In the popular television show WandaVision, Wanda attempts to hold the pieces of her life together by creating a world of her perfect design. By avoiding grief and refusing to come to terms with the reality of her pain, she remains adamant in living a pretend life rather than facing the truth. While Wanda's method of avoidance is extreme, many of us may struggle with the same thing, often without even realizing it. Let's take a look at some signs of the habit of avoidance.
One of the major issues in our day and age is our inability to be silent and still. If we performed a quick test to see if we could sit in silence for five minutes, we might realize an unconscious tendency to reach for our phones, turn on music, or just get up and start moving. Living in a busy society, we have conditioned ourselves to constantly need some form of activity. But too often, we turn busyness into a way of avoiding what happens when we're still. When we allow ourselves to sit in silence, be still, and slow our minds, we can fixate on what we are thinking and feeling. But for some of us, we would rather block out those things. We can use our cell phones as a coping mechanism for when we are feeling down or anxious, mindlessly scrolling to try and tune out what is going on in our hearts and minds. As a result, we push down and reject the truth-speaking thoughts that we need to hear but don't particularly want to face. Even more so, avoiding silence also causes us to shut out the voice of God. When we refuse to be still in prayer or in reading God's Word, we end up allowing room for other things to become louder than God's voice in our lives.
Community is one of the many blessings we receive as believers in Christ. It is a sweet gift to have other believers hold us accountable–to challenge us when they see sin in our lives or help us fight against a sinful habit. But it can be too easy for us to reject the accountability of others. We don't want them to speak into our lives, so we avoid intentional questions, dismiss one-on-one conversations, or seek to hide our sin from them. Confession is powerful in community, but too often we're afraid to admit our sin. We are afraid of exposing our sin to others–afraid of giving up something or someone in our lives that we know is unhealthy for us. We're afraid of the hard work that comes with accountability and the vulnerability it will require. So, instead of exposing our sin, we hide it, perpetuating the sinful habits in our lives rather than breaking free from them.
Avoiding God's Discipline
By avoiding silence and accountability, we also avoid God's discipline in our lives. When we shut out God's voice, we shut out His words that are meant for our sanctification. When we refuse to be still in reading God's Word or avoid His Word altogether, we turn away from the truth of Scripture and resist conviction from His Word. We avoid God's discipline when we downplay our sin, making light of it and making excuses for it. Our tendency to avoid God's discipline is often because it can be painful. When God brings about sanctification in our lives, it surely isn't an easy process. Knowing that it is painful or uncomfortable, we can tend to reject any form of God's discipline, stunting our own sanctification as a result.
Hebrews 12:5-6 says, "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives" (ESV). For some of us reading these verses, we can zero in on the words "reprove" or "chastise" and miss the word that matters the most: "love." When God disciplines us, He is doing so as a loving heavenly Father, seeking what is good for His children. Hebrews 12:10-11 draws a comparison between earthly fathers and our heavenly Father when it says, "For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it."
When we were disciplined as children, chances are, none of us ever liked it. But we can usually look back and realize how necessary that discipline was for our growth. The same goes for our spiritual discipline. God never disciplines us out of a desire to inflict pain but to grow us more into the image of His Son. When we accept God's sanctification in our lives, rather than avoid it, we realize that the outcome results in our holiness. Sanctification is hard and painful work, but it always yields a harvest of righteousness.
To address the habit of avoidance in our lives, we must resolve to take up the hard work that comes with sanctification. Sin is to be slain, not avoided. When we rightly understand God as our heavenly Father, we will allow Him to expose the sin of our hearts, knowing that everything brought to the surface is met with the grace of God. Instead of pushing down or ignoring our thoughts and feelings, we must process them, inviting God to expose lies that we have believed or habits we have excused. As we continue to confess our sin, we will learn to accept God's work of sanctification instead of avoiding it, and we will embrace the process that transforms us into the image of Christ.