Freedom Within Difficulty
by Brett Barry

In my personal prayer for worship last Sunday morning, I was reading a devotional on Psalm 20:1-9 written by Nicky Gumble of The Alpha course. He wrote, “When you have ‘days of distress’, you can and should call out to God in prayer, asking Him to bring salvation and freedom in the midst of struggle. It is not a matter of foolhardy optimism, but rather one of realistic faith.” 

Hmm…salvation and freedom in the midst of struggle; the fruit of realistic faith. As I was pondering that, I heard the Lord say, 

“There is a vast difference between freedom from difficulty and freedom within it.” 

Then I heard 1 Cor 10:13: “No temptation has overcome you except that which is common to man. But God is faithful in that He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide a way of escape in order that you may bear it.”

The Way of Escape
I don’t know about you, but during seasons of difficulty I have found myself running full speed in the darkness, crying out to God to deliver me “from” my situation, rather than inviting Him into it. Perhaps you can relate.

During these times, rather than take our thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ, the temptation is usually to imagine the worst about our situation, or to nurture unvalidated, emotionally-driven perspectives that cause misunderstanding, frustration or hurt… Sometimes the temptation is to leave God out of the center for too long, and the heaviness of the matter crushes our hope and joy. Even worse, if we continue, it can result in our becoming deeply discouraged or even depressed. It’s amazing how much energy is wasted in these areas. I’ve been through them, many times. And, honestly, I’ve yet to see any of them ever help my situation, understanding or growth in the Lord.

I thank God that He delivers us from both temptation and distress. But the way He does it, our way of escape, is what is so vitally important: He always delivers us through oneness with Himself:

We invite Him in, He lifts us up.

It’s interesting that true freedom comes only through oneness with Christ, not through our difficulty being taken away (1 Cor 6:17 / Gal 2:20 / Heb 12:7-11). While we may be comforted by His presence, when we actually invite Christ into the center of our perspective, we further awaken to our present spiritual position in Him, to His vantage point at the right hand of the Father “…far above all rule, authority, power and dominion..(Eph 1:21)”; to the place where we can see difficulty the way He does — in light of the greater picture of what He’s producing in us through the struggle, how it’s preparing us for our future with Him in eternity and our authority over our mind, will and emotions in the present.

So, as I was meditating, I got the picture of literally inviting Jesus into the center of my challenge, just as I would invite you into our home if you were to come for a visit (especially if you’re bringing food! — In fact, if you come with food I probably wouldn’t even invite you in; rather, I’d just reach out and pull you in!). 

We can bear the temptation only when we take the way of escape.

The beauty of oneness with God is that, not only does He walk with us here in the midst of the difficulties causing our distress, He enables us to walk with Him there in the fullness of His authority over them. The former brings comfort; the latter, freedom. 

Additionally, Jesus always comes bearing gifts — gifts of His presence, vision, courage, hope. As we awaken to our position in Him far above it all, His revelatory presence provides light to our path, perspective to our suffering and resolve to our depths. 

When we are one with Jesus, our distress dissipates and our challenges become opportunities.

Today, may you literally invite Jesus into the center of your perspective, that He might lift you up into His and, therein, set you free right there within the difficulties you are facing. 

On the other hand, Jesus always comes bearing gifts…so, better yet, just reach out and pull Him in!