To Live Is Christ
Open Your Bible
Philippians 1:12-26, 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, James 3:13-18
BY Guest Writer
Years ago, I gave a talk about fear and anxiety. About thirty women settled into a cozy room as I began sharing some of my story. Looking back on my childhood, I see a little girl who wanted to play it safe, who perpetually problem-solved worst-case scenarios, one who felt shadowed by a vague sense of fear. This stream of anxiety ran steadily throughout my life, but no one would have known. I was the kid who easily made friends, loved school, and didn’t cause much trouble. I was the strong, steady one—until I wasn’t.
In my late twenties, in the midst of young marriage and new motherhood, the stream of anxiety became a flood. Panic attacks began to torment me. For the first time, my underground anxiety burst out and threatened to take center stage. I felt embarrassed and ashamed. I didn’t want to admit my confusing fears, and I certainly didn’t want others to see my struggle. After all, I was supposed to be the strong, steady one.
At this point in my talk, I told the women that I had a secret. I began unbuttoning my shirt. Awkward silence filled the room. Underneath my faded, denim top I wore a white t-shirt and cold, bulky metal chains. No one had suspected that I was wearing chains, yet they were there the whole time—pinching, constraining, and weighing me down. We don’t always know the chains people are wrapped up in, do we?
The apostle and missionary Paul wore chains too. In his letter to the believers in the city of Philippi, Paul explains that he is “in chains for Christ” as he endures house arrest (Philippians 1:13 NIV). For years he has been misunderstood, criticized, slandered, and beaten, and now he is jailed in Rome.
Some could view Paul as a failure. Some could question his faith or even the power or goodness of God. Yet Paul is convinced that his current suffering is nothing to be ashamed of or to hide. On the contrary, he insists that his circumstances advance the gospel message. He tells the Philippians, “Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly” (Philippians 1:14 NIV). Even in jail, Paul rejoices that his guards are hearing about Jesus and that other believers are encouraged and empowered.
We may marvel at Paul’s perspective, but let’s not romanticize our chains. In 1 Corinthians 2, Paul reveals his weakness, fear, and trembling (v.3). We all chafe and wrestle with painful circumstances, those things we would never choose for ourselves, yet God still allows.
What pinches you, constrains you, or weighs you down? Our anxieties, our fears, our sufferings are heavy and costly. But we don’t have to hide them or be ashamed. Even our struggles can deepen our dependence on Christ and point others to the one who walks us through our darkest valleys and who redeems us—chains and all.
Patti Sauls lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband Scott and daughters, Abby and Ellie, where they serve alongside the people of Christ Presbyterian Church. Prior to living in Nashville, the Sauls planted churches in Kansas City and Saint Louis and served at New York City’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church. A trained speech therapist, Patti also enjoys serving behind the scenes, hiking with friends, and reading good books.