Guilt. Shame. Pain. While we undergo these emotions from time to time, some undergo them more consistently. This endless cycle is stifling. Sometimes these are the result of deep sin in our lives. Guilt, shame, and pain can be gifts of God to bring us back to our theological senses. But usually they are the result of a poorly thought view of God.
In the Fundamentalist traditions guilt serves as an antidote to a life of poor discipline. If you didn’t read your Bible, here is a good dose of guilt to get you back on track. Sons and daughters will receive a healthy dose of guilt theology in their first 18 years. The intentions, though noble, are usually disastrous. Pastors and parents instill a vision of perfection; a vision that is unattainable. Children grow up then with a profound sense of worthlessness. Pietism becomes a form of life. Pleasing God becomes wishful thinking.
The other element is shame. We feel ashamed often. Like Adam, we try to hide. We hide knowing fully well that God knows our ways and even the hairs on our head. But still we hide. It is the common reaction of those who have done wrong; and of those who think they have done wrong. Adam sinned and he knew it. But sometimes we do not sin and do not know that we have not sinned. Do you see that point in the list of negations? Sometimes we do not sin, but our view of God causes us to think we have. This leads to shame. Sometimes there is genuine shame. We ought to feel shame for our wrong-doing. We should not boast in them. But I am referring to the false shame many of us are prone to feeling. We flee from God. We act naked when we are fully clothed. We bombard ourselves with false accusations. But in reality we are being self-deceived.
Finally, we feel pain. Helpless pain; a kind of mental dark room. The pain is real, but the reason behind the pain is not. I remember a friend who faced tremendous stomach pain before bed because he feared that God would harm him for something he did long ago.
All of this comes from a genuine desire to please God. But in the process we have formed an image of God that is not scriptural. Further, a view of God that can literally cause pain.
The Christian life is replete with difficulties. The Christian is already the center of abuse for what he says and believes. His life is a direct contradiction to most of the philosophies of this age. Yet, we build on that difficulty with unreasonable expectations. We run around wearing ourselves. We fail to see the shalom of God. We have no rest. We view God our Father as God our tyrant. DeGroat observes that “God’s faithful commitment to bringing about peace in our hearts opens up the possibility for us to relax into the arms of the faithful, attentive, emotionally available Father.” a
How do we please God? We begin to please Him by knowing who He is. Far from a God that dances around your grave, He is a God who dances with you. He does not seek your death. He is your life. Our cares matter to Him. We cast them in full assurance that He sees them and will answer them well.
We can please God with our lives. Our minds can be renewed. We can become God’s pleasing sacrifice (Rm. 12). We are to be daily models of repentance, as Luther once stated, but then there is also freedom through the Son of God. In Him, our guilt and shame was placed. We are united to Him in our pain because He has already endured pain for us.
- Chuck DeGroat, Leavign Egypt, 116 (back)