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Just the sound of the word sends a shiver up my spine.

Something about being held in a situation from which you can’t find release generates short-term panic in the heart. Those who experience that reality have that stark panic stretch into chronic longing.

Soul scars are the constant reminder of my years trapped in the self-destructive prison of my own design–addiction. It is the same for so many people in so many ways.

Whether a girl caught in the web of human trafficking, a refugee stuck in the horror of an internment camp, an addict bound by the chains of compulsion or an Alzheimer’s patient in the prison of forgetfulness…the inevitable reality of intractable bondage will bleed life, hope and joy from the heart of most who endure it.

Most, but not all. What makes the difference?

When you are trapped for any reason in any way, you will face an ultimate internal life vs. death decision.

Twelve Years a Slave, a masterful award-winning film details the painful story of an accomplished freeman who was kidnapped and trapped in the violent vortex of Southern slavery for a dozen soul-crushing years. My heart was impaled by its truth just last night.

As the story plays out, it becomes clear that some poor souls trapped in these inhumane conditions died while they were living. But somehow, against all odds, in the soul-sucking and identity-draining quicksand of slavery, some were able to hold onto hope. How?

Jeremiah–the tragic Old Testament prophet who lived the pain of being trapped for much of his life–wrote a powerful, weeping lament that yanks back the curtain on this dilemma. In it he unveils two disparate realities experienced side-by-side in his crucible of chains: undiluted honesty and undeniable hope.

He does not hide his pain, questions, fears, hurt and confusion. He is utterly and brutally open about not understanding God’s plan or ways in his personal devastation.

He mourns constantly for the pain of his people. Even though he understands Israel is suffering because of the ungodly actions of the people, he still weeps over their decline.

In unvarnished honesty, he describes how he edges up to the precipice of giving up on God and nearly jumps off. It is then…at his most desperate…that ultimate hope overcomes incessant despair. It bursts through one tiny word.


The truth that underlies this word makes the difference between those who are broken by life’s inequities and those who live triumphantly through them.

He speaks this hinge pin word more than once in his song.

  • Yet…God is on His throne.
  • Yet…His mercies do not fail.
  • Yet…He will come and rescue His people.

The real danger of suffering and bondage, whether apparently deserved or completely unfair, is that it will smother hope by skewing your view of God.

  • If pain can get you to see God distortedly, it will destroy you.
  • If bitterness can get you to feel God distantly, it will devour you.
  • If failure can get you to treat God defensively, it will drain you.

The answer to my question, the secret to internal survival in external slavery is this: openly face the pain, honestly stare down the harsh realities and defiantly cling to one word: yet!

In the face of finality, failure, frailty and fear know this, God is not finished…



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