In Part 1 of this post, we discussed how a wrong view of God and blaming our biology or environment for our sin are two reasons for why there is a disconnect between what we know and what we feel. Today, we’re addressing two more reasons for this inordinacy.
We do not grasp God’s grace and forgiveness.
I know Jesus died on the cross for my sins. I know in my head that He forgives me when I come to Him. I believe that 1 John 1:9 is true. But if I have a hard time forgiving myself, then I do not truly grasp God’s grace and forgiveness. If I continue to feel guilt or shame when I have already confessed my sin to God and sought His forgiveness, then I do not grasp this aspect of the gospel.
A few years ago, I met with a college girl who experienced an immense amount of guilt and shame because of sexual sin in her life. When I asked her about how she saw herself, here’s how she responded: “unclean, sexually immoral, and worthless.”
We associate our value and worth with our identity, so when your identity (how you see yourself) is shaken by shame, then your perception of your value and worth reflects that. For this girl, her guilt and shame fostered her insecurity, and because she wallowed in her guilt, she became angry - at herself, her parents, men, and God. To self-medicate, she engaged in more sexual sin, which only increased her guilt and shame. It was a merry-go-round that she couldn’t seem to get off.
Following Christ is about receiving the identity that He has given to me. I may not feel clean or righteous, but if I am a Christian, then God looks at me and sees the righteousness of His Son. This is what it means to be justified. My sin was credited to Jesus, and His righteous has been credited to me (Col. 1:22). As C.S. Lewis states, “For the Church has not beauty but what the Bride-groom gives her; he does not find, but makes her, lovely.”
Do you live like you’re saved by grace through faith in Christ, or do you live like you have to keep God happy with your obedience? Do you try to prove your worthiness to God instead of enjoying that He has made you worthy through Christ? Do you receive the identity that God has given to you, or are you trying to achieve it?
If we start letting what we’ve done be our identity instead of accepting the identity that Christ has given to us, then we will sink into a cycle of anger, abuse, and lust that only increases the guilt and shame we feel.
I love the hymn “Before the Throne of God Above,” especially the verse that says:
When Satan tempts me to despair, And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look, and see Him there Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died, My sinful soul is counted free;
For God the just is satisfied To look on Him and pardon me.
This is how we fight against condemnation and guilt, we speak truth to ourselves. We look to Christ, the One Who has made an end of our sin. As Colossians 2:13-14 states, “And you who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”
Don’t carry around the guilt Christ came to set you free from.
We have not dealt with our own past and woundedness.
In addition to not truly grasping the gospel, we also experience a disconnect between our faith and feelings because we have not addressed the pain of our past.
I’m not medical at all. In fact, I get queasy just hearing about blood and guts and have to close my eyes or walk away if anything of the sort happens when I’m watching TV. But I do know that some wounds have to be dug into in order to remove the infected gunk and for the wound to heal properly. And sometimes this process has to occur several times.
Gross, I know, but the same goes for our own woundedness. We have to be willing to face the hurt and pain, dig into it - which is not comfortable or easy - if we are going to gain healing and freedom from it.
Doing this often requires help from a counselor, pastor, small group leader, friend - or all of the above. We need a support system of healthy relationships with fellow believers to walk alongside us as we face the ugliness of ourselves and of our past.
If you are not addressing the pain of your past, then there will be a disconnect between what you read in the Bible and how you live. The Holy Spirit wants to transform every area of your life, but if you’re not allowing Him to heal your past, then you’re trying to live a compartmentalized life, which doesn’t work so well.
Wounds need to heal, and if they don’t heal, they become infected and spread. If you do not allow God to heal your wounds, then you will become a person who inflicts them. You will sin against God and others. As Richard Rohr states, “Pain that is not transformed becomes pain that is transmitted.”
But good news - Christ offers freedom and healing. He can restore you and sustain you. He can make you whole. And He can take all of the bad in your life and turn it into good (Rom. 8:28). The question is, will you let Him?
“God’s desire is for you to know where your injuries and deficits are, whether self-induced or other-induced. Ask him to shed light on the significant relationships and forces that have contributed to your…struggles. The past is your ally in repairing your present and ensuring a better future.” –Cloud & Townsend, Boundaries