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Many of us have done things we’re ashamed of, or we’ve experienced something shameful and may think we’ll never get over it. Shame is emotionally painful and it has the ability to hold us back from enjoying life if we let it, but Jesus has already gone through every kind of shame imaginable on our behalf so we wouldn’t have to suffer through it. When we know this and fully believe it our lives are radically changed.
This negative emotion comes straight from the devil. He uses it as a weapon to try to stop us from realizing God’s will for our lives, but we don’t have to tolerate this. God hated shame so much that he sent his Son to die on the cross to remove it from our lives. “I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting. For the Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed” (Isaiah 50:6, 7).
We might be thinking, “That’s all well and good, but I can’t seem to let go of what happened.” Part of letting go and starting the healing process is to know that God has already forgiven us, and we’re now free to forgive ourselves. The past is gone and it has no more power over us. Christ is calling us to move forward because he doesn’t want shame to hold us back. “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13, 14).
The difference between guilt and shame is that guilt says, “I made a mistake,” but shame says, “I am a mistake.” Shame occurs when guilt turns inward and attacks us, making us feel like failures or “damaged goods.” Through our own self-efforts, we could never escape these debilitating thoughts, but handing over all the hurt and pain to Christ gives us success. “Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Colossians 1:28). When we’re struggling to get past the mistakes we made, “perfect” may be the last word we think of to describe ourselves, but when we ask Jesus to help us, that’s exactly how God sees us.
If we did something sinful that resulted in shame, we’re not doomed to dwell on that for the rest of our lives. Remembering it over and over is counterproductive and doesn’t help us at all. God has already chosen to forget the past, so there’s no reason why we can’t. “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more” (Hebrews 8:12).
If we don’t let go of our shame, we’ll continue to feel unworthy, unlovable, and disconnected. God will always love and accept us, no matter what we did in the past. We must decide for ourselves whether we’ll believe what Jesus did to heal us emotionally or continue to struggle along on our own. We’re one decision away from being free from shame!