Classic literature often avails us of a window into the heart of humanity, and I was recently struck by Robert Louis Stevenson’s insight into the fears of men in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Of course you might expect me to be intrigued by the mysterious and horrific nature of Mr. Hyde’s character, actions, and persona, but it wasn’t a monster that raised the flicker of fear in my soul, it was worse than that. Much worse. Like all great works of literature this terrifying story raised a mirror to my mind and I immediately recognized a dear, old enemy I’d tried to repress.
What is more terrifying or gut-wrenching than a gnawing guilt that haunts a memory with the nightmares of the past and paralyzing whispers of an unknown future? There are particular sins of my past that I wish never existed. But they do. And it only takes a spark for a flood of guilt to overwhelm my heart, cripple my joy, and leave me begging to escape the shame of exposure.
Sin is the monster, but we fear the consequential guilt. Fallen humanity hates the light of God and at the first shred of guilt scurries to hide under the cover of darkness. Our greatest fear is the wrath of God.
I saw this, not in Mr. Utterson’s account of Mr. Hyde, but in his concern for his friend, Dr. Jekyll, and the mysteriously eerie circumstances that somehow had him mixed up with that horrible man,
“And the lawyer set out homeward with a very heavy heart. ‘Poor Harry Jekyll,’ he thought, ‘my mind misgives me he is in deep waters! He was wild when he was young; a long while ago to be sure; but in the law of God, there is no statute of limitations. Ay, it must be that; the ghost of some old sin, the cancer of some concealed disgrace: punishment coming, PEDE CLAUDO, years after memory has forgotten and self-love condoned the fault.’ And the lawyer, scared by the thought, brooded awhile on his own past, groping in all the corners of memory, least by chance some Jack-in-the-Box of an old iniquity should leap to light there. His past was fairly blameless; few men could read the rolls of their life with less apprehension; yet he was humbled to the dust by the many ill things he had done, and raised up again into a sober and fearful gratitude by the many he had come so near to doing yet avoided.”
I believe Stevenson is playing on a common human experience. Have you ever heard those whispers reminding you of your past sins and playing on your fears of exposure? There is a greater question that lies below the surface: are those whispers the voice of God or of Satan?
If you have truly been forgiven by God through faith in Christ then debilitating doubts of His forgiveness are definitely satanic! The Devil wants God’s children to believe his lies that God is still out to get us, that He is cruel, vindictive, and calculating. If he can sell us a view of God that diminishes His goodness then he can mercilessly accuse us and beat us under the weight of condemnation and keep us cowering and hiding in fear. But there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! (Romans 8:1) We now rightly fear God’s holiness and righteousness, but no longer His wrath. At the cross, His wrath was taken away from His children, and we are no longer guilty!
God may indeed be bringing unrepentant sin before your heart and mind, but if you love Christ, then you can be assured that He will always lead you to repentance. It is His kindness that draws you (Rom. 2:4). The Holy Spirit will use grief over sin in your life to bring you to repentance and salvation (2 Cor. 7:10). God is faithful and just to forgive (1 John 1:9), and Christ is our advocate (1 John 2:1, 2). Always remember, God is good.
“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.” (Psalm 103:11-13)
God is love. So we need not hide.