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December 19, 2013

The Gift of Shame

“Fear not; you will no longer live in shame. Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you. You will no longer remember the shame of your youth ….”  Isaiah 54:4 (NLT)

Most of us look upon shame as an embarrassment, the result of some personal failure, mistake or sin.  Our typical response is to hide our shame like Adam and Eve when they disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit. Genesis 3:7 tells us what they did. At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.”

Shame exposes our faults.  We feel guilty and regret what we’ve done so we begin a cover-up to hide our shame.  Even if we are successful in hiding our shame from others, we can’t hide it from God or ourselves.  Inwardly, our conscience convicts us; and we retreat in defeat.  You don’t have to live in the land of defeat, fixed in failure.  Consider shame as a gift from God.  Now that’s a different perspective!  How is shame a gift?  It’s God’s way of speaking to our conscience and humbling us to admit our need for His mercy and grace.  The real danger is when we don’t feel shame, not when we do.  The Bible says, “… the wicked know no shame.”  “They have no sense of shame.  They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity.” (Zephaniah 3:5b; Ephesians 4:19)  These are the kind of people whose consciences have been seared and feel no regret or sorrow for sin.

It’s interesting to me that God came looking for Adam after he had sinned.  Did God not know where he was and what he had done?  Being God, He knew exactly what was going on even before it happened.  He was drawing Adam out of hiding and using his shame to bring him to a humble admission of what he had done to restore a relationship with him.  How do you handle shame?  Are you living in the land of defeat and disgrace?  I love our passage today.  It assures me that when I fail and feel shame, I can come to a holy God on the basis of the cross where Christ sacrificed Himself for all my sin and shame and find mercy and grace.  When I do, I can claim the promise of Isaiah:  “Fear not; you will no longer live in shame.  Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you.  You will no longer remember the shame of your youth ….”  And if that one isn’t enough, look what Romans 10:11 assures us, “The Scripture says, ‘No one who believes in Him (Christ) will be put to shame.” 

It sure beats fig leaves!