By Stephanie Tucker
What does it mean to be free on the inside? For some of us, it might seem a strange question. For others, we might understand where we found that freedom. Freedom on the inside occurs when as humans we realize that we fall short and need the resources from God to make our life work. It isn’t just a matter of professing our faith in Jesus Christ, it entails an entire systemic change where we surrender and give God access to every aspect of our life. It means that we are not bound to anything or anyone that would control or prevent us from being all that God intended us to be. When we are free, we are in alignment with our Creator – all thing fall under His authority in our life. When we are not free, however, another force dominates us. We become entangled in things that take us away from God’s true purpose and plan for us.
The Rule of Freedom versus Domination
To put in perspective, think of freedom in terms of nations. The United States of America is founded above all on freedom. It protects and gives right to individuals, allowing them to make choices within the confines of the laws. This allows people to pursue their interests, to worship in their own churches, to choose their own career and to express their individuality in a variety of ways. These choices may or may not align with God’s truth, but the purpose of freedom is in choice.
On the other hand, nations under dictatorship rule impose standards on their citizens. People living under the authority of that power axle may be told how to dress, who to worship, what to speak, what to read or what property to own. In this environment, individual freedoms are lost, and thus the people are not able to live and express their own choices. That means the people of that nation are enslaved.
The very notion of freedom isn’t political; it’s a system God put in place when He created mankind. God gave Adam and Eve the gift of freedom – this means He didn’t create them to be mere robots that were forced to do His will. With that freedom came choice and responsibility. Why would God do such a thing when He could have prevented them from sinning in the first place? If God took personal freedom away, He would have been a mere dictator, forcing people and controlling people through domination, not because of the freedom in their hearts. Being in that position would violate the heart of God – which above all else chooses to respect the human race and enter into relationship with His children on the basis of love.
In our own lives, the struggle to keep our hearts in the position of freedom is always at play. For those of us in recovery, we may have encountered a power that overtook us, such as drugs and alcohol, which removed our ability to make choices. Under its influence, we became bound to compulsively need more, thus we became completely enslaved.
But the loss of freedom comes in many others way, some much more subtle and difficult to recognize. This means we don’t just need to be under the influence of a drug or other form of addiction to be in bondage.
Ways We Aren’t Free
We can be bound in our hearts in a variety of ways. Sometimes, people with addictions get the help they need because their addictions are obvious. But we can be suffering from a loss of freedom inside of our hearts and not even be aware. Here are some examples:
We have a religious mind-set rather than a grace-based mindset – Whenever we begin to live the Christian life based on an external check-list of what we do or don’t do, we are in some form of bondage. Some of the most important freedom we find as Christians is freedom from sin’s condemnation. We realize that God’s gift of freedom and forgiveness is something we can’t purchase. That means there isn’t something we can do or not do to take it away.
For those of us that may not have come into contact yet with the depths of the love of God, we may be accustomed to “working for God” or trying to “win over” His approval or the approval of others. This form of “buying” love or approval stands in direct opposition to the free nature of God’s gifts, gifts He offers us through His grace. Anyone who has this mentality in their life needs a richer, more personal understanding of this grace.
We hold someone else responsible for our feelings or actions – Whenever we find ourselves holding a human being in the position of being in charge of why we feel or act a certain way, we have empowered that person. In essence, they have a form of “ownership” of our life, whether or not they asked for it. That’s not to say we can’t be influenced by people, but when there is a direct string that attaches us to another person in such a way that we find it difficult to understand we begin and they end, we are in a form of bondage. This is also a symptom of codependency.
When we attempt to control another person – Whether outward and obvious, or subtle and manipulative, when we are engaged in relationships where we are trying to dominate how another person thinks, feels or acts, we’ve taken a position of control that contradicts God’s principles. This can be rather difficult to see, especially if we tend to believe we are truly benefitting the people in our lives who we wish to control, such as an adult child or spouse.
Sometimes, our efforts to control others are methods to manage and deal with our fears and insecurities. We begin to think that if we can control the people in our life, we’ll be able to feel stable. However, this rarely occurs. Trying to control another person only makes matters worse.
Other times, we may have learned to use control as a form of power over others, thus use it to get what we need or desire in relationships. This mindset is similar to a dictator – and clearly is a form of bondage that needs to be dealt with.
We allow our emotions to dictate our reality – For anyone who has struggled with depression or serious anxiety, those symptoms are real. For those who deal with anger and rage, those symptoms are also real. But where we have an emotional issue in our life that is paralyzing us to the point that we can’t overcome it in a healthy way, our hearts are not free. Emotions are indicators of deeper underlining issues. When we can find those root issues and deal with them according to God’s provisions in our lives, the emotional issues might not completely end initially, but we won’t feel as though they have to overpower all aspects of our lives. If we emotional issues that feel out of control, it’s an indication that need to deal with something significant.
We are self-sufficient – In a culture that encourages self-sufficiency and independence, it’s difficult to recognize that it is actually a form of bondage rather than freedom. Our chronic need to manage our own life, fix our own problems and meet our own needs removes the ability of God to provide in our lives. It causes us to depend on ourselves rather than Him, thus leaves us exhausted and unable to overcome the trials of life.
What to Do If My Heart Isn’t Free
If you recognize areas where you don’t have freedom, it simply means that there is a life awaiting you that will allow you to become who God intended you become if you will surrender and trust Him. God doesn’t just come to bring us abundance in the material sense; He comes to bring abundance to our souls – to restore us and position us for the life He designed for us to live. This abundance produces in us His resources – love, peace, grace, kindness, patience, compassion. It doesn’t take away the challenges of life, however, it just gives us a better way to deal with them.
So how can you get free? It’s important to know that it’s not your own efforts that will get you on track. As we begin to understand that we have bondage in our life, we must also understand that the Only One who can deliver us is our Lord Jesus. It’s easy to profess Jesus Christ with our lips, but we also must give Him access into our hearts. This requires that we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, honest and authentic before Him.
Many times we stay in our bondage and adapt our lives around it. While we may not be free, we are scared of what the cost might be if we truly surrendered fully to God. Therefore, we keep hanging on, missing out on God’s authentic purpose for us. In order to move into freedom, we must first understand that God does not force us into relationship with Him, and therefore, will only go to the places where we grant Him permission.
Giving God Access:
The only cure for a lack of freedom in our hearts is through an invitation to our Lord Jesus. We must:
- Acknowledge/face the areas of my life where I’m in bondage and bringing it openly before the Lord.
- Confess and ask for His forgiveness and grace to cover me
- Allow (give permission) to God, through the Holy Spirit, to get into the deep areas of my heart so He can reveal the roots that have driven me into bondage. This may take time, and it may be painful at times.
- Continually denounce the things that I hold onto that replace the provisions of God – and continually announce the authority of God to manage my life on my behalf
Prayer of Deliverance
I acknowledge that I’ve allowed things into my life that have placed me in bondage. I chose these things to survive, to feel good or to independently manage my life apart from you. I realize that I have been caught in a trap. I can’t get out of it on my own. I don’t even have the capability to understand or know what is happening in my heart. Lord, today, I release these things over to you and surrender my heart and my life to you. I pray that you would take me out of the trap I climbed into. I give you permission to get on the inside of me and reveal and deal with those things in my life that led me into bondage. I pray to renounce each and every sin, relationship or mentality that stands in contradiction to your truth. I announce that I am a precious child of God, free in Your truth and free to become who you created me to become. Father, I need your grace because I know that I won’t be zapped overnight. Lead me to the right recovery community or support system so that I can learn to walk out that freedom from here on out.
In Jesus Name,