I’ve done a lot of traveling over the past few years, speaking at men’s conferences around the country. At last count, there have been nearly 40 trips from New York to San Francisco; from Florida to Seattle; and many in flyover country.
The typical scenario for those trips is flying out of Harrisburg on a Friday morning, setting up at the destination venue Friday night, speaking on Saturday, and flying home on Sunday. I would travel with what many would consider to be excess baggage. There would be my large checked bag with my personal items in it, a large bag made to carry golf clubs that was filled with books and materials to sell in the Exhibitors Hall, and my carry-on tech bag filled with electronics.
Making my way through the airport to the rental car area while dragging these three items with me was, to say the least, interesting; maybe even challenging. There were many times I would think to myself, “Traveling would be so much more efficient and enjoyable without baggage.”
In a metaphorical sense, we all must deal with the emotional and psychological “baggage” we accumulate as we journey through life. You know what “baggage” is. It’s the stuff from your past that you carry around in your soul. It’s the words people have said and the things people have done that haunt your mind and limit your potential. It weighs you down. It complicates your relationships and causes you to stumble your way through life.
In today’s blog we’re going to look into our “life suitcase,” and with the help of the Holy Spirit, we will bring it to him as he asked us to and unpack our baggage. Jesus offers us a wonderful invitation in Scripture: “If you are tired from carrying heavy burdens, come to me and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, CEV).
THE TRUTH ABOUT BAGGAGE
There are basically five key sources of baggage…
Every one of us has been offended. To have lived at all is to have been offended! We all have experienced the pain that comes from other people. We all have done some offending, and we all have been offended.
The offenses can start to take root in our lives and produce bitterness. It is then we who are no longer living free because we have not forgiven the one who has offended us. It becomes heavy baggage! That’s why Hebrews 12:15 warns us, “Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.”
Bitterness not only messes you up, but it also messes up many around you because bitterness becomes a poison that makes all relationships toxic! For some of you reading this blog, this is your baggage. It gets worse with time! You eventually become egocentric, thinking that everyone is out to get you or everyone owes you something. BAGGAGE! Even Christians try to do life with that poison inside of them.
Wounds of abuse. At least one in four women have been sexually abused before the age of 18. One of three men experience the same thing. But there is also verbal, physical, and emotional abuse as well.
There are wounds of rejection. Wounds of being ridiculed in school. Wounds of feeling like you don’t measure up. Wounds of being raised poor while everyone else around you fared better in life. Wounds from an absent father or an overly protective mother. Wounds. Solomon wrote in Psalm 72:2, “I found myself in trouble and went looking for my Lord; my life was an open wound that wouldn’t heal” (Msg).
That’s baggage. The wounds cause you to be self-protective. You think or even say, “I will never be hurt again, or trust anyone again, or be vulnerable again! I will stay at a distance. I will keep to myself.”
We develop elaborate strategies to avoid pain. Yet, that approach to life is the exact opposite of the one Jesus taught us about. He said that “If you try to save your own life you will lose it” (Luke 9:24). He then went on to say, “But the one who is willing to lose his life for my sake shall find it.” In other words, the one who is willing to engage life again even if it means risking being hurt again will find true life!
You can certainly build walls. But those walls not only keep others out, they become a prison that locks you in! Or you can live life vulnerably. Life does hurt at times, but it is worth the risk! Only in that place of risk and vulnerability can you find real joy!
Proverbs 13:12 (TPT) wisely says, “When hope’s dream seems to drag on and on, the delay can be depressing. But when at last your dream comes true, life’s sweetness will satisfy your soul.”
A marriage that fell apart. A university degree you never got to finish. A job that didn’t work out. Children who wandered away and now are estranged from you. The business that failed. The church that fell apart. The ministry you thought you would have but don’t currently have. “Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick” (Msg). Wounds result. Wounds that must be addressed!
1 John 1:6 (NLT) offers a solemn warning when it says, “So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth.” Dr. Mario Dučić covered this masterfully in his message “You Must Be Born Again” on August 1, 2021. If you did not hear it, it’s available on the Lifeway Church website.
