save us but instead on the strength we have on the inside by the power of the Holy Spirit. He will not only set us free but He will keep us free!

May God not find the whine in us any more, but may He find us
full of spiritual pluck and athleticism, ready to face anything He brings.
We have to exercise ourselves so that the Son of God may be manifested
in our mortal flesh.
O. Chambers (May 15) "My Utmost for His Highest"

Iím reading an interesting book right now called "More Than Meets The Eye" by Richard A. Swenson, M.D. I looked in there this morning to see what he had to say about the muscles. He wrote:

"With increased exercise the muscles need more oxygen, and they need it quickly. Under strenuous conditions, the muscle demand for oxygen may increase as much as tenfold. Well-conditioned athletes have an oxygen delivery and utilization mechanism that is more highly efficient than the rest of ours. Yet the capacity to improve our oxygen factory output through exercise is something within the reach of us all regardless of age."

Thatís good to know! No matter what age we are, we can exercise and improve our physical bodies. But what about our spirits, does it work the same way? I believe it does, but it will only do so when we take time to be with our Father exercising our faith. Then our faith will have a chance to strengthen, it will be "well-conditioned" and be more "highly efficient."

When those on the outside looking in want to be "rescuers," we have to wonder if itís such a good idea. There are definitely times when we need a helping hand, Iím not arguing that, but we each have our own individual stint in Godís army, and we all need to go through our own form of Boot Camp to be ready for spiritual warfare!

Not all of us are being trained to be a Green Beret in Godís army, but we are all part of His regular forces when we join Godís family by accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior. Not all of us will be sent out to the battlefield as a Mother Teresa, or a Billy Graham or a Charles Stanley, but we will all have our jobs to do right here at home. We must be prepared for the spiritual battles in our lives and not end up as prisoners of war!

Yes, sometimes there are Prisoners of War. We all know that! And how can we as a POW in a spiritual battle survive when no one can get to us, when no one will rescue us from our misery or when no one even knows we have been captured yet? Do we survive by being angry or by filling up with bitterness for the unfairness of it all? Letís hope not! Letís hope we would all draw our strength and seek our freedom from the only One who knows right where we are and exactly what we are needing, our Father in Heaven.

Those on the outside looking in on the POWís in an actual war could most times care less about the emotional condition of their prisoners. They might throw a little food their way and maybe let them out for a little physical exercise once in a while, but they do not coddle them or sit with them for hours explaining the reasons for their "mistreatment." Itís not in their nature to do so as guards and it is not required of them by their commanding officers. They are on the outside looking in, and itís "not their problem."

Those might be cold hard facts, but that is our life in a nutshell. When Jesus was taken prisoner on the night before He was to be crucified, it wasnít the guardsí "problem" that Jesus was miserable. The "problem" and the "solution" for the situation Jesus found Himself in were in the hands of God, and thatís where Jesus had to take His emotions to remain free even in His chains, even in the unfairness of it all!

We donít often find ourselves physically chained, tied or gagged, but emotionally we could end up there more times than not. We could spend our lives mad at those around us for their "mistreatment" of us, or the "unfairness" of their ways, and if we are waiting to be rescued by them, we will probably continue to wait, and wait, and wait, and wait...

Those on the outside looking in are busy; they have gone on with their lives and have probably left behind many causalities of "war." But God is circling overhead; hear the roar of His ministering angels? He listens to our cries and sends us His message of Hope and Freedom from above. Heís letting us know that it doesnít matter whatís been done to us or what kind of mistreatment we have had to endure on this earth, He is in full control of the situation and we need not fear. Heís letting down the safety rope; will we grab it and let Him lift us out of our predicament?

So you see, the Lord knows how to rescue godly people from their trials,
even while punishing the wicked right up until the day of judgment.
He is especially hard on those who follow their own evil, lustful desires
and who despise authority.
2 Peter 2:9-10a NLT

I know, I know, we want vengeance! We have been wronged; we need to let them know how they have hurt us!! If we just get up and walk out of this cell of misery and go on our merry way, they may never know!
Thatís just not fair!
Itís not right!
They need to PAY for their "crimes" against us!!

Grief is sort of the same way. It seems that if we remain miserable, we are somehow making someone, somewhere "pay" for how weíve been hurt. If we put a smile on our face and eventually move on with our lives, it almost seems as if "someone" has gotten away with something, and it doesnít seem fair. Illness does not seem fair, accidents do not seem fair, manslaughter and murder definitely do not seem fair...the list could go on, but the bottom line is, no amount of pouting, crying or whining will change a thing. We eventually have to accept what has happened and step out of our prison of grief or we will be held "captive" in our misery for the rest of our days. We must leave the "pity-party" behind for Higher Ground when a reasonable amount of mourning time has passed.

"Prisoners" are choosing to sit behind invisible bars being tortured, and why is that? Because they are believing the lies of the Enemy, thatís why! The Enemy clearly tells the "prisoners" that they have a right to be unhappy and to sulk! He knows that self-pity takes our focus off of God! It is a form of idolatryólooking to someone or something other than God.

