Paul’s last words to the Colossians are secret, sacred rest for our exhausted souls:
Remember my chains.
Not my triumphs or strengths or talents. Not my sermons or letters or fame.
Remember my chains.
Focus on these things that are holding me back, Paul says. Look at the way it’s not working out like I planned, think on the hardship I’m willing to endure for the sake of the cross.
It’s here in the silence where the truth echoes loudest. It’s here in the dark where the light shines brightest and best. It’s here in the lonely where Christ has become my truest friend.
Remember my tireless work in a job I didn’t like.
Remember my love for the ones who have left me.
Remember my fidelity to marriage more than my feelings.
Remember my patient fight for a child who is not like yours.
Remember my trust when the paychecks stopped.
Remember my rest in His beauty when I have felt so ugly.
Remember my hymns in the hospital bed.
Remember my obedience to speak when no one came to hear.
Remember my faith in Christ’s wholeness when abuse crushed me into brokenness.
Remember my prayers for Your light in the shadow of death.
Remember my chains. (Colossians 4:18)
We have become addicted to winning, you and I, trading our hearts and hours for the veneer of success (or the longing for it) in work, life, family — even ministry. Our full-speed-ahead, be-all-you-can-be, Facebook-life is not distinguishing our gospel message. It’s not separating us from a world that chases after the same things.
Jesus said “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (Matthew 9:12). How can we proclaim His healing without revealing we need His medicine? How can we shout His victory when we showcase our wins more than the God who is able to sustain us through loss?
No one wants the chains. That’s okay; that’s normal — instinctive, even.
But in this sinful, broken world, chains will not fail to bind us here or imprison us there. Every single one of the bonds I listed above have slunk onto the pages of my history. They are not real like Paul’s chains. They are not as heavy as some people’s chains, not as enduring, not as devastating. I know that, and I am grateful.
And, from day to day — even minute to minute — my responses have not been as righteous as the ones I listed above, either. I have pulled at the chains, tried to pray them away, cut myself with their shackles till I bled out anger and fear. Like Paul, I have felt under great pressure, far beyond (my) ability to endure, so that (I) despaired of life itself (2 Corinthians 1:8).
But God, in His great mercy, has enabled a sustained response that has outweighed my short-lived responses. I fret over my wasted seconds, but He is writing a story. When I have forsaken Him in the moment, He shouts His mercies for another morning. When I fail Him day after day, I can get up again because He is determined to write His glory on my years.
If you have ever asked why, or been anxious, or pushed back in the darkness, but you rose the next day and walked in obedience, He is doing the same thing for you. His favor is upon you, and He will ensure your chains are leading you to reward and not rebellion.
He gets the last word.
This is what it means when we say that outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
This is how our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all (2 Corinthians 4:16-17).
And with that, and three years, The Colossians Project is done. Thank you for reading and studying with me, and thank you for your encouragement and for sharing it along the way. What’s next? My subscribers will be the first to know. Get on the list using the simple form below (and get a free checklist/eBook bonus, too!)