How to have Victory over Shame

The most secretive prison in the world isn’t in some subbasement of some 1960s era non-descript government building in some closed dictatorial regime. But it is the most populated prison in the world. “Wait a minute, that doesn’t even make sense!” you say. “How do you keep the largest prison in the world secretive?” Put it in the human heart. Outwardly we justify our sin while we inwardly hate ourselves for practicing it. So often we live in the secret prison of shame. The good news is we can have total victory over shame.

Every human being is affected by shame to some degree. It robs us of who we really are. It sets our life on a trajectory of desperately trying in vain to numb its pain.

  • We medicate it, because the pain of the addiction hurts less.
  • We feed it, foolishly believing the shame from the last failed relationship will be healed by the next one.
  • We pretend it doesn’t exist. If I act like I’m fine long enough, maybe I’ll actually believe it myself.

None of it works. All our coping methods just add more shame.

But there’s good news. There is something that will work. Or rather, someone that will work. But to understand the victory, we first need to understand the problem. What really is shame, anyway?

Shame is not guilt. There’s a subtle but important difference between guilt and shame.

Guilt, or conviction, is what the Holy Spirit gives us, because he loves us. It’s a gift from God. He’s correcting our sinful behavior because (1) it’s self-destructive, and (2) it interferes with our relationship with him. Guilt says, “I did something wrong.” And often that’s true.

Shame, on the other hand, is not from God, but rather is Satan’s perversion of godly guilt. Shame says, “I am something wrong.” That is so totally not true. That’s a lie. Shame is a liar.

Shame is the false belief that I am uniquely and fatally flawed. (Kudos to Restoring the Foundations Ministry for this definition). There are three fundamental lies of shame.

  1. “I am flawed.” There’s something wrong with me. I can’t let anyone see. I live in the fear that someone somewhere will find out my secret. I’d better keep them at a distance.
  2. “I am uniquely flawed.” No one is as bad as me. I am the only one with this problem. If they really knew how bad I am, they would hate me like I hate me.
  3. “I am fatally flawed.” I can’t be fixed. My flaws are permanent; it’s just the way I am. The best I can do is hide it and control the situation (and everyone else) so no one ever finds out.

Shame holds so many people, even Christians, in prison, keeping them from living out their true identity, or often even knowing what it is. Yes, Christians are forgiven, but so often we’re not healed. This is why we struggle with divorce and addictions and legalism just like the world does.

But there’s good news. We can have victory over shame. His name is Jesus, and he’s made a way.

Shame’s power over us is really just a house of cards because it’s built on lies. The truth of God’s word blows it away.

Each of shame’s three lies described above get smashed to pieces by the Word of God. We have victory over shame when we choose to replace its lies with God’s truth:

  1. I’m not something wrong.
    • I was made in God’s own image (Genesis 1:27).
    • I have been made a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).
    • God loves me apart from what I do (Ephesians 1:3-14).
  2. I’m not uniquely flawed; I’m not the only one like this.
    • No temptation has seized me but that which is common to mankind (1 Corinthians 10:13).
  3. I am not fatally flawed. My sin is not bigger or more powerful than Jesus’ blood.
    • Jesus’ blood is bigger and stronger than any and all of my sin, and by his stripes I am healed (Isaiah 53:5, Romans 6:10, Hebrews 9:28, 1 Peter 3:18).

That’s why Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

The question is, Who are you going to believe? God or your shame? When shame brings up your past, agree with it and add, “Yes, that’s why I have a Savior!” When we speak (out loud) God’s truth over ourselves instead of the lies of shame, shame disappears in a puff of grace. Jesus is so there.

Victory over shame opens up a whole new adventure to us—the life God created us to live and Jesus died to restore. I can’t wait to see what God does in your life. And in mine. Shall we take the plunge?

Have you been down this road? Does this resonate with you? Tell us in the comments, and please share on social media if you think this would bless someone else.

How to Get Unstuck

Are you stuck? We all get stuck at some point. Is it an addiction you just can’t lick? Is it depression that just won’t end? Is it a mid-life crisis, realizing you’ve ended up with some boring, dead-up life and your dreams have all but vanished? Feel like you just can’t get there from here? I’ve been stuck. This post is a plan for getting unstuck.

Here’s how you get unstuck. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), and he is the path for getting unstuck. I know that sounds all Christian Happy Quippy, like those trite and insincere things we say to each other on Sunday mornings. Don’t bounce to another web page, hang with me here a minute. There’s a very practical path hidden in that verse that we’re going to unpack in this post. So read on, Precious Stuck One, for the path to freedom.

