Don’t let shame drive you away from God

Do you ever wonder when God will lose His patience with you? I lose my patience with people very easily, especially when I’m driving. But while I know God sometimes shakes His head at me, He’s never given up on me.

And it’s shocking if you really believe what the Bible says, because the Bible says God won’t ever give up on us. He won’t deal harshly with us. He isn’t cruel to us. Even if we deserve cruelty, even if our foolish mistakes make us worthy of His wrath, He won’t stay angry with us.

57J9ZJN1HMToday’s verses are Psalm 103:8-14.

The Lord is compassionate and merciful,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He will not constantly accuse us,
nor remain angry forever.
He does not punish us for all our sins;
he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
He has removed our sins as far from us
as the east is from the west.
The Lord is like a father to his children,
tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
For he knows how weak we are;
he remembers we are only dust.

I don’t understand God’s love, but I’m thankful for it. You’re going to make mistakes, that’s true. So prepare yourself mentally for it now. Because after you sin, you’re going to want to hide. Adam and Eve did. Everyone in history who has committed a sin has always tried to cover it up, which is funny in a way because who do we think God is? Do we really think we can hide from Him?

I’m only partially joking. Because I hide when I do wrong.

I don’t want to face what I’ve done. I would much rather crawl under my bed and live in denial, but that’s not what I’m called to do. So don’t let shame and fear drive you away from God. If you’ve done wrong, the shame and fear you’re feeling is only going to hurt you, and it’s only going to prolong your misery.

Give your shame to God. Give your fear to God. Let Him take it. Let go. It’s easy to want to hang on to it, but it’s too heavy for you. God is strong enough to carry it and take it away, so far away that you’ll never have to deal with it again, so far away that He won’t even remember it anymore.

It’s hard to believe that God would continue to love us even when we do wrong, but He does. God has no illusions about us. Like the verse says, He knows that we’re only dust. That means He knows we’re going to fail.

Granted, that doesn’t mean He expects us to fail. No, He has great plans and expectations for us, just like a parent has for his or her children. But do you stop loving your children when they don’t measure up? No. And how do you want your children to behave when they screw up? Who do you want them to turn to for help? Their friends? Their teachers? No, you want them to come to you.

Guess what? God feels the same way.

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God’s love is bigger than our failures

Nothing stops us in our tracks like shame and guilt. Have you noticed that? You can be booking right along on your path of life, and you do something that causes you shame or makes you feel guilty, and it’s like everything stops.

Maybe it’s just me. But that’s how it works for me. I can feel anger and keep moving forward. I can feel sadness and keep working. I can feel lost and frustrated and totally overwhelmed, but I won’t stop. But nothing causes me to despair more than guilt or shame.

Maybe it’s something I did or said. Maybe it’s something I didn’t do or didn’t say. Whatever. When I’m trapped in despair, I don’t feel like I can get out. In his master work, Pilgrim’s Progress, Charles Bunyan described despair like a swamp, that sucks your feet down and holds you in place while your life wastes away.

But if you’re a Christ-follower, you should never get mired in a swamp. You should never be stopped in your tracks by guilt or shame. Know why? Because all your guilt and all your shame is gone–paid for by none other than the Creator of the Universe.

1435763_14612154Today’s verses are Micah 7:18-20.

Where is another God like you,
who pardons the guilt of the remnant,
overlooking the sins of his special people?
You will not stay angry with your people forever,
because you delight in showing unfailing love.
Once again you will have compassion on us.
You will trample our sins under your feet
and throw them into the depths of the ocean!
You will show us your faithfulness and unfailing love
as you promised to our ancestors Abraham and Jacob long ago.

Our enemy likes to remind us of all the times we’ve screwed up. Satan is called the “Accuser of the Brethren” for a reason, friends. That’s what he does. He stands in heaven and points his fingers at us, reminding God of all the ways we’ve failed and all the ways we are unfaithful.

Not one of us can plead innocent, because we’ve all left God’s way to do our own thing. But Jesus has paid for our sins with His own blood, so when God looks at us, He sees nothing but His Son’s perfection.

If you follow Jesus, if you’ve given your life to Him, and you are feeling shame and guilt, stop. Have you asked God forgiveness? Have you repented?

Don’t be afraid of the churchy word. Repentance is simply a change of thinking. It’s seeing your choices and your attitude the way God sees them. It’s seeing your life from His perspective and changing your mind about which is better–your way or God’s way. That’s all repentance is.

If you’ve asked God to forgive you, He has. He never turns people away when they come to Him. And if you recognize that what you did was wrong, God knows your heart. So if you are continuing to feel guilt and shame, you can have confidence that it isn’t coming from God.