“My own failure. That stupid thing I did. My sin. My mistake. My addiction. I say I will not do it again, but I do it again.” This brings on a load of guilt and condemnation that Satan wants to beat you over the head with the rest of your life because you never confessed it and allowed God’s grace to redeem it. It becomes unbearable BAGGAGE!
How can you enjoy freedom in your relationship with God when you allow things in your life to build a wall between you and God. Spiritual darkness comes from denying the sin that is in my life, letting it take root in my life become a stronghold. I am not practicing the truth! It becomes BAGGAGE!
Loose ends that have never been tied up. Baggage hinders us in the race of life. The 2021 Summer Olympics just recently took place at the time of writing. The runners that competed in the track and field events did not strap 20-pound weights around their ankles. The competitive swimmers did not wear a 25-pound belt around their waists. Why? Because the extra weight would have hindered them and would have made victory impossible!
Hebrews 12:1 (CEV) encourages us to “…get rid of everything that slows us down, especially the sin that just won’t let go. And we must be determined to run the race that is ahead of us.”
We must welcome God’s grace and power into our lives to overcome those things or we will never run this race effectively, never live the Christian life effectively, never become what God called us to be because we are all tangled up in baggage, the stuff that we never effectively dealt with in a Biblical, Christ-honoring way.
So, what’s the cure? What should we do with our baggage?
TAKE ON AND UNPACK YOUR BAGGAGE
Take Responsibility for It.
Stop ignoring it and pretending it isn’t there. Face with courage the very thing that’s keeping you from what God created you to be! In 1 Corinthians 6:12 (NCV) the apostle Paul says, “I will not let anything make me its slave.” You’ve got to face it head-on and say, “God, I don’t want this in my life anymore!” At some point, you must do something you’ve never done before.
The first step is acknowledging the suitcase and what’s in it before God and cry out, “I need a change, God! That’s it! I’ve had it! I am not going to allow this to make me its slave any longer!”
Stop with the victim mentality and adopt the victor mentality! You are more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37)… You can overcome because He (Jesus) overcame! The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is inside of you (Romans 6:10)! Why are you afraid to take it on? Deal with your baggage!
Take It Seriously
The apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:27 (NLT), “I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.” This is a serious matter. Your spiritual well-being is riding on whether or not you take care of your baggage.
Until you find a way through the wisdom and grace of God to walk faithfully and continuously in victory, you will never experience it! Unpack your baggage!
Take It to God
Romans 6:12-14 (NIV) says, “Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires… but rather offer yourselves to God… For sin shall not be your master…” In other words, offer yourself to God!
We can look into the suitcases of our lives and sometimes find things that shouldn’t be there:
- Unforgiven offenses,
- Unhealed wounds,
- Unfulfilled dreams,
- Unredeemed sin, or
- Unresolved issues.
Satan likes to take all of those things and frame you with them. It’s a frame job! He wants you to see yourself accordingly, to be defined by it. They become your identity. But, Hallelujah! God wants to reframe your life. He wants to do a reframe job! II Corinthians 5:16 (CEV) tells us there is hope: “Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten, and everything is new.” The Greek word translated as “new person” literally means “a new species of being that never before existed.” That’s what God has in mind and in store for you!
It’s that simple, and it’s that complicated. Would you pray this prayer with me?
Father, I come to you right now acknowledging all my baggage. I know it is hindering me from becoming all that you have made me to be. With Your grace and strength, I take responsibility for the things I have allowed into my life that trip me up. I give them over to you and turn away from them. I belong to You. I am a new person. The past is forgiven and forgotten. Everything is new. Hallelujah! Holy Spirit, empower me to live a baggage-free life from this day forward. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. In Jesus’ name, Amen!
If you would like to talk with someone about this issue, Lifeway has several caring pastors that are ready and willing to journey with you. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to start the conversation. We love you!