Freedom in Christ: What Does It Mean For Our Lives?

“To keep me [Paul] from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9, NLT).

man with fireworks

Photo by Rakicevic Nenad on Pexels.com

As the United States prepares to celebrate Independence Day tomorrow, let’s take a moment to remember that freedom in Christ is to be celebrated every day of the year—and that the Christian definition of freedom often differs from the world’s definition.

Even the secular psychologist’s definition of healthy freedom differs from the worldly, immature person’s idea of being entitled to freedom from rules, freedom from responsibility, freedom from any form of criticism—and freedom from having to consider that other people also have needs and feelings. Freedom to achieve one’s deepest desires comes not by demanding instant gratification, but through discipline and working within parameters. As Paul notes in 1 Corinthians 6:12: “You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’—but not everything is good for you. And even though ‘I am allowed to do anything,’ I must not become a slave to anything.”

You may, however, have walked the path of obedient faith and still suffer from a “thorn in the flesh,” a chronic and painful problem you’ve repeatedly prayed to be freed from–to no visible effect. Even if nothing in your life seems that bad, you likely have moments of wondering, “If I’m free in Christ, why can’t I break this habit/get my prayers answered faster/be joyful all the time?”

Yes, we’re free as Christians, but neither we nor our lives are perfected yet. Nor will be, completely, in this life. If you find that discouraging, it helps to meditate on specific freedoms God promises in the here and now.

Freedom from guilt. “But if we confess our sins to [God], he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (1 John 1:9). Yes, we still sin from time to time. No, we aren’t absolved from painful consequences or responsibility to make amends. But we can be assured that once we confess and ask God’s forgiveness, He won’t demand an ultimate reckoning for that action–and even if our fellow humans hold grudges, we don’t have to torment ourselves by mentally wearing the label “cheat” or “drunk” or “slut.”

Freedom to do right. We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). This isn’t to say that acts of genuine altruism (done by Christians or others) have no worthwhile value whatsoever, but that doing the right thing because “there’s something in it for me” taints the act with those worst of sins, selfishness and pride. How seriously do you take the truth that we can never earn God’s approval, that life isn’t a matter of “be good and Father Christmas will bring you what you ask for”? And how grateful are you that Christ-in-us imparts power to do good in the best possible ways, full of joy and love?

Freedom to hope. “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” (2 Corinthians 4:17). Even when earthly life seems all-around miserable, the Christian can take comfort in knowing that God will eventually replace our hardships with joy–either in this life or in the eternal life beyond. When God’s Spirit gives us faith and hope for the future, we are living in the freedom of a joy no circumstance can make a dent in. And, ultimately, spiritual freedom is the only kind with lasting value.

Post-Christmas Depression Revisited

Today’s post is adapted from “Do You Have Post-Christmas Depression?,” originally published on December 27, 2019. Thanks to reader (and fellow writer) Jan Collins for suggesting re-publication in June.

dachshund dog wearing a red sweater

Photo by Dominika Roseclay on Pexels.com

Charles Schulz may have been the first to publicize the phrase “post-Christmas let-down.” To his Peanuts characters, it meant being cranky and gloomy, wondering if they really got anything from the holidays, going about fatigued and ready to scream if anyone mentioned “partridge in a pear tree.”

Some people do in fact have a diagnosable illness called “seasonal affective disorder” (appropriately abbreviated to SAD), meaning major medical depression that is aggravated by the shorter sunlight periods of winter. Occasionally, you hear of “summer SAD,” attributed to excessive daylight’s creating disruption in sleep-wake cycles–or, as we Houstonians are all too familiar with, to an excess of energy-sapping heat and humidity.

For many people, though, post-Christmas depression simply means feeling “partied out,” bloated, exhausted, and thinking, “Sure, it was fun, but what difference has it made?” And that can happen in summer too, in the wake of over-celebrating Memorial Day, Independence Day, or vacation in general. Summer 2020, coming in the wake of COVID-19 shutdowns, will likely trigger an unusually high surge in overcelebrating-then-crashing as people go giddy over mass reopenings–with the “crash” being all the worse if, as many fear, that leads to a new uptick in COVID cases and resultant re-closings.

Regardless of the season (of the year or of life), overindulgence-followed-by-depression is a poor tribute to the One Who came into the world to make a difference like no other. “Keep the Christmas spirit year round” has long been a cliché rarely taken seriously after early January. Let’s help change that by taking personal action to stay aware of God-with-us every day.

  1. Start each day by thanking God for giving us that day and by dedicating it to His service. (If you can set your alarm clock or app to wake you up with such a reminder, all the better.)
  2. Before you make your first human contact of the day–whether your family at home or the receptionist at work–ask Jesus to help you love others as He first loved you.
  3. When you do something to help care for Creation–even just picking up a scrap of litter–thank God for making you a steward of His world.
  4. Remember the “rejoicing” part of Christmas. Sing and laugh before God every day.
  5. Take a moment at midday or in the evening to think about what Christ’s coming cost Him.
  6. When you’re hard at work (whether you feel immediately overwhelmed or not), ask God to help you do everything for His glory, and thank Him for giving you the strength to do it.
  7. Put “free in Christ” banners on your refrigerator door, your mirror, your car visor, your computer/phone screen saver, or your desk.
  8. When you take a break (don’t forget to take breaks!!), sit still for a few minutes and repeat to yourself (out loud if you like), “I am resting in Christ, trusting that He has the world in His hands.”
  9. Find a new way to read your Bible daily: on a Bible-in-one-year schedule, or by the lecto divina pondering method, or in some other different-to-you way that opens your mind to fresh insights.
  10. Whenever you’re tempted to criticize yourself, stop and thank God for designing you exactly the way He wanted you. If you’ve done something wrong, tell Him you’re sorry; ask Him if you need to make amends to anyone else; and thank Him for forgiving and cleansing you.
  11. Never let a day go by without pausing to thank God for all He’s done for you. Consider keeping a journal of your blessings.
  12. Remember that while the Christmas season comes only once a year, Christ is with us 24/7/365–and is creating for us the perfect world to come. Remembering that is the best antidote to depression at any day or hour!

“For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders.     And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6, NLT).

  • A blog for naturally melancholy Christians tired of being told to "snap out of it"; for Christians who struggle with mental-health issues and long for assurance God delights in them nonetheless; and for naturally optimistic Christians who want to understand their "gloomy" loved ones.

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    I am the go-to writer for people with tough stress issues and special emotional needs—and for those who love them, organizations that serve them, and anyone who just wants to better understand the world of mental/emotional struggles. Or who just wants to pick up some good stress-management tips! Visit my main website at www.PositiveContentFactory.com.

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    Bible quotes used in this blog are from the New Living Translation or the New International Version (1984). See http://www.biblegateway.com/ for copyright details.
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