Backsliding is a funky word, isn’t it? Makes me think of that time I went climbing in Palo Duro Canyon. I couldn’t figure out how to get down off the cliff. I knew if I tried to walk down, I would soon be tumbling in somersaults, so I opted to slide down awkwardly on my bum. Talk about at backslide. I slid so far I ripped a hole in my shorts. But when the Bible talks about backsliding, it means something a little different. It means falling away from the Lord.
Growing up in Baptist church, backsliding was a bad word. Nobody ever admitted to falling away lest they be chastised. But reality is…all of us backslide at one time or another. In fact, if we are not climbing towards the Lord, we are usually sliding away from Him. That’s one reason why I am so thankful for Jesus. Even when I backslide, I can repent and not a second passes before I have the option to re-embark on the journey upwards toward a deeper and stronger relationship with Him.
But here is the key, I have the “option” to repent and return to Him. There have been times in my life where I didn’t want to go back to Him. Times where I backslid, for months, even years at a time. If I had literally been sliding like that day in Palo Duro Canyon I wouldn’t have any skin left. One of these times happened after I was raped at age 15.
It might have been different had I been violently raped by a stranger. I know that sounds strange, but in many ways I think I would have returned to the Lord faster had this been the case. But I was date raped. And I blamed myself for a great deal of this experience. I felt so guilty. I didn’t understand what happened, and I felt too dirty to go back to the Lord. And so I slid, further and further away, wrapping myself up in sexual and other kinds of sin hoping it would help me escape the pain.
And what about you? What has caused you to slide away from the Lord? Your circumstances may not look like mine, but what I have found in talking with other women is that feelings of shame and guilt are one of the biggest perpetuates of backsliding. It doesn’t matter why you have these feelings, whether you actually did something wrong or not…when we are afraid to look into the eyes of Jesus, we slide away. And often while sliding, we add to our list of things to feel guilty over and the downward spiral continues.
Jeremiah 3:22 says, “Return, you backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings.”
The Israelites struggled with guilt and shame too, Jeremiah 3:24-25 says, “For shame has devoured
the labor of our fathers from our youth—their flocks and their herds, their sons and their daughters. We lie down in our shame, and our reproach covers us. For we have sinned against the Lord our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even to this day, and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God.”
Shame and guilt are devourers. They can rob us of everything we ever wanted and hoped for. We have all sinned against the Lord our God…but there comes a point where we must decide to no longer lie down in shame, get up, step out of disobedience, and follow the Lord once again.
The very next few verses from Jeremiah capture what a return to the Lord looks like.
“If you will return, O Israel,” says the Lord, return to Me; and if you will put away your abominations out of My sight, then you shall not be moved. And you shall swear, ‘The Lord lives,’ in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness; the nations shall bless themselves in Him, and in Him they shall glory.” Jeremiah 4:1-2
It doesn’t matter how long you have been sliding away from Him or how overwhelmed with shame and guilt you may feel. There is grace and forgiveness. If you repent, God reminds us in Jeremiah that we will not be moved! The next time we begin to slide away, all it takes is repentance, and we are right back on track.
Now is the time to return to Him. To stand up out of shame, turn away from sin, and fully accept His forgiveness. No more sliding away from Him in fear. That is exactly what Satan wants you to do – to stay buried in shame and guilt. But there is no reason for that. Those who return to Him do so for His glory, and they shall glory in Him. It doesn’t matter how long you have been away, how far you have gone, or how deep of a pit you slid into. You are one short turn away from coming home, beginning again, with the Father who picks up and loves you right where you left off.
Stephanie Clayton is a Christian counselor with a passion for integrating Bible teaching with psychological and counseling principles. She is passionate about helping women live God-glorifying lives, not just in spite of, but because of what they may have endured and experienced in their past and present. She would love to connect with you more at her blog www.stephanieclayton.org, Twitter @stephandkev, and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/stephanieclaytonwrite