The Enemy is no dummy! If he lets down his guard in the Prison of Misery and Self-Pity, then we may start to exercise our faith muscles and call on God for help!! And guess what? If we start to exercise our faith muscles, we will be filled with the strength of
God and He will free us immediately! No questions asked!

This is a test, and we can keep circling around that mountain if we want to. We can turn any incident into a huge mountain that exhausts us. Sometimes if we are really determined, we can keep adding up those sparky little incidents until we create a great big bonfire that will burn up relationships beyond recognition. Eventually, we wonít even remember who we used to be as friends, as husband and wife, as a parent and a child or even as ourselves. There can be total destruction that starts with one little spark if the Enemy is left alone to create his deceptions.

We can chose to wander in the "wilderness" like the Israelites did for 40 years. An eleven-minute discussion can turn into a 40-year "war." The Israelites lost their focus and acted childish. When the time came, all but two never even saw the Promised Land. Is that what we want in our livesóto miss living in Godís Promised Land?

Life will hurt in many ways, through our experiences, through people like our friends or our families, or even strangers, because we are human beings with many flaws. We donít always act the way we should or keep our promises or pay close enough attention to anotherís needs--but if we are waiting for those who hurt us to come back over and say how sorry they were, how wrong they were and wanting them to "baby us" into recovery, then we will not be exercising our faith. The Enemy will be in control of our emotions, not the Holy Spirit! Our strength will evaporate in the heat of the battle.

For you are a slave to whatever controls you. And when
people escape from the wicked ways of the world by learning
about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and then get tangled
up with sin and become its slave again, they are worse off
than before.
2 Peter 2:19b-20 NLT

Itís one thing to sit in a cell of misery when we donít know Christ, itís another thing to have "escaped the wicked ways of the world" and then end up back in prison, waiting for someone other than Christ to set us free again and again. Christ is the believerís Savior, He was sent to rescue us! He can be fully trusted and we should always depend on Him! He will heal our emotions, and He will make things right. If we donít believe that fully, then we will never experience true freedom in Him.

Those on the outside looking in are really doing us no favor when they run back to rescue us from our misery. If we feel weíve been wronged, we must immediately ask ourselves if our focus is right. We must pray to God for help with our anger, for our bitterness, and for deliverance from our emotions that like to run wild. God will provide a way of escape when we submit to Him. The Enemy will flee from us if we resist the clever ways he has of luring us into his cells of misery. We can turn the What about me? into Whatever You desire my Lord, sending the Enemy back into the darkness from which he came.

"No matter how disagreeable a thing may be,
sayóĎLord, I am delighted to obey Thee in this
matter,í and instantly the Son of God will press to
the front, and there will be manifested in my human
life that which glorifies Jesus.
Oswald Chambers (May 14) "My Utmost for His Highest"

We must never depend on others to bring us happiness and contentment and help us to feel good about ourselves. They are not the "medic" we need to patch up war wounds experienced in the heat of the spiritual battle we live in.
That is not their job!
They never applied for it!
They never wanted it!
And they havenít been trained for it!
So the work that they do in our own preconceived "MASH Tent" will fall far short of the standards we are expecting!
We will want to court marshal all of them!!
So letís do!!
Letís demote them and promote God instead!
Letís not call on them to help bind up our wounded soul anymore!!
Letís let them go home and work on something else, and letís call on our Medic, God, instead. God is perfect, and He will never let us down! He knows our every hurt, our every emotion and everything we will ever need! He is our Shepherd, we shall not want!
Letís no longer be wounded POWís but free citizens of heaven, living out our days on earth in peace.

In 2 Peter, Chapter one it talks about how knowing God leads to self-control, which leads to patient endurance, and then godliness. "Godliness leads to love for other Christians, and finally you will grow to have genuine love for everyone." (Verses 6-7)

When we exercise our faith, our faith muscles will grow and we will learn to endure many things! Even things that used to make us miserable will no longer have that power over us. Even those who used to hurt us will no longer have the power to do so. We can rise above it all when our eyes remain on our Savior--then we can genuinely love others as we should. It wonít matter how they treat us because weíll already be getting the Royal Treatment from our Father.

The more you grow like this, the more you will become productive
and useful in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those
who fail to develop these virtues are blind or, at least, very shortsighted.
They have already forgotten that God has cleansed them from their old life of sin.
2 Peter 1:8-9

We have been cleansed from our old life of sinówe no longer need to live in dirty prison clothes and eat sparse prison food waiting for some "guard" on the outside to come and let us out from time to time to enjoy some sunshine. No one is allowed that control over our hearts unless we give it to them, not even our greatest Enemy, Satan!

My personal desire is that the Enemy will only find an empty cell when he comes looking to emotionally torture me!

This "ex-prisoner" is heading to Godís Gym to exercise some faith muscles!!

Diane