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By Kate Silber, Nexus ICA Co-Founder.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like feeling trapped. My brother once trapped me in a duvet cover, which he thought was hilarious, but the fear of which still comes back to me every time I make the bed! That youth group trip with the caving was… shaping… and I have missed my exit more than once due to drivers insisting on driving the same speed as me in the lane to my left.  

‘Restrictions’ is a word, and a reality, that we are all used to at the moment. We no longer move about freely, meeting up with friends and family and socialising. Church meetings, if they are happening at all in person, are very different, and we have not gathered together for sung worship for a long time. For many, this is an extremely challenging time.

There’s a couple of verses in the Psalms which reference this idea of being restricted or hemmed in, but it presents the idea positively. Psalm 16 talks of our boundary lines falling in pleasant places. Psalm 139: 5 says; ‘You hem me in, behind and before’, or as one version puts it; ‘You have surrounded me on every side, behind me and before me’. The context of Psalm 139 is beautiful, describing a God who knows us intimately and refuses to let us go. To be hemmed in, surrounded, in front and behind is something many of us draw comfort from. But it’s still a restriction. The Psalmist recognises that God sometimes has to bring him back to those boundaries for his own safety, and at the end of the Psalm even invites God to look at anything in his life which may alienating him or separating him from God; in essence, that which might cause him to step outside of the safety which God has provided.

Going back to Psalm 16, it starts by asking God to, ‘Keep me safe…..for in you I take refuge’. That’s a two-way action. I actively take refuge in Him, and He keeps me safe.  I decide to be near to Him, He gives me everything I need, and He keeps me secure (v5-8). Not only does it celebrate the boundary lines set, or drawn up by God, it also describes the strength that comes from being surrounded by the people of God; ‘The beauty of faith-filled people encompasses me’. (The Voice). As Christians, we are surrounded by God, surrounded by faith and surrounded by His presence in the form of His Word, His instruction, His love, His grace, and much more. All of these qualities are unseen and know no physical boundaries.

In a prayer time today, one of our Trustees gave a message to a student group which spoke into our current context of restrictions. Drawing from Daniel 11, the message was:

Natural eyes look at the times we are in, and all the restrictions, and think, “there’s not much I can do. But God says that for you this is a time for action. He will open doors, He will create opportunities, He will show you the paths you should take, where you can take action that will advance the kingdom of God. Things that will make an eternal impact.

The restrictions we are under will have had an impact on you in some way, and will continue to do so. As those who belong to God and who have put ourselves under His care, we know that whatever happens to our context, we are safe and secure in our spirits and souls. We know that though we may not see our friends or be able to worship alongside them, their faith and strength surrounds us at all times. The things that we build eternally are already in the unseen realm, so it is possible to continue to build that, and build it together. 

Let me leave you with a portion of Psalm 16. Take hope that we are beautifully restricted and “boundaried” by Him, hemmed in behind and before. Take courage as you continue to build that which will last forever, making an impact in the unseen realm and continuing to build His glorious Kingdom.

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
    you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
    even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
    With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Psalm 16:5-8 (NIV)

Cover photo by Fezbot2000 on Unsplash.

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