Alexander Solzhenitsyn said of his gulag captivity in the Soviet Union that “You only have power over people so long as you don’t take everything away from them. But when you’ve robbed a man of everything, he’s no longer in your power – he’s free again.”
Jesus said, “…if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36
Jesus offers a freedom not unlike that to which Solzhenitsyn referred. It is a freedom from dependence on anything this world offers whether it be wealth, health, vocation, identity, government and yes, even religion. The freedom that Jesus offers is a spiritual freedom that surpasses all others. This freedom is illustrated by the spiritual healing that Jesus provided a paralytic man by forgiving the man’s sins. Since there were no physical manifestations as evidence of this spiritual healing Jesus followed up with a physical healing to validate His authority to forgive sins and heal the soul. Compared to healing the man’s soul, healing his body was a mere parlor trick. Healing the soul is the freedom that Jesus really wants to provide. Mark 2:1-12
This raises the question as to whether or not anyone not “in Christ” or in relationship with Jesus is free. Many would argue that there are people who are spiritually free apart from Jesus and I have no doubt that there can be a sense of freedom for many of these people. Most have seen the T-shirt or the bumper sticker that assert “Not all who wander are lost”. In fact we all know people who can be described as “free spirits”. However, in my experience many free spirits tend to suffer turbulence in their freedom when faced with a profound calamity. I propose that the litmus test to understand the fullness of one’s true freedom is a season of darkness; similar to those of Solzhenitsyn or any number of people who have suffered unimaginable despair. I am not advocating the endurance of suffering in order to experience spiritual freedom but if one takes Jesus at His Word he may realize that when trouble does present itself; be it termination of employment, a life-threatening or terminal disease, a catastrophic injury, the loss of a loved one or the loss of a special relationship that spiritual freedom releases a confidence that Jesus will carry us through that tribulation in one manner or another. As Bethel Church Pastor Bill Johnson has succinctly stated, “It takes courage to expect the best. Anyone with unbelief can expect the worst”. True freedom is peace in spite of circumstances.