The fear of condemnation looms over me like a dark, gray cloud. It follows me around during the day, accusing me of failure, reminding me of inadequacy, and stealing my peace. As a pastor’s wife and a mom of a two-year-old girl, responsibilities weigh on me; people need me. Yet, I can’t help but feel that all my efforts to be sufficient—to be a good wife and mother and friend and daughter and neighbor––fall incredibly flat.
And as I wonder if I’m disappointing others, I can’t help but wonder, Am I disappointing God?
This sense of inadequacy (one that I assume you feel too) points to our humanity. It reveals our reality: in ourselves, we are not enough. We are not strong enough, skilled enough, or wise enough, and before our holy God, we are certainly not righteous enough. Because of the power of sin, everything is marred. The image that God created us to reflect––his image––has been shattered and distorted by sin. Add to the power of sin the pressures and trials of earthly existence, and we are intensely aware that things are not as they should be.
We are not as we should be. So, where do we go from here? What is our hope?
When the fear of condemnation looms, the first question I ask myself is, Is it true? In other words, do I have reason to be condemned before the sight of God? No. I can confidently say that the punishment my sin and shortcomings deserve has fallen upon his Son:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. . . . By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, [God] condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.(Romans 8:1, 3-4, ESV)
For those who have trusted in Jesus––that his sin-bearing work on the cross is enough to forgive and cleanse sinners––the fear of condemnation is dispelled. It is removed as far as the east is from the west. It is finished. Now, before the sight of God we are no longer enemies, but friends. We are no longer slaves to sin, but sons and daughters of the Most High.
We are free from condemnation, and any fear associated with it.
Someday, when we stand before Christ, we will hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” His perfect, sinless record will be ours, and we will stand clothed in his righteousness. This future reality is also our present one, so when the fear of condemnation looms, we must tell ourselves the truth: in Christ, we are safe. Our greatest fear––just punishment for sin––has been removed and dealt with by Jesus.
The second question I ask myself, when I’m feeling accused of insufficiency, is, Where is my hope for change? Even though I am freed from sin’s power and the condemnation it deserves, the presence of sin remains in me; I am not yet as I should be. Someday I will be perfect in glory, but not now. Not today. So when I am weak; when I make mistakes; and even when I sin against those whom I love most, my hope is that Jesus isn’t done with me yet.
He has not only promised to free me from condemnation but also to change me. To transform my heart and mind. To remake me into his image.
So, friends, when you have indeed messed up and disappointed people, remember that God is not done with you yet. He is at work through his Holy Spirit and has promised to finish the work he started when he first saved you:
But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.(Romans 8:10-11, ESV)
Rather than buckling under the dark cloud of condemnation and listening to your fears, you can speak back to them. You can confidently confess your need for a Savior––”Jesus, I need you!”––and desperately seek him for change. His grace wasn’t just for the moment you believed by faith, but is for each and every moment of faith, for your every failure and every need.
What an opportunity to fight our fears with truth. As we seek to be faithful, both within and outside our homes, may we find power and perspective in Scripture to tell ourselves the truth and put our fears in their place.