As the psalmist declares, God gives us freedom to run in His paths promising to “enlarge my heart” and to walk in freedom “in a wide place”
We all feel anxiety at some time or other. The word anxiety comes from the Latin word anxietas, which itself comes from the ancient Greek root word anxo, which means to squeeze, strangle or press tight. The anxious person has difficulty breathing as his airways are choked or narrowed. Relief comes when he can breathe easily again, when the source of his anxiety is reduced or disappears.
The Bible often addresses anxious persons in a kind and understanding way. The apostle Paul urged his readers not to be anxious about anything but to bring everything to God in prayer. Then the unique peace of God will flood their hearts and minds (Philippians 4:6-7). Likewise, the apostle Peter asks us to cast all our anxieties upon the Lord because He cares for us (1 Pet 5:7). The Lord Jesus tells us not to be anxious about anything because the Heavenly Father knows our needs and will supply them (Matt 6:25-34).
God’s answer to our anxieties is often to bring us to a broad place where we are relieved from our constricting and paralysing anxieties. The idea of a broad place appears many times in Scripture. For example, David, when running away from his pursuing enemies, must have often felt like a hunted animal, hiding away in caves and other uncomfortably tight places. In one of his songs of praise to God, he recalled how the Lord answered his prayer and helped him. “He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me” (2 Sam 22:20, Psa 18:19, ESV). In another psalm, David told God, “you have set my feet in a broad place” (Psa 31:8, ESV).
To a suffering person, a broad place is welcome relief, and more. Elihu tried to comfort Job who was suffering greatly, saying: “He also allured you out of distress into a broad place where there was no cramping, and what was set on your table was full of fatness.” (Job 36:16, ESV). Elihu may have misdiagnosed Job’s condition, but he was right in noting that there is immense relief when one is moved from the cramped reality of anxiety to the freeing experience of a broad and spacious place. He was spot-on in saying that God delivers people from their suffering and speaks to them in their affliction (Job 36:15).
When God freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and brought them to the Promised Land, He described it as a “spacious land…that lacks nothing whatever” (Judges 18:10). It is a land that “drinks rain from heaven” and which “the Lord your God cares for” (Deut 11:11-12). A broad place is a gift from God, a place where His blessings overflow.
In the Jubilee year (Leviticus 25), impoverished people who had sold their lands would return to their ancestral lands so that God’s gifts to the Israelite tribes would remain as originally allotted. No one and no family should be deprived of the means of sustenance. Also, indentured labourers (who were probably in that situation because having sold their lands they were still suffering from poverty) were freed. For these unfortunate people, the Jubilee year offered God’s broad places. It was a time of liberation and jubilation.
God’s broad places are not just to be understood in material terms. Abraham is noted in Scripture as one who arrived at the Promised Land but continued in an inner pilgrimage to the heavenly city, solely planned and built by God (Heb 11:10). It is the broadest of God’s places. And the Lord Jesus assures us that He has gone to the Father’s House to prepare a place for each of us (John 14:2). We can be sure it would be a broad place, spacious and free, full of divine blessings.
As the psalmist declares, God gives us freedom to run in His paths promising to “enlarge my heart” and to walk in freedom “in a wide place” (Psa 119:32, 45, ESV). Thanks to “His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4), we as God’s children are designed and destined to thrive in broad places, both on earth and in heaven.
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Bishop Emeritus Dr Robert Solomon was Bishop of The Methodist Church in Singapore from 2000 to 2012. Currently retired, he now keeps busy with an active itinerant ministry speaking and teaching in Singapore and overseas.