Practically every day, we experience triggering moments in which we encounter something that wants to make us feel scared, angry, or powerless—a news article, a social media post, a situation with a family member, or something else.
In each of these critical moments, we have the option of making one of the most powerful choices we can make as believers.
We can—and must—repent.
You may have heard repentance defined as changing the way you think. This is true, but more specifically, repentance is turning from alignment with fear and aligning with love.
Repentance is an act of both spiritual and relational intelligence because it involves recognizing when we’ve betrayed the still, small voice of God in our hearts and chosen attitudes and behaviors that hurt our relationships. When we align with fear, we begin to engage with false perceptions, anxiety, and blame-shifting and become unrecognizable as Christians. The only way we come back to our true “normal” and start protecting our relationships with both the Holy Spirit and with others is to check our hearts and realign with love.
Here are three critical moments to repent from aligning with fear and realign your heart and mind with love:
Moment #1: You Did or Want to Do Something You Know You Shouldn’t.
We all know when we’ve done something wrong. We feel guilt and shame. We start drowning in the fear of punishment. Our natural response is to hide, and then, if we’re exposed, to shift blame on someone else. When Adam heard God walking in the garden, the first thing he did was hide. When God found him, he turned into a victim of what had happened and told God that it was someone else’s fault.
It doesn’t matter how old we are or what country we come from—we are all susceptible to this. Take this to the 21st century. A husband hears the baby cry in the middle of the night and feels God prompt him to get up and let his wife keep sleeping. Instead, he decides to play dead. As soon as he makes the choice to betray that voice in his heart, he starts acting like a victim and building a case. I deserve to stay in bed because I have to get up and go to work. She gets to take naps all day. I work hard to support her and she doesn’t appreciate it. I’ll teach her—I’m staying in bed. Now, his decision is affecting his perception of his wife. If he had listened to the voice from the beginning, getting up to serve his wife would have only produced a sense of happiness and love for her. Instead, he’s moved from loving her to blaming her for his situation.
Fear tells us to ignore God’s voice and takes us down the path of living in shame, hiding, and blaming. But love calls us to repent for listening to fear and shame, confess our sins, receive forgiveness, and serve others.
Moment #2: You’re Scared and Overwhelmed.
We have many opportunities to tune in to chaos and fear. We get bombarded by them every day. We hear about disasters on the other side of the world, we see anxiety-producing events nearby, and we encounter aggressive conversations around us. Everywhere we go, somebody is telling us to be afraid. Before we know it, the water table of anxiety is rising and we’re caught in it.
In these times, it is more critical than ever to be tuned in to the still, small voice of the Shepherd. Fear tells us to freak out and to become hopeless. It tells us that the world is going to hell in a handbasket and that we can’t do anything about it. But the voice of love calls us to rise above the chaos and fear. Love leads us to worship God, to declare truth, to find encouraging testimonies, to pray for breakthrough, to live in hope, and to bring solutions to problems.
Moment #3: You’re Offended and Angry.
Our social climate is full of things that can offend or anger us. It’s the ploy of the prince of the power of the air to create this kind of climate—one that divides people and puts them into small little groups who then build cases and cast judgments against each other.
Anger is fake power that we grab on to when we’re feeling scared, hurt, and powerless. But it’s a tool that can only hurt, not heal. Consider what happened to Cain. When God didn’t accept Cain’s sacrifice, Cain felt powerless, hurt, and rejected. So he “lost his temper and went off into a sulk” (Gen. 4:5 MSG). God confronted him: “Sin is lying in wait for you, ready to pounce; it’s out to get you, you’ve got to master it” (Gen. 4:6 MSG). But instead of repenting, Cain built a case against Abel and ended up killing him. That’s pretty drastic, but we’re not exempt from this. If we don’t reverse course when we align with anger, we will end up in sin.
We all encounter people with whom we disagree. All you have to do is listen to the news or open up your social media account. In these moments, we are tempted with getting angry. We’re tempted to build a case against this person or this group of people. We’re tempted to categorize them as evil (especially those we don’t know—they’re the most evil). We are tempted to blame them for our situation, perceived or real. Pretty soon, we’ve moved away from seeing them as people and they’ve become things in a category. They’ve become objects deserving of punishment.
Fear tries to get us to build a case, cast judgment, and render punishment. But love calls us to forgive, to show grace, and to love even those who are offensive.
We are in a war, and it’s the war between love and fear. The voice of love is the voice of the Shepherd. It’s a still, small voice, and it’s a lot quieter than the loud, insistent voices bombarding us every single day, so it’s more important than ever to be tuned in to it. We can’t afford to play the victim, get overwhelmed, or harbor resentment and wander from the promptings to love. We never have permission to turn our love off.
PS) Culture & Conversations closes in 5 days for another several months. We’ll be discussing this journey from fear to love in far greater depth together along the way! Check yourself before you wreck yourself and get in now! (here)