Every one of us has an area of shame in our past.
Now I’m not one for huge generalizations, but I do believe everyone has faced a season of sin or a gut-wrenching mistake. Perhaps our shame stems from something we said… or didn’t say. Maybe it was a life-changing occurrence for which we somehow blame ourselves. It could have been a bad decision you made as far back as third grade – you know, the one “terrible” thing you did that you just can’t let go. Maybe, like me, there is more than one regret in your past that fuels your shame.
Shame is a tool of the enemy.
He uses this tool to cover us with darkness and hold us captive.
In our ongoing study, Lord Teach Us to Pray, we’re using the book Fervent by Priscilla Shirer as our backdrop. In it, she says, “If I were your enemy, I’d constantly remind you of your past mistakes and poor choices. I’d want to keep you burdened by shame and guilt, in hopes that you’ll feel incapacitated by your many failings and see no point in even trying again. I’d work to convince you that you’ve had your chance and blown it – that your God may be able to forgive some people for some things, but not you… not for this.” (Priscilla Shirer, Fervent: A Woman’s Battle Plan for Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer, B&H Publishing Group, Nashville, Tennessee, 2015)
Another way Satan uses shame as a tool is to make us feel as if we carry our burden alone – like we’re the only one with such a dark, ugly past.
He whispers lies such as, “If you dare share the truth and try to overcome, you’ll face certain ridicule and scorn. No one will understand. You’ll be an outcast. It’s best to keep your secret to yourself.” Perhaps you’ve heard similar whispers in your own ears.
Remember, as we’ve discussed many times: Satan is a liar. He has no authority to rob us of the finished work of the cross. We must learn to discern his lies, resist them, and walk in the light of the truth.
Releasing Shame as we Discern the Voice of Truth
When Jesus speaks, He uses words of love, endearment, encouragement, and hope (see John 17, for example). Conversely, when we hear the hiss of the snake who is Satan, we’ll hear words of condemnation, guilt, discouragement, and humiliation. While it’s tempting (yes, I said tempting), to accept the enemy’s accusations, they are contrary to God.
Here’s the danger: When we entertain thoughts that are contrary to those of the Holy One, we’ll surely work in ways that are contrary to His purpose.
I don’t want to work contrary to God, do you? I want to follow Him wholeheartedly. God gives us the ability to discern which voice is which. As we embrace that God-given ability, let’s follow God’s instruction to resist the enemy so that he flees. (James 4:7).
Following the Example of Jesus
Let’s look at the example Jesus set when it comes to shame. Remember, our Savior is One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15). Perhaps you’ve never considered that He faced shame, but by reflecting on the following, I think you’ll agree that indeed He did:
Jesus faced the shame of rejection (Luke 4:29).
He faced the shame of abandonment (Mark 14:32-40).
Our Savior faced the shame of ridicule (Mark 15:15-32).
Jesus faced the shame of exposure (John 19:23-24).
The Lord faced the shame of torture (Matthew 27:27-30).
Christ faced the shame of my sin (and yours) as He bore each one (1 Peter 2:24).
How Did Jesus handle the shame? He endured.
Some translations say he despised it, scorned it, or disregarded it, or ignored it – by enduring the cross (see Hebrews 12:2).
Read that again: Jesus endured. He didn’t let shame keep Him from communion with the Father. Or from fulfilling His purpose. He wasn’t shaken off course of ministry. He stood firm and unwavering. Jesus didn’t hide or shirk back from His calling.
Another cue we take from Jesus is to walk in the light (1 John 1:5-7). Hidden things fester and spoil. What’s illuminated can find healing and transformation. What Satan wishes to keep hidden, Jesus prefers to bring into the light to provide wholeness and redemption.
Consider this excerpt from Finding Joy in the Journey:
“The Lord meets us in whatever darkness is causing our shame. Regardless of the ugliness of the sin, He knows it all and chooses to love us just the shame. Christ casts out the darkness of our past just as the warm glow of a light overtakes the darkness of a closet.
Because we have Christ in us and His light overtakes the darkness of our past, He will use our mistakes as part of our testimony to share His love with others. We may consider ourselves tainted goods, but Jesus has redeemed our sins, clothed us in righteousness, and prepared us for a life of service to Him. If He can use someone like me, He can certainly use you! The Lord will cause light to shine out of the darkness through Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6) and will begin to use us to share the freedom that we find in His redeeming love.” (Cathy McIntosh, Finding Joy in the Journey: Savoring the Fruit of the Spirit, SW Publishing, Brighton, Colorado, 2012.)
Set Free From Shame
By following the example of Jesus and by walking in His strength and purpose, we can shine for Him through our shame. To shine for Christ doesn’t mean that we beautify and pretty ourselves. It means we prepare our hearts, minds, and souls by focusing intently on what He did for us and the example of His life. We accomplish that through prayer, through accepting His love and walking in obedience to Him. The goodness and mercy of our Savior become such a meaningful gift to us that we walk in remembrance and gratitude moment by moment. Our gratitude and love for Him literally begin to radiate from within us.
If our desire is to find freedom from our shame, here are some next steps:
- First, may we remember the shame that Jesus endured and hold His sacrifice close to our hearts.
- Then may we thank Him and meditate on the price He paid to set us free from our own shame.
- Next, may we accept His limitless love for us.
- And finally, may we walk in the freedom that He provides to shine for His glory.
Embracing the freedom that Christ has already provided (purchasing it through His blood on the cross) brings freedom and power. It equips us to walk in the authority that He extends to us through His Spirit. I want every bit of that, don’t you?
May you find joy in His freedom today!