Have you ever questioned God's goodness in your life? Or do you struggle with breaking free from generational sins, strongholds (a critical spirit, pride, insecurities, addictions, anger, etc.)? Did you know that the two can be linked? This article is something I put together for my ladies Bible study (We are doing Beth Moore's 'Breaking Free' Bible Study). I know it's long but if the questions above resonate with you in any way, it might be worth a read! God wants to see us free... we just have to be willing to give him our chains!

I just read and online article that really stood out to me and I wanted to share an excerpt of it:

--->My friend and I went to the circus recently. As my friend was passing the elephants, he suddenly stopped, confused by the fact that these huge creatures were being held by only a small rope tied to their front leg. No chains, no cages. It was obvious that the elephants could, at anytime, break away from the ropes they were tied to but for some reason, they did not. My friend saw a trainer nearby and asked why these beautiful, magnificent animals just stood there and made no attempt to get away.
“Well,” he said, “when they are very young and much smaller we use the same size of rope to tie them and, at that age, it’s enough to hold them. When they strain to break free as babies, they are unsuccessful in their escape attempts. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.” My friend was amazed. These animals could at any time break free from their bonds but because they believed they couldn’t, they were stuck right where they were.

Generational sins can often hold us down in this same way. We grow accustomed to the captivity. So much so that we don’t even realize that freedom is even an option. Generational sins can often go unnoticed and therefore undealt with because they just blend into our lives. And if we do notice them, we have grown so comfortable with them that the thought of anything different is more foreign to us than the freedom that awaits us if we lay them at God’s feet.

Satan does three things that we need to be aware of if we want to be free from captivity… especially the generational kind.

1. He disguises and camouflages the captivity.
2. He makes the captivity enjoyable enough that we keep coming back to it.
3. He gets us comfortable with captivity.

Beth Moore shares,
“God gave me a frightening visual aid just a few days before writing this entry. Keith and I were walking in the country. He suddenly grabbed me and said, ‘Don’t move!’ The biggest copperhead Keith had ever seen was curled up on the path just a few feet in front of us. Why didn’t I see it? Because it was exactly the color of the path. Why did Keith? He is a hunter. He has an eye for camouflaged creatures! We can think of Satan’s subtleties as times his work is well camouflaged. Generational yokes often go undetected because they blend in so well with our personalities. We excuse some of these yokes as simply being the way we are. We might even say, ‘my Mother was like this and so was hers! We’re just outspoken women who know our own minds!’ Or a man may say, ‘My grandfather raised my father not to take a handout from anyone. We’re proud people and I’m not going to take a handout either. Thanks, but my boy doesn’t need an instrument to play in some band. He has honest work to do.’ Perhaps you’re beginning to see a well-camouflaged chain inherited through the family line. You don’t have to decide, well, I’m stuck with it, so I may as well be proud of it. In Christ, you are not stuck with anything but Him, praise His name!”

Because generational captivity is so ingrained and camouflaged in who we are, we have to be even more vigilant when it comes to drawing it out and dealing with it so it doesn’t affect our kids. We need to even go a step further and be more vulnerable and transparent about those areas of captivity with our kids so that they too can keep an eye out and avoid generational captivity in their own lives!

To really understand how captivity can be disguised, comfortable and even enjoyable, I want to take a look at the physical captivity of the Israelites under the bondage of Pharaoh. God sent Moses to be God’s spokesperson and lead the way to freedom. God told Moses in Exodus 6:

"I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant. "Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the LORD.’”
Moses reported this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and harsh labor."

Did you catch that!? God told the people, “I will save you, redeem you, take you as my own, be your God, and I will free you from captivity and I’ll take you to the promise land.” And their response? They didn’t even listen to him! They didn’t believe God would do what they said he would do because of their “discouragement and harsh labor.”

You see, just like the elephant holding itself captive while freedom was within its reach, the Israelites were so focused on their captivity that they couldn’t see the freedom that God was trying to extend on a silver platter.

