by Scott Stake
One of our favorite things to do as a family is play hide & seek. You know the drill. Count to 30, and then look in all the closets and crevices for evidences of human life. Now that I say that, it sounds kind of creepy! But we love the game because everyone can play it. In fact, our little kids are probably the best out of everyone!
There's something fun about hiding, isn't there? The thrill of seeing how long you can stay still and blend in with the shadows. But then again, there's also something very freeing about being found as well. Our youngest daughter Ruth Ann hid in such a good spot a couple weeks ago that we couldn’t find her and she finally just came out. She couldn’t take the waiting, the hiding, and the loneliness anymore!
Okay, you can probably see where I'm going here. We too like to hide sometimes. Maybe we hide behind a mask of platitudes, or we pull back relationally once someone gets too close, or maybe we work ourselves silly in order to keep from dealing with the “real stuff.” At the core, we’re ashamed. Can you relate? I sure can.
Ed Welch, in his book Shame Interrupted, defines shame as “the deep sense that you are unacceptable because of something you did, something done to you, or something associated with you. You feel exposed and humiliated.” He goes on to say, “Shame controls far too many of us. Worthless, inferior, rejected, weak, humiliated, failure…it all adds up to wishing we could get away from others and hide.”
So, when we feel shame, how are you and I to respond when we’re tempted to hide? First, I want to say that there’s no quick fix or easy answer. Shame is real and can be very painful. But, at the same time, God offers hope. In fact, the Bible is about shame from start (think Garden of Eden) to finish (think Garden of Gethsemane & the Cross), and, if we are willing, God’s beautiful words break through. Here are a few things to consider:
- Cry out to God. He wants to hear from you. He cares for us in the midst of our shame. In fact, the psalms are filled with emotion and asking for God’s help, and might serve as a way of helping you in your cries. Psalm 34:18 says, “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”
- Look to Jesus. Jesus entered the world in shameful circumstances, pursued the broken and hurting throughout his ministry, and then was nailed to the cross, enduring the most shameful death. Mike Wilkerson in his book Redemption says, “At the cross, the Enemy did his worst to shame Jesus. But Jesus overcame the Enemy by that same cross and threw its shame back in his face, making a public spectacle of him…At the cross, Jesus secured our identity as children of God loved by the Father, and in his resurrection, he defended it against all shameful accusations once and for all.” So, the shame of our sin and suffering no longer defines us. Through Jesus, we are covered, adopted, cleansed, and healed (read Romans 8 and Hebrews 12:1-2).
- Pursue Community. While it may be risky and a huge faith step, God gives us His people to help, encourage, and strengthen one another as we walk out our faith in Him. Coming out of the shadows can be scary, but James 5 commends us to confess our pain and sorrows and sin to one another, so that we can be healed. This may begin with your spouse, with a friend, or with your community group. And if you’re not sure where to begin, one of us pastors would be more than willing to meet with you. In addition, we're in the process of launching a new ministry called Redemption Groups, designed to bring care, compassion, and help to those who are hurting and dealing with shame.
In closing, I’d like to draw our hearts to the hymn “Before the Throne of God Above,” which speaks powerfully about forgiveness for guilt and shame.
When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.
Four Oaks, may we look to Jesus today, who made an end of all our sin and our shame, and live in the freedom of forgiveness and a new identity purchased by our Savior and Redeemer!