I was reading my journal from almost exactly two years ago. I kept feeling punched in the gut after each entry. I was writing the same questions, same fears, same prayers that I have been writing this week. And I mean exactly the same, down to the names of people and circumstances. How is that possible?
It’s because I’m stuck. I’m in a season of stuck — most of us probably are.
I’ve been studying Philippians on and off for the past 6 months, and I keep coming back to the same few verses in chapter 1.
“I want you to know brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to al the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.”
Philippians 1:12–13 ESV
Hold on, Paul. Your literal imprisonment is advancing the gospel? How is that possible?
The NASB translation uses the word “progress.” His circumstances served to progress his cause. It’s foreign to us to see a jail cell as progress, to see a sentence as an assignment, to see waiting as development. Even as I study it, I resist it. It definitely doesn’t feel like progress when you’re in it.
But Paul has a different perspective. He saw the prison as an opportunity to reach people he would had never met if he had not been arrested. He was placed there by God for that purpose. Not only that, people were talking about what was happening in that prison. Even hundreds of years later, we are still talking about it. Paul knows he is in that jail for Jesus, no one else. No one else could put him there, keep him there, or release him — only Jesus.
“Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be Honore din my body, whether by life or by death.”
Philippians 1:18c-20 ESV
I have been clinging to Paul’s perspective lately. First, he chooses joy — because it is a choice. Left to myself, I will most often choose to sit in my hurt. Whether or not that hurt is valid, I would rather wallow, spin out emotionally, or hide myself under the covers away from my outside circumstances. It’s easier that way. But do you know what will guarantee that you stay stuck? Sitting in your stuck. Choosing joy is hard — almost impossible sometimes, but Paul gives us the reason why we can and should.
Second, Paul knows that Jesus will deliver him. That is his hope. That is why he chooses joy. Being stuck isn’t shameful for Paul because of his confidence that Jesus has placed him there and that Jesus will rescue him. I am in a constant need to remind myself that God is in control. It sounds so simple, but when I’m aware of God’s power, provision, and plan, I can open my fists and release my circumstance to Him.
Last, and maybe my favorite part, Paul is determined that his life will honor Jesus no matter what. We’re talking regardless of his circumstance, his hurt, his joy, or even his death. If Paul were to die in that prison that day, he would die honoring Jesus. Now that’s some confidence. I think there is freedom in that too. When we shift our perspective to honoring God no matter what, we aren’t tied to our circumstances, to other people’s opinions, or to our own insecurities. I need to be asking myself, “how can I honor God today, no matter what?”
Maybe you are stuck with me. Maybe you’ve allowed yourself to stay there. Maybe there is some comfort to the “stuck.” But I’m challenging myself today and for the foreseeable future, to choose joy, release control, and honor God — no matter what. It’s sounds so easy, but being in prison is never easy.
But one day we will see that we were in this prison for a purpose. Let’s stop wasting time.