True confessions: Fear of condemnation

As we were driving to board our long-awaited retirement cruise, our friend Bob prayed for us in the car. He prayed that God would bring divine appointments to us. These next three blogs are a result of that prayer!

It began when we met a couple, and soon all four of us were engaged in a lively conversation. That day we continued to run into each other all over the ship. The conversation was always lively and we had much in common. The husband was a retired pediatric dentist and they had recently moved from California to North Carolina. Our connection was so enjoyable that the couple invited us to dinner at a specialty restaurant for the next evening.

When we sat down for dinner that night, the woman (let’s call her Anne) was sitting across from me as we greeted one another. As dinner progressed and we started to open up to each other, we spoke about the beginning of the pandemic and our response to it. Anne told me her story of that time period. It started with a phone call from her husband. He informed her that he was closing his office and didn’t know if/when he would reopen it. He then packed up all of his personal belongings and drove home. That began a time of immense anxiety for her, along with depression and loneliness. She felt extremely isolated which increased her depression and anxiety. Her world as she knew it had just fallen apart. The husband wasn’t aware of the eroded state that she was in, she hid away the devastated parts of herself so that the shame wouldn’t overwhelm her. The shame of depression was so great that she did whatever she could, so that her husband wouldn’t realize how serious the situation had become. 

Anne couldn’t take it anymore. One night she took 65 Ambien pills, so that she wouldn’t feel anything, anymore. Her husband found her just in time, otherwise she would have died.

As Anne told me her story in a hushed voiced so others couldn’t overhear her, I realized that she was confessing her secret to me. Her secret of depression, anxiety, isolation and her attempt of suicide. I reached for her hands and tried to comfort her amongst the dinner that had been served. We cried at the table and rejoiced that she had found help, that she had hope, that her marriage had become more transparent, and that she could see a future. 

This woman was one of three women that confessed secrets to me, a total stranger. Many times it is easier to tell someone that doesn’t know you, and that isn’t going to “judge” you (condemn you). Confession can be extremely difficult because if it’s done correctly, you bare yourself of pretense, and stand naked before the person. This position of nakedness is terrifying because all of us want to protect ourselves, shielding ourselves from vulnerability. This fear of being vulnerable and being condemned is the first reason that we see for not confessing our sins, or our problems. 

In our first woman, Anne, was dealing with depression which also has the stigma of mental illness. When we are dealing with mental health issues sometimes our communities are not good at realizing that it’s not just an issue of “getting over it” but, individuals need tangible help with resources. However, if you have the fear of condemnation whether you are dealing with a mental health issue or an actual sin issue it will stop you from getting help. The important thing to remember is to turn towards help. Psalm 34:18, 22 says, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. The Lord redeems the souls of His servants, and none of those who take refuge in Him will suffer for their guilt.” If we turn towards our God, away from our condemnation, He will save us! If we come to the realization that “we are crushed in spirit”, (meaning contrite in heart and truly sorry for our sins) then we can take refuge in Him. The refuge that God offers is a place of safety, liberty, freedom, peace and joy. This is the offer that God places before us if we will only confess our sins. Once the confession is made then we can truly say as in Psalm 34:8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good, how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!”

The next blog will continue our discussion on confession with our second woman, Sarah and her story!