This chapter largely focused on a fear of physical harm, although it also encompassed harsh words. Many people have experiences in their past which dominate the way in which they relate to people in the present. A history of abuse or harsh parenting could lead to a general feeling of fear, even when there is no present reality of danger.
Most of this feeling, says Welch, comes from the perception of what people are going to think or do. He gives an example of a woman who avoids going to church because she is afraid of what people are saying about her behind her back. She was mortified when her son’s Sunday School teacher mentioned some behavioral problems in class, and she quickly jumped to thinking that the teacher presumed her to be a terrible mother and that all the women in the church were talking about her. A short conversation with one woman at church had morphed into a controlling force, keeping her from fellowship.
Many people, including the one above, learn this pattern of thinking after past experiences which leave them with a lingering sense of shame-fear. She felt she was to blame for past abuse and was confusing the shame from victimization with the shame of her own sin.
While I do not have past abuse to look at, I do have a similar pattern in my thinking. Many times I wrongly presume to know what people are thinking about me. I must say I hear many, many other women (and some men!) doing this as well. The verse that is helpful to me in these times is Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
If we could stop and meditate on that first phrase: “whatever is true…“, we will find that what we think might be true is not something we should be focusing on! Assumptions about others are not true. Our thought life would be better used meditating on the truth: the gospel, the needs around us, promises of God from His Word, and prayer requests we might be in prayer for.
The phrase that Welch uses again and again in this chapter is “biblically unchecked thinking.” We could all do with more checks on our thinking, couldn’t we?! A better understanding of repentance and forgiveness — according to what God says, not the world! — can help to supply a structure to guide our thinking into right paths.
What is God’s view towards the victimized?
be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced;
for you will forget the shame of your youth,
and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.
For your Maker is your husband,
the Lord of hosts is his name;
and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,
the God of the whole earth he is called.
She must meditate on these loving promises from the mouth of God. If she thinks that she is beyond grace, she should be corrected. Such thinking is based on the unbiblical assumption that our works can either keep us away from God or move us toward him. It is a denial of grace itself. It suggests that there is some righteous act she must perform in order to meet God halfway. This, however, has nothing to do with the gospel of Jesus. The gospel is only available to people who know they are unclean.
When we forsake this wrong way of thinking and instead embrace what God says about us and our situations, we can step into freely praising Him for His grace and love towards us, His children. If we are truly able to forsake these wrong thought patterns, people become brothers and sisters to be served instead of idols to be feared.