It’s a claustrophobic’s worst nightmare. Many people think a claustrophobic reaction comes from closed-in spaces, but the real anxiety comes from being trapped with no way out. I deal with this, and speak from experience. It has brought sadness to my life, like the time I couldn’t climb the clock tower at Old Main because the staircase was too narrow and steep. I stood a the bottom step and couldn’t see the top step, and my body shut down. I missed the chance to see my Alma Mater from a wonderful view.

It also results in sermon illustrations, like the time I got trapped in a very, very small bathroom in a Paris restaurant. The entire bathroom was dark green marble, and when the door handle spun in my hand as I tried to leave, the walls closed in around me. Remember the garbage compactor room scene in Star Wars when Luke, Leia, Han and Chewie almost got crushed by the walls moving toward them as they stood on all that nasty garbage? That is what I felt like that day, and I lost my cool as I yelled loudly for help. In Spanish. Yep, seven years of French flew out the window as I yelled, “Assister Moi, POR FAVOR!” Finally a busboy heard me and got a screwdriver and freed me. He must have been from Spain.

Have you ever felt trapped?

There are many things in life that trap us. Bad choices, circumstance, family responsibilities, and illness are just a few things that result in a feeling of being stuck with no way out. Sin is probably the greatest trapper of all, and the effects of sin can trap not only the sinners, but the people around them.

I know a married couple who are trapped because one cannot face his alcoholism. I know another who are trapped because of an addiction to pornography. Both of these families are trapped in a cycle of loneliness, fear, confrontation, anger, arguing, and apology. And then the cycle repeats itself. Dirt, wash, rinse, repeat.

Other things trap us as well; despair, depression, anger, fear….even just holding a grudge can be a bear trap that carries the weight of steel teeth around our ankles.

Jonah once was trapped. He was trapped by reluctance and disobedience to do what God commanded. He didn’t realize that you can ‘t outrun God, so he fled to a place where he thought he could escape, only to find himself being thrown off a ship and swallowed up by a big fish. For three days, he was trapped inside. Can you even imagine the smell? Finally, he submitted:

Then Jonah prayed to his God from the belly of the fish. He prayed: “In trouble, deep trouble, I prayed to God. He answered me. From the belly of the grave I cried, ‘Help!’ You heard my cry. 
You threw me into ocean’s depths, into a watery grave, with ocean waves, ocean breakers crashing over me. I said, ‘I’ve been thrown away, thrown out, out of your sight. I’ll never again lay eyes on your Holy Temple.’ The ocean gripped me by the throat. The ancient Abyss grabbed me and held tight. My head was all tangled in seaweed at the bottom of the sea where the mountains take root. I was as far down as a body can go, and the gates were slamming shut behind me forever –
Yet you pulled me up from that grave alive, O God, my God! When my life was slipping away, I remembered God, And my prayer got through to you, made it all the way to your Holy Temple. Those who worship hollow gods, god-frauds, walk away from their only true love. But I’m worshiping you, God, calling out in thanksgiving! And I’ll do what I promised I’d do! Salvation belongs to God!” 

Then God spoke to the fish, and it vomited up Jonah on the seashore.

I don’t know what is trapping you right now, but I know who has the key to let you out. Jesus was born and died on the cross so that you might have life, and have it ABUNDANTLY. Living in constant fear and anxiety is not the life he wants to give you. Being trapped by bad choices and decisions is not abundance. Letting someone hold you down and hold you back is the antithesis of the freedom we are to experience in Christ. Open the door. Get out, and let Keyholder in. It’s time for that fish to vomit.

Gracious God,

Help us get out. We are weary and worn down, stuck here inside with out feet glued to the floor. Pull us out of our complacency, and free us from ourselves. Open the door to a life of gratitude and joy in you. Keyholder, come. AMEN

Photo by Michelle Robertson.


  1. fishingmydreams · May 23, 2019

    Thank you for the opportunity to be still and listen to the voice of God, with words of encouragement to step out of traps we find ourselves in. I found myself thinking, reflecting, and enjoyed the humor that made me laugh.


  2. Kathy West · May 23, 2019

    Betsy, I miss hearing you preach so I look forward to reading your post every day! Thank you for sharing!


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