When You Fear Disapproval

by | Mar 23, 2016 | Lent, Sabbath


On Sunday, I wake up when the room is still dark and light peeks through parts in the curtain panels. I linger in the stillness and listen to exhales of shallow breath from H lying next to me, fast asleep.

Holding the phone above my head, I read Psalm 103 from the ESV Daily Office Lectionary.  The Lord is merciful and gracious; slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide or keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.

I think about how our painful waiting season resulted in my love of poetry from the Psalms and how this one is full of good news. But the word chide is like a sweater snagged on a drawer handle, it begins unraveling a mindset I didn’t know I had.


Sunday is the day I now embrace with expectancy. I expect God to show up like a close friend who comes for a visit. That may sound obvious to you or perhaps, unrealistic.

Since practicing Sabbath as a rhythm of life, Sunday is the day I anticipate what the Jews refer to neshamah yeteirah, an extra soul that comes to dwell during Sabbath and departs once the week begins. The sorrow brought on by the departure is what fuels the expectancy towards Sunday the following week.

When otherwise familiar words suddenly jump off the page, it is the sign I’ve awakened neshamah yeteriah.  Jesus often speaks to my hunger for meaning by highlighting words.

Chide is defined as to scold or rebuke. It is a word that means reproach in a mild and constructive manner; to show mild disapproval. Like the times I remind my son that he didn’t take out the trash or clean up his room as requested.

He will not always chide because it says in verse 14 that he remembers we are dust. I forget about that little dust detail and I chide myself often. But truthfully, I didn’t realize I was doing that until He highlighted that word on Sabbath.


In my work and relationships there is an undercurrent of mild disapproval spinning inside my head. It sounds like this: You will pay for that hour you just spent shopping online instead of writing.  Is talking to your neighbor really the best use of your time? All you got done today was one measly blog post? Reading isn’t really considered working so basically you’ve been unproductive for the past hour.

In Simply Tuesday, Emily Freeman writes, “It is also true that our souls are like little children. If the soul senses judgement, criticism, or rejection, she won’t feel safe.” Our soul doesn’t feel safe when our inner dialogue sounds more like chiding and less like love.

A tone of mild disapproval inside your head results in being stuck in a holding pattern when it comes to the way God wants to use you. We cannot move out and into the plans God has for us when are scolding all our efforts.

In Psalm 103, between He will not always chide you and He remembers that we are dust is comfort making everything right with the world. 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.


As I enter this new world of becoming an author accepting invitations into wider influence, I’m aware that my soul is still a little girl who chides herself often for not getting it all right.

When I feel vulnerable, my tendency is to respond with perfectionism. If I do everything right, I will protect myself from your disapproval. But if I fear your disapproval, I miss the opportunity to mature and grow into the person God envisions. And perfect love casts out fear.

As we walk out these last days of Lent identifying with Christ’s suffering, may we remember that He is not chiding our good or misguided intentions.

He does not deal with us according to our sins or with a constant tone of mild disapproval. He remembers that we are dust and His love remains unchangeable.

This is our hope in resurrection. And why I expect Him to show up differently on Sabbath.


Think of a time when you expected God to show up in your life differently. How has that expectation changed your relationship? How does your inner dialogue affect your ability to risk boldly for the Kingdom?

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  1. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Shelly….a beautiful post and a timely reminder. I was chiding myself for hours last night as I lay restlessly on my pillow, sleep refusing to overtake me. So often I ask the Lord to remember my “dustedness,” and He does. Often I am hard and judgmental . . . on myself. As I look back at my life, one amazing way in which God has shown up unexpectedly is with some precious invitation to share His love with others in some tangible way, when I had wandered so far away from Him. (Like an offer to write or to speak or to know He was finally fulfilling a dream). How could this great God bestow such generosity after my waywardness? These times have not only been unexpected, but undeserved. He didn’t chide. He treated me lavishly. Sabbath is such a gift, as well . . . a rich, undeserved gift. Sabbath reminds me of God’s gracious generosity. I am so looking forward to reading Rhythms of Rest. (And I will not feel guilty when I do)!

  2. Janet from FL

    Wonderful post, Shelly! I never knew there was a Sabbath “spirit”. I really like that idea of a restful presence coming to do Sabbath with us. I have only recently started realizing that the Psalms really speak so much truth to us. I recently read “Steadfast Love” by Lauren Chandler on Psalm 107, which she recommends for times when we are overwhelmed with trouble. And now you mention Psalm 103 teaching us to “remember we are dust” as God does. Yes we are only human. I am so thankful for this teaching today!

  3. Nancy Ruegg

    I had no idea there’s a name for those moments when otherwise familiar words jump off the page! Thank you for that, Shelly. It made me smile, and got me to thinking about other “extra soul” experiences. Spirit-quickening moments demonstrate uniquely God’s rich, faithful love, don’t they. Thank you also for the insight that his perfect love can cast out the fear we have of the opinions of others–a new aspect of a familiar truth. You’ve graced us with a rich post here, Shelly!

  4. Celeste

    This house business is the first thing that came to my mind. This house, the one we currently reside in was in my mind the ” perfect home”. Designed for hosting and housing our missionary friends. I had plans. It has taken time and tears to see that my ways are not His ways.
    Just reflecting on the Easter narrative coupled with my reading I am reminded of how God is present in the ordinary things of life.
    But he resides and though he seems absent from answering my questions he is at work in mysterious ways unknown to me.
    Trust once again is the operative word.
    Happy Easter Shelly.

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