My life has a recurring appointment at 2am. It doesn’t take place every night. Some nights offer surprising and continuous, blessed sleep. Those are beautiful times. But most nights — I’d say three out of five for the past ten years or so — find me awake for this appointment, battling my past, my present, and all sorts of insecurities and accusations. Voices tell me I’m not enough; I’ll never be enough. They offer evidence of my failures and comparisons to others’ effortless success. They condemn without mercy, a repetitive loop of ceaseless striving and bondage.
The Apostle Paul never explicitly defined the “thorn in [his] side.” We only know it was a painful, persistent affliction he couldn’t shake. I wonder if it was like this.
On the morning after another sleepless night wrestling lies, I woke exhausted. Again. I confessed my struggle and the thoughts in my head to my ever-loving husband, tears silently leaking onto my pillow. Sometimes speaking it out loud helps. He prayed for me, over me. And then we got up to tackle another day.
Sometimes God speaks.
Shannon over at Sweet Blessings offers a really simple and impactful approach to the discipline of daily Bible time. Rather than giving a strict, multi-step regimen, she encourages Scripture writing. She publishes plans that give you just a few verses to copy from your Bible each day. That’s it. No questions; no forced pre-written prayers or contemporary devotional readings. Just writing. It’s simple, but the act of handwriting holy words breeds stillness. Contemplative moments.
This month I’m going through her ‘Birth of Christ’ plan. I have a blank journal. On one page I write the day’s Scripture. On the next page I write my observations about the passage or a prayer. Often both.
On that particular morning the writing was Isaiah 40:1–5. These verses come in the middle of a prophecy spoken by Isaiah to King Hezekiah. The verses, while directly spoken to the nation of Judah in their time, were echoed in prophetic fulfillment by John the Baptist as “a voice of one crying out” in the wilderness.
It is vital that, when studying to understand Scripture (or any literature, really), we consider first and foremost the context. That includes the original writers, the original audience, the original purpose and intent, and the culture and languages in which it was penned. But God also speaks directly to us in our day through these sacred texts. Sometimes it’s a lesson learned through their stories; sometimes it’s insight about our own. The past and the present work in holy concert to exalt Truth.
That morning as I read God’s promises to ancient Israel, the words sank deep into my weary heart.
“Comfort, comfort My people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and announce to her that her time of servitude is over, her iniquity has been pardoned…”Isaiah 10:1–2 (HCSB)
Has my iniquity been pardoned? If I believe God’s words, YES. Christ made it so.
Consider Paul’s writings to the Romans:
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free…
Now if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, then he who raised Christ from the dead will also bring your mortal bodies to life through his Spirit who lives in you. So then, brothers and sisters, we are not obligated to the flesh to live according to the flesh…
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear. Instead, you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!”Romans 8:1-2, 10–12, 15
Does any of this make any sense to you?
Small Steps Toward Realized Freedom
In that moment of reading Isaiah, my heart heard the Holy Spirit affirming Christ’s work in my life, that he saved me for something far greater than slavery to negative thoughts and burdens long forgiven. He showed me that my time of servitude ended long ago — the moment I put my trust in Him.
Have I recognized my pardon? Or am I, like a stubborn dandelion seed, still clinging to the dead and familiar rather than flying free to produce life anew?
What is the purpose of my penance? Why persist in listening to lies that oppress and keep me captive?
This sounds like a simple switch of the brain. If I just change my mind, then I won’t struggle. I wish it were that simple.
Transformation is a complicated journey, but maybe the first steps are simple. Not easy, but simple. Maybe tiny victories can be found in remembering truth and fortifying my faith with those truths.
Maybe changing my mind in the daytime can create new habits for those 2am meetings.
And maybe one day those middle-of-the-night appointments will no longer be kept.
What lies might you believe that keep you captive?
What steps can you take today to realize the freedom Christ came to give?