Have you ever played hide and seek with a toddler? You close your eyes and start counting. One, two, three, four…. You reach ten, open your eyes and say “Ready or not, here I come!” You take a quick look around and notice that half of your hide-and-seek partner is sticking out from behind their chosen hiding spot. Even if they weren’t so clearly visible, they probably started giggling the moment you stopped counting, so finding them would not have been much of a challenge either way. Still, you play along, rummaging around the room in all the wrong places, wondering loudly where they could possibly be, until you either “find” them, or they burst out laughing and just tell you where they are.
Toddlers aren’t very good at hiding. Physically or in almost any other way. They wear their emotions on their sleeves. Oftentimes you can tell they have done something wrong based simply on the look of guilt on their faces. Even when they try to deceive you, it is rarely convincing. Adults on the other hand, well we’ve gotten pretty good at hiding. Not only can we find physical hiding places during games, but many of us have mastered the art of hiding our way through our daily lives. We hide what we really feel, pretend things are ok when they aren’t, act like we have it all under control when we are spiraling, tell people what they want to hear whether we mean it or not, and put great effort into masking our failures and subsequent feelings of guilt. Unfortunately, as we age we become much better at hiding.
And this is no new trend. In fact, hiding has been part of human practice from the beginning. Well, almost from the beginning. You see, when God first created humans, we had no reason to hide. There was no shame and no judgment. There was nothing to hide and no one to hide from. That all changed after the fall. In Genesis chapter 3, we read the story of how the first humans, named Adam and Eve, chose to disobey the simple and straightforward command of God, bringing shame and judgment into the world for the first time. Genesis 3:7-8 records what Adam and Eve did immediately following their disobedience.
"Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden."
First, they hid from each other. Second, they hid from God. If you keep reading the story, you find that they also hide from themselves. When God asks them why they are hiding, they both begin blaming others for their actions, actively choosing to live in denial of their own poor decision rather than admit that they had done wrong.
Honestly, not much has changed. We still live in denial. We still blame others for our choices. We still make excuses. We still reject responsibility. We still cover ourselves up hoping that other people won’t see the things that we are ashamed of. We still hide from God, afraid to bring our whole selves into His presence, believing that if He were to see just how much of a mess we really are, He would surely reject us.
Hiding is the natural human response to shame. When we feel guilty, insecure, insufficient, or vulnerable, we hide. Being exposed for who we really are is a source of great fear for most of us. Even people who have achieved a great deal of success often deal with something called imposter syndrome: a deep rooted fear that despite all their achievements, they will eventually be exposed as the failures and frauds they really are. This means that the “best” of us, the people we all admire and respect, are hiding just like everyone else. Which makes sense if you read the Bible. Romans 3:23 tells us that we all have sinned. We all have disobeyed God’s commands, just like Adam and Eve did, and also just like them, we all hide, feeling shame and fearing exposure.
The Bible doesn’t just diagnose and describe this problem for us, however. It also tells us how to deal with it. I have to warn you though, you aren’t going to like it. The Bible will tell you that when you mess up and feel the accompanying shame what you need to do is NOT hide. In fact, you need to do the opposite of hiding. You need to confess it. 1 John 1:8-9 says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” David describes the results of choosing to hide our sins from God and the alternative results of choosing to confess our sins in Psalm 32:3-5.
3 When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night
your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.
5 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.
Do you feel sapped of strength? Tired, exhausted, like you are wasting away? Is it possible that you need to confess your sins to God? Notice how both of these passages end. They end in forgiveness. Hiding drains our life and strength, but confessing brings forgiveness and purification. I know you feel like you have to hide, but the good news of the Gospel is that you don’t have to hide anymore. Colossians 2:13-14 states, “ When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.” In other words, Jesus knew about your sin. He knew how serious it was, how guilty you were, and what it would take to bring forgiveness. That’s why He came. He came to deal with that sin and guilt and He dealt with it completely, leaving it nailed to the cross. Jesus dealt with your sin so you don’t have to hide it anymore. You can confess it. Not only that, you can be forgiven of it. Not only that, you can be free of it.
That freedom is good news, but I’m afraid it comes with something that might sound like bad news. The way you get free is to keep confessing, not just to God, but to other people. James 5:16, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” We don't really want to confess our sins to each other, but God tells us this is a necessary step if we want to overcome the very sins we keep trying to hide. The question we have to ask is whether we want to keep hiding our sins at the expense of our freedom, or if we are willing to risk exposure for the sake of finding it. Which do you want more, safety with slavery or freedom with vulnerability?
God already knows your sin and shame and desires to forgive it all. You hiding from Him is no more effective than the toddler playing hide-and-seek. He already knows where you are. You aren’t fooling Him. You are just hurting yourself. What Jesus did for you on the cross was enough. The price He paid was sufficient for all your guilt. It is only when you honestly and openly acknowledge all your sin to Him, that you can experience the miracle of forgiveness. It is only through confession that you can experience grace greater than your shame.
God has also made a way for you to be free. The things you do that you are ashamed of don’t need to control the rest of your life. You aren’t a slave to them anymore. If you want to experience that freedom though, you have to be honest with other people. You need to find some people who pray, and you need to invite them into your struggle. Tell them your sins, without sugarcoating, minimizing, or justifying them. Ask for prayer. Then keep it up. Make it a pattern to have prayerful accountability in your life and see what starts to happen. See if you begin experiencing the healing James talks about.
Come out of hiding today. It is the only way we can experience the amazing, all-sufficient grace of God.
About Living Free
Living Free is a nonprofit ministry seeking to restore hope, create community, and empower people. We train and equip leaders to bring lasting change to their communities and develop small group materials to be used by those leaders. Our curriculum covers topics dealing with discipleship, overcoming addiction, improving relationships, managing emotions, and more. The Living Free strategy and curriculum are being used by church small groups, youth groups, recovery homes, nonprofits, community organizations, and more.
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