How to Defeat Shame in your Walk with God
Recently, someone told me: "God loves you unconditionally". That statement should not have surprised me, but it did. If my childhood Sunday school teachers saw my surprise at the idea of God's unconditional love, they would be grieved. Had I never heard those children's songs--"Jesus Loves Me" or "Jesus Loves The Little Children"? How could I forget something so fundamental to the act of salvation? After all, the Bible says: "For God so loved the world". The basis of all Christianity--the basis of a restored relationship between God and Man--is the ultimate, self-sacrificing, Agape love of God.
Yet, hearing someone say that God loves me and that He loves me unconditionally left me dumbfounded. In my mind, I was knowledgeable of God's love, but I had not let that knowledge seep into my heart and become a life-changing belief.
Let me say it to you. Maybe you will find it as surreal as I did.
God Loves you.
My knee-jerk reaction to that statement is the mindset that has alienated me from it for so long. For years, I have been trying and attempting to be a "good" person and a "good" child of God. I limited my relationship with God to a one-sided conversation. I focused on what I could do for an infinite and all-powerful God. There is no way to make yourself feel more finite or weak than to compare your devotion to that of Almighty God. There is no easier way to spiritually burn-out than to put all your efforts into reciprocating God's love by labor.
Jesus said in Matthew 11, "Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest". We are unable to work our way to heaven, and it is foolish to think we are able to work our way into God's good graces. Just as a sinner who is working towards justification misses Christ's free gift of redemption, a child of God who is working towards God's love misses the fact that he is already experiencing God's boundless love in his life already.
The Psalmist David described his desire to become a "good" person and the miserable failure that followed his attempt.
"I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me. I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, even from good; and my sorrow was stirred. My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned: then spake I with my tongue, Lord make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am. Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity, Selah."--Psalm 39:1-5
When David tried to better himself in his own strength, he was met with heavy defeat. He confesses in this passage that at his best, man is worthless without God. Often times we see our deplorable state and are filled with shame. Satan reminds us of the guilt Christ has already paid for and freed us from. Of our own accord, we allow Satan to bind us up in the weighty chains of regret and self-hatred. We marvel when those chains obstruct our ability to move forward with God. We grow frustrated when we attempt to step up to the challenges and blessings God has set before us but we fumble over the restraints of failure we have forged for ourselves. Like David, we try to better ourselves, thinking that we must rid ourselves of sin before God can love us. We forget that Christ is the only advocate worthy to remove our fetters of failure and our chains of defeat, and more over, He has already done so with His saving work on the cross.
When I took driver's education classes, my instructor told me that what I looked at I would drive towards. When we focus on our overwhelming faults and our frail abilities to overcome them, we will be defeated by those faults. We are like the woman in Mark 5 who spent all she had to heal herself but was only worse from the pain of self-improvement. It was not until she touched the hem of Christ's garment, expecting the healing to come from Him, that she was finally made clean.
The root of our constant defeat and resulting depression is our lack of faith in God's love. In my defense, I blocked out the messages of God's love by focusing on his holiness. Yes, God is Holy. Yes, God is Love. Who am I to limit the attributes of God by saying such aspects cannot work in unity? It took both God's holiness and His love to work salvation in Christ. When Satan attacks our warrior-spirit with regret and shame, when he says God cannot love such a failure, take him to the cross of Calvary where the Holy God demonstrated His unshakeable love.
God's love is not defined or limited by "not until", "only when", and "not quite". God's love is abundant in those spaces. God's love is sweet in the waiting. God's love is full in the hungry. God's love is more than enough in the broken and spilled out. If we could focus less on our faults and more on Christ's triumph, we would live in liberated peace and victory.
"Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us."--Romans 8:33-34
Satan has no power to condemn us before God. It is Christ who stands beside the Father, covering our sin with His blood. It is by Christ's merit that we enter into God's Holiness.
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For Thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."--Romans 8:35-39
Christ is our conquering Hero. When we focus on His love and its work in our lives, we will be transformed more and more into His image. There is no condemnation in our Redeemer; we are conquerors in our Savior. Next time Satan condemns your soul, set your eyes on Christ's power and remind yourself that nothing can ever separate you from His unconditional love.