It says in verse 9 that they were “discouraged.” Anyone been there?
Have you ever been in a situation or found yourself in an area of captivity where you felt like there was just no way out? Maybe you’ve felt like you’ve tried and tried to break free in your own strength but you just couldn’t so you became disheartened. Maybe you grew so tired of, or frustrated with it that you just resigned to living with it because you couldn’t even imagine a way out. Or, maybe you struggled to believe that you even deserved to be set free. Maybe you feel like God allowed some of these bad things to happen to you that led you to a place of captivity. So, not only are you angry at him for that, but you can’t imagine that a God who would allow something bad to happen, would even want to set you free.

If any of those scenarios describe you, write down, underline and put exclamation points around this:

I HAVE TO BELIEVE GOD IS GOOD BEFORE I CAN BE SET FREE.

Satan knows that as long as we keep believing that God, in his nature, is not good, we will stay stuck, unable to trust and believe God and, as a result, unable to be free. But just like God didn’t give up on the Israelites until they were free, he won’t give up on us.

One of the biggest hurdles to the Israelites’ unbelief in response to God’s promise to free them, was how long it had taken for God to respond to their cries. If you’ve ever had to wait on God for something, always remember that God has had to wait for us longer. The Bible describes God as ‘long-suffering.’ His definition of ‘long- suffering’ blows ours out of the water by thousands of years! God’s long-suffering began when Eve took that bite of the forbidden fruit. Sin separated us from God and all of history is marked with God’s efforts to get us back to a loving, intimate relationship with him. God sent Jesus in hopes that he could save some of his people that had turned away from him. Jesus was the long awaited Messiah who came to bring freedom to the captives, bind up the broken hearted, bring good news to the afflicted, and so much more (Isaiah 61:1-4). The SAME message that God gave the Israelites in Egypt, Jesus gave to the Israelites in the New Testament. But even when Jesus came onto the scene, the Israelites STILL didn’t believe. They didn’t believe he was who he said he was because of the stubbornness of their hearts and because of how accustomed they had grown to captivity. How devastating for God to know he had pulled all the stops to get their attention, even sending his own son, and they still wouldn’t turn to him.

These verses in Luke 19: 41-42 say a lot about the heart of God for his people, “As Jesus approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.’” Jesus had the ability to look at a person and immediately know the status of their heart. I can only imagine how broken Jesus’ heart must have been as he looked out over Jerusalem and saw all of those hearts turned away from him in unbelief… knowing that he held the key to their freedom.
You see, God desperately wants us to have peace and freedom through Jesus and we have the power to either expedite the road to freedom by giving God complete authority and by believing he is able to set us free, OR we can stay stuck for another couple decades, allowing it to take our children and grandchildren captive in the process too, just like it did with the Israelites.

Did you know that the Israelites’ trip from Egypt to the promise land would have only taken 30 days? Instead, it took the Israelites 40 years! It took them so long because of their innate unbelief and the generational idolatry and bondage that had corrupted God’s people. You see, generational captivity is sticky… it literally won’t budge because it can become so ingrained in who we are. Satan will get us to try and make peace with our bondage so that we stay stuck. Have you ever felt stuck? Maybe you desperately want to be patient with your kids but the angry words keep coming. Or, you want to get a handle on your weight but that cookie keeps winning. The Israelites were so accustomed to their bondage that, after they escaped Egypt, they actually WANTED to go back! These were the same people who were expected to gather straw to make their own bricks every day and if they didn’t make their crazy quota that Pharoh forced on them, they were whipped and beaten and sometime killed as punishment! And they wanted to return!

Exodus 14: 10-14 it says, “As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD. They said to Moses, ‘Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!’”

At this point in Exodus, God had already paved the way to freedom through terrible plagues and miracles that made it clear he took this freedom business seriously. And yet, they still doubted. Fear rooted in an unbelief of God’s provision and goodness prevented the Israelites from truly taking hold of the freedom God had just granted them. They actually wanted to go back and complained about being free! Have you ever left the comfort and familiarity of your captivity and ended up right where you started?

