The prisoner sat slumped on the side of his bed in a corner of his cell. I say cell, but no one else saw any bars. They were there, though.
Many times he awoke and thought the hated walls had collapsed. He would jump to his feet and try to run only to crash once again against a wall of … of … something, falling back to the floor in despair. Then he saw him most clearly—the jailer–huge, hideous, grinning viciously at his desperate efforts.
Someone had to come with the key because he couldn’t get out on his own.
Prison of Praiselessness
That’s the way David felt in Psalms 142, “Set me free from my prison that I may praise your name.” (v. 7, NIV).
Does that surprise you? One of the champion ‘praisers’ of the Bible finds his jaws clamped shut, in a prison where praise is impossible.
But, how could that happen? Paul and Silas praised God at midnight in a prison, the welts of their recent beating aching through their backs. What bound David?
He was locked in a prison of feelings.
Look. His eyes were stuck on his troubles (v. 2). He felt sorry for himself because his feelings screamed that no one cared about him (v. 4). His emotions told him that he was a helpless victim in this situation. “I have no refuge” (v. 4). He was afraid and felt weak and incapable before His foes (v. 6)
Because of all this, his ‘praiser’ languished in prison, unable to lift up his voice in genuine praise and adoration. I’d criticize but I’ve been there, done that.
Let me suggest three solutions to this lockjaw problem.
1. David turned to God with everything in him, asking Him to spring Him from that prison. “Set me free from my prison that I may praise your name.” You want to praise God but your lips and tongue seem set in concrete because of trials and nasty feelings? Turn your heart to God and cry for deliverance from your prison. And not just once. Do it however many times it takes until you’re praising, singing and dancing because of who He is. That’s what David did here.
2. Start looking at Who God is and what He does instead of your problem. Your problems and emotions roar like lions but if you lift up your eyes you’ll see that really they’re just mouse squeaks compared to the roaring of the Lion of Judah, Jesus-Christ. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Rom. 1, NIV)
Have you ever seen God on the Discovery channel? Are you looking? I’ve seen Him as I walked under a million stars set in a black-velvet universe. I’ve seen him in the smiles of my children and grandchildren. I’ve seen Him in the mystery of our existence, in the music of a giggling forest stream, in the busyness of a bird gathering grasshoppers for its young.
Oh, He’s there and you can tell what He’s like by thinking deeply about what He created. Look at Him! “When my focus is on the mountain, I am driven by my fear. When my focus is on God, however, I am made alive by my faith,” says John Ortberg in The Me I Want To Be.
3. But, I’ve seen Him even clearer somewhere else—in the face of Jesus-Christ my Lord. “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)
You want to shed those nasty feelings? You want to shatter that prison and burst forth in praise and adoration? Get your eyes off your problems; off your poor, persecuted self and fix them firmly on Jesus. Then you’ll see God’s glory. And when you see His glory you can’t help praising Him if your heart loves Him. Think about the Lord Jesus. Read about Him in the Word and meditate on what that means in your life. Hang out with people who love the Lord more than anything.
But, David, that’s a lot of work!
Which would you prefer? The sweat that comes from seeking Him or the misery that comes from wallowing in your hopeless feelings? The choice is ours.
If we choose to let the Lord break us out of our cage of death, something incredible happens as we fix our eyes on Jesus: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Cor. 3:18, NKJV. (“Beholding” is also translated as “reflecting.”)
Wouldn’t you like be able to become good-looking just by staring at someone handsome? That’s not going to happen. But, the incredible thing is that as we look at Jesus, the Spirit of God changes us until we look more like Him each day. Stop and think about that a minute.
Are you a prisoner of your feelings today? Reflect on what you just read and stop to plan your jailbreak.
What do you do when you feel you’re a prisoner to your emotions? Can you add something to the three I’ve mentioned? I’d love to share them with our other readers. Leave your comment online here or write me at email@example.com.
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