Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Freeing Imprisonment

In Zechariah 9:12, the Lord says to His people, "Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you." When I first read this some time ago, I became completely intrigued because this is one of the only times I'm aware of in Scripture when God's people are called prisoners and are instructed to remain that way. Prisoners of hope, no less.In today's world, I regularly interact with people who feel imprisoned, captured, and trapped by anything but hope. People who are imprisoned by worry. Anger. Despair. Bitterness. Regret. Meaninglessness. Unforgiveness. Even by a negative, complaining spirit that prompts them to always expect the worst. More than that, we live in a culture and a time that offers people a lot of excuses for staying in this type of bondage. Anyone can see that times are difficult and for many people, hope has become all but a distant memory. They are, it seems, willing to remain in their bondage. Too drained and, in fact, hopeless, to keep fighting for a way out of it.

The imagery in Zechariah is so striking because it is imagery of bondage and imprisonment. But to HOPE, not despair! It is an image which speaks of a hope so strong, so personal, so intense, that we are captured by it, imprisoned by it, and cannot get away from it. Drowning in it. But yet if Jesus is our true hope, is this not in fact the way things are? We should be unable to escape our hope because we cannot get away from Christ! He is our only sure and reliable hope.

I find this passage so encouraging because it speaks of this different kind of imprisonment, one which frees, and because it also promises restoration--something many people are desperately in need of today. "Even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you." For all that we have lost. For all our brokenness. For all our heartbreak. We will be restored to a place that is better than what we had before. Given twice as much for our losses. Even now. The restoration can begin now, if we allow it to. Are we open to restoration?

Are we willing to let Jesus Christ--our Hope--break the chains which strip us of our freedom, and instead allow us to be captured and imprisoned only by hope? That's a bondage we can live with. And live in. Abundantly, even now. And then our true, much-needed restoration of our hearts and our lives can begin.

I might add that I make every effort not to write with cliches. I can't even try to act as if some of the very real sorrows, heartbreak, and bondage of the world can be solved if we simply open ourselves up to "hope." I do not endorse the "prosperity gospel" at all and don't want to give people the impression that believing in Christ will just make all their problems go away. I find the words of Scripture deeply encouraging, but I recognize that they can't just be given to people as a "spiritual Band-Aid" to be placed on the broken, hurting, damaged parts of their lives. That is not enough. No, it's definitely not enough.

But I DO write with confidence as someone who has encountered Jesus Christ in a personal way many times, and who now finds my strength and hope by living in a daily relationship with Him. I have seen Him slowly but surely restore me from many instances of bondage, grief, and brokenness, and I strongly believe that He has the power to do the same for anyone who is reading this. He has brought me through very dark places in my life and brought me to the realization that trusting Him gives me the grace I need to make it through each day, although my problems don't just disappear, and yours may not either. We still live in a hurting, damaged world. But we have access to hope. We have promises that restoration is available to us, although we may not always know what it's going to look like. I'm willing to believe that the restoration that comes through Christ is worth waiting for, and that the hope He offers is worth being captured by. Because He IS enough.

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