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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Boxed in?

There are definitely times when we need to just tell someone how "boxed in" we are feeling at the moment.  It could be pressures from work piling up uncontrollably around us, or the bills of a few unexpected expenses which are now coming due, but regardless of the cause of the "boxed in" feelings, there is not much joy in them.  In fact, they are probably eliciting some fear, that little bit of anxiety mixed with frustration, and can even be creating undue physical pressures within our bodies which we now have to "manage", as well.  The scriptures are filled with examples of people feeling "boxed in", ranging from an entire nation of Israelites standing before the Red Sea with a vast amount of enemy forces closing in on them in hot pursuit, to the feelings of being alone and abandoned in a foreign country as a couple of widowed foreigners. Regardless of the cause, our sense of being "boxed in" can be overwhelming to us on occasion - eliciting either a deep sense of need which we turn to another to have met, or an even deeper sense of prideful stubbornness which digs in our heels and thinks we can "motor through" this one without outside help.  We may want help, but we won't admit it!  We may actually "need" help, but we won't bring ourselves to ask.  Why?  We are focused so much on the "box" we are in that we cannot think beyond the "walls" of the box!

But I will sing about your strength, my God, and I will celebrate because of your love. You are my fortress, my place of protection in times of trouble. I will sing your praises! You are my mighty fortress, and you love me. (Psalm 59:16-17 CEV)

David was often in predicaments which made him feel more than a little "boxed in" - both literally and figuratively.  It might have been matters of his own doing, such as his committing of adultery with Bathsheba while her husband was off to war.  It might have been matters of someone else's doing, such as when he was hiding out from Saul's armies because Saul was tormented by an evil spirit and out to kill him on the spot.  Either way, the pressures mounted from time to time - every pressure adding to the last unless he found a way to "release" those pressures.  Here is where we often get this part of the equation wrong.  My math teachers often told me I could solve a problem a certain way, one which arrived at the right answer, but if I didn't follow the principles of solving the equation the "right" way, the potential of me arriving at the right answer would vary depending on how I chose to "arrive" at the answer each time.  This is true in our daily lives, as it applies to dealing with the pressures which "box us in" and make us feel we are in a pressure-cooker of sorts.  There might be more than one way to find a "release" from the pressure we are feeling, but there is really only one consistently reliable release!

I think this is where most of us struggle with getting out of the box - we think we have to be the ones to release ourselves from the walls which confine us. It is either because we are too prideful to ask for help, or we just simply think we don't need help in the first place.  I just have to ask - how's that been working for you?  If you are like me, probably not so well!  In fact, you might even find you get out of one "box" and find you are just in a different "box" all together! Now, what good did that do?  Nothing really brings us to the same "release" as God's wisdom and power.  No matter how good of a plan we create to get ourselves out of our "box", we just won't manage it as well as if we'd just turn to God for his wisdom and help.  After all, he didn't put us in the box, but he actually knows what will keep us out of it the next time!

As I was contemplating this "boxed in" feeling we occasionally feel, I was struck with how frequently this can occur when we are further away from intimate relationship with Jesus.  The more we try to do things our way, the further away we move from Jesus.  This is probably what my math teachers were trying to say - I "can" do things "my" way, but do I want to continue to if I know it may not produce the reliability I am hoping for?  The more I insist on handling things myself - doing things my way - the more I find the box gets stronger walls and tighter tape!  Focus on the walls long enough and that is all you see.  Eventually you don't even remember that you want to be free of those walls.  This is called bondage, my friends!  The further we turn our focus away from Christ, the deeper becomes our bondage.  The only way to be free is to turn toward release and this is only found in a person - Christ Jesus.

Another thing caught my attention - the ability to celebrate release even when the "box" is still in place!  David gives us ample example of this principle as he always found himself ending up his prayers and even his "complaints" to God with a reminder to himself of God's faithfulness and love.  Yep, David complained to God.  So, don't think yourself so "holy" and "spiritual" that you won't admit you do the same thing!  A whole lot of our prayers about the "box" we are in at the moment are really "complaints" about the predicament we are in!  We need to take a lesson from David, though.  He had tried a few times to do things on his own - like when he decided the best plan to cover up his infidelity with Bathsheba was to have her husband killed in battle!  That didn't work so well for him as he realized when he lost the son born out of that infidelity!  Our best laid plans of "escape" are not going to produce the results we hope for - so why do we insist on following through on those plans?  Instead, we need to draw closer to Jesus, look fully into his face, and then confess we need his help to get out of the box (whether it is a box of our own reckoning, or one another has placed us within).

Herein is the rub - our pride keeps us from admitting we need the help and our fear keeps us focused on the walls of the box.  Until we recognize the box as a means of interfering with our ability to behold God's face, we won't want his help to be released from the confines of the walls of that box!  Just sayin!