Recently a reader wrote to me who is struggling with shame over past choices. She wondered if I had any suggestions for how to “kick the feelings of guilt, helplessness, hopelessness amd get closer to God.” That is such a great question, and I knew that my friend Shari would be the person to ask. She is a trained Biblical counselor and a person I often turn to for advice.
I emailed her with this question and she quickly replied. The information she shared was so good, that I want to offer it to all of you. Keep in mind that this was not a prepared and carefully formulated written response, but a quick message sent to me. Honestly, that’s one of the things I love about it. I’ve made a few small edits for clarity.
Right off, one of my favorite books dealing with shame is Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. Brene Brown does not write from a Christian perspective, but oh my, does she describe where shame comes from, the effects, and new perspectives. It’s very readable. The only thing that I think is missing from this book is how we should actually deal with shame. The Christian answer is declaring what Christ did on the cross as a covering over our shame. The author tells us to ‘look within’ for answers. Still, I recommend the book because it is mind-blowing.
The second book I recommend is Shame Interrupted: How God Lifts the Pain of Worthlessness and Rejection by Ed Welch. His writing style just takes a little more for me to get my head around, but what he writes is good. He directs the reader to the One who has covered our sin, shame, and guilt. He explains that shame comes to us not only by the things that we do, but also by the things that we don’t do, the things others have done to us, and the things others have not done for us.
Shame runs deeper and wider than our guilt.
I would also encourage your reader to get into some kind of community regarding this particular issue of shame. Shame tells us to isolate. It tells us that no one will understand. It tells us to hide and that the problem is bigger than the solution. The truth is shame diminishes as we step into relationship.
This community needs to be carefully chosen as not everyone is safe! Community can be counseling, small group, or Celebrate Recovery. Finding someone to walk beside her who has actually felt deep shame and learned to walk under the covering of the cross would be huge. Hearing other people’s testimonies helps you believe it’s possible.
Shame cannot resolve itself when we are in isolation!
Because of the shame, she most likely has adopted false beliefs such as, “I can never be forgiven, I’ve ruined God’s plan for me, I will always be a loser, I need to pay for my own sin,” etc. In counseling, we would identify those lies and be looking at Scripture to stand on the truth of God’s word. I work through these false belief systems through a program called Genesis Process so if she can find a study near her that would be great.
Scripturally, I would point her to the book of Hebrews. This book points to the fact that Jesus Christ’s work on the cross was, is, and will always be enough payment for our sins. But depending on what false beliefs are going on, sometimes even the truth of Scripture doesn’t get in easily. I will sometimes go through why the false belief is there and apply the scriptures to the particular reasons. But it is the promises of God that we can stand on that actually change us.
If she is we versed in Scripture I would have her find a Scripture to stand on, to claim as hers before God. If she is new to Scripture I may give her one like Ps. 31:1 “In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness.”
You can imagine, when I got this reply from Shari, I knew it was too good not to share with you. I’m thankful that she gave me permission and I hope you find this helpful.
Love to each one of you today.