Feeling Hemmed In? Me, Too!
Today I was feeling such frustration and defeat – like I was inside a strong rubber balloon, pushing and punching with all my strength until I was exhausted and frustrated. My world was a big knotted mess, and I felt powerless and incompetent. Life was one towering, impenetrable wall. Have you felt this way?
Then a little, well known verse presented itself.
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. ~John 16:33 NIV
Earlier today, this same verse slipped through my mind, but this time the word “trouble” seemed to shimmer and itch – the Holy Spirit nudging me to investigate what this word “trouble” meant. I pay more attention to these divine proddings, because they invariably open a new richness in God’s word.
In Greek this word “trouble” is “thlípsis – properly, pressure (what constricts or rubs together), used of a narrow place that “hems someone in”; tribulation, especially internal pressure that causes someone to feel confined (restricted, “without options”).”
Exactly what I was feeling. I exhaled a bit, relaxed a bit. Jesus knows how I feel – He acknowledges right here that what I’m feeling right now is real, normal and expected.
The world so often makes us feel hemmed in and defeated, that there is no way out. That it has the upper hand.
Jesus offers hope – more than hope – He offers Himself as the victor. He has overcome, defeated, is victorious over the world. He has burst that latex bubble so I can boldly walk out.
“Take heart” – this phrase also shimmered for me. Older translations say “be of good cheer” but newer ones say “take heart” and “be encouraged”. But this word means more than “putting on a happy face” – it means to be emboldened. It’s a burly word, a word that enters battle and wins victories.
Why? Because Jesus, even before the cross, says He has conquered (note the past tense).
So how do we get this inner bolstering? By what Jesus has just promised earlier in Chapter 16 – the Holy Spirit and access to the Father by Jesus’s own name.
The Holy Spirit will speak truth to us when we feel hemmed in by the fallen world. Because the world is fallen and broken it hems us in rather than enlarging us. Jesus conquers when we listen to His spirit and we radiate confidence that comes from the Spirit telling us the truth about God.
Prayer is another way we are emboldened. I have times of isolation when there is literally no one I can talk to, and I thank God for these times, because they drive me to the Father. Just telling Him my desires, thoughts and feelings releases me from the prison of introspection. I enter His presence and ask in Jesus’s name with confidence that He hears and will answer my request with the answer He would give if His beloved Son had asked the same. Knowing that truth gives me courage and confirms Jesus’s victory over the world. Selah.
When we feel hemmed in by our own brokenness and failures, He reminds us that He is victorious on our behalf, too.