Beth Moore says that she prays this prayer, “God give me wisdom to know why I wrongly associate benefit with that which brings me harm.” How often do we turn a blind eye to captivity because we either:
• Get some enjoyment out of it
• Are comfortable in it
• Are afraid of living without it

You see, God’s not going to set us free from something that we aren’t quite ready to give up yet. God’s not going to take you right to the promise land if your foot is still in Egypt. Maybe you have asked God a million times to help you get a handle on your weight but you are still holding that cookie behind your back. Maybe you’ve asked God a million times to help you tame your tongue and give you more patience but you still have such a tight grip on control that God can’t even pry your fingers open.

I love Beth Moore’s story she told of her son-in-law and her grandson before bed every night. Every night, her son-in-law says to his toddler, “I’m proud to be your dad and you have what it takes to be a great man and I love you.” His son’s response is always, “I want juice.” How often do we do the same thing? God wants to give us peace, freedom, purpose, satisfaction and abundant life but we just want ‘juice.’ We want abundant life with a little captivity on the side. Satan does a really good job of giving us just a taste of fun, enjoyment and comfort with our captivity so that we keep coming back to it. He wants us to experience that little high when we get a bunch of Facebook likes so that we keep going back to the approval of man instead of seeking God’s approval first. He wants us to experience that rush of excitement when we get that cute new outfit so that we are more focused on shopping that spending time with God. We have to ask, no, BEG God to change our ‘want to’ as Beth puts it. Instead of wanting the captivity and the little morsels of temporary enjoyment that it brings, we instead, need to ask God to give us a craving for Him… the only One that can truly satisfy.

In John 4:14, when Jesus is speaking to the woman at the well who had been with many men (she slept around) Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water (as in, pursuing things in the world) will be thirsty again. But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a fount of water springing up to eternal life.” There is only One place that we can go where we won’t feel empty again, and that’s to Jesus. Oh God, change our ‘want to’ so that we no longer crave the things in this world that will leave us thirsty.

After the Israelites freaked out and wanted to turn right back around and into the captivity of Pharaoh, the Bible says, “Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.’”

“We need only to be still.” “Stand firm.” How do we stand firm and remain still in a way that will bring freedom? Beth puts it like this, “you have to make it through your moments if you want to make it to your milestones.” If you really want to break free from captivity, it’s not always a one and done thing. We will have to keep choosing God over slavery minute by minute, day by day. You have to stand firm when those feelings of anger, insecurity, pride, etc. arise. It means stopping yourself and going to God the second before you start walking back to Egypt. It’s not easy and there will be a lot of moments when you will take two steps back to take one step forward. But if you resolve to intentionally seek Him in ALL your ways, the Bible says God will make your path straight… And God’s path is the path to FREEDOM.

Just like with the Israelites, when they were breaking free from slavery, there may come feelings of anger, fear or discouragement when you try to break free. Always remember though, that most of those feelings can be traced back to a simple unbelief in God’s goodness.

In last week’s homework, we learned that Lies=captivity and Truth=Freedom. A big area of unbelief surrounding generational sin can be a belief that God is not god, which is the biggest and most destructive lie of all. Maybe your parents divorced or you’ve lost a loved one and it led to hurt and anger toward God and you stopped believing God is good to you. Our captor will try to get us to keep believing the lies that God is not good even if God’s Word says otherwise. The best way to make it through our moments so we can hit those freedom milestones is with God’s Word. We have to tear down the lies with God’s Truth. But before we shed some Truth on the lie that “God is not good,” I want to address more specifically WHY you might believe that God isn’t good.

For the Israelites, they struggled with unbelief because they had spent years in oppression. Maybe for you, it’s because of something that’s happened to or around you: divorce, loss of a loved one, addiction in your family, an emotional or physical abandonment of a father or mother figure, financial hardship, etc. These are just a few of the generational issues that can contribute to the belief that God is not good. Or, maybe it’s because of things you see on the news or things that have happened to you personally that make it hard for you to believe in God’s goodness. Maybe you just haven’t seen God act in your life as quickly as you might like him to. Like the Israelites, maybe you feel like you’ve had to wait too long for an answer to prayer. All of these things can feed that lie that God isn’t good. Satan knows that if you believe that lie, he’s got you right where he wants you.

