We’re continuing our discussion of the Woman of Sidon (I Kings 17). We’ve discovered that she was feeling shameful for some sin.
So she said to Elijah, “What do I have to do with you, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my iniquity to remembrance and to put my son to death!” (verse 18)
This woman, in the grief of her son’s death and because she has been carrying the guilt of a past sin, is reacting in shame. And the specific way she is reacting is something I call the dreaded PFS. Curious? PFS stands for the Puffer Fish Syndrome. You know the puffer fish, don’t you? Here’s a “normal” puffer fish:
He’s swimming along having a great time. But then danger strikes. He feels threatened. His reaction? This:
God designed his protection but God doesn’t want you and I to use the same strategy. Unfortunately, we do. And shame is a major cause of PFS. As we studied in our last post, we feel exposed, threatened, and vulnerable, and our reaction is similar to the puffer fish. The Woman of Sidon reacted by putting the focus on Elijah. We can’t tell for sure from her words if she was angry or just accusing, but she definitely was no longer trusting God. She was bristling as she tried to deal with the guilt that she had carried for so long. And now that hidden sin had caused her son’s death–she believed! It wasn’t true but she believed Satan’s lie. And she comes out with a swing at Elijah.
When we choose the Puffer Fish Syndrome, we might react in several different ways:
- pour contempt on someone else
- criticize someone else
- blame God for our circumstances
- defend ourselves
- withdraw our heart from reaching out in love
- be angry and yell, scream, or just raise our voice.
Sound familiar? Basically we hide or we attack. That’s the dreaded PFS. And we all do it. And it’s often based on feeling shame. Instead of exposing ourselves by confessing our sin and asking for forgiveness, we puffer-fish-it as a means of protecting ourselves from being seen in a way that we fear: as worthless, valueless, powerless, incapable, etc.
What can we do?
Come clean! Confess! The Woman of Sidon did something right: she voiced her long-held shame for the first time. She talked about her sin. Doing the very thing we dread most is the cure for shame: we must expose our sin.
Here’s the scary news: confessing our sin to another person or trusted group is the most effective way to have freedom from shame. Such sharing breaks the bondage of the secrecy that shame feeds upon. Yes, this is so extremely hard, but the relief that comes is worth it!
(Remember what I wrote in the last post: some shame is based in experiences that were not our choice: we are victims. That is something we don’t need to confess. But interestingly, talking about what happened can set us free from the feelings of shame.)
Claim the forgiveness and cleansing that Jesus provided on the cross. There is hope! We are not without a solution. Whatever we’re ashamed of is exactly what Jesus died for. Don’t believe Satan’s lie that our sin is more than Jesus’s redemption can cover. The feeling of shame makes it seem like that, but it’s not true. Every sin can be forgiven.
And we can believe that the Woman of Sidon’s sin was forgiven also. And in God’s graciousness, her son was restored to her. Through Elijah‘s actions, the boy was healed.
Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper room into the house and gave him to his mother; and Elijah said, “See, your son is alive.” Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.” (I Kings 17:23-24).
What rejoicing! What a relief! And what truth! Truth is the vehicle of freedom from shame. We must say, “Now I know…”
- Now I know that my sin is covered by the blood of Jesus and I am set free from shame.
- Now I know that nothing separates me from the love of God–even the sin I’m ashamed of.
- Now I know that what God says is true and He says I am forgiven and cleansed–as if it never happened.
Yes, it’s going to take time for the feelings of shame to dissipate, but as we continue to claim our inheritance of being blameless, we will be free from the bondage of negative feelings.
I started out examining the story of the Woman of Sidon with the theme of faithfulness. I didn’t know God would divert it into shame.
Today, what “now I know…” do you need to claim?
The next time the dreaded PFS starts to strike you, ask yourself, “What am I ashamed of? What am I trying to protect from exposure? I’m going to claim God’s forgiveness and cleansing instead.”
(Photos: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Puffer_Fish_DSC01257.JPG and http://freewallpaperspot.com/22-puffer-fish-wallpaper.html.)