If you’ve been a Christian long enough you’ve heard about “fighting the good fight” and “the spiritual battle” and “the weapons of our warfare” – just a few cliche phrases that are popular among us Christian Wemmicks. The fact is, the Bible does use a lot of warfare imagery to describe the Christian life, probably because we are part of the greatest story plot of all time. And of course, story plots always include a character with a problem or enemy to fight—and ultimately get the victory over.
The best stories end that way. And this is the Best Story.
When I think of enemies, I think of lots of stuff. Sin. Pride. The-Devil-Who-Made-Me-Do-It. The neighbor’s dog. But as I really look back at my life and think about what has tripped me up and held me down the most, two things come to mind immediately. They are twins. You often see them hand in hand. These two things have potential to do so much damage. They can utterly destroy a life. They can wipe you out and keep you out of the game all together if you are not on the alert for them. Who are they?
FEAR & SHAME
Let’s talk about fear first.
Fear: an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.
Because of fear we don’t move forward. We may know we should. We may have orders to do so. But we don’t because we are afraid. We are afraid of:
- Getting hurt
- Losing money
- Losing reputation
- Losing our rights
- Losing affection
- Losing dreams
- Being taken advantage of
- Being mocked and ridiculed
- Being uncomfortable
- Being rejected
- Missing out
- Feeling sad
- Feeling lonely
- Feeling stupid
- Feeling bored
- Having little
And we let these fears rule the decisions we make. Here are some of my more specific fears:
- Fear that my children will reject Christ
- Fear that my children will get sick or have an accident and die
- Fear that my children will marry the wrong person and be unhappy
- Fear of being rejected
- Fear of failure
- Fear of being misunderstood or misrepresented
- Fear of losing
- Fear of poverty
All these things (and more) have, at times, affected the decisions I’ve made and the attitudes I’ve held. Important decisions and attitudes that should be carried out from a wise, Godward perspective rather than from a place of fear.
What about shame?
Shame: a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.
Raise your hand if you experienced shame as a child. It may have come in the following packages:
- Sexual abuse
- Verbal abuse
- Physical abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Being mocked by schoolmates
- Being humiliated by someone in authority
When we have sinned against God we feel guilty, and rightly so. That guilt is designed to bring us to repentance and a turning away from our wrong-doing. Shame comes into play when we are trapped. There is no repentance or forgiveness available. There is no restoration or hope. Shame holds us under the water where we eventually drown.
I grew up in a wonderful family. But my experiences at school were not so wonderful. From 4th to 8th grade I was verbally and incessantly mocked by both boys and girls alike. Sometimes I was physically affected (kids threw things at me and sometimes crushed me against the walls of the bus as we rode to school. The bus driver did nothing to help me.)
I was riddled with shame. I had done nothing wrong, but I felt embarrassed, unworthy, ugly, and stupid. I could relate to the Ugly Duckling.
When the woman caught in adultery was dragged before Jesus (John 7) she was guilty of the sin of adultery. But she was shamed by those who caught her and made a public demonstration of her sin. They gloated over her. They compared themselves to her and made the judgement call that they were rock stars worthy of throwing rocks at dogs. They sneered with uplifted nostrils that she was a mangy dog. Worthless scum of the earth. And then they used her to drag Jesus into their trap.
When we are trapped by our own sin or by the sin of others, we are held by the chains of Fear and Shame.
Nothing traps God. Nothing holds Him down or stumps Him. Nothing surprises Him. “Gee, I never thought about that.” The King of all the Kings is unfettered and rules absolutely. He is free, and He sets Wemmicks free.
Do you know that we don’t even have to fight a battle against fear and shame? Look at what it says in 2 Chronicles 20:17:
“You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.”
All we need to do is believe. Trust. Hope. Rest. Accept.
STAND FIRM AND HOLD YOUR POSITION!
What is that position? It’s in Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 5:17). We are hidden with Him (Col. 3:3). We are in the shadow of His wings where we can sing for joy (Psalm 63:7)!
What did that woman caught in adultery DO? Did she fight for her rights? Did she rise up in rebellion, shaking her fist at her accusers? No. All she did was place herself at the mercy of Jesus and receive forgiveness with open hands. She humbled herself and believed.
She stood. In the light of God shining down on her, in the storm of her life, she stood. And the chains of fear and shame fell off. Her heart was healed, her soul set free to soar up and above the circumstance of her life. Wemmicks had no grip on her anymore. No longer afraid, she was forever safe. No longer ashamed, she was forever loved.
And so are you.