By: Josh Pepper
Yesterday, we took a personal inventory of the external distractions that are pulling our focus away from hearing the Lord in our lives. Now, we shift our focus internally. While the world is full of distractions and voices pulling us one way or another, the biggest distractions in our life are primarily internal.
Pete Scazzero, a Pastor and Author living in New York calls these internal distractions The Shadow. “Your shadow is the accumulation of untamed emotions, less-than pure motives and thoughts that, while largely unconscious, strongly influence and shape your behaviors. It is the damaged but mostly hidden version of who you are.”
The shadow may erupt in various forms. Sometimes it reveals itself in sinful behaviors, such as perfectionism, outbursts of anger, jealousy, resentment, lust, greed, or bitterness. Or it may reveal itself more subtly through a need to rescue others and be liked by people, a need to be noticed, an inability to stop working, a tendency toward isolation, or rigidity. Aspects of the shadow may be sinful, but they may also simply be weaknesses or wounds. They tend to appear in the ways we try to protect ourselves from feeling vulnerable or exposed. This means that the shadow is not simply another word for sin. If that makes you think the shadow is hard to pin down, you’re right.
Just thinking about confronting my shadow scares the living daylights out of me. Why? Because my shadow is made primarily of experience in my past that make me who I am today. My past has driven me to be a people pleaser. The enemy has allowed hurtful things people have said to me to shape how I function today.
All of us have internal forces and motives the the enemy uses to distract and harm us. He knows that the best way to keep us from accomplishing all that God has for us, is for us to sabotage ourselves with doubt, fear, frustration, and uncertainty.
Even the Apostle Paul struggled with his shadow. Just look at this passage in Romans:
"For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?"~ Romans 7:19-24 (NIV)
When I read these verses, I see a man wrestling with his shadow!
Today, pray that God would allow you to see this internal struggle for what it is, and that He would begin to reveal to you areas of your shadow that are keeping you from seeing His plan for your life clearly.
Scazzero concludes by saying, “Each time you make a choice to face rather than ignore your shadow, you follow Jesus to the cross. It is often an experience of nakedness, vulnerability, pain, loneliness, fear, and darkness that whispers ‘this will only lead to despair and death.’ The most important task during such times is just to wait on the Love of the Father as Jesus did while hanging on the cross. Remain. Endure. Abide. Like Jesus.
As you wait, anchor yourself in the truth that God’s love and grace are true and that resurrection is a certainty. You will become more compassionate, more vulnerable, more broken, and more loving. Each time you pass through a season of facing your shadow you will be transformed even more into the image of Jesus.”
If you want to read more from Peter Scazzero, follow this link to his book "The Emotionally Healthy Leader."