the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36 NRSV).
Recently, a friend of mine sent me an email with a link to watch a video. The day she sent it, I was struggling with high anxiety. You see, about ten years ago I had my first panic attack. If you’ve never experienced one, imagine normal, healthy anxiety, and then put it into turbo overdrive, which doesn’t shut off for several minutes. And it often happens without warning or for any apparent reason! Think space shuttle launch, versus a July 4th firecracker. (But I digress.)
So I clicked the link to watch the video. It showed a large humpbacked whale struggling to live. Some people who were boating saw the distressed whale and began videotaping. One of the brave men on board left the security of his boat and jumped into the water to see what was wrong. He swam near the whale; risking his life, and discovered a massive fishing net engulfing the whale’s body. He pulled and tugged and cut at the net and was able to free one of the whale’s dorsal fins, but it wasn’t enough, the whale was in a death grip and was drowning. For the next hour, he and his companions from aboard the boat hacked away at the giant cumbersome net, pulling and cutting, pulling and cutting, until finally the whale was free.
Then a remarkable thing happened. For the next hour,
the whale swam alongside their boat, dancing, flipping,
slapping his fins and jumping high out of the water in what appeared to be unbridled celebration. It was an amazing
show of thanksgiving to his rescuers for setting him free!
By the end of the video, I was crying!
The whale’s expression of freedom reminded me that Jesus left the security of heaven to rescue me, to free me from Satan’s death grip. And not only did Jesus risk his life, he gave it up so I could have eternal life! Yet, my reaction toward my rescuer is not usually one of unbridled celebration and thanksgiving. I’d like it to be! Wouldn’t you? Yet, more often than not, we are easily entangled by our circumstances. We are prone to focus our attention on those negative situations, rather than on Jesus our rescuer.
So how can we live with that kind of joy and not grow weary? Is it possible? The writer of Hebrews encourages us to stay focused,
to throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:1-3
So why am I telling you something so personal regarding my struggle with anxiety? First, I think it is important for Christians to be vulnerable and honest with one another; the Apostle Paul tells us why,
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles,
so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (1 Co. 1:3-4
You see, if we don’t share our struggles with each other, but go on pretending we are problem-free, then how can we ever comfort others with what we’ve experienced?
Secondly, I have been reading through the book of Job. Job’s friends are “famous” for having mishandled their response to Job for his suffering. But for a short time I think they got it right,
“When Job’s three friends . . . heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. . . . No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.” (Job 2:11-13
We can learn a lot from those verses when our friends suffer—emotionally, physically and relationally, because all of us struggle from time to time. Job reminds me that the most helpful thing I can do sometimes is just sit with my friends who are suffering and keep my mouth shut!
The whale video is a great visual for me. It is a reminder of the joy of my salvation. I have been set free! And if you are in Christ, you have been set free too.
And if the Son has set us free, we are free indeed! Hallelujah!
Finally, God’s timing is perfect. A book I had ordered days before,
the Panic Attacks Workbook, arrived in the mail on the day my anxiety peaked. And if you struggle with anxiety or panic attacks, I recommend it as an excellent and helpful resource. It is helping me to think in new ways, so I can be less entangled by my circumstances – free to enjoy and celebrate God’s many gifts in my life!
“Dear Father God, thank you for loving me, forgiving me, and for setting me free! Amen.”
Panic Attacks Workbook has helped me tremendously!
Click the book's cover to learn more.