I think shame and guilt might be the most common experience people have in their relationship with God. There is a conclusion that God is up in heaven with a giant clipboard keeping track of everything we do wrong and and the few things we do right. I don’t know if it is from parents, Santa Clause, coaches, but it is easy to feel like we have disappointed God and He is shaking his head at us and thinking, “I expected better.”
I have been meeting with people for over 12 years and have found that everyone has deep rooted layers of shame and guilt that drive our relationship with God and others. It looks different for everyone. Some of us are covered with so much shame and guilt we are trying really hard to make God happy. As if there was a giant scale up in heaven and every time we do something “right” we feel like it tips the scales of God’s favor in our direction. Some of us are covered with so much guilt and shame we end up hating God. We resent Him for making us feel this way so we deny Him, block Him out, ignore, overlook, and ultimately end up hating Him.
Sometimes I will have conversations with people about their guilt and shame and they will say something like, “I am about to tell you something that you have never heard before.” However, in all the years of counseling, mentoring, discipling, and meeting with people I have never heard anything new because I have found a common theme in all of humanity. It is called sin. God didn’t create us in sin. He actually created us without sin and in relationship with Himself. The only problem is that we rejected that relationship and instead of choosing God we chose sin. It runs deep within all of us. It will reveal itself in different ways. Sometimes in food, money, sex, pride, anger, but it always traces itself back to sin.
What sin wants to do is cast a shadow of shame and guilt over our heads so that we think nobody else knows what it is like to go through this pain. Sin will whisper lies into our heart and mind so that we believe nobody will understand, nobody will relate, nobody will care and and it all traces itself back to sin. Sometimes sin can feel so overwhelming that we begin to feel like we need to hide our sin because someone might find out. When we begin to hide our sin it takes energy and effort to keep our sin hidden. We have to tell lies, we have to deceive, manipulate, we need to project an image of who people think we are and as we go through this process it creates more shame, more guilt, until we get to a place where we are so tired and exhausted we don’t know what else to do so we push people away, we push God away and we are left alone in our shame and guilt.
This is what leads us to a place of feeling like God must be ashamed of who we are…
However, God isn’t ashamed. God isn’t distant. God isn’t uninvolved. God isn’t sitting back, shaking His head like a disappointed father wondering when we are going to get our act together. God is just the opposite. God is present. God has come near. God entered into our world. When we find ourselves in the midst of shame and guilt, God is right there. That is why God entered human history. He lived in our world. He walked in our pain, and He died on the cross for our pain. In that moment at the cross all of our shame and guilt is taken out on Jesus. It is such a cosmic event God the Father, turns from God the Son and Jesus cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” Jesus has already taken that guilt and shame for us at the cross.
It gets better. Jesus not only takes our guilt and shame from the past, present, and future, but He also clothes us in His righteousness so that when God looks upon us He doesn’t see our guilt and our shame, but He see’s the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Isn’t that beautiful?
This means when we are carrying the weight of that shame and guilt – it isn’t ours to carry. Jesus has already carried it to the cross, died for it, and resurrected over it. He has conquered it. This truth doesn’t lead us to a place of guilt and shame, but a place of wanting to know a God who would love us so much.