Most of us know or have heard someone refer to this verse: “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith . . .” (Hebrews 12:1–2). Though we have heard it, I’m sure that we all would agree that the encumbrance and the sin spoken about is our own. However, just recently I found myself in a web of encumbrances that were not my own, which made me look at this principle in a whole new light.
Today as never before, we see women (and some men) openly share their problems and personal sins with the world via television, and more recently, on social media. Often there is an audience full of people, mostly women, who are shouting (or posting) their opinions, many of whom are quickly given a microphone or platform to voice their outrage or simply tell that person what they should do or not do. On television, the host or hostess (or judge) appears to have the final word and has come to be viewed as an expert on solving the social ills being flaunted before countless, obsessive “can’t-get-enough” eyes and ears.
Without realizing it, these shows and social media have adversely affected all our lives by encouraging us to flaunt our own sins, and the sins of others, with our family, friends, neighbors, and even perfect strangers. By participating, we soon find ourselves entangled in a multitude of problems and sins, others and our own, which are weighing us down and stealing our joy. Not only does it begin by stealing our peace, but it also erodes our beliefs and morals, because who we hang around with is ultimately who we will become.
Encumbered and Entangled
Just last week I submitted a testimony about my sister’s healing. I explained that the director of her group home had called me about my sister’s problem with depression and they wanted me to commit her to a psychiatric hospital, so I immediately sought God for wisdom. He then prompted me to ask Him for “the source” and we soon discovered that the depression was due to the medication she was taking, for depression! However, it was soon after they stopped the medication she’d become dependent on, when she then could not sleep, so she would call me each morning to complain (and in a way blame me for her lack of sleep). Sound familiar?
Whenever we get involved in other people’s problems, we soon will become entangled, and then we find ourselves caught in a web of their encumbrances mixed with our own difficulties we already have to deal with. Once I’d helped my sister and became involved, I found that her director and all the other residences were also “helping” her with more advice about different medications, and many wanted her to see a counselor for her depression. Well, you get the picture: one problem became a web of problems, filled with chaos and confusion.
As my sister’s caregiver, I don’t have the luxury of stepping away and am somewhat involved, however, it’s important that I am careful not to get caught. In this chapter, I want to encourage all of us to take a step back to try to see just how many webs we are caught in, which we need to seek God to free us from: with family, friends, neighbors and coworkers. Today you may realize you’re still caught in the sins of your ex-husband, his girlfriend, etc. as you find you’re thinking about their problems, and then enlarging the web by discussing these with your own friends or family. It could be your older children who are not where they should be in their spiritual or financial life that is entangling you. Maybe it’s your aging parents, or possibly what is happening while your younger children are visiting their dad (and her!).
This is what I found in my own life that was robbing me of intimacy with the Lord. Even after He’d trained me to quickly give Him all my problems, asking Him to take care of anything that causes me even the slightest problem or concern, I’d unknowingly been doing this with the problems that were not mine.
Just so you know how I’ve been doing this with my own problems, it’s simple to learn. When any problem or concern comes to my mind (like when I wake up and don’t know what I am going to do that day about something), I just say, “Darling, I am going to need you to take care of (whatever) for me today. Thank You, my Love.” Then I move on to talk about something else, usually, telling Him how much I love Him and often we talk about all the wonderful things He did for me the day before.
After I get up, when I’m walking by something in my home that is giving me trouble, like a repair that needs fixing or a cleaning dilemma (like the carpet on my stairs), I just mention it to Him, and again, tell Him I am waiting for Him to show me what to do. Then I simply wait and trust Him, and if it comes to mind again, I’ll simply give it to Him again and again. Most of us were taught in A Wise Woman to tell our earthly husband that we trust him, so do the same with your heavenly Husband because He loves to hear it too.
