You will live in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day, never sure of your life (Deuteronomy 28:66; NIV).
Introduction: Today’s blog is both personal and heartfelt. It summarises what I’m learning about a painful issue which has plagued me for the last 70 years. I refer here to my dread of being rejected and unloved, whether by a person or by God, as a result of my having done something wrong.
This fear started when I was very small. My mother never forgave me for anything I did which she considered to be wrong. Years later she would bring up issues from the past, still blaming me for whatever I had done that had offended her. With hand on heart, I can say that I never did anything on purpose to hurt her. I was far too afraid of her to even think of taking such a risk. In fact, I lived in mortal dread of her no longer loving me, and of her completely rejecting me.
Sadly, in parallel with this, I was taught at our local Catholic church that a recording angel noted down every sin I committed. No sin was ever forgiven, removed, or forgotten. They all went into the angel’s book, ready be held against me on judgement day.
It was clear to me that there was no escape from judgement, condemnation and rejection, either at home, beyond childhood, or after death. Perhaps it’s not surprising that I have struggled with low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, phobias and dread throughout my life.
Of course, I’ve known about God’s forgiveness for a long time, but have never been able to believe it included me. Nor have I been able to “feel” forgiven, and start afresh. Rather, forgiveness has always seemed to be just for other people, as I never deserved it.
Without any hope of forgiveness, my fear of condemnation, withdrawal of love and rejection together create a sense of dread, which is triggered whenever I offend someone. Once triggered, it becomes chronic. This is the heaviest burden I have carried throughout my life, and has always been impossible to put down. It is probably the underlying cause of all my other issues.
So, here is a summary of what I’ve learned so far in my search for a way out of dread, which is essentially a search for inner peace. Each of the five points is supported by Biblical verses I find particularly helpful.
Honesty: Inner peace comes from being honest about my sins, saying sorry to the person concerned, and being reconciled to them, if at all possible. When the relevant person is not contactable, or if they are dead, I whisper to them, addressing them by name, and apologising to them, with God as my witness.
If you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God (Matthew 5:23-4; NLT).
The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God (Psalm 51:17; NLT).
References: Trust in God, and trust also in me (John 14:1; NLT).
He forgives all my sins (Psalm 103:3; NLT).
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29; NLT).
I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins (Hebrews 8:12; NLT).
No one is abandoned by the Lord forever (Lamentations 3:31; NLT).
The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18; NIV).
Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me (Psalm 23:4; NLT).
Conscience: Inner peace comes from facing and dealing with my sins in the ways described above, constantly aware of my behaviour, and working hard to restore my relationships, in order to maintain a clear conscience.
References: I always try to maintain a clear conscience before God and all people (Acts 24:16; NLT).
Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water (Hebrews 10:22; NIV).
Confidence: Inner peace comes from being confident that God loves me just as I am, and forever.
References: Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God (1 John 5:14; NLT).
My heart is confident in you, O God; my heart is confident (Psalm 57:7; NLT).
He loves us with unfailing love; the LORD‘s faithfulness endures forever (Psalm 117:2; NLT).
Peace: Inner peace comes from knowing that God will never stop loving me, or reject me, so I cling to my faith in Christ.
References: The Lord is peace (Judges 6:24; NLT).
God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved. No one who believes in him will be condemned (John 3:17-18; JB).
I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid (John 14:27; NLT).
Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear (1 Timothy 1:19; NLT).
Conclusion: I don’t think I have reached the end of this journey of exploration and discovery yet, as I’m still learning a little more day by day about how to move from dread to inner peace of mind and heart. Until I reach that goal, the dread continues, so I must do my best to say “Yes” to it, and to thank God for it.
References: “Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine” (Mark 14:36; NLT).
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:18; NIV).
He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people (Titus 2:14; NLT).
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