Remember My Chains

“I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.”   Colossians 4:18 [ESV]

The clear focus and mission of our Botswana trip, and the confidence that we were in the center of God’s will in being there was refreshing to my soul.  Coming home where the specifics of His will and purpose for me in this season are not nearly as clear was extremely difficult.

Three days after we arrived home Scott and I celebrated our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.  The day began and ended with tears.  We have been refined through the flames of shared soul crushing sorrow, as a result our marriage has never been stronger and our love has never been purer.  But “celebrating” that special date only served to amplify the gaping hole in our family and the aching in our hearts.  As we reminisced about our wedding day expectations and anniversaries of years gone by we were reminded once again that for the remainder of this life we will bear the weight of the chains of separation and grief, and a desperate longing for eternity.

“For this reason also, since the day we heard [of it,] we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,  so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please [Him] in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;  strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.” Colossians 1:9-12 [NASB]

As I teetered on the brink of despair, the Lord led me to Colossians.  I’ve spent all week studying and meditating there, He specifically spoke to me through Colossians 1:9-12.  My impassioned prayer from this passage has been that He will fill me “with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”  I hunger and thirst, desperate for this filling recognizing it alone equips me “SO THAT” I can do all that I need, long and am called to do for the remainder of my days.

fill me with the knowledge of Your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding
so that I will walk in a manner worthy of You

fill me with the knowledge of Your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding
so that I will please You in all respects

fill me with the knowledge of Your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding
so that I will bear fruit in every good work

fill me with the knowledge of Your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding
so that I will increase in the knowledge of You

fill me with the knowledge of Your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding
so that I will be strengthened with all power, according to Your glorious might

fill me with the knowledge of Your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding
so that I will attain all steadfastness and patience

fill me with the knowledge of Your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding
so that I will joyously give thanks to You, who have qualified me to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.

As I meditated on this passage once again today, I read on to the conclusion of the letter.  The final verse, verse 18, captivated me.  “I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.”  So, a scribe had most likely recorded all of the preceding verses, but for this final greeting, Paul takes the parchment and pen in chained hand to conclude.  Of all that He could conclude with, he says “remember my chains” (or imprisonment, bonds, or fetters, depending on translation).

Commitments and activities that were balanced with ease before Sarah left, can be extremely taxing now, particularly when it feels like I am expected to do them as though nothing has changed.  I desire to press on, to persevere, to finish well,  but I am acutely aware of the reality and ramifications of my chains.  I feel the weight of the chains of the fallenness of this world that resulted in the death of my child.  I feel the weight of the chains of the pulsing pain of separation.  I feel the weight of the chains of the brokenness that has scarred and altered every individual and relationship in our family.  As life and expectations press in hard I find myself frequently longing to say “remember my chains.”  Hence Paul’s parting words to the Colossians resonate deeply in my heart.

Prior to reminding the believers at Colossae about his chains, Paul had just passionately contended for the purification and perseverance of their faith.  Remembering that he is contending for them and praying for them without ceasing while in bondage gives an even greater sense of urgency and weight to his exhortations (Col. 1:9).  His example challenges me to pray more fervently, and once again reminds me that bondage does not prevent fruitful ministry.

“For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face,  that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:1-3 [ESV]

Remembering his chains keeps us aware that we as believers can and will suffer. Some will suffer bound by chains that can be seen, while others will suffer beneath the weight of those that can not be seen.  Either way, we are reminded as Peter said, that we should not be surprised as though something strange were happening when fiery ordeals befall us.

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you;  but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.”  1 Peter 4:12-13 [NASB]

Proponents of the prosperity gospel would have us believe that every chain is broken in the here and now, that if we pray hard enough and long enough and have enough faith God will always grant earthly deliverance.  Paul’s chains and eventual execution testify otherwise.  Some chains will endure until we depart or Christ returns.  The fallenness, chains and bondage of this earth fuel our groaning with all of creation, longing for eternity and the promised liberation and restoration that will only come through Christ’s return.

“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.  And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” Romans 8:22-23 [ESV]

Lastly, I am deeply encouraged by Paul pointing out his chains and encouraging others to remember them.  He was not divinely immune to their weight, he did not pretend they did not exist or were without consequence, instead he acknowledged their presence.  He was not seeking pity or complaining, but simply acknowledging his earthly limitation.  I believe his reminder was at least twofold, both encouragement and request.  He knew his dogged perseverance in spite of his chains would encourage others in bondage to persevere.   But, I also believe he was acknowledging the hardship of his chains as a reminder and request for prayers to be offered up on his behalf.

“You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.”  2 Corinthians 1:11 [ESV]

The Father of Lies would have us believe we are to silently bear up under our chains, to pretend their weight does not weary or impede us in any way.  Paul’s testimony encourages otherwise.  We are free to acknowledge the chains, to share their reality knowing that God can use that testimony to encourage others in chains.  But also recognizing we need to help one another through prayer and the only way for that to happen is for us to be truthful about our chains.

As I ponder this I am reminded of the countless times our family has been told by brothers and sisters in Christ that they were lifting us up in prayer over the past year.  We know the prayers of the many have been powerful and effective in enabling us to stand and persevere.  We have not and do not take them for granted and once again offer deepest heartfelt gratitude and the parting words and prayerful blessing of Paul, “grace be with you.”

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One thought on “Remember My Chains

  1. Remembering your chains and praising God that suffering and chains do not prevent fruitful ministry. That is evident in your family. In fact, it seems as the most fruitful service comes through deep pain, suffering and loss. He lovingly compels us to draw near for grace and mercy and to search His word for the truth that will help us go on.

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