Nevertheless, even though I’ve been freed of the millions of my own dilemmas, the temptation kept trying to trip me up with other people’s problems, especially my own children’s. Since I now have children who are adults (over the age of 18), it is easier for me to encourage them to find their own solution, allowing me not to become entangled. However, like many of you, I still have younger children living at home, so this is where I found myself being pulled in. In seeking God for wisdom, He reminded me that with my older children, I’ve always tried to use these as opportunities to share scriptural principles that I live in my own life. And I’ve also tried to be careful to make sure that they are who makes the final decision of what to do (especially, to seek the Lord for the answer), doing it for themselves—rather than me becoming entangled with the decision, which must rest with them. Not just say it does, but make sure it does.
Thankfully, after showing me this, just this weekend the Lord led me to do the very same thing with my youngest daughter who is just ten. She has been getting a lot of pressure from her dad to move and live with him, full time; with him and his wife and her children, and has been saying it’s where she wants to live. While on the other side, I am getting just as much pressure from my older children to stop this from happening, as they tell me if I only knew what is “really going on up there” I’d stop her.
This is when I took the opportunity to remind each of them about the principle of the father and the prodigal: how the father actually encouraged the son to have what he said he wanted by giving him his inheritance (ahead of time), and that he actually knew and acknowledged it would be to further his son’s sin. (Read Luke 15:11-32.) I explained that the reason God shows us this parable was to show us how not getting in the way of others is the quickest and surest way, for any person, to find that what they thought they wanted was not worth what they’ll eventually lose. Of course, I also reminded them that God does not get in our way when we want what is wrong, and the verse in Psalm 1 says this clearly, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners…” (Psalm 1:1 ESV). These sessions with my older children serve to remind them, and me, of the principles that have been overlooked and untaught by the church.
Then, yesterday, again, I was being nudged into another entanglement by one of my sons who did not want me to lend any more money to his older brother who he believed had become financially irresponsible. I had to tell him, once again, that the Lord had told me to “give freely” whenever asked while reminding my son (who’d voiced his concern) that God would turn everything around for good for all parties. Already the Lord revealed that the financial entanglement that he had fallen into had kept him from moving forward in a relationship that we believed may not have been God’s plan for him, a confirmation. And to solidify this principle, and steer the conversation to speaking about our own sins, we each began sharing a few of our own errors that had taught us more than if someone had stopped us from learning the lesson the hard way. Very quickly my son was no longer concerned, but agreed that the Lord was in control and realized the blessings of getting out of the way of others—who may even be headed for trouble.
What about you?
Are you convinced that to get in the way of others is your duty? Or can you now see it only slows the process of repentance while also entangling you, stealing your joy?
But what if the person is headed toward sin and you know they will soon become entangled and weighted down by all sorts of encumbrances? After what we’ve learned, will you continue to get yourself entangled rather than giving it to the Lord, allowing God to use it for their good? How many entanglements have you already gotten caught in that are not your own?
True, though these potential entanglements many times are excellent for “teaching what is good” to those who ask, once you’ve shared the truth, are you always able to step back and let them follow the truth once you shared it, even if they choose to ignore the truth?
So often I find that many people will immediately embrace the truth, but never act on it, as it says will happen in Matthew 13:20, “The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary…” Allow God to break up the rocky soil in the hearts of the people around you. When we do it they resent us. Yet, if we allow God to do it, we can be there when they’re broken, helping to encourage them to accept the Lord’s love—but only if we are continually bathing in His love.
Today I realize I am just beginning to understand that it is not enough to just lay my own sins and encumbrances aside, I must also be determined to purposely not get caught in the webs of other people’s lives, including and especially those who are closest and most loved. The ongoing and enormous problems of my own life, all that I have been living through recently, have again been working out for good: They have helped me to fully step away from entangling myself with others, leaving them to be led by the Lord or experience the consequences of their sins—ultimately when we all learn more from having gone through it. So, just as I’ve been doing with my own problems or concerns, I will now happily give all the problems or concerns I have for others to my Beloved Husband who is just as concerned for my loved one’s as He is for me!
Yes, problems may continue to surround me, but I choose to give them to the One who has the power and wisdom to deal with them. This frees me up, once again, to simply snuggle into His arms, and marvel at His love. “This is my beloved and this is my Friend” (Song of Solomon 5:16).