I want to take some time to address these doubts about God’s goodness more specifically as I think it’s one of the biggest obstacles to freedom.

People always ask… how could a good God allow these bad things to happen? I will tell you this… I don’t have all the answers and I WON’T have all the answers this side of eternity, but I do know of two reasons in particular why bad things happen:

#1: There is evil in this world. The second Eve took a bite of that fruit, she welcomed sin into the world. Because of Adam and Eve’s sin, her own son killed her other son. Talk about a generational curse! She couldn’t even try to blame it on her grandma or something… the buck stopped with her! There are consequences to sin and often times, people fall victim to the sins of others, generations later. But, that doesn’t mean God can’t bring purpose from the pain that sin causes, if we take it to Him.

What’s more, there may be injustice here on this earth for sins people have committed. The guilty sometimes go free and evil flourishes. But the justice that happens on this earth is justice in our narrow, earthly definition of justice. Proverbs 11:21 says, “Assuredly, the evil man will not go unpunished, but the descendants of the righteous will be delivered.” Hebrews 9:27 says, “people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.” Judgement on this earth doesn’t hold a candle to the eternal judgement that everyone will one day face. I don’t know about you, but an earthly judgement where someone goes to a prison and gets a comfortable bed, 3 meals a day, a free workout facility and a free college education doesn’t really compare to an eternity of burning in hell. We are living in this little dot in light of eternity and it can sometimes be hard to think in the context of eternity when we are just trying to make it through today. Often times, victims of sexual or physical abuse where their attackers go unpunished, struggle with the belief that God is good. Because of this struggle, those victims often stay stuck in captivity for a lifetime. Take heart in knowing that the evil will have to face judgement…maybe not on this earth, but undoubtedly when they stand before God in Heaven.

#2 God allows trials for our good. The second reason I know of why God sometimes allows hardships is when he uses them to bring ultimate good in our lives. Francis Chan, who I reference a lot because I like him as a preacher, has an amazing testimony. His mother died giving birth to him. Then, his father remarried. She became his new mom. Then she died in a car accident when he was 8. Then, when Chan was 12, his dad died of cancer. He became an orphan at the age of 12 and experienced more loss in those 12 years than many experience in a lifetime. If you hear him talk about it today, he’s actually thankful for what he went through because he says that it made him seek out a heavenly Father with a fervor that would not have existed had he not endured the loss of his earthly parents. You see, God is always more interested in our holiness than he is in our happiness. Holiness lasts, happiness fades.

Sometimes it takes us coming to the end of ourselves before we can really come to know and love God fully. I’m sure God would love us to come to him without some tragic event happening, but the fact is, we are stubborn. I mean, look at the Israelites. We are no different! Sometimes we refuse God’s will because our plans and our will are seemingly more important than his. Sometimes we refuse God because we become so comfortable with captivity that we actually prefer captivity to freedom.

Sometimes we can’t truly come to know God unless we undergo trials. The best example of this in scripture is found in Job. Satan asked God for permission to test Job and God gave it to him. As a result, Satan took Job’s entire family, all of his worldly possessions and Job became so sick that he wished and hoped for death. And yet, at the end of the book of Job, you see why God would have allowed such atrocities. In the very last two verses of the book of Job, Job says, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.”

I can tell you from personal experience that my eyes saw God most clearly when I was recovering from the loss of a baby, when we nearly lost our business, when my marriage was struggling. That is when I SAW Him, when I came to love and know him more deeply and fully, and when my faith grew roots that can’t be overturned. I will be honest, I didn’t like it when it was happening, but I can look back and, with my whole heart, truly say, “I consider it pure joy when I had to face trials of many kinds, because it was the testing of my faith that developed perseverance and perseverance had to finish its work so that I can now be more mature and complete, not lacking anything”(James 1:2-4). God doesn’t want us to lack anything. He doesn’t want us to miss out on his goodness and love and life and freedom but sometimes it takes trials to get us there.

