A couple of weeks ago, I spoke about trusting God, even when a season feels like a straitjacket. Those words resonated with a lot of people. I suppose for everybody at some point life feels that way — you’re in a season that has you sitting still, and it’s often the case that the best you can do is just trust “it ain’t forever” and keep on keepin’ on. There are often great things happening under the surface, and the restraint we feel is often part of a bigger process, whether we’re aware of it or not.

But part of the process of making it through one of those seasons is knowing when the season is done. And sometimes that’s easy to see — you get fired from the job you hated, or you get the promotion you’ve been praying for that will reduce financial stress. The sign changes and the speed limit is no longer 25. Other times, like the butterfly, you are a part of the process of wiggling your way out of the chrysalis that has held you in place while the change was taking place.


So how do you know when it’s time to wiggle?

2 Kings 7 tells this fantastic story that is almost Shakespearean humor to me. Syrians laid siege on the city of Samaria and people were quite literally starving to death. In those days, lepers were banished to live outside the city because people didn’t want to touch them, for fear of being “made unclean.” {Long explanation for that, let’s save it for another day.}

So these four lepers were living outside the city, and when times are tough and people don’t have food for themselves, it’s pretty likely these dudes were on the verge of extinction.

Until they came up with a plan.

“Muchachos,” they said to one another, “why are we just sitting here waiting to die? Obviously, if we go into the city, since there’s no food in the city, we’ll die. And clearly, if we just stay sitting right here, we’re gonna die. So why don’t we head over to the Syrian camp and surrender to them? If they keep us alive, well then sweet potatoes. But if they kill us, what’s the difference, right?”

What these dudes didn’t know was that the Lord had been at work while they were busy reasoning things out. He’d caused the Syrians to hear the sound of a big army coming, and they thought the Samarians had hired some folks to come fight on their behalf.

“The Egyptians and the Hittites are coming to lay the smack down!” they’d shouted to one another. And they took off running scared, leaving all their stuff right there in the camp, shedding layers of clothing so they could run faster.

When those lepers showed up in the camp, it was a ghost town. So {this is the part I really love picturing in my mind} they start raiding the camp from tent to tent. Check it out, guys, there’s food over here! Bro, check out this rocking new garment I just found! I’m gonna go bury this booty in the ground and come back for more! Whoo-hoo! Who’s thirsty???

Eventually they think to themselves, Dudes, we are being totally not cool. The people in the city are about to keel over starving because they think this army is still here. We better go tell them the good news before we get in trouble for being selfish punks.

So these four lepers, who nobody expected anything from, told the city the good news, and in a way, they kind of saved the day. The king sent some of his men to go check out their story and make sure it was true, and then people went out and plundered the tents — the siege was finished and the famine was, too.

Now what if those guys had just decided to stick it out and hope for the best? What if they didn’t decide to get up and at least attempt to change their fate? The time was right for them to make a move.

Call it grace, they made their move, and many people benefited from that decision.

Another story is told*, about these prisoners of war, being held hostage, imprisoned for months. Who knows how badly they’d been treated, what atrocities they’d suffered through in this dark corner of the world.

Some Navy SEALS arrived to rescue them. They flew in by helicopter, stormed the compound and found their way to the room where the hostages were being held. In this filthy, dark room, there these hostages sat, curled up in a corner, terrified.

The SEALS entered, stood at the door, and called to them. “We’re Americans, c’mon, let’s go! Follow us, we’re gonna get you out of here!” But the hostages wouldn’t follow them. They hid their eyes on the floor, fearful, not believing this was real, not believing these rescuers were really Americans who’d come to save them.

There were too many hostages for the SEALS to carry out, and for a moment they didn’t know what to do. Finally one of the SEALS had an idea: he put down his weapon, took off his helmet, and curled up tightly next to the other hostages on the floor, so close that his body was touching some of theirs. He softened the look on his face and put his arms around them. {He did what none of the prison guards would’ve done — do you see the beautiful redemption in this?}

He stayed there for a little while until some of them finally looked at him, and then whispered that they were Americans, there to rescue them. Will you follow us? he asked.

He stood to his feet, and one by one the hostages did the same, eventually every one of them was willing to go. At the end they were safely aboard an aircraft carrier, free from the horrible place where they’d been held captive for so long.

Like the lepers, they had to get up to get free.

You’ve heard the saying that sometimes we stare so long at the door that’s closed we don’t see the open window. And a season can be a closed door, or a period of time where you feel held captive by the circumstances of life.

But one of God’s first promises after the Earth was flooded was about seasons:

“While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, day and night shall not cease.” {Gen. 8:22}

We can be certain of the fact that seasons will always change. There will be a time to plant, a time to reap, a time to kill, a time to heal, {is turn turn turn in the back of you head now?} We can be certain, from the very mouth of God, that no season is going to last forever.

Maybe the straitjacket that’s holding you is still tightly around you, cinched and closed; maybe the process isn’t over, maybe the chrysalis isn’t complete. But be careful to stay alert and mindful: the strings may have already been loosened, the door may already be unlocked.

The Sermon in a Nutshell: Be mindful, be on the lookout, and be ready to face your fears. Recognize that you might have to get up to get out of what’s holding you. There is the distinct possibility that the only thing holding you in the season you’re in is you.


*I’ve adapted this true story from the book Blue Like Jazz. (Thank you, Don Miller, for sharing it!)