Shame. It’s the deep feeling of being unworthy, dirty or contaminated. It’s the thing that makes us want to hide away or cover up the truth. It’s that overwhelming feeling you get when someone is looking at you. Really looking at you. When it feels like they can see every flaw, every blemish and you cover your face and hide away in shame.
Shame can stem from what we’ve done or shame can stem from what others have done to us. Most have experienced it at some point in their lives, however some experience shame that is crippling, which they carry around like a cloak, hindering them from truly living the way God intended.
How to find freedom from shame
So what can we do with this disabling disposition? First, we need to recognize it and its symptoms in our lives and then it is up to us to decide whether or not to travel down the road that leads to freedom. It is our choice whether or not we continue to live under the cover of shame, continually crying out ‘unworthy!’ or ‘unclean!’ to anyone who tries to get close to us. Second, we need to accept cleansing from the One who died to wash our shame in His blood and make us His own. Like those lepers who were once outcasts of society – ‘unclean’, is to seek out the One who can clean us, make us as white as snow! (Matt 8:1-3, Luke 17:11-14, Isaiah 1:18)
Roadblocks to freedom
A lot of us run into problems when we begin to overcome our shame. No matter how many times someone tells us we’re beautiful, we cannot hear it. Encouraging words bounce off us like our hearts are made of stone. We can receive no hopeful words from others. We cannot get over the feeling of always being unworthy. Well, to be frank, you are.
We are all unworthy. Romans 3:23 says ‘for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,’ when we look at us compared to the glory and the splendor of God, we are nothing. We have nothing to boast about.
We often try to overcome our shame by finding worth in ourselves. We try to find something to feel proud about. But that’s just it—pride! Attempting to produce our own worth of ourselves is pride. Looking for worth in ourselves is just feeding our pride, it does nothing to eradicate shame.
No, the only way to break the bonds of shame is to put our worth, hope, and trust in Jesus Christ through whom we are justified.
Shame flees at the cross
Romans 3:24 goes on to say ‘and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.’ We are to cling to His promise to free us from our sin and shame, and in doing so we can associate ourselves with the One who is worthy! We can rejoice in His goodness. We can boast in His righteousness.
If we are in Him and He in us, we can stand tall and boldly approach the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16) without shame because of what He did for us. We should not fear to be seen or exposed because God has cleansed us from the inside out. We are whiter than snow. We are beautiful children of God. May your heart believe it!
Instead of your shame
you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
and everlasting joy will be yours.
– Isaiah 61:7
Healing. This a word with a lot of meaning. In this one word we can feel the pain of the wound, the strength it takes to keep going, the seemingly endless journey to wholeness, and so much more. Often we ask why it must take so long for our ‘unseen’ wounds to heal. Wounds such as those received from hurtful words, betrayals or abuse, seem to have an extensive, if not infinite, healing time.
The Nature of Unseen Wounds
When we compare these types of wounds with those such as a cut or a scrape, we wish it were that easy; if only we could put on a Band-Aid and wait a few days and call it good! But these wounds aren’t superficial. These wounds are deep. Their effects penetrate deep into our core. Infection has spread to other areas of our lives, and unfortunately it’s not just something that will go away with time and hiding it beneath a bandage. These wounds carry shrapnel that must be removed before healing can truly begin. These shrapnel pieces are things like lies, unforgiveness, self-hatred, and shame. And unless they are removed, wholeness cannot be achieved.
Maybe you’ve tried to remove them yourselves. Seeing your shame and self-hatred, you read some books on how to overcome them and try really hard to think more positively about yourself. You try to believe the good things others say about you. But time and time again you fail. Things can seem hopeless. You go back to hiding the pain and the shame, praying it will just go away on its own. But it never does.
Hope for Healing
There is good news! Whilst you may not be able to remove these shards of betrayal, abuse and pain inflicted upon you, I know One who can. His name is Jesus. He is a skilled surgeon who can reach into the deepest darkest areas with fine precision and remove those lies that remain inside.
The Bible says, speaking of Jesus;
“He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners” (Isaiah 61:1).
Healing our pain and brokenness, bringing us out from the darkness and giving us freedom is why Jesus came, died on a cross and rose again! It was for you and me so that we might be free. Galatians 5 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”
However, whilst His hands are tender and loving, His instruments are sharp. There is pain in the healing. For it to occur we must be vulnerable and open with Him about our lives and willing to let Him in.
Our Part in Healing
We also must be willing to be healed. This may seem like an obvious choice; of course we want to be healed! But when you have had this wound for most of your life, pain and emotional turmoil is so familiar to you. You can’t imagine what it is like to live without this shadow of your past. You can’t imagine freedom and the unknown is frightening.
To be truly healed is to step out into a place you have never experienced before. All of your familiar habits and feelings will be gone. In their place is freedom, joy and peace. It seems so unimaginable, so distant and practically impossible that surely it’s better to just stay where you are? Surely it’s easier to keep pressing on and ignoring the wounds? It may be easier, but it is not better.
In the Gospel of Mark we see a scene of Jesus both forgiving the sins of a man and healing his paralysis. It says:
“I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.” (Mark 2:11)
The man’s response was to immediately get up and walk home. Now imagine if his response had been otherwise. Imagine if he had replied, “But I’ve been paralyzed for so long, I don’t remember what it’s like to walk. What would I do if I could walk? It’s scary, I’m much more comfortable here on my mat.” It may have been easier, but anyone could see that it would not have been better. In healing there is freedom.
Once you decide to let Jesus into those hurting areas of your life and let the healing begin, the journey does not stop there. It is more of a marathon than a sprint. There will be days where you feel like you can’t go on, that if you let God bring the pain to the surface one more time, you’ll break apart. However we have a promise from our Heavenly Father, a promise I can testify to, that
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
He promises to be with us, He promises to sustain us and not let us fall
“God is within her, she will not fall;” (Psalm 46:5).
Looking Back on Your Journey
There will also be days where you, by God’s grace, have conquered one of the mountains in the healing journey! Praise God! You are to rejoice in every step of healing! Don’t look ahead to how far you still have to go. Instead, look back and see how far you have come!
Finally, there may be times where you feel you are back at the beginning of your healing journey. As if after all this time you have gotten nowhere. However, this is not true. Paul says in one of his letters:
“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
God is not going to give up on you. He will continue to lead you down the path of healing if you will let Him. I have often struggled with this very feeling and a friend recently helped my perspective by way of an analogy.
Picture a threaded screw. As you trace the path around the screw you continually circle back to where you began, but not exactly where you began, each venture around the screw moves you up just a millimeter. So even though it may feel like you have gone back to where you started, over time you will realize just how far you have come!
I encourage you, whose heart is hurting, to let the kind Savior in and let the healing begin!
This spring the Tri-HOPe team is excited to be putting together our first support group for victims of sexual assault, starting summer 2015. With more than one year of prayer behind us in preparation, we are glad to finally begin building a resource center for survivors and this is the first step.
We will be using the In the Wildflowers curriculum, a program developed by counselor and survivor, Julie Woodley. The group will meet for 10 weeks and together walk through the 10 steps of healing as set forth in the curriculum.
Interested or know someone who may be? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. More details to come!
While the group will be open to women at any point in their healing process, it is highly recommended that participants also individually see a licensed mental health professional for the duration of the program. For assistance finding a licensed therapist or counselor, contact us.