(A Spanish translation of this article is available at Heavenly Manna.)
Guilt, Fear, And A Crushed Spirit
Continuing our series on suffering, today we’ll look at how ignoring God can crush your spirit.
Proverbs 28:1 says,
The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, But the righteous are bold as a lion.
Why is that do you think? Why do the wicked flee when no one is pursuing?
The proverb is a reference to Leviticus chapter 26 where the Lord tells the Israelites what will happen when (when, not if) they don’t obey His commandments. He says: “…I will also bring weakness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies. And the sound of a driven leaf will chase them, and even when no one is pursuing they will flee as though from the sword, and they will fall. They will therefore stumble over each other as if running from the sword, although no one is pursuing…” (Leviticus 26:36-37)
What we see here is what happens when you live in a way God doesn’t want you to live. When you’re living in a way your Father in heaven doesn’t want you to, something happens inside you, something happens in your spirit. And your spirit can be crushed, because not only do you feel guilty about what you know you’re doing wrong, but you react to criticisms that point to wrong, even when it doesn’t apply to you. You generalize your guilt. That’s one of the things sin does to people.
When we do something we know is outside of God’s will, it chases us. Like Dickens’s Scrooge, or Shakespeare’s Macbeth the knowledge of our own sin can produce ghosts or shadows that haunt us, and we flee, even when no one is pursuing.
What Happened When Israel Ignored God
In Isaiah chapter 30 God tells the Israelites, “One thousand shall flee at the rebuke of one…” (Isaiah 30:17) And He gives the reason for it in verse 1 of the same chapter. In verse 1 He says, “Woe to the rebellious children who take counsel, but not of Me, and who devise plans, but not of My Spirit…”
You see, the nation of Israel was in a jam. The Assyrians were about to invade and these Assyrians, they had a terrifying reputation. So the leaders of Israel schemed, and plotted, and planned. And they came up with their own solution, they formed an alliance with Egypt. But they did it all apart from God. They didn’t include Him in the process. The whole problem with the hearts, minds, and souls of the Israelites, the reason they were wracked by guilt and fear, the reason one thousand fled at the rebuke of one, was because they didn’t seek God’s counsel. They ignored the One waiting to connect with them: their God.
What Happens When You Ignore God
And that’s how it is for you and for me. When the Assyrians in my life come against me, I want to know what to do and I want to know right now. I want to Google it. Or I want to pick up the phone and call someone experienced in warfare against the Assyrians. Or I want to do a SWOT analysis. And while there’s nothing wrong with using our brains to seek information, we’ll have problems if we don’t include God.
When we seek God’s counsel, in His word, in His house, and in prayer with Him, and then do what He says to do, we can live life with enthusiasm and exuberance. We can live life as bold as a lion. When we don’t seek His counsel, when we ignore Him and plot our own path, our spirit isn’t right. We’re influenced by guilt and fear. Even if we don’t express it on the surface, even if it’s at the unconscious level, deep in our hearts, we’re not whole, we’re not right in our spirit.
So read His scriptures. And go to His house and listen to Him there. And bring your problems, your Assyrians, to Him in prayer.
Then do what He says to do, so you can live life bold as a lion.
Even Better Than Seeking His Counsel
As great as seeking God’s counsel is, and as great as doing what He says to do is, God has something even better. And it’s necessary because no matter how hard you or I try, we’ll never follow Him perfectly. This better thing that God has for you and for me is His Son.
The moral failure that every one of us will experience (and if you don’t believe we all sin, just have a look at what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount) has been anticipated by our Father in heaven. The guilt and the fear we feel inside of us can be washed away by the blood of His Son. God says to you and to me, every sin we ever committed and every sin we’ll ever commit has already been paid for by God Himself in the form of His Son Jesus Christ.
God knows. He knows about what you did. And He knows about your guilt and fear, and the way your spirit pains because of it. And He doesn’t want you to live with your spirit in pain like that. He wants you to be free. So He gave up His Son to the Romans, more than 2,000 years ago. They scourged him, and beat him, and nailed him to the cross. They killed him. He was God’s sacrifice, for you, for every sin you’ve committed and every sin you’ll commit.
So accept His sacrifice. Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior. And be freed from the weight of your sin.
That’s what God wants for you.
God’s Provision For Forgiveness
To accept God’s sacrifice for your sins, simply say this prayer,
God I know I’m a sinner. I believe the death and resurrection of Your Son Jesus Christ provides for my forgiveness. Please let Jesus come into my life and into my heart, to be my only Lord and my Savior. Thank you for forgiving me, and for saving me. Amen.
The words aren’t magical, what’s important is you opened your heart to invite Jesus into your life. And that’s the beginning.
If you want to talk to someone about what you just prayed, or if you have questions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
References and Resources:
- Tim Keller has an excellent teaching on what the Bible says about the causes of a crushed spirit. You can listen to it here: The Wounded Spirit (HT to my friend Ryan Sample, pastor of Lakeside Family Church, for recommending this teaching.)
- Skip Heitzig, Christians in the Crucible of Pain, Connection Communications, 2012
- Jim Davis, Why Me? (And Why That’s the Wrong Question), Leafwood, 2014
- Steve Mays, Overwhelmed by God, Regal Books, 2014
- Jon Courson’s Application Commentary Volume 2, Nelson 2006
- Image via Stefano Corso – Creative Commons
Coming in January of 2020:
Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus)
Love Like Jesus begins with the story of how after a life of regular church attendance and Bible study, Bennett was challenged by a pastor to study Jesus. That led to an obsessive seven year deep dive. After pouring over Jesus’ every interaction with another human being, he realized he was doing a much better job of studying Jesus’ words than he was following Jesus’ words and example. The honest and fearless revelations of Bennett’s own moral failures affirm he wrote this book for himself as much as for others.
Love Like Jesus examines a variety of stories, examples, and research, including:
- Specific examples of how Jesus communicated God’s love to others.
- How Jesus demonstrated all five of Gary Chapman’s love languages (and how you can too).
- The story of how Billy Graham extended Christ’s extraordinary love and grace toward a man who misrepresented Jesus to millions.
- How to respond to critics the way Jesus did.
- How to love unlovable people the way Jesus did.
- How to survive a life of loving like Jesus (or how not to become a Christian doormat).
- How Jesus didn’t love everyone the same (and why you shouldn’t either).
- How Jesus guarded his heart by taking care of himself–he even napped–and why you should do the same.
- How Jesus loved his betrayer Judas, even to the very end.
With genuine unfiltered honesty, Love Like Jesus, shows you how to live a life according to God’s definition of success: A life of loving God well, and loving the people around you well too.
A life of loving like Jesus.
(Kindle, hardcover, and paperback are scheduled to come out in 2020.)