Shame often creeps at the corners of my mind. I wish I hadn’t eaten that second piece of cake. My time and money could be better managed. I thought I’d be further along by now (in my 40’s) in so many ways – emotionally, spiritually, and in relationships. Sometimes the shame I feel is God’s gentle reminder to make some changes, and other times the Lord calls me to disregard the shame of this world. Yesterday in my daily Scripture reading I found two reminders regarding shame.
Right living can protect us from shame.
In Isaiah 59:17 we read that God put on his “breastplate of righteousness” and “the helmet of salvation.” This passage always reminds me of Ephesians 6 where Paul writes about the breastplate of righteousness. Righteousness really is a fancy word for “right living” – it means making wise choices and following God’s commands. The Roman breastplate protected vital organs like the heart.
The picture is one of living God’s way instead of ours in order to protect our heart from condemnation and shame. The enemy wants us to stay unfamiliar with God’s directives for right living, but also disconnected from a close personal relationship with God that would lead to conviction and change when we find ourselves disobedient. Satan knows that living a life in direct opposition to how God says we should live, is like walking around on the battlefield with no protection for our chests. It’s like an open invitation to the enemy for a full frontal attack when we don’t put on the body armor of God’s righteousness. When we say we believe God’s Word, but live in direct defiance to what it says about how we should live, we position ourselves for pain – right to the heart.
Sometimes the shame I feel comes from the bad choices I make. At those times God calls me to turn from my sin and turn towards Him. He is always loving and ready to forgive and help me make better decisions.
Some shame needs to be disregarded.
After reading in Isaiah about the body armor of righteousness, my New Testament reading was in Hebrews. In Hebrews 12:2 it says, “Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” Jesus endured shameful humiliation. He was beaten, mocked, spit on, and put on a cross to die like a criminal. Yet we find here in Hebrews 12 that He disregarded the shame. He saw the good that God planned to bring out of this temporary shaming – the atonement for sin and reconcilliation of God and people.
At times others make fun of us, talk behind our backs, and shame us with hurtful words and actions. Like Christ, we can choose to disregard the shame. Instead we believe what God says about us and look for His greater plan to bring good out of bad situations.
We need Holy Spirit discernment when it comes to the shame we feel. Is God calling us to turn away from foolish habits in response to our shame or is He calling us to disregard it and see His bigger plan?
Sometimes I have sat with pen and paper and made a list of everything that is bugging me. It helps to identify what is weighing me down. Then I go back and cross off the list everything that is beyond my control. I ask God to help me accept those things and see them the way He does. Next I look at the things bothering me that I can change – I ask God to give me wisdom to see what He is calling me to do.
This is a shame lifting activity for me. God doesn’t want us to wallow in our shame. Instead He calls us to turn from the shame sources in our lives by following Him and disregarding worldly shame brought on by others.