The Israelites, under the oppressive thumb of Pharaoh, longed for freedom.
William Wallace shouted, “Freedom!” just moments before his execution.
The South Africans fought for freedom from apartheid.
American patriots in the 1700s sought freedom from oppressive English rule.
Native Americans fought for their freedom to live the way they lived for centuries.
Sex-trafficked victims long for the day they can finally be free.
As humans, freedom continues to be our heart cry.
In the United States, we celebrate our declaration of freedom from British rule on the 4th of July. America’s birthday.
Galatians 5 tells us it was for freedom that Christ came, died, was buried, and resurrected. We’re encouraged to stand fast in this liberty bought by blood and death.
A woman suffering from the aftershocks of discovering her husband’s porn addiction longs to be free of the pain, fear, shame, and confusion. It’s a recurring theme for us.
But what is heart freedom?
In his remarkable book Man’s Search For Meaning, Viktor Frankl reminds us that our minds remain untouched by the cruelest oppression, even though our physical bodies may be imprisoned, as was Frankl’s. We control our thoughts. We choose how we process and view a situation. Another cannot control our true freedom unless we give them that ability.
My recovery from suicidal depression and my brokenness over my husband’s porn addiction depended on how I decided to face the monster. Would I choose to rehash the problem or seek the solution? Would I allow the pain to imprison me?
Honestly, my initial reaction to these traumatic events was to feel sorry for myself. Why did this happen to me? God could have prevented it but didn’t. Did that mean he was cruel? Was he punishing me? Did God truly love me, or was that a hoax or wishful thinking?
Those negative, albeit typical, instant thoughts allowed me to go into an emotional tailspin. I see this same crisis in many women. And each time, I remember the pain of working through that crisis. The emotional spin cycle caused by deep trauma isn’t easy to recognize or overcome. In my case, it took several counseling sessions to identify the root issues. I had to face the monster in my mind, name it, acknowledge it, and choose to eradicate it. This was not my typical modus operandi up until that time.
I longed to be free of this trauma and pain.
However, to be free meant finding a different path than my M.O.
Freedom to be who God created me couldn’t come until I faced myself, my unhealthy habits, and the brokenness in my marriage relationship.
What do I mean by this?
1. Facing me. I think the hardest thing I’ve done is to acknowledge the characteristics, attitudes, and false beliefs I grip tightly. It’s much easier to blame someone or something else for my circumstances. As I’ve worked through my trauma recovery, I realize the healing path means facing the ugly in me. Not overdramatizing it or layering on false blame, but honestly assessing who I am, what I’ve done or not done, and where I want to be. Too often, I brush aside my complicity in a negative situation. I justify my actions as good and Godly and vilify the other person’s actions as cruel and ungodly. Or, I’ll compare myself to another and conclude that I’m better than average.
The Bible cautions us not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought. Instead, we are to judge ourselves soberly and cautiously, keeping in mind that we don’t compare ourselves to anyone but Jesus when it comes to right living. Seeing Jesus reveals how much I need forgiveness, grace, and growth through the power of the Holy Spirit. I must remember my identity—daughter of the King, and that identity requires certain beliefs and behaviors.
Daily I ask God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to change me to be more like Jesus. I want to see myself and others through his eyes, not mine. I pray to love each person I meet and have contact with as Jesus loves. It’s an impossible task, but one I strive for daily. The Apostle Paul says it this way, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me . . .” And I remember, it’s not about perfection but about growing more like Jesus each day.
Freedom in Christ allows me to remember my identity comes from God, who created and designed me to serve and love him all the days of my life. That identity is true freedom.
2. Facing unhealthy habits. You and I have them, and we may justify them as “needs” when the truth is entirely different. What are examples of unhealthy habits?
- Emotional eating
- Erotica or graphic romance novels
- Excessive shopping
- Hoarding anything
- Needing to be the resource for everyone
- Large cash reserves
- Being “in the know”
- Long work hours
I can hear your comments now. Some of these things might be good. True. They might. But when you let these habits consume your energy, thoughts, and time rather than choosing to be present with those around you and spending time with God today, you might cross the line into unhealthy habits. Let me explain.
God created our bodies to move regularly. Therefore, exercise strengthens our muscles, aids our posture, and increases our circulation throughout our body and extremities. However, it becomes an unhealthy habit when you use exercise to deaden your pain or as an excuse to avoid dealing with others.
Hard work is good for you. It’s wonderful to get to the end of a day and know you’ve done everything possible to move forward in your work and provide for your family. However, when you and your husband aren’t talking, and you choose to stay at the office until late in the evening, knowing he’ll be asleep by the time you get home, work becomes an unhealthy habit. Your workaholism causes further damage to your relationship.
Only when we call our unhealthy habits what they are can we discover the road to freedom.
3. Facing the brokenness in my marriage. During the first days and weeks after my marriage crisis, I had zero desire to spend time with Dave. None. Nada. Zilch. I thought about ways to ignore and avoid him without being too obvious—what a waste of energy. In my pain and anger, I justified my thoughts, attitudes, and actions as “protecting him” from my harsh words. Reality check: I was protecting my broken heart and bruised ego.
You can’t ignore the pain caused by betrayal and hope to find freedom. Only when we confront the elephant in the room can we build the bridge toward the other person.
How do you do that? Invest in counseling and coaching. You take care of healing yourself and allow God to heal your spouse. Too often, we focus on the other person and what they need to change to heal our marriage. While all that might be true and necessary, you expend energy where you have no control. And this energy drain won’t create the freedom you desire.
Your freedom comes when you find healing, not when he does. When you get healthy and walk in your identity in Christ, you learn to treat him with honor and respect. You are free to invite him into a new marriage relationship anchored in God’s way.
Discovering your heart’s freedom means facing your crisis.
Walt Disney once said, “All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me . . . You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”
When faced with a crisis, our first instinct is to run in the other direction. I think of a fish who just bit a lure. That fish thrashes and fights against the bait that initially attracted him. But unlike the fish, who now becomes lunch for the fisherman, you and I can use the adversity to grow. We aren’t trapped, though we may feel like it.
Our past describes us but doesn’t define us. That wound doesn’t have to brand us forever, but, God willing, it will change us from the inside out. I’m not the person I was, and I’m not the person I will be. My journey toward wholeness and freedom continues with Jesus.
Remember this. God says to you and me, “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
How can I help you discover your heart freedom? Let’s talk.