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Guilt, Fear, and Shame: It All Began in a Garden

guilt, fear, and shame

A message from Pastor James of the Road to Freedom Program

As addicts, small compromises can have devastating results. When we do something we know we shouldn’t, when we compromise, it can eventually lead to relapse. Whenever we do the wrong thing, we each have a choice to make: “Will I hide in fear and shame, or confess my sin and live in the freedom that transparency brings?” How can one bad choice, one compromise, lead to relapse and the destruction that follows? For the answer, let’s travel back in time to the very first humans.

God had created the world – the land, the seas, the animals and finally, mankind. Adam and Eve enjoyed perfect, unbroken fellowship with God in a perfect world. Sin had not yet entered the picture, and their lives were free from guilt, shame, and fear. They had done nothing wrong; therefore, they had no reason to experience these emotions. That all changed the instant Adam and Eve chose to disobey God and do their own thing.

Genesis 3:6-7

This passage tells the story of how guilt, fear, and shame became a reality for Adam, Eve and every single person from that moment on. It says, “So she took some of the fruit (the fruit God had told them not to eat) and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.” Did you notice that? They felt shame immediately upon turning their backs on God and doing things their own way.

Next, we see the consequences of that disobedience as shame, guilt, and fear caused division between God and his creation. In Genesis 3:8-10 we read, “When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees. Then the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’ He replied, ‘I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.’”

Guilt, Fear, and Shame

Jesus describes this very thing centuries later in John 3:20 where He states, “All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed.” This truth certainly still applies to us today. This is how the decision to do what we want, what we know is wrong, can lead to relapse. The guilt, fear, and shame that grows can become a power that has the ability to drive us back to our drug of choice.

The issue isn’t whether or not we’ve done wrong things. 1 John 1:8 says, “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.” The issue then becomes what we will do when we do sin. We can either hide like Adam and Eve hoping that if we don’t look at God He will go away, or we can trust in His grace and confess those things we’ve done. We first confess to God, then to someone we trust such as a sponsor or accountability person, and be cleansed and made whole.

It is at this point, after having sinned, that we come to the proverbial fork in the road. Will we hide in guilt, fear, and shame allowing those emotions to overtake us, or will we confess and be freed from their power? Can we learn to trust in God’s grace and forgiveness, or will we run and hide? Will we choose to turn towards relapse, or will we choose to continue to walk in recovery?

“When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night, your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin.”—Psalm 32:3-5

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” —Romans 8:1

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