“Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but to turn it into glory.”
– William Barclay
Those two words can go hand-in-hand, can’t they? We have all experienced the pounding rain of constant criticism and shame over one thing or another. It could be over a path God is leading you down, a transformation of a belief, or just a new chapter in your life. We see ourselves in the mirror happily following God and walking in the Spirit, but the voices come; like a heavy rain flooding out our feet and forcing our spirits to be washed away. We try to stand up against the voices of shame and criticism, and all we feel is deflated, depressed, and degraded.
Through the critical voices of shame, we feel our life is not good enough, our voice needs to be silent, we need to stay in our place, and caged. If we step out of their line, then we are poked and prodded back into place.
“You shouldn’t be struggling like this.”
“You know this might be the wrong road.”
“You know better.”
“Are you going off the deep end?”
“Are you still following God?”
“Wow, you certainly have changed.”
“Is this just to get a reaction?”
“Why do you always have to be different?”
Like the howling winds, these voices are louder than our own thoughts. We feel like we cannot even hear God. When we go to church, pray, or open our Bible we feel the shame of only being put down for everything. We feel like the villain. Is there any good in us? Shame silences our voice, smashes our hearts, and saps the energy out of our soul.
Why am I like this? Wouldn’t it be easier if I was like everyone else? If I didn’t exist, then I wouldn’t have caused the tension I feel. Ever been there? Ever been drenched by the rain of shame as you cried over being ashamed of yourself?
Will the rain ever stop? Will we ever be able to stand again?
All Around Me
Being shamed and feeling ashamed of yourself is one of the worst battles to endure. We would rather go through a physical war than face shame. We feel it is all around us. We cannot open up to anyone without that one look appearing or that comment resurfacing. Is there something wrong with us?
Psalm 42:3 shows a breaking heart. The psalmist laments as his enemies taunt him, “Where is this God of yours?” David, in Psalm 31:1, cries out to God, because the burden of being disgraced is heavy. In many psalms, there is an image of a person surrounded and pushed down by enemies. Their enemy taunts them about their trust in God or disgraces them over something. They feel like they must wander in grief. The taunts are like the pain of snapping bones (Psalm 42:9-10).
We identify with that deep grief and the sense of enemies all around us shaming us. They may not be literally enemies trying to kill us, but our enemies want to assassinate our character and expose our pasts as the main theme of our lives. We are seen as one who should be shut out and not given a chance. In times where we feel spiritually strong and growing, those voices return to put us back down.
It is very difficult to go through. It feels lonely, hopeless, and if God will ever use you. You feel taunted by God as he has given you gifts and talents, yet no one wants you, your past, your personality, etc. This is a reality for many of us in the church. One fall, one struggle, one opinion… and our lives feel shipwrecked.
How did David not end up running himself through with a sword? How did the psalmist not throw himself off of a cliff into the Dead Sea?
“Who are you?” Did Simba have a good answer? No. However, when faced with his father, Simba heard these words, “You have forgotten who you are, and so have forgotten me.”
This is the secret – remembrance. David had to remember who he was, and then was able to remember who God is. Shame can cause depression to choke us like a toxic fog, but remembrance can cause the light to dispel the darkness.
So the question is, who are you?
You are uniquely created with a purpose by the almighty God (Psalm 139:13-16; Jeremiah 1:4-5). You are redeemed by God and no longer face condemnation (Romans 5:1; Romans 8:1; Ephesians 2:1-9). Your past is gone (II Corinthians 5:17). You now have a hope for a future, a new life, and a glorious life to come (II Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:10; I Peter 1:3-5).
God lifts up your ashamed head, looks you in the eyes, and he gently says, “You are my son. I am pleased with you. I know every detail of your life, and I delight in you.” (Mark 1:11; Romans 8:15-17; Psalm 37:23)
What does that say about God?
Romans 8:31-39 – He is for you. He loves you. He makes you a conquerer. Nothing will ever be able to separate you from God’s love. Do you not think he is going to leave you in shame? If he did not leave his son in the shame of a sarcophagus, then do you not think he will take this burden and make it glorious?
Staying Shame’s Friend
Remembering who you are and who God is can be awesome. However, we have a problem.
We would like to say shame is our greatest enemy. But, think about this – do you treat shame as your greatest friend? Don’t we reach out for approval from those whom we’ve only gotten shame? Don’t we put ourselves in situations where we we have only experienced shame? Don’t we dwell on the shame others give us rather than who God is and who he made us to be?
It is like this scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – Watch Here
We are just like Elsa and Indiana Jones. “I can almost reach it.” We reach for the approval of those who shame us and guilt trip us. Do we ever get it? We don’t get either a life of our own or their approval. Instead, we fall.
Yet, as we are reaching claiming it is almost in our grasps, God softly says our name. Softly and tenderly calls us by name, and he says, “Let it go.”
Once we take his hand, God will drag us out of shame. Then with epic music playing, he says, “Follow me.” (Psalm 34:5)
We experience shame. It seems like from every side. We feel scrutinized for decisions we’ve made before God. We feel ashamed of who we are, because we do not reach someone else’s standard of what it means to be a “good Christian.” It is the rain only drowning our soul in depression and sorrow.
Once we remember who we are and who God is, then we can stand. Our stories are worth telling. Our mess is being transformed by the grace of God. As we are transformed, the old is being broken apart. This forces us into a new life and new thinking (Romans 12:1-2). The way God made us is unique, wonderful, and precious in his sight. The path he is guiding you down is specifically made for you. In him is no shame. He delights in you.
We forget that in the storms of life. Remembrance is the key. After crossing the Jordan, the people of Israel set up twelve stones as a memorial of God’s works and promises (Joshua 4:1-7). We need to the same. We need reminders of who God is and who we are. For me, I wear two rings on my right hand. On my index finger is the ring of Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings. To me, it symbolizes the wandering ranger turned king. Aragorn is the fulfillment of Tolkien’s quote, “Not all those who wander are lost.” My story may feel like wandering, but God is not done with me. There is a bright future. On my ring finger is a ring with elephants encircling it. To me, it symbolizes brotherhood. Elephants will surround the hurt or injured elephant until it can rejoin the pack. I am not alone in my struggles. God has given me brothers to lean on. Also, this ring reminds me I am uniquely created, and it is ok to be the “elephant in the room.” God has given me unique gifts, talent, personality, and views. He wants me to use all of them for him, and not let others shame me into being like them.
What are your reminders going to be? Make them personal to you.
It is only when we remember who God is and who we are we can stand against shame. We do not have to lose our voice. People can shame and guilt trip us, but we won’t go speechless. Why? Because we know who is our God and who he made us to be.
You matter, your story matters, your voice matters. Don’t let others tell you otherwise. God gave it to you. Use it.
The burden of shame is like a heavy rain trying to drown us out. God sees it. He sees the poisonous voices trying to cut you to pieces. Say goodbye to fear. Lift your eyes. Keep on climbing. The rain of shame can try to crush us…
Yet, We Stand