The following is an excerpt from my daily devotional:
It has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ (Philippians 1:13).
Joni Erickson Tada is, in a sense, in chains for Christ. One day she was a carefree teenager, the next she was imprisoned in a quadriplegic body due to a diving accident. Yet her chains not only encouraged others but also increased her faith as she grew into more and more reliance upon Christ. Because Joni took her tragedy and gave it to God, He has used her in a mighty way.
Confined to a wheelchair, Joni creatively adapted her lifestyle and learned to paint by holding a brush in her teeth. Soon God began calling her to help others with limited abilities.
What would her life have been like if she hadn’t taken that dive? Would she still have a worldwide ministry? Would she have developed the strong character and courage to move into such a ministry?
From great tragedy can come great character. Reflecting on the ministries of both Joni and the apostle Paul, I ask myself, “What are my chains? What adversity or physical infirmity can I give to Christ for His glory?
As I was reading this devotional thought this morning – I was aware of the fact that all of us have ‘chains’. They are not always physical – as in the case of Joni – sometimes they are invisible and are harder for us to define and recognize. Anything emotional can be dicey and complicated for us and because we cannot see it – we also cannot see the damage it has done or the scars that it has left behind. But like anything that holds us down – visible or not – it can be a very difficult thing to ‘rise above’ it and simply move on. Especially if those ‘chains’ leave us with feelings of regret and desperation. But the real strength of character comes when we are at our weakest – lost and hurting. It’s when we allow those ‘chains’ to change our course that the real miracle comes about – in our own hearts. And sometimes a change in our hearts begins a new journey – a change in our course that God will use to bless someone else.
In my own life my ‘chains’ are invisible. They are not something you can detect. They are emotional. There was a hurt and a tearing apart of something that I thought was unmovable and strong. It caused me to rethink everything in my life. It caused me to ‘pull in’ and protect. It took time to heal – I think I am still healing from it in some ways. But I realized something after this happened. I realized I had a choice. I either trusted God or I didn’t. I had to trust that He saw the bigger picture and that I didn’t need to. That had to be good enough. And then – I had to decide whether or not I would go on – or stay still and struggle in my own pain – alone. I chose to go on.
I began a journey of healing through writing. I wrote because I felt compelled. I felt I had something to say. I felt God speaking through me. And though ‘handicapped’ now because of my ‘chains’ – I continued to write. It was the only thing I could do – and I did it. Along the way I met people in my life that had a powerful influence in my life – and their words of love and encouragement was like God speaking directly to me. And that encouragement gave me courage over time – and soon I was able to help and encourage people – even when I myself was still hurting.
Those were my ‘chains’ used to glorify God. Would I have had this tremendous opportunity without them? Would I have had anything to write about? Would God have been able to use me? I don’t know. But I do know – that He took my brokenness and my willingness to move forward and bless others. And in blessing others – He has blessed me.
And so like Joni – I can truly say that I cannot regret this path and the journey I’ve been on. The very ‘chains’ that I thought would break me and destroy me and my witness – have made me stronger and my witness more powerful than before.
What are your chains? Is it something that you need to experience in order to better serve others? Are you finding your life journey changing course because of those ‘chains’? It may not be just a ‘coincidence’ or something that you’d like to think of as a ‘mistake’. It may be something that God is going to use to make you stronger and increase your influence with others. And like those ‘chains’ of mine that will always be with me – even though I have survived and am moving forward – those ‘chains’ will always be a reminder to me that He is stronger than any chains that would threaten to bind me or destroy me.