2020 will go down as the year that everyone wants to forget, but will probably be the one we are most likely to remember.
A recent survey conducted by Lifeway Research asked Americans what is the one feeling they most want to avoid this year.
Not surprising, the big winner was fear, with 41% stating that this was the number one emotion they most wanted to get rid of. It suggests that for many Americans, fear is lurking in the background as people go about their everyday lives.
But it’s not surprising that fear topped the list. Americans have faced a two pronged attack in 2020, with governments, the mainstream media and health officials driving a fear pandemic about COVID, and this combined with social unrest as protests and riots spread, have made an emotional impact.
The second emotion that people wanted to get rid of was ‘shame,’ which at 24% came in a far second, followed by guilt at 22%.
It was a complete turn around from 2016, when a similar survey by Lifeway revealed the first emotion people wanted to avoid was shame (38%), followed by guilt (31%) and fear, that came in third at 30%.
Thought this seems like a complete reversal from 2021, it really isn’t, as these emotions of fear, shame and guilt are often intricately intertwined.
In Proverbs 28:1, we read how the wicked flee when no one is pursuing them. It is their guilt and shame over what they had done in that past that puts them in a constant state of fear.
They have a continual dread and expectation of being caught or exposed, that in turn makes them vulnerable to enemies that don’t even exist. In essence, these people are fleeing shadows made up of fear and shame.
Shame is the result of our secret sins that we are terrified will be exposed. We are concerned what people will think of us, if they ever found out what we really did.
King David struggled with such a shame.
Israel’s greatest king committed adultery with a married woman, Bathsheba, impregnated her, and then went to great lengths to cover up his sin.
First, he arranged to have Bathsheba’s soldier husband, Uriah, brought home from a battle, hoping they would have relations, so Uriah and others would naturally think he was the father of the child.
When out of respect for his comrades who were still in battle, Uriah refused, David ordered a mafia type hit so that he would be killed in battle.
Why did David do that?
Because at this point, only Uriah and Bathsheba (who obviously told David) knew that the two never had sex when Uriah was at home.
Everyone else would have just presumed they did.
So, if Uriah returned home at the end of the war and found his wife pregnant, he would immediately know there was adultery afoot.
Uriah’s death was simply David’s second attempt to cover up his sin, by silencing the one person who would know what really happened.
We can’t hide our sins from God. He knows everything we have done, but shame surfaces as we try to hide our sins from others.
After the prophet Nathan exposed David’s sin, Israel’s favourite King was finally able to come clean on his secret sin and break the control that shame had on him. He wrote Psalms about his sin that were sung at the Tabernacle of David.
God understands our struggles with sin, and Jesus’ death on the cross was intended not only to bring forgiveness, but also to deal with the shame:
2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2 NIV)
As Jesus faced down the shame, so must we, by faith, fully embrace our forgiveness, and scorn, despise and reject the shame in the same way Jesus did.
But if you continue to struggle, maybe you need to break its hold on you by sharing it with others.
I am not suggesting that you should write songs about your sins and sing them in front of the congregation, but sometimes confessing our sins to others in a smaller setting can bring healing:
16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:16 NIV)