When I ask people to share what Freedom means to them, some answer with a negative “freedom FROM” something: freedom from prison, freedom from religion, freedom from hunger, freedom from fear or anxiety, freedom from some form oppressive external control. Others will answer with a positive “freedom TO” something: freedom to do what I want when I want. Here in the United States, our whole society is built on the concept of freedom. We expect the freedom to choose what we will or will not do, and when that freedom is constrained, anger and blatant outrage erupt.
Most people would agree to limit their pursuit of freedom if that pursuit were to cause harm to another. However, as long as it doesn’t hurt someone else, why not do as we please? Our economy is based on the capitalistic freedom to earn unlimited income by merging creativity, hard work and risk, with focused time and effort. Even the Bill of Rights that is central to our very Constitution in the United States begins with the freedoms that every American enjoys just by living in this country. Everything that sets us apart as a nation is based on our freedoms.
When God calls us to freedom, He calls with a different intention; He calls us to a “freedom IN.” We find freedom IN something that appears by its very nature to contradict freedom: surrender. We are free to surrender our own agenda in favor of His greater agenda for us. We find freedom when we are found in Him (Gal. 2:20). We find freedom when we are tethered to Him at the plow of daily life (Matt. 11:29-30). We find freedom when we relinquish our rights for the sake of another (I Cor. 8:9, 13). We find freedom to embrace life.
Freedom IN is contrasted with slavery. We used to be slaves to all kinds of anxieties, worries, resentments, guilts, even shame. But in God we have freedom when we surrender those things to Him. We don’t have to carry those burdens around anymore. We can choose to hold on to these enslavements for the seeming power gains we may believe they provide us, like the power of unforgiveness or bitterness. In the end, however, it is we who become enslaved by the unforgiveness and bitterness, not those over whom we believe we hold power. When we take His yoke, His burden on ourselves, we share in the freedom to live with unburdened joy and life-giving peace. I believe these are things worth surrendering for!
Exercise your freedom to stop living in the past or future. Give up the false sense of power in slavery. Choose instead to embrace love, joy and peace by surrendering to His will for you this very moment. Welcome the peace of real freedom in surrender.