And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to (Jesus). He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed me to.proclaim release to the captives.to let the oppressed go free." Then he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."--Luke 4:17-18, 21 (NRSV)
The other night I watched a spider intricately work to create an invisible trap for insects drawn to the porch light. I had read that there are different kinds of strands within one web, each designed for a specific purpose. They all work together to achieve a common goal: food for the spider. As fascinating as it was, I was glad I wasn't a bug.
But aren't we vulnerable to an unseen realm of covert spiritual activity as well? Even more so as we approach God's Light? Friction and resistance seem to combine to thwart our best efforts as we try to help a neighbor or make an important decision, speak God's word or go on a diet, stick to that budget or resist a temptation?
Sometimes in our enthusiasm, or our confusion, we fly haphazardly toward the Light at breakneck speed without a plan and then we wonder: Why did I get so tangled up? In our panic, we forget the internal guidance system God has given his children to provide safe passage through the maze and the grace to begin again when we've lost our way.
The prophet Jeremiah offered these words of hope to God's people held captive in Babylon:
Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and mighty things you do not know. (Jer. 33:3)
Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity..(Jer. 29:12-14a).
Like a tug on a fishing line alerting the fisherman he's got a catch, there is a line held by the spider that vibrates once a victim has been snared. The hapless captive may not know what's got him until his predator appears. Sometimes when we're stuck, we may not know the cause either. Doubt, denial, fear, and unforgiveness are equally binding but oh so hard to see. At such times prayer is our lifeline. It offers us the chance to stop, refocus, and hear what the Holy Spirit would say.
Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you. 1 Peter 5:8-10 (NRSV.)
Sometimes my own prayer life has resembled the night-long wrestling match Jacob had with a mysterious stranger at Peniel (Gen. 32:22-32). He clung to his adversary refusing to let go until he received a blessing. Only then came the dawning--that coveted illumination, grace to see in a new way-- repentance, deliverance, and peace-all the things we have in Christ.
You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you (Christ) is greater than he who is in the world. (I John 4:4)
Everywhere Jesus went he liberated those who let him. Some chose to stay stuck rather than risk the uncertainty of a rescue. We have the same two choices. Both require a surrender: one to a liberating love, the other to the sovereignty of self. Whom do you trust to set you free?