Have you ever had someone in your life who constantly reminds you of your past mistakes? Sometimes it’s a spouse, a friend or a family member, and sometimes it’s your own voice in your head. They seem to bring them up at the most inopportune moment. No matter what you do, because of them, it’s like you can never move on. You’d like to move on and forget it ever happened, but they’re there to make sure you never forget. It’s difficult to move forward when you’re constantly looking backwards. Your past becomes like a ball and chain that impedes your progress.
That’s what shame does. I believe many of us live with it constantly holding us back. “No one will accept you if they knew about… You can’t go back to church now. You’ve been gone too long. You don’t deserve to be happy. How can you call yourself a Christian?” Shame is a master manipulator who hits below the belt in an effort to kill our desire for growth. Understand this: SHAME IS NOT FROM GOD! These voices and thoughts are not God speaking to you. He loves you and wants you to succeed and grow and move forward. He wants to set you free from shame, and it starts with you refusing to listen to that voice.
I love Zephaniah 3:17. It says, “The LORD your God is in your midst, A Warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with joy; He will be quiet in His love [making no mention of your past sins], He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy” (AMP). God is a warrior who is fighting for you to win this battle. He loves you and doesn’t bring up your forgiven past. He rejoices over you and delights in you because you are His child. That’s who God is. It’s time to kick the voice of shame to the curb and to embrace God’s voice. Anytime those other thoughts come in, push them out. Don’t entertain them. Open your Bible and replace them with what God really says. You are forgiven. You are accepted. You are loved.
Photo by Radu Florin on Unsplash
This morning I almost had to do the walk of shame. You know the one when your car runs out of gas and you have to walk to the gas station. As you can see from the photo, I was below the “E”. I was running late last night getting home from work. There was no time to stop because we had to be at church minutes after I got home. So I passed several gas stations knowing I needed gas because the other priorities were more important. You might be thinking that getting gas in the tank is the highest priority, and you’re right.
If it is the highest priority then why do we wait so long to fill up? The same thing happens to us spiritually. We run on empty until we are almost out and then we go fill up. I know when I fill up my car, there isn’t much to worry about. I can concentrate on the parts of driving that matter. When I’m on empty, I’m completely distracted looking at that indicator and wondering just how much further below the “E” it can go before I run out. I start looking for places to fill up. I start looking at every exit hoping to see a sign. I even start to panic a little.
The same thing happens in our spiritual life. When we are full, we don’t have a care in the world. We concentrate on living our lives the way a God wants, there aren’t many distractions and we put on cruise control with no worries. Sooner or later, we need a refill though. We miss a few Sundays at church, we get too busy to read our Bible and sleep through our prayer time. Things in our life start coming apart. We start looking for God to help us. We need Him to fill us up. People around us need our help, but we are too distracted on empty to notice.
It’s tough living like that, but so many times that how we live. We spend our lives running on empty. We rarely take the time to get full. We might get a quarter of a tank here and a quarter there, but we never get full. It boils down to priorities. You might be thinking that getting has in your spiritual tank is the highest priority, and you’re right. It is, but we don’t treat it as such. We let other things in our lives take over until we run out. When we reach that point where we can’t go on, we get stuck.
My father in law has a different approach to gas. He never let’s his tank get below half. If he gets to half, he says he’s on empty. We can all adopt this approach spiritually. Recognize when you’re no longer full and make it your priority to read God’s Word. Cut out something in your day so you can pray without distractions. Push back those plans so you can attend church. If you don’t make it a priority, everything else will take it’s place and you’ll end up distracted on “E”. We’ve already agreed that filling up is the highest priority. Look at your tank today. What do you need to do to fill up?
I got a call this weekend from someone who was going through a rough patch and succumbed to temptation. They reached out to me and a couple of others for help. One of the others and I went to meet them to offer guidance and next steps. It would have been easy to go over there, beat them on the head with a Bible and ask a lot of “why” questions. That’s not how God says we should handle these situations though.
As I drove over there, The Lord took me to Galatians 6:1 that says, “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path.” My mind changed from all the “how could you” questions to the “how can I help you” questions. I moved away from the accusatory mindset that saw all the steps leading to sin to one that was there to show the path to forgiveness.
The Lord had spoken the same thing to my friend who went with me. He opened up the conversation with, “We’re here to help you, not to condemn you.” He went to Romans 13:12 that says, “So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living.” We explained that there is not one of us who is perfect. None of us go without sinning. What sets us apart is that we remove those sins and step back into God’s light.
I read Proverbs 24:16 that says, “The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again.” I explained that if we’re not able to get up on our own, we should do what they did and call others to help them. I reiterated that we were not there to hold them down, but to offer a helping hand up. I’m sure they had already beat themselves up over it and that the Holy Spirit had convicted them. The problem was that they didn’t know the way back to the right road.
I’ve been thinking all weekend about how many people fall and just stay down because they don’t know how to reach out for help or are just too embarrassed to. I’ve been there. I was ashamed and embarrassed because I knew better. I didn’t want to admit that I had messed up and gone in the wrong direction. I didn’t want to let others know that I didn’t have the strength to get back up and that it was easier to just stay down. Thankfully someone saw me there and offered a hand to get me back up.
Who do you know right now that has fallen? Have you gone to them and offered a helping hand or just talked about them to others? Our command is clear. We are to go and restore someone in that condition. We are to pray with them and give them the tools and safeguards they need to keep them from falling again. When they fall, go and put your arm around them and walk with them. Isn’t that how you would want to be treated if it were the other way around?