In yesterday’s post I wrote a letter to shame. And the responses reflect my own experience – a mixture of “praise God, He has nailed my shame to the Cross” and “Yes, but why don’t I feel it?”
I don’t think the two are incompatible; in fact, I think this wobbling, trusting, yearning, frightened hope is often the shape of the Christian life.
For one thing, what’s the prayer of all Christians? “I believe Lord, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).
Jesus knows us and He knows that we are weak and despairing and doubting and easily shaken. It’s one reason why He reminds us to ask for daily bread – grace, not for the week ahead, but for today, and sometimes, just to stand. Does that make us somehow “weird?” Is it the testimony of a second-rate believer…or the heartbeat of every sinner?
“A bruised reed He will not break, And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice,” (Isaiah 42:3).
Who among us is not bruised and burned out? Surely, that’s the point. No-one is: but by grace, some of us see it. We tend to think the opposite, don’t we? I wish I were fearless, like X. I wish I didn’t feel so needy and so dependent. However, if we’re strong in ourselves, then we don’t need a Saviour. Jesus becomes an optional extra – like new curtains when the old ones are just fine.
But so often, our weakness is what brings us to our knees. It’s in the darkness that we cry out. And it’s in the darkness that Christ often works most powerfully.
Look, I know it’s easy to say this. I know it’s easy to write. I don’t know what you’re going through and I can’t pretend to either. But He does. And these are His promises.
I will give power to the weak, and strength to the powerless (Is 40:29-31)
I will supply all that you need from my glorious riches (Phil 4:19)
Nothing will separate you from my love (Rom 8:37-9)
I will give you rest (Matt 11:28-9)
If you say with your mouth that I am Lord and believe I rose from the dead, you will be saved (Rom 10:9).
These are not just for Emma Scrivener when she feels it. They’re for Emma Scrivener when she doesn’t. They were true when I was fighting an eating disorder, panic attacks and OCD. They were true when I had my hands down my throat; and true when I was killing myself. They were true when I was giving my testimony in a crowded hall; and true the night before, when I swore I couldn’t do it. They were true when our IVF failed (again) and true when I found out I was pregnant. Wherever we’re at – on the peaks or in the troughs, they are true for us. But we need to remind ourselves of these truths. And when the lies come, we need to fight.
This is why I write a letter to my shame. This is why I say: “You’re not welcome here any more. You can scream and shout from outside the house, but you no longer live here.”
It’s not that I always feel it. Much of the time I don’t. So if you’re thinking “I don’t feel how Emma does,” remember, “Emma doesn’t feel it either.” Our feelings need to catch up with the truth. And because they haven’t yet done so, that’s why I write.
I believe that what Jesus says is true. And when I don’t believe it, He believes it for me. But this is the wonder of Christianity: He does it all.