If you’ve ever seen me in a worship context, some of the descriptions of me that might come to mind are: freedom… joy…
Well, I wasn’t always this way.
I remember a few years back attending a marriage conference, and we had time to reflect on areas we needed growth in. It was hard for me to realize that I was sorely lacking in peace and joy.
I spent a significant amount of time on psychotropics and in therapy for anxiety and panic attacks, being imprisoned by my own fears. I was bound in chains by my mind and emotions, and kept from living fully.
I was writing songs of love, and yet not fully experiencing it. My mental health suffered.
The medication and counseling helped some, but it wasn’t those approaches that set me free. It was actually through abundant grace in seasons of suffering that Jesus brought me to a place of PEACE, JOY, and FREEDOM! During the marriage conference, I had prayed for an increase in those, and God has been faithful to do so… although the journey was difficult and only something that only God could do.
Mental health, anxiety, depression, personality disorders… all these are things that people inside and outside of the Church struggle with. Counseling is almost always a good idea… no matter where you’re at in the journey. If you feel you need medication to calm your body and brain connections while you walk toward freedom, there is no shame in that either! There is no shame with me, or with Jesus. Come as you are, so we can talk about it openly, and walk together toward victory and freedom.
I had a couple of HARD years, yet God has given me more peace and true joy (not just happiness) than I’ve ever known before.
Everything inside of me is ROARING like a lion to set you free! BUT, my wisdom can’t do that.
HOWEVER, “If the son sets free, you will be free indeed!” (John 8:36)
Here are 12 keys* I’ve learned from Him in the journey to my freedom. I hope you will seek His guidance to freedom as well! Maybe take one key each day for the next two weeks to consider and pray about.
1. Peace and joy are fruits of the Holy Spirit. Build your relationship with God, ask to be filled with the Spirit, and for wisdom to overcome fear and hopelessness.
2. Remember Scripture calls fear a spirit: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). We who are in Christ have authority over spirits! You can command him away in Jesus’ name. Replace that spirit by asking the Holy Spirit to fill that void.
3. Forgive yourself, forgive others. Allow Christ to forgive you and others through you. Love them. Ongoing forgiveness leads to true freedom on so many levels! Think specific. (For example: “Forgive this filmmaker that made this disturbing scene that is opening up a gate in my mind for fear to come in.” “Forgive me for not remembering that I am a beloved daughter of the King and so allowing fear of people’s thoughts about me to bring shame into my life.” “Forgive my parent for not speaking hope into me as a child in this instance […].” “Forgive this leader in my life for not leading me from a place of security and joy.”)
4. Worship… not just on Sundays, but in every moment. Focus on how God loves you and has been good to you. Love others out of this love. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…” (1 John 4:18a).
5. Don’t fear suffering. Remember God works all things for good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28), grace is sufficient for weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), and mercies are new every morning:
I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
Lamentations 3:19-26 (NIV)
6. Remember how God faithfully led you in the past, and trust He will continue in the future. As you depend on God, He will give you enough strength for just what He’s calling you to do in each season. (Let the rest go.)
7. Fix your spiritual eyes on Christ. Meditate on Scripture. Ask God to keep showing you the good way to go.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:8-9 (NIV)
8. Allow yourself to live… allow yourself to let go… allow yourself to have sabbath rest. Cast your cares on God. You can’t control it all, and you can’t solve all the world’s problems.
9. Take authority in Christ. Claim victory in Jesus; don’t live as a victim in defeat. Remember that angels are fighting for us.
This is the last thing I want to say: Be strong with the Lord’s strength. Put on the things God gives you to fight with. Then you will not fall into the traps of the devil. Our fight is not with people. It is against the leaders and the powers and the spirits of darkness in this world. It is against the demon world that works in the heavens. Because of this, put on all the things God gives you to fight with. Then you will be able to stand in that sinful day. When it is all over, you will still be standing.
So stand up and do not be moved. Wear a belt of truth around your body. Wear a piece of iron over your chest which is being right with God. Wear shoes on your feet which are the Good News of peace. Most important of all, you need a covering of faith in front of you. This is to put out the fire-arrows of the devil. The covering for your head is that you have been saved from the punishment of sin. Take the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.
You must pray at all times as the Holy Spirit leads you to pray. Pray for the things that are needed. You must watch and keep on praying. Remember to pray for all Christians.
Ephesians 6:10-18 (NLV)
10. Live in the moment. Pay attention to things, big and small, that are beautiful to you. Thank God for them. “Gratitude breeds joy.”
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV)
11. Surround yourself with life-giving people who are full of the Holy Spirit. Connection helps everything.
12. Remember the ultimate hope is the reign of God on earth and in heaven… someday ALL will be made new! Ultimately we cannot work our way to freedom. Freedom is a gift… receive it as such!
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18
*One important disclaimer: These are all keys… but NOT the door.
I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
John 10:9-10 (NKJV)
Principles don’t save us; Jesus does. All of these keys are simply relationship builders to help us trust the one who can give us an abundant life filled with peace and joy. So above all, we seek to know and love Him as a person, and we simply receive the mental, emotional, and spiritual freedom that He offers us.
But we don’t do this alone. I pray as you walk toward freedom, you take others along on the journey as well!