For the past few days, I have been sensing a feeling of uneasiness…like a bit of distance from the Lord that I didn’t understand. I was reminded of His word that says, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.” (Isaiah 59:1&2) As that came to mind, I continued to ask the Lord what it was that was making me feel like we were separated, and why He felt far away. (Be reminded, if the Lord feels far away, it’s normally you who moved.)
At first I didn’t get a sense of what the matter was, so I went on about my business. Then last night as I lay in bed, a memory came to mind from about five years ago. An incident that I won’t go into detail about happened, which left me feeling cheated, angry, frustrated, guilty and even ashamed. Mind you, this was no major incident — really not a huge deal — so it was strange to me to be reminded of it all these years later, and to think hmmm….what is it about this that is so unsettling to me, and why am I struggling to put it away?
I was suddenly reminded of a statement a friend of mine who is staying with us at the moment made — “The two ways we usually deal with sin are blame and shame.” This might be a rather rough paraphrase, but it was enough to get me thinking about the incident I’d been mulling over from the Lord’s perspective, and to realize there was a depth and breadth of issues within it that I needed to deal with. First, I blamed myself because the incident put a dear friend of mine in a situation that was uncomfortable for her. The Lord showed me the truth: this was not my fault, the free will of other people placed her in that situation — people choosing not to follow the Lord. I also discovered that because of that, and everything else that happened, I felt ashamed. Ashamed that I’d put my friend in that situation, ashamed because I felt like I’d compromised, and ashamed that I hadn’t listened to my gut instinct that “something was fishy”. I repented for not listening to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and God reminded me of His goodness.
I also needed to extend forgiveness to the person I trusted who hurt me and put both of us in that situation. I needed to acknowledge that I’d been trying to cover myself because I was ashamed of what happened. I needed to turn to the Lord and ask His forgiveness for covering myself and hiding instead of committing all this to Him.
Back in the garden, Adam and Eve were ashamed of their sin and began to cover themselves and hide from the Lord, and we often do the same thing today. Sometimes we do it because we don’t want to be seen in our sin. When I was a kid, if I had disobeyed my parents, I ran and hid. This was because I didn’t want the spanking that was due to me as a punishment for my misbehaviour. They often had a difficult time finding me, and as a result, I didn’t get as many spankings as I deserved!Â Often I think today I’m still hiding and hoping I won’t be found, instead of dealing with something because I don’t want punishment. If I had been honest about what I’d done, I might have even been forgiven, and received a lesser punishment!
The good news of the Gospel, however, is that Jesus took the punishment for our sin (the eternal separation from God we deserve) on the cross. The chastisement for our peace was upon Him. We need to learn to forgive those around us, knowing that the forgiveness we receive has a direct correlation to the forgiveness we extend. We need to learn to stop hiding from God because we’re ashamed of our sin. The great and glorious Good News is that we can turn to God, and He will deliver us, and remove our shame.
David prayed, “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears. They looked to Him and were radiant, And their faces were not ashamed.” (Psalm 34:4&5) God is willing and waiting to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. God promises this over and over again! David prayed, “I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.” (Psalm 32:5) And again He promises: “…Then you will know that I am the Lord, For they shall not be ashamed who wait for Me.” (Isaiah 49:23)
God is so good! He was waiting all along to help me deal with this past hurt, and I finally brought it to Him so He could show me the truth, and His desire for me to walk free from shame, blame, and condemnation. He can convict us, cover us, and cleanse us instead! May we all learn to turn to the Lord quickly, to be honest about our mistakes, and to let Him remind us how much He loves us, and how, even when we’re behind the bushes somewhere sewing fig leaves, He still wants a relationship with us, and He wants to make us whole.
The sermon in a nutshell: Don’t hide from the very Being who can set you free from the the shame, the guilt and the condemnation of your past! Â He wants to walk with YOU, and to make you whole!