Insecurity Is Not Just Sin

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A little while back, TGC reshared my 2011 article “The Sin of Insecurity.” Most of the time when I see something old I’ve written, I experience mild embarrassment, usually for some stylistic choice or conceptual mistake. This repost had the same effect on me, but it also roused some consternation from a handful of readers. Basically, they said, “How can you call insecurity a sin, when much of it is an unwanted burden people suffer under?” I now asked the same question.

Six additional years of ministry—heck, of life under the sun—have helped my thinking grow up a bit. I wouldn’t really change the main concept of the article. I still think insecurity is largely a matter of measuring myself according to my own standards rather than God’s, which have been fulfilled by Christ. Insofar as insecurity involves this form of pride, it is sin.

Where I’ve grown, though, is in being able to appreciate other factors in the equation.

Insecurity Is Sin and Suffering

Insecurity isn’t just sin; it’s also suffering. The problem with my other article (besides the painfully overwritten introduction) is that it addressed insecurity exclusively as sin. But a fuller perspective recognizes insecurity as a sinful response conditioned by factors outside a person’s control. Sometimes those outside factors are traumatic and extreme; other times they’re common and everyday.

I’ve counseled folks whose insecurity feels crippling, often because of extreme conditions. Some people grew up under cruel caretakers. Others were sexually abused. Still others have physical conditions that separate them from others, in both appearance and capability. Often these people formed deep patterns of insecurity because their surroundings weren’t secure. These patterns get carried into their adult life, even after being saved.

Other folks struggle with insecurity that’s less pronounced, often because the conditions are also less pronounced. But it’s no less important to consider their conditions in order to care for them—whether they grew up in a family who didn’t get them, were trained at a school that didn’t reward their gift set, or navigated social circles that put them low in the pecking order. Insecurity isn’t expressed in a vacuum; it occurs in response to the awkwardness and futility of community life in a fallen world.

Insecurity isn’t expressed in a vacuum; it occurs in response to the awkwardness and futility of community life in a fallen world.

Caring for people in their insecurity means not merely addressing them as sinners, but as sufferers. They’re broken because the world they live in is fallen. Scripture addresses them with this understanding, even when confronting sin. Exodus is full of such compassionate recognition: “Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery” (Exod. 6:9).

Victory in Insecurity

The suffering aspect of insecurity also helps us define what victory is and isn’t. I still believe the ultimate solution to insecurity is to abandon our attempts to find our worth in anything other than Christ and his redemptive love (Phil. 3:7–8). But I also believe we won’t attain a perfect confidence in Christ that completely eliminates insecurity while we live here below (Phil. 3:12). Insecurity—especially for those who’ve lived through more extreme conditions—may be a lifelong battle. It may threaten to derail every social situation, lurk in every relationship, and stalk even private thought life.

But the promise of the gospel brings confidence not just for the sin of insecurity, but for the suffering part too. In Christ, we always have everything we need to respond to suffering in faith. In the case of insecurity, this means clinging to what he says about us rather than what we’ve been conditioned to think about ourselves. Christians belong to Christ, and this is the most important thing about them.

The promise of the gospel brings confidence not just for the sin of insecurity, but for the suffering part too.

Like the sinful aspects of insecurity, the suffering aspects don’t win in the end. Even when believers can’t sense their security in Christ, their actual security remains unchanged. Even when his followers seem unable to do anything with confidence, Christ sits confidently on his throne, doing all things well. For them.

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