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"Oh, what a tangled web we weave… when first we practice to deceive."
– Walter Scott
Never has this quote been so true as today. It seems that we are barraged by personalities caught in their own webs of deception. Steve Rannazzisi recently admitted that he concocted the entire story about his experience on 9/11. Josh Duggar and many others were exposed through the Ashley Madison hack. Brian Williams was forced to admit that he lied about his experiences in Iraq.
And the deception transcends all barriers: politics, Hollywood, ministry. No segment of our culture is exempt. Why the epidemic? Why the obvious, blatant lies? Why can't we just tell the truth?
As I look at Scripture, I see that lying is as old as life itself. Whether it's Eve twisting the truth or Adam shifting responsibility or Rachel lying to her father or Jacob deceiving his brother, we see that something deep within us is simply deceptive. "The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” (Jeremiah 17:9).
While there is probably an infinite number of reasons why people lie, I can see three basic causes:
1 - Fear
Many people find themselves caught in a lie because of fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the future. Fear of what others might think. Fear of failure. Fear of who they believe they are.
I have personally allowed fear to lead me into deceit. When I suddenly found myself a single mom, I was terrified. I wondered what my future would be, who would ever love a middle-aged woman with three young children. I was afraid that my life was over, that I had lost every chance at a meaningful life. And that's when I became trapped in a deceitful lifestyle. I was controlled by fear rather than faith.
Those of us who find ourselves living in fear are in good company, however. Abraham, despite being a giant of the faith, was often caught in fear. When he left his home to go to the land God would show him, he found himself living in Egypt as a foreigner. Out of fear, he told his wife Sarai to lie to the Egyptians. Why?
Abram said to his wife, Sarai, “Look, you are a very beautiful woman.When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife. Let’s kill him; then we can have her!’ So please tell them you are my sister. Then they will spare my life and treat me well because of their interest in you. Genesis 12:10-13
Despite his great faith, Abraham lied because of his fear. He lied to spare his life. He lied to gain benefits from others. And, he didn't just lie once. He didn't learn his lesson the first time. Years later, Abraham told the exact same lie to King Abimelech.
2 - Discontent
One of the last sermons my husband preached before he was caught in his adulterous relationship was on temptation. "Satan tempts us when he gets us to doubt the good gifts God has placed in our lives," he said.
How true it is. If we spend our time focusing on the things we think we should have, we begin to think that God is holding out on us, that we are missing something important. We get caught up in thinking that we should be further in our careers, have more money, own a bigger house. We miss the beautiful blessings that surround us. We fail to see that God has carefully provided for our every need and to trust that he will always be faithful.
King David was caught in the trap of discontentment. He was the king of Israel. He was wealthy, powerful. He had wives and servants. He had everything he could possibly want.
...Until he saw Bathsheba. She was beautiful, and he had to have her. Suddenly, all of God's blessings paled in comparison to this one, one who belonged to another man. But in the moment it didn't matter that she was another man's wife. He sent for her. He slept with her. His discontent caused him to seek out a forbidden relationship.
3 - Trapped by Our Own Words
Rarely do the big lies start as big lies. Instead, they begin as small lies. Then, more lies are heaped on top to cover those lies. Before long, we become entangled in a web of deceit, with the lies growing bigger and bigger. Before long, we can't find our way out of the mess we have created. Many times, we tell the lies so often that we begin to believe they are truth.
After David slept with Bathsheba, things went from bad to worse. Bathsheba discovered she was pregnant, and now David was left trying to cover up his sin. So he lied. He called Bathsheba's husband home from battle, encouraged him to go home to his wife. But Uriah displayed incredible integrity, refusing to engage in relations with his wife while his comrades were on the battlefield.
So the next morning David wrote a letter to Joab and gave it to Uriah to deliver. The letter instructed Joab, "Station Uriah on the front lines where the battle is fiercest. Then pull back so that he will be killed." 2 Samuel 11:14-15
Lies on top of lies. A web of deceit. From adultery to murder. David was in deep, way over his head. He was trapped by his own words, his own lies.
So how do we protect ourselves from going down the path of deceit? How do we avoid becoming yet another statistic? How do we protect ourselves from the label of liar?
1 - Recognize That You are Vulnerable
When we become convinced that we are above certain sins, we put ourselves in danger. We let our guard down, becoming vulnerable. We must be constantly aware of the temptations all around us and guard our hearts and minds.
If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. 1 Corinthians 10:12
2 - Become Intimate with the Truth
The best way to combat lies is to know the truth. Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life" (John 14:6). Know Jesus. Spend time with God, in his Word. Saturate your mind with the truths of Scripture. Allow the word of God to penetrate your heart and mind. Be transformed by the Word of God. Believe what God has to say about you instead of the negative messages the world sends you. Defeat the father of lies (John 8:44) with the sword of the spirit.
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2
3 - Focus on the Eternal
Too often, we put immediate gratification over eternal rewards. We must recognize that everything on this earth is fleeting, passing away. But living God's way stores up eternal rewards.
All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step…. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. 1 Corinthians 9:25-27
Have you already been caught in a web of deception? Be thankful that our Lord is a God of redemption, and that the truth will set you free. David might have been caught in the biggest web of deceit recorded in scripture. And yet, he was known as a man after God's own heart. What separated him from other liars? What allowed him to regain a relationship with the Father?
David truly repented of his sins.
Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Psalm 51:1-3
David showed through word and deed that he accepted responsibility for his actions; he changed his path. He did not despise the true friend who uncovered his lies. And God forgave, restored. And just as God forgave and restored David, he will forgive and restore you. You are never too far away from the love of God.
Dena Johnson is a busy single mom of three kids who loves God passionately. She delights in taking the everyday events of life, finding God in them, and impressing them on her children as they sit at home or walk along the way (Deuteronomy 6:7). Her greatest desire is to be a channel of God’s comfort and encouragement. You can read more of Dena’s experiences with her Great I AM on her blog Dena's Devos.
Publication date: September 24, 2015