dealing with trials spiritual

Dealing with Emotional Hoarding (Part 2 of 3)

2:02 PMHeather

I've kept an old laundry basket in the corner of my closet for months, with the intention of filling it up with items I'm purging from my wardrobe. The idea was that when it was full, I would run it to a local charity. 

Except that it is now nearly overflowing.  I moved it from the closet to the doorway of my room so that I would remember to take it to donate. It's been serving as a bulky doorstop now for about two weeks.

And I think it's quite a visible representation of what has been going on within me as of late. This summer, I taught the content of what I've been blogging about this fall, including the idea of emotional hoarding. Last week, in part 1 of 3, I offered three ideas for dealing with the emotional hoarding in our hearts. It is not lost on me that as I am writing and speaking on this topic, God is continually dealing with me on my own emotional clutter.

Because, unfortunately, it's a lot like that laundry basket of items to donate. I think I've got it cleared out of the way. But truly, I've only moved it from one place to the next rather than actually discarding it. Like weeds in the soil of my soul, I allow old wounds to pop up, reappearing as I replay the situations and conversations in my mind. The longer that I neglect to tend to them, the more they grow. 

Truth be told, dealing with emotional hoarding is not a one and done process. Instead, it's ongoing. It's something we have to repeat, day after day, dealing with the ugly feelings and lies that old wounds tend to reproduce on a regular basis, if left unattended.

Last week, I expounded on the ideas of remembering the truth about our fires, avoiding getting stuck in the fires, and looking for plunder from the fires and wilderness. Today, I want to soldier on and consider two more truths to help us deal with our habit of emotional hoarding.

Use your fires. We tend to look at our trials as painful and paralyzing. The truth we saw last week is that right there in our difficult places, God reveals himself more deeply when we turn our gaze to him. The amazing next step is that our trials can become the launching point for our greatest callings. The Bible is full of examples of ordinary people whose times of great trial and fire actually become new opportunities for ministry. 

In Genesis 39 and 40, we see the story of Joseph. Despised by his brothers for his boastful tendencies, he is sold into slavery. Yet, Genesis 39:2 says that, "the Lord was with Joseph and he prospered and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master." Betrayed by his own brothers and living in a foreign land as a slave, Joseph chose to work hard and keep following the God of his father. As the story unfolds, we see that Joseph ends up in prison after being falsely accused in the master's house.

"But while Joseph was there in prison, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put him in charge of all those held in prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there." Genesis 39:20-22

When we are in stuck places, bound by circumstance, we have a choice to make. We can become chained victims of the situation, or we can choose to use our stuck places as a place of ministry. Joseph recognized that God was with him, even there. Joseph had eyes to not only see the God who was with him, but also to see the others who were imprisoned next to him.

We can sit in our cells and wail and moan about the injustice and the unfairness. Or we can sit there in the stuck place and look around. Reaching out to minister and encourage others in the middle of your fire gives a powerful purpose to your journey. It captures the lies of self-pity and it silences the accusing enemy. Helping others while in the midst of our own trials echoes the voice of Jesus on the cross. There, beaten and dying, our Savior ministered to the thief next to him, made sure his own mother would be cared for, and offered forgiveness to his executioners.

There is no stronger representation of the gospel story than when we choose to see our stuck places as a new place to pause and find purpose for the good of other people. 

We know that Joseph's prison cell brought him to a ministry to his fellow prisoners, the cup bearer and the baker. And then, Joseph was brought before the king himself to interpret a dream. God launched Joseph into the position of second in command of all of Egypt through the experience of his years sitting in prison. Joseph's sphere of influence grew from fellow prisoners to the one uniquely positioned to save all of Israel in a time of famine.

When we choose to look for ways to help others in the midst of our captivity, we become the deliverers. We become the freedom bearers. We become the tools of Jesus to bring light into darkness. And while it impacts others, it also profoundly changes us.

Daniel knew this full well. He too, was captive in a foreign land, carried off to Babylon as a teenager. He, too, interpreted dreams for a king. And in the middle of his exile, God placed Daniel before the mighty Nebuchnadnezzar that he might have an audience for this bold declaration:

No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can
explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, 
but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has
shown you King Nebuchnadnezzar what will happen in the
days to come.
Daniel 2:27-28 

What we see as a stuck place, might actually be the exact place where God intends to reveal himself not only to you, but also through you. 
Much of Paul's writings were completed while imprisoned. Through his prison experiences, Paul was given audience with the likes of jail guards, fellow prisoners, soldiers, angry mobs, commanders, the Sanhendrin, Governor Felix and his wife Drusilla, Festus, and King Agrippa. As he was transported from one prison to another, Paul brought the gospel story to all of those aboard that doomed ship, to the people of Malta, and eventually to the people of Rome.

Oh that we might look at the things that feel like they are holding us back and weighing us down and we might have eyes to see how they are actually conduits to something greater. 

I ask you, what stuck or hard places have you all upset right now? How might God use you right there, in the middle of that prison? How might he bring freedom to others through the places that feel like they are binding you?

 Photo courtesy of Ashim D'Silva via

Offering delivery through places of captivity. As I was recently reading Matthew, I got stuck on one little verse that I had never stop to make note of before. 

When they had gone, the angel of the Lord appeared to
Joseph in a dream, "Get up," he said, "and take the child
and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until
I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him."
Matthew 2:13

Do you see the irony here? The Son of God is to be escape with his parents and go to -- of all places -- Egypt. Egypt. The place where Joseph was taken captive and held in prison. The place where the Israelites languished as slaves for 430 years. The place where God rose up Moses to become their deliverer. The place where God's people, all throughout the Old Testament, refer to when they speak about prisons and hard times and fiery trials. 
Here is the beautiful truth of the God who brings life through the death of his son. He is the God who uses former places of captivity to bring ULTIMATE delivery and freedom, if not for you, perhaps for future generations.

The Egyptians once held God's people against their will. Now, God uses, of all the places in the world, the country of Egypt to safeguard his Son. Egypt, the place that signified bondage, becomes the exact place to protect the One who will offer salvation and freedom to everyone.

Who but God?

I believe it is no coincidence that God sent Joseph, Mary, and Jesus to Egypt. I believe he wants you to consider where you have been held captive. I believe he wants us to know that in his mighty hands, our captive places might be transformed into the freedom  places. That we would declare this loudly within our captivity, and then look to who else might need to hear the story. 

That we could become the generation that says, it stops here. Whatever generational sin and junk and wounds and baggage you have encountered-- it stops here. Because you cannot change your heritage, but you can change your legacy. 

You can use those captive places to say, NO MORE. You can be the one who allows God to take the places of imprisonment and use you to "rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated...renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations," Isaiah 61:4.

In the same way that my donated clothes can become a blessing to a local charity, my emotional baggage can be transformed. My "stuck" places can become a place of ministry, right there in the chains and prisons of waiting for what might come. I can choose to see only myself, or I can look for others there. I can look to see if perhaps I'm stuck because God intends that very place to give me a new audience to share his gospel story.
And then, even more so, we can take back what our prisons and fires and wildernesses have stolen from us. We can say that this place that has bound me will become a place of deliverance for others. 

That our Egypts won't be wasted. That they won't be defined by the way they held us back, but rather that we would surrender them to the Redeemer and allow him to use us to become the restorer of ancient ruins. So that our Egypts will actually become a place of refuge for future generations.

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