Read His Words Before Ours!
When a wave of depression knocks me down or anxiety cripples me,
my body responds with intense chest pain, stealing my breath.
My muscles and bones are weighed down by sudden exhaustion.
My stomach churns and forces bile into my throat.
My thoughts flash back and forth, from slow-motion to frenzied.
Our world is broken, rife with oppression. Living under oppression is like living under the weight of heavy chains; for me, oppression has taken the form of struggles with mental health. For others, oppression may occur through social injustice, religious persecution, or even literal chains.
Yet in the midst of oppression, we have hope in God; the One True God, who is fully capable of healing my mental health and breaking every chain of oppression. As we partner with Him in His freedom work, we must choose to humbly submit ourselves to God, trusting He provides for and sustains us during the struggle.
One of my favorite Scriptures is the book of James, because his words read like a practical guide to Christan living, even in the midst of oppression. I’m grateful for a “road map” to help us access godly lives!
James 4:7-10 provides five ways to worship God as we fight the bondage oppressing us and keeping us from wholeness in Christ.
These acts of worship lead us to the beautiful promise of 2 Corinthians 3:16-18 (emphasis mine):
“[B]ut whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil [of separation between God and His children] is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
What a beautiful image! Let’s take a closer look at the transformative acts of oppression-shattering worship listed above.
Recently, I slipped into an old destructive habit of hidden self-harm. I knew my first step in submitting to God in humility was confession. I needed to let the Light of Jesus in by confessing to God and a trusted friend. Having a safe place to engage in confession brings godly, gentle conviction, which helped me make major life changes toward healing and wholeness. Conviction is both humbling and holy; it helps us walk in freedom and is not meant to cause us shame. God wants us free from sin, so we can draw close to Him. (verse 8)
How can we practice submission and humility in relationships with others? To begin, do you have at least one trusted, safe, Jesus-loving person in your life? If not, jump into the comments or join a group here at GTC! The internet can be a wonderful resource for building relationships: I am introverted and slow to trust, but I have found two treasured, Christ-loving, and encouraging friends online.
As you get started, consider looking for a church with an active online chat group during service (I host two nearly every Sunday), give someone a compliment, and go from there! Growth and change can be uncomfortable and require intentional action steps, but wholeness in Christ and healing are so worth it!
Next, verse 8 exhorts us, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
Three of my favorite ways to draw near to God are found in spiritual disciplines. I regularly fast from distractions and time wasters (fasting from food isn’t an option for me), I practice a weekly sabbath,
and I journal Scripture daily.
What about James’ seemingly-odd instruction to “cleanse your hands”?
According to the NIV Cultural Background Study Bible, “In this period [A.D. 40 and 50] Jewish people washed their hands before prayer.” Learning the cultural and historical background of God’s Word is vital to living it out! I’m going to start washing my hands before I begin prayer and meditation time with God; the physicality and intentionality of this small action will help remind me I am getting still before the Lord!
Finally, grieving, mourning, and lamenting (verse 9) before the Lord helps us embrace sorrow over sin. Sharing in the lament of another’s oppression builds empathy and moves us to compassion and the pursuit of God’s freedom and justice. (Galatians 5:13-14) In your own grief, we encourage you to seek support through counseling, and bring your honest pain to your Abba. (Romans 8:15) God knows we are hurting and meets us in our sorrow.
God calls us to wholeness in Christ and complete dependence on God. The book of Jeremiah contains God’s pleas for Israel to turn back to Him, and I believe His call is for us as well.
“Stand by the roadways and look.
Ask about the ancient paths,
‘Which is the way to what is good?’
Then take it and find rest for yourselves.”
Start small, dear ones, turning toward God and the path He has laid out for us by implementing our acts of worship in your life today. Respond to God’s invitation to follow Him, finding freedom from oppression for ourselves and others as we journey toward wholeness!
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!