1) Jesus is the way.

This is where it starts. Commitment on our part. Jesus is already committed to walk this path with us. He’s sacrificed his life. He’s uber-invested in your freedom. Are you as invested in your own freedom as he is?

We think we are, but are we really? Are we committed to the freedom Jesus wants for us, or only to freedom on our terms? Are we committed to success that’s easy, convenient, doesn’t hurt, and doesn’t violate our rights? Sometimes we’re comfortable with our bondage.

Are we willing to sacrifice for success on his terms? His success comes through painful perseverance, long suffering, laying down our rights, and dying to ourselves. Are we willing? His success is hard fought, but it’s much more satisfying, and it comes with a calling and an authority. We have authority over what we’ve been delivered from.

2) Jesus is the truth.

If we’re going to get unstuck, we need to be friends with the truth. The truth is often not politically correct, comfortable, safe, or easy. But it is good, and it is true. It’s time to agree with God’s truth.

When the culture (or our desires) clash with what God’s revealed in his word, we have to let God win every time. For example:

The culture says you can sleep with anyone, any time. But we wait for marriage, because:

Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10 NIV)

The culture says we’re a cosmic accident. But we believe we’re intentionally designed by God, because:

You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:13-16 NIV)

The culture says you can change your gender and your race. But we don’t recreate ourselves and decide who we want to be. That’s actually spiritual rebellion. We discover who God’s made us to be, because:

What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, “Stop, you’re doing it wrong!” Does the pot exclaim, “How clumsy can you be?” How terrible it would be if a newborn baby said to its father, “Why was I born?” or if it said to its mother, “Why did you make me this way?” (Isaiah 45:9-10 NLT)

The culture says we have to earn our value and the right to be loved. But we know we have intrinsic value. Just because we exist, God loves us, because:

God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

The culture says we can terminate a pregnancy if it’s inconvenient. But we trust God and walk with him through the pain of single parenthood, because:

[God is] a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows. (Psalm 68:5a) [That totally includes single moms.]

The culture says anyone developing emotional problems after an abortion was weak to start with. But we speak the truth about trauma and offer God’s hope, healing, forgiveness, and acceptance to everyone who wants it, because:

He has sent me [Jesus] to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. (Isaiah 61:1b-3a)

The culture says to ship the illegal aliens back where they belong. But we do good to the foreigners and the aliens among us specifically to honor the Lord, because:

When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:33-34)

God’s word needs to define our opinions. We take the word of God at face value, and we’re willing to change our minds.

3) Jesus is the life.

We live his adventure. He’s the breath in our lungs and the hope in our heart. He is the life we live. Our life revolves around him.

Jesus is our lifestyle. Are we living in the light of God’s truth? Or are we living in the culture’s comfortable lies? Are we committed to sexual purity in our lives, waiting for marriage, or have we rationalized a sinful lifestyle? Do we tithe and give generously, or do we live in fear with a scarcity mindset? Do we spend intimate time with the lover of our soul, Jesus our lover-king, or do we just throw him a bone and check the box on Sundays?

Is our life style bent around ourselves and our comfort, or around him and his truth? This isn’t legalism. This is passion. When you’re passionate for your lover, pleasing them is light and pleasurable. If we’re passionate for Jesus, we can’t live in a way that breaks his heart.

In the West, we like to compartmentalize everything. We have our family box, our work box, our entertainment box, our church box, and our God box. We like to think that as long as our God box is the most important box, God’s happy. But that’s totally not true! God does not want to be in the most important box. He wants to be the most important thing in every box.

You could say it this way. Jesus doesn’t want to be the most important thing in our lives. He wants to be the only thing. Coach Lombardi didn’t realize he was talking about Jesus when he made his famous quote, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” But he was. Jesus is Winning!

And the only way for us to win at life and get unstuck is to think so, too. When Jesus is everything, all the other things fall into place. Not that we won’t have problems, we will. Sometimes really painful, unexpected ones that hit us like a sledgehammer. But our focus isn’t on the problem, it’s on Jesus and figuring out what he’s doing in our lives through the problem. It’s about being real and honest with him, telling him the truth about our pain and accepting his joy in the middle of it.

So there’s the blueprint for freedom. Commit to Jesus the way, agree with Jesus the truth, and live Jesus as your lifestyle. The result is a deeper level of freedom and intimacy with him than you’ve ever known.

Does this resonate with you? Does it challenge you? What parts? Please share on social media and tell us what you think in the comments below. It’s time to hear from you.