Many folks with bipolar carry around a lot of fear and anxiety. Some of this may be clinical and need treatment with medication. Some of the fear and anxiety may also be situational. We make poor choices as we cycle and we learn to fear the outcomes of our illness.
I have certainly made mistakes that I deeply regret as I have cycled through depression and mania. While God forgives us as we turn to Him in Christ, we still face natural consequences for our behavior. In my behavior, I have deeply hurt people and am at times fearful of how it will affect them and what I will experience as a result of my sin.
Some time after I separated from my wife, I tried to fill this void by developing an intimate relationship with a woman I had known in college. After building up much false hope and expectation, I crashed and ended the relationship. She threatened to contact my wife. Rather than live in fear, I called and confessed my sin to Alice. Faced with the prospect of public humiliation in a college group on Facebook, I confessed my sin through messages to friends. It was not how I would choose to “come clean,” but it was the only way I knew how. Finally, after many agonizing false starts, I confessed my sin to my daughters as well.
Now that I have confessed my sin, I still have the rather difficult work of accepting God’s forgiveness. I’ve been speaking with my counselor a good bit lately on the difference between repentance and penance. I firmly believe that ultimate release from sin comes through Christ who desperately longs for us to be freed by forgiveness. Yet, inside, I hold onto my sinful past and impose emotional penance on myself. I am afraid to live in the freedom of forgiveness and thus fail to “make amends” by moving away from sinful regrets.
What do I fear? I don’t fear retribution from God. God wants to welcome me home, not cast me in outer darkness. I don’t fear the retaliation of those I’ve hurt. When people strike out angrily at me, I feel an almost perverse sense of familiar satisfaction that I’m only getting what I deserve.
What I most fear is the unfamiliar freedom of being cut loose from comfortable cages of my own making. The sad reality is I would rather hurt myself than be healed by God, through others. I most fear God’s ferocious grace.
The Psalmist celebrates the good news that fear will dissipate in time with faith in the LORD. Even fear based in harsh realities will gradually fade as we come to trust more fully on God’s daily provision. The more we fear in this life, the more strength we can find in the faith of Christ.