I recently flew on Southwest Airlines and discovered the world’s smallest airplane lavatory. I’m talking really, really small. I’m not a large person, and I banged my shoulders on the walls as I tried to maneuver around. As I washed my hands, I had to breathe deeply, move fast, and concentrate on what I was doing to hold my claustrophobia at bay.

Claustrophobia is not just a fear of small spaces, it is a fear of getting trapped. As I reached for the door handle, the inevitable thought flashed though my mind: what if it doesn’t open? What if I get stuck in here? What if panic takes over?

We get trapped in all kinds of places and situations by all kinds of things and people. I have a friend who is trapped in a bad relationship and can’t find her way out. Another is trapped by addiction. A third is trapped in his credit card debt. Our world is trapped by a pandemic that caught us by its teeth and won’t let go as it shakes us back and forth in an effort to snap our collective neck. Bad choices, bad luck, bad friends, and bad timing can make us feel immobilized and helpless.

What can you do when you feel trapped?

Our psalm today addresses this issue, and reminds us that the Lord is FOR us. This concept is so important, the psalmist repeats it twice:

Psalm 124 (Common English Bible)

If the Lord hadn’t been for us—
    let Israel now repeat!—
    if the Lord hadn’t been for us,
        when those people attacked us
then they would have swallowed us up whole
        with their rage burning against us!

Remembering that the Lord is for you is crucial when it comes to finding the strength to pry open the steel jaws of what has you trapped. God can overcome the raging waters and the enemies’ teeth when we are too weak to help ourselves.

Then the waters would have drowned us;
    the torrent would have come over our necks;
    then the raging waters would have come over our necks!

Bless the Lord
    because he didn’t hand us over
    like food for our enemies’ teeth!

What has you trapped today? Your help comes in the name of the Lord. He made heaven and earth! He surely can reach down and release you from the hunters’ snare. All you need to do is ASK. Prayer makes all the difference in an imprisoned life.

We escaped like a bird from the hunters’ trap;
    the trap was broken so we escaped!

There is nothing in life that you can’t escape if you turn yourself over to the Lord. In fact, there is nothing in death that you can’t escape either. When Jesus was crucified, died, was buried, and then on the third day arose from the dead, he opened up an escape hatch that can never be shut. Do you believe that? I do.

So no matter what has you by the teeth, cry out to the Lord of all creation and ask for freedom. It will be hard. You will have to do your part and make the difficult and exhausting changes that are required. But the good news is, God has come to deliver you, and he will walk beside you toward your freedom. You are never alone.

He is the Truth, and the truth will set you free.

Our help is in the name of the Lord,
    the maker of heaven and earth.

Thanks be to God.

Freedom Awaits by Michelle Robertson

Speaking Truth to Weakness

My Dad had a saying that I learned to reject at a young age. To set the context, my father grew up as the son of a Pennsylvania State prison guard. His family struggled mightily during the depression and its aftermath. Dad was the oldest of four and had to take responsibility for two very squirrley brothers and a much younger sister. There was trouble in the house most nights, and his father was a stern man.

And so when things would happen in the news that spoke of trouble somewhere, my father would sigh, lean back in his recliner, and say, “Well, that figures. People are basically rotten,” in his best Archie Bunker voice. I don’t know that he truly believed that, but as the son of a prison guard, I imagine he heard a lot of that growing up.

I don’t believe people are basically rotten, but I do think we are all basically weak in the face of temptation. Sometimes God raises up people to speak truth to that weakness, and it is never an easy task. Think of a time when you had to confront someone about a negative behavior or action. Most of us would rather run away than have a confrontation with someone, especially someone we love.

In our passage today, we see Jonah at the end of his trial. He has run away from God, been thrown overboard from a ship, and has suffered being regurgitated by a whale at this point. God gives him a second chance to speak truth to weakness, and this time, he is obedient to that uncomfortable task.

Jonah 3 (New Revised Standard Version)

1 The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time, saying,

2 “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.”

3 So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across.

4 Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

5 And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.

What Jonah learned is that when God speaks, people listen. If the message is the true word of God, truth prevails. Where we go wrong is when we insert ourselves, our opinions, our preferences, and our interpretations into his message. There is very little “pure word of God” to be found these days. This is why it is critical for us to read directly from Scripture every day.

10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

Where is God calling you to speak truth to weakness? Is someone in jeopardy of losing their soul or their life by practicing a destructive behavior? Is someone cheating, lying, or stealing right in front of you? What is God telling you to say?

Jonah reminds us that when God gives us a directive, he also gives us the proper way to deliver it. If you are in this situation, pray hard, walk softly, and keep discerning God’s will as you speak truth to weakness. If you are confronting an addict, you know how hard this is. At some point, God may tell you its OK for you to walk away for awhile. Be sure to walk straight to your prayer closet.

In any case, always make sure you pepper your message with love as you walk toward your Nineveh. In the fullness of time, God’s word will be heard.

Shipwreck Remains