We may not understand why things happen the way they do and in the timeline that they happen but we have to trust and believe God is good, if we want to be free. You also can’t believe God is good if you aren’t destroying Satan’s lies with Truth. I’d like to share a few things that God’s Word says about God’s goodness. David wrote the below passage about God. Keep in mind this was the same David who was rejected by his brothers, chased relentlessly by King Saul who was trying to kill him, endured the loss of his best friend, experienced terrible consequences as a result of his own sin (infidelity and murder), and dealt with his own sons murdering each other and one of his sons raping his own daughter. And yet, in spite of all that, in Psalm 145:8-9, 13-14 he says,
“The LORD is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.
The LORD is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made.
“The LORD is trustworthy in all he promises
and faithful in all he does. The LORD upholds all who fall
and lifts up all who are bowed down.”
The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and faithful in all he does.
The LORD is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cry and saves them.
The LORD watches over all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy."

David saw God as faithful, abounding in love, close to those who seek him, trustworthy. The Psalms and ALL of God’s Word is full of so many more expressions and characteristics of God’s love. David was able to see and cling to God in his trials much like Job did. Deep down, he knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that God was good and it carried him through his whole life and allowed him to live in freedom and peace even in the midst of trials.

If you are struggling with captivity as a result of generational sin or any sin for that matter or maybe you are forced to experience some of the consequences of someone else’s sins,
• Go to God’s Word and ask God to heal your area of unbelief that is surrounding your captivity. If you struggle with believing God is good, then Google verses on the character and nature of God and his goodness. Write them down and keep them with you so that you can go to them in your moments of doubt. Pray them over your life until you are free.
• If there are areas of idolatry, prayerlessness, pride, etc. that have plagued your family line, ask God to change your ‘want to,” so that you don’t desire to enjoy, hide, or live with any area of captivity. Then, surround whatever you are trying to break free from with God’s Truth and repentance. Then give God authority over every moment so that you can make it to your milestone of freedom!

I’d like to close with a story about my son Maverick. His Grandma, or his ‘Meemaw,’ as he calls her, gave him a Spider-man bracelet for his Birthday and from the minute he put it on, he refused to take it off. Before school one day, I put his coat on and on over his bracelet but on the way to school, he got hot and wanted to take his jacket off. He was able to get one arm out but the other sleeve got stuck on his Spider-Man bracelet. He got so frustrated and started flailing his jacket around like a cowboy with his lasso. I told him to just take off his bracelet so he could get his other sleeve off but he refused. In fact, in his little 4 year old voice, he even told me I was a “bad mommy” because I didn’t pull over to take it off. It was a full blown tantrum. All he had to do was remove his beloved bracelet and he would be free. Instead, he writhed around in frustration to the point of tears. It dawned on me in that moment that we do the same thing! We refuse to take our captivity and sins to the feet of Jesus so that we can find freedom. We cling to it like Maverick did his Spider-Man bracelet. We even get mad at God about it and try and blame our lack of freedom on him, when all we have to do is allow God to remove the shackles on our wrists. Jesus is waiting with your freedom on a silver platter… are you ready to take it?

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Stephanie Parker has three main loves: God, her husband, Brett and her kids!  When Stephanie created the Zipadee-Zip in an effort to solve her daughter, Charlotte's, sleep issues, she never imagined that it would become a business.  She is incredibly grateful to God for how Sleepingbaby.com has grown and how it has enabled other families to get the restful sleep they need.   Stephanie's husband, Brett Parker assumed the role of CEO which has allowed Stephanie to focus on what she loves which is the creative side of the company, like product and print development.  After the Zipadee-Zip was featured on Shark Tank, Stephanie went on to create the book Shepherd's Treasure, a Christian alternative to Elf on the Shelf. In her free time, Stephanie loves to spend time with her family and friends.  Her hobbies include acting, singing, painting, learning and speaking foreign languages and going on adventures with her family!  You will find her all summer waterskiing, fishing and laughing with her family on the weekends.