If guilt and shame are weighing you down today, don’t let them. Don’t listen. That’s our enemy roaring in your ears, trying to mire you down in a swamp of despair. If God has forgiven you and you are actively allowing the Scripture to transform your life, guilt and shame have no hold on you. Jesus freed you from their grasp. So don’t give in to them.

God forgives. He throws our sin to the depths of the ocean, regardless of how unfaithful we’ve been, regardless of the sins we’ll commit in the future. He knows all that, but His love is bigger than our failures.

It’s impossible to be a better Christian

Christians seem to enjoy beating each other up. Frequently. We’re never good enough for each other, and the only way we seem to know how to help each other “be better Christians” is to point out what we think are shortcomings.

I think we mean well, but some of the people who’ve hurt me the most in my life have been Christians who wanted to help me.

A Christian once sat me down and told me that I needed to be less connected to my family, because it prevented me from maturing in my faith. Another time, a Christian told me I was disobeying God because I was leading a Bible study, and women aren’t supposed to do that. Another Christian told me I was a heretic because I’d combined the words of Christ from John and Matthew in a drama I’d written.

I’m certain all these people wanted to help me be a better Christian, but in every instance, they did more damage than good. Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s healthy at times to challenge what you believe, but using guilt as a sledgehammer is never the right approach. Never ever.

guiltToday’s verse is Romans 5:1.

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.

God is the only one qualified to use guilt as motivation, and He chooses not to. If you are a Christ-follower, your guilt has been washed away. Through Jesus, you have been made right with God, and you have peace with Him. That means there’s nothing you need to do, nothing you need to add, nothing you need to accomplish to make your salvation complete.

It’s done. Finished. Complete.

And God didn’t need our help to do it either.

So when another Christian tells you that you need to do something in order to make God happy, take a second. I’m a performance-driven perfectionist, and I love God with all my heart. I’ll work myself to exhaustion twice over if I know it’s for God, and I’ll do it cheerfully and happily, even as my physical, emotional, and spiritual health collapses. If it’s for God, I’ll do it.

But is it for God? Does God really expect us to do that to ourselves? Or are you just doing it for the Christian who won’t leave you alone about it?

In each instance when Christians confronted me about my problems, they all told me I’d done something to hurt my relationship with God. I needed to stop calling my mom every morning. I needed to sit still and be led at church. I needed to quote scripture on stage instead of telling a story.

But was God the one who was upset about all that? Or was it the people who were confronting me? Did the Christian who wanted me to stop talking to my mom really think it made me immature, or did it make her realize that she had a terrible relationship with her mother? Was the Christian who wanted me to stop leading Bible study concerned for my spiritual wellbeing, or was he feeling guilty because he wasn’t stepping up? And was the Christian who challenged what I wrote really offended, or was he convicted?

I can’t answer any of those questions because they’re all heart problems, and only a few of them are mine. But one thing I have learned from all those examples is that if guilt doesn’t work for God, it won’t work for us.

God doesn’t draw people to Him though guilt. Yes, we all feel guilt, but even though we all have it, we don’t flock to people who make us feel guilty. Do we? No. We run to people we know love us in spite of our guilt, and that’s what God does. God doesn’t use guilt to pound us into submission. He offers free grace—unconditional love that says I’ll pay for your guilt.

The issue here isn’t about becoming a better Christian. Becoming a better Christian puts the responsibility on you. Learn more. Study more. Volunteer more. Do more. But nothing you do will make you a better Christian, because being a Christian isn’t about what you do. It’s about who you know.

That’s why Satan uses guilt so frequently, because guilt drives us away from God. If we see Him as a judge, fearsome and righteous towering over us with a hammer just waiting to smash us, we’ll be too terrified to approach Him. God has already paid the price for our guilt. He sent Jesus to take it away, so there is no guilt between God and those who have chosen to follow Christ. You are made right with Him. So you have peace with Him.

So many times I think Christians get busy on purpose so that they don’t have the time to truly get to know God. That’s where I was for years. It was much easier to work myself to exhaustion than it was to sit quietly in God’s presence and let Him see all of me.

Following Christ is about knowing God.

How do you know God? Well, how do you get to know anyone? You spend time with Him. One on one, where no one will overhear or interfere. Just you and Him.

Want to be a better Christian? You can’t.

But more one-on-one time with God never hurt anybody. And the more time you spend with Him, the more you’ll be like Him. And I don’t know about you, but being a better Christian loses its appeal at the thought of being more like Christ.