As the fog settled in along the shore of Lake Superior, I strained to see our children. With my typical mom concerns forming inside, I began walking in the direction of their voices, just wanting to catch a clear glimpse of them to know they were all accounted for, none lost, none having accidently fallen into the cold water. The heavy ash-gray mist made it hard to see which child I was approaching as I walked in their direction, but we moms have other ways of determining that: sound of voice, pattern of steps, or general outline of body.
This isn’t the only time I’ve been in deep fog. But the usual fog I’m dealing with is internal. Sometimes it’s a fog of tiredness, sometimes a fog of grief, and sometimes the fog has been the dark shadows of sin and shame.
Sorting things out in the fog feels hopeless, which is why we need the bright light of God’s Word to shine down into our hearts and help us see our sin and shame clearly. Only with the floodlight of God’s Word can we recognize sin as sin and shame as shame.
Left to ourselves in the fog, our sin and shame is illusive. In fact, we feel ashamed for things that aren’t shameful at all: we feel ashamed that our kid’s bedtime is so much later than our friend’s child’s; we are embarrassed over our shabby furniture; we sense there is something wrong with us because our family devotions consist of wiggles and blow-out diapers and general disinterest; or we feel shame over sin that someone else has committed against us, that we had no part in.
On the other hand, we tend to push down an appropriate sense of shame we ought to have over real sin. We watch ten hours of debauchery and sexual immorality on Netflix and are brazen and unashamed, even proselytizing others to join in this shameful act; we scroll social media for hours without end, putting off our kiddos; we speak with harshness and pride to those closest to us.
Why do you suppose this is? Why do we feel ashamed of ourselves for things that are not shameful, and when we ought to feel ashamed of ourselves, we don’t? I have three answers: the world, the flesh, and the devil. The world is, for a short time, ruled by the devil, and therefore it can best attack Christians by confusing them about what is shameful and what isn’t. It distracts us with misplaced shame over things that aren’t. Furthermore, the world, our sinful flesh, and the devil, all collude to tell us that any feelings of shame over sin should be shushed up and airbrushed with some really positive self-talk.
The penetrating light of God’s Word is the only way to dispel the mist of confusion and wrong-headed thoughts and feelings regarding shame. With God’s Word, we can rightly discern what it is we’re dealing with. We can see what and who is standing in front of us.
So, once we’re seeing, once the fog is burned off, then what? What if the light of God’s Word reveals a whole lot of legit sin and shame? What if I really am all wrong on the inside—tainted, dirty, unlovable, and unable to do what I ought?
Fellow mom, I have some killer Good News for you. It’s that Jesus Christ died on the cross to bear our sin and shame. Because he died on the cross and received in his body the punishment for sin, you also must consider yourself dead to sin.
He was killed on your behalf, not just so that you could live, but so that you, too, could die. The person who is unlovable, sinful, dirty, and tainted must be reckoned dead with Christ.
But let’s not stop there. After he died, he rose from the dead and is now seated at the right hand of God. And what’s incredible and almost impossible to comprehend is that if you are in Christ, you, also, have risen from the dead. You are a new creation––the old has gone, the new has come.
So whatever accusations the world, the flesh, and the devil hurl your way about how you’re too dirty or how you’ll always be tainted or how there is something deeply, fundamentally wrong with you, you have your answer to hurl back.
You can say, “Yes. All of your accusations are true. I was sinful, dirty, tainted, and without hope. I was broken clean through on the inside. But you have left my God out of this story––my God who sent his Son to be born of a virgin, my Jesus who lived perfectly and died sinlessly and was raised from the dead on the third day, and my Holy Spirit who is here now as my Helper and Comforter. You are leaving out the best part: ‘For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’” (2 Cor. 4:6).
Dear ones, we must not leave out the best part of the story. Our God makes the unlovable into something lovely. Our God raises the dead to life. Our God shines into the dark places of our hearts, bringing light and healing. And our God gives us the power to kill sin day by day, replacing our shame with the hope of the glory to be revealed in us: Christ himself, the hope of glory (Col. 1:27).
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION/ APPLICATION:
Do you struggle with feelings of shame? What specifically makes you feel unacceptable, tainted, or unclean?
How can you discern the difference between what is and isn’t something to be ashamed of?
How can you silence the accusations that come from the world, the flesh, and the devil? For the things that the Bible does call shameful? And what about the things that aren’t actually sin?