Guilt and shame. Two words that go together like peanut butter and jelly or bacon and eggs. We run…flee the weight of guilt and shame. We try to rid ourselves of the cloak. We try to take it off, put it off, shake it off, positive self-talk it off, deny it off and yet its sticks to us like a fly sticks to fly ribbon.
Book are written to help us shed the weight of this burden; to escape the black cloud that covers our conscience. We seek out counselors, therapists, and pastoral advice to help us feel better about ourselves. We read books, take the guilt and shame magazine tests, fill out the “breathing worksheets” and practice physical ways (running, yoga, low carb diets) to help ease our inner conscience. We look for any way to boost our self-esteem, forgive ourselves and just feel better and yet our efforts are temporary at best.
What if we stopped running from guilt and shame; stopped and turned to face it head on? What if we recognized that guilt and shame were not something to avoid and remedy but something to embrace? Maybe we’re asking the wrong question and looking for the wrong solution? Instead of asking why we can’t shake this black cloud of guilt and feel good about ourselves maybe we should be asking ourselves better questions. What if the question is not, how do I escape guilt and shame but how do I identify the root cause of it? What if guilt and shame are legitimate feelings that God uses to restore right relationship with Him? Is it not the work of the Holy Spirit to convict? John 16:8
We see Adam and Eve go from being naked and not ashamed in Genesis 2:25 to cover themselves with fig leaves and hiding from God because of their nakedness in Genesis 3:7-10. Sin had brought them guilt and shame.
David’s sin with Bathsheba multiplied his sin, and guilt and shame weighed heavily upon him. With the help of Nathan he was able to turn and confront his sin. He states in 2 Samuel 12:13 “I have sinned against the Lord.” He writes in Psalm 51:3-4 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. And in Psalm 32:3-4 When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. David was suffering under the heavy weight of guilt and shame.
What was it that David needed to be free from this burden? Did he need someone to tell him how great he was and remind him of all of his accomplishments? Did he need to read a good book on boosting self esteem and overcoming self depreciation? Or did he need to listen, with the help of another, to the voice of the Holy Spirit through the heavy weight of conviction that was working with his conscience?
David was guilty. His guilt and shame were legitimate and an appropriate response to his sin. God’s love for David would not allow him to escape. He couldn’t move on in peace without confronting his sin and humbly confessing and repenting. His relationship with God had been interrupted by sin upon sin. He had sinned against Bathsheba, Uriah, Joab, the people of Israel and his own family. He needed to face it in order to restore right relationship with God in heaven and with people on earth. Then and only then was his heart set free.
Psalm 51 is David’s heartfelt confession and repentance. Psalm 32 is his song of restoration and freedom. He continues in Psalm 32:5-7 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin. Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.
When God forgave David he knew he was forgiven and he no longer wore the garments of guilt and shame. It’s the same for us. When we stop running and making excuses and turn to face our God and confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9. This is where real freedom from guilt and shame is found.
It is finished. We are free. God uses guilt and shame as a tool to draw us back into right relationship with Him and others and delivers us from its power over us as we could not rescue ourselves.
Though conviction is the work of the Holy Spirit working with our conscience, condemnation and accusations are the work of Satan. He is called the accuser of the brother (Rev. 12:20) and comes as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14). In other words, he tells us how deeply bad we are and condemns us even after we have confessed and repented of our sin. We come to believe these accusations because they sounds as though they come from a place of righteousness. We find truth in these recriminations but the real truth is that they are lies of Satan who wants to separate us from the love of God.
But God is greater than the accuser! Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Romans 8:33. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death, Romans 8:1-2. For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything, 1 John 3:20. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39. We have been freed from condemnation by the love of Almighty God in Christ Jesus and He knows everything.
We are free.