PHRYGIA WAS AN ANCIENT kingdom in what is now central Turkey. According to legend, once upon a time Phrygia was without a king. One day, a pagan oracle declared that the next man to drive an ox-cart into Phrygia’s capital city, Telmissus, would be the new king. That man was a farmer named Gordias.
Gordias’s son, Midas (who later became the king with the golden touch), decided to honor his newly exalted father by dedicating the ox-cart to the Phrygian god, Sabazios, and he tied it to a pole using a knot so complex that it was considered impossible to untie — the Gordian Knot. Another oracle pronounced that the one who would solve the riddle of the knot would rule Asia.
Centuries went by and the ox-cart remained securely tied to the pole. Then Alexander the Great came, conquered, and happened upon the knot. Being the decisive warrior-leader he was, he dispensed with the inscrutable knot by slicing through it with his sword. And he went on to conquer Asia.
The Gordian Knot has become a parabolic symbol of intractable complex problems and Alexander’s sword (c. 333 BC) has been a parabolic symbol for decisive, out-of-the box leadership solutions.
Our Gordian KnotsIn the kingdom of our souls, we each have our Gordian Knots, don’t we? Some of them are impenetrable intellectual quandaries over God’s sovereignty and human responsibility, the nature of suffering, the origin of evil, God’s eternality, the Trinity, and so on. We press on these and discover our limits and hopefully learn to exult with Paul in saying,
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! (Romans 11:33)The more painful knots are the complex spiritual, emotional, and psychological entanglements of indwelling sin or the temperamental weakness, disability, circumstantial adversity, and traumatic past experiences. Combined together, these often shape how we think and what we do in ways that confound us.
We try to untangle them. We try to figure them out. But the more we work at them, the more complex we find the knots to be. Counseling and certain kinds of therapies can certainly help us the same way teachers, discussions, and books can help with intellectual struggles.
Counseling will only help us to a point. Therapy doesn’t possess the power to cure us. We discover our limits. And we cry out with Paul,
“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24). Who can untie these sin-permeated, hopelessly intertwined knots of pain?None of us can. The most gifted human pastor, counselor, or psychological expert is unable to fully untie the knots that entangle us. Nor can any of us make a sword ourselves that will cut through them.
Our Conqueror Has the SwordThe answer to our cry is the same answer Paul declares in the next verse:
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:25)There is one who can solve the riddle of our Gordian Knots. He is the conqueror. “He is called . . . The Word of God” and “from his mouth comes a sharp sword” (Revelation 19:13, 15). And with that sword, all that is sinful in us and all that is part of the futility of this age (Romans 8:20) will be cut away.
On Cavalry, Jesus the Great dealt the decisive blow upon every sinful knot of every saint who would ever belong to him. In this age, every promise of God is yes in Christ and has power to cut through our knots with truths and set us free, if we will believe them (2 Corinthians 1:20, John 8:32). And in the age to come, every Eden-induced Gordian Knot will have been destroyed.
Loose the Sword on Your KnotsSome knots you will never be able to untie on your own. But there is one who can undo them. Jesus, the Creator of our bodies and psyche, the Maker of our souls, the One who really knows how we’re wired and what we need, essentially counsels one primary thing for our troubled hearts: “Believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1). Jesus wants us to look to him, listen to him, and trust in him.
The key to dealing with our Gordian Knots is not ultimately introspection and analysis. Effective counseling and therapies will aim to help us see more clearly what lies are interfering with our believing in Jesus so we can counter them. But the key to freedom, the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17) that will cut through the knots of lies, is believing Jesus’s words (John 8:32, John 15:7).
The words of Christ are living and active and the sharpest sword (Hebrews 4:12) and in him every promise of God is yes for us. He alone will set us free (John 8:32).