3 Ways Shame Tries to Shut Down Your Faith

woman sitting with accusing finger pointed at her, ways shame shuts down faith

3 Ways Shame Tries to Shut Down Your Faith

For many reading this, shame has been a constant companion. Let’s talk about three ways that shame tries to shut down our faith, and what to do about it.

I walked down the concrete block hallway through a series of barred doors. It wasn’t my first time to talk to these beautiful women, incarcerated for offenses from drug possession to assault to other more serious crimes.

As I began to talk about the freedom Jesus offers, many tucked their chins into their chest. Shame was calling their name.

The thought of freedom and forgiveness and hope was a message that must be for someone else.

3 Ways Shame Tries to Shut Down Our Faith

Shame is an ultimate joy stealer, and you don’t have to be behind prison doors to experience it. In fact, it’s one way the enemy of our soul tries to imprison us in our everyday lives. Shame over words we have said. Shame over mistakes we have made. Shame because we see ourselves in a negative light. Shame because someone told us we should feel shame.

Let’s talk about three ways that shame tries to shut down our faith, and what to do about it.

1. Shame Asks You to Keep Secrets

In Ephesians 2:1-10, Paul the Apostle shared a message, beginning with these words:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.

Now, this is a message that is familiar to the crowd of that day. They live in a shame and honor culture. This means that public mistakes or sins are not just held against you, but against those in your family. So, in order to keep everyone safe, you keep secrets at all costs. You are clean on the outside, even as the secrets (shame) live on the inside.

A friend who is a recovering alcoholic, and has been sober for years, went on a solitary trip to pray and work. She sat on the beach the first day and watched as a couple was married. It was a gorgeous wedding, and she felt like she had been given a gift to watch it.

A stranger walked up and held out a glass of sparkling champaign. “Join us in the celebration,” she said.

Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, temptation beckoned.

It’s just one drink to celebrate this couple. It’s harmless.

It would be rude not to toast the couple, especially since she went out of her way to be so nice.

Why can everyone else have a social drink and not me?

An old war waged. Though she eventually poured the drink out into the sand, she went back to her hotel room discouraged. Later, she shared her story with a few close friends. She told them how ashamed she felt.

Though she poured the drink out, shouldn’t she have been stronger?

What our friend needed to hear was the truth, not the lie shame was trying to tell her. It was brave that she shared her struggle. She brought it to people that loved her and wanted the best for her, who would affirm that saying no to the temptation was difficult, but also victorious.

But what if she had succumbed to temptation?

The same truth remained. By refusing to hide the struggle, shame is thwarted. We refuse to hide a mistake or a sin. We refuse to live scrubbed on the outside, while alone and embattled on the inside. We take it to God, who loves us, and to godly people who want God’s best for us. This is where change and transformation begins.

2. Shame Lies to You about God’s Love for You

One of the greatest lies shame tells is that God only loves us part of the time. It’s similar to holding a daisy in your hand and saying, “He loves us, he loves us not.” As Paul shared his message, he refuted that message.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

This is startling information, but Paul doesn’t stop there.

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

God loves us while we are yet dead in our sins. Shame is silenced when we embrace that truth and allow it to lead us:

Out of bondage and into healing.

Out of secret keeping and into the Light.

Out of feeling stuck and into redemption.

Out of shame and into growing through our mistakes to find a new path.

Rather than wait to earn God’s love, we embrace it right where we are, which produces a fresh page God can write on.

3. Shame Tries to Say It’s Too Late

Paul wrapped us his message this way:

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

God takes what the enemy means for harm and uses it in his pursuit to love the world. We see that unfold when Jesus met with the woman at the well (John 4:28-30). She was hiding in shame, yet an encounter with him led her to run to a community who had the power to judge her. She told them about Jesus, which resulted in people flocking to him.

All the parts before encountering him were her history, but now His story was being written on and through her life.

When a woman has been well loved by God, and taken out of a pit of shame, she can’t help but tell others. If shame tries to tell you that it’s too late for you to make a difference, shut that lie down. God knows everything about your story. He also knows there are others who long to live free in that same place you once walked.

How to Confront Shame

For many reading this, shame has been a constant companion. You are invited to confront shame as you answer these three questions.

When did God love you?

He loved you when you were yet dead in your trespasses and sin. Remember that. He loved you when the whole world told you that you were unlovable. He loved you when you told yourself that God couldn’t possibly redeem your hurt or mistakes. He loved you when someone else’s sin or brokenness hurt your heart and engraved a message that you were bad.

He loves you, loves you, loves you. There is no other version of this story.

How does God love you?

God loves you with a Father’s love. His love is rich in mercy and produces new life in you.

Why does God love you?

He loves you because you are his his. This is not something you earn; it’s something you become as you walk with him daily. You are his child.

That day, as I leaned into truth with my friends behind prison walls, I rejoiced with many who received this message as their own. You and I were never intended to be imprisoned by shame, regardless of where we live or who we are. As we confront shame with these truths, we are freed to move from shame to conviction to communion with our Heavenly Father.

 For Jesus came not merely to save our lives, but to make something beautiful from them.

Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Nadia Bormotova

Suzanne (Suzie) Eller is a speaker and bestselling author of 11 books. Her latest is JoyKeeper: 6 Truths That Change Everything You Thought You Knew About Joy. She’s the co-host of the popular More Than Small Talk podcast with Holley Gerth and Jennifer Watson. Suzie is the founder of TogetHER Ministries. You can connect with her at tsuzanneeller.com.

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