All in Christ receive the gift of redemption. Salvation brings a new identity and deliverance from sin’s control and punishment, freeing us to love and forgive like God.
Although God has forgiven and forgotten our transgressions, and while we are no longer slaves to unrighteousness, we don’t fully live our freedom. Sometimes, we ruminate over personal choices or moments when we have succumbed to temptation. Regret and condemnation replay themselves in our minds, hampering our ability to embrace the life Jesus died to give.
This article will explore why we struggle with forgiving ourselves, what God’s love has to do with forgiveness, and practical steps to embrace His gifts of love and forgiveness while dealing with shame.
Dealing with shame
It is possible to confess Christ as Savior without receiving His gift of love and forgiveness. Knowing this, the enemy of our soul deploys manipulative strategies “to steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10).
As the father of lies, he leverages the impact of trauma and life events against us, subtly infusing lies into our core beliefs. Consequently, the falsehoods we entertain evolve into self-fulfilling prophecies. Activated by unresolved guilt and shame, they route us into destructive thought and behavior patterns, until we fracture under the pressure of self-loathing and sabotage.
This is not God’s heart for His children. He knows that we are “but dust,” as the Psalmist states (Psalm 103:14). Yet, He has given us the grace to overcome occasional and cyclic dysfunction, so that sin has no dominion over us (Romans 6:14).
What’s love got to do with it?
Part of dealing with shame involves committing our faults and failures to God. He retools the unpleasant to refine you after the image of His Son. Receiving God’s love resets your perspective to see your immeasurable value in Him.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. – Ephesians 2:10
Surrender yourself and your circumstances to the love and Lordship of Christ. He finished and sealed your victory at the cross. Focus on releasing the so-called impossible to Him, while He fashions a miracle out of what may feel like a mess.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. – Romans 8:28
Agreeing with God aligns vision
God loves and forgives you enough to redeem all you perceive to be the worst. Hence, punishing yourself with self-loathing is futile. When you reject His view of you, you actually resist God’s best gift, Himself.
However, agreeing with God aligns our vision with His. Embracing His word affirms our identity in Christ. It not only frees us from the bondage of unforgiveness, but also frees us for abundant life in Christ.
Agreeing with God aligns destiny
As the three inhaled their final breaths, suspended on crosses, Jesus Christ preached to the two thieves on either side of Him. One accepted Jesus’ extension of love and forgiveness, making a convert out of one who was a criminal. His appointment with death and destiny collided in an encounter on the same day and same hill as the Messiah.
The man agreed with God, accepting the Savior’s gift. Though pierced to a cross, he broke away from the core beliefs that had positioned him for punishment. His new partnership with Christ gave him Paradise (Luke 23:39-43).
God relentlessly pursues us to reconcile and us to Himself. Jesus’ conversation with the others at Golgotha reveals His willingness to go to the point of death in order to reconcile those He loves.
What do you believe about yourself?
Jesus’ words command us to love God and love others (Mark 12:30-32). Yet, we often omit the qualifying conclusion “as yourself.” Many make the mistake of thinking that we somehow need to love ourselves before we can love others, but this entirely misses the point of what Jesus is saying. His point is that we already love ourselves as evidenced by the fact that we feed and clothe ourselves, and look out for our own well-being.
God’s love can be full and overflowing in our lives. As we cultivate a deeper relationship with God, we grow in holiness of life spiritual maturity.
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. – Psalms 139:1, 14
Steps for dealing with shame
While the enemy has sought to keep you low, hissing “you’ll never get it right” or “God couldn’t possibly love you after all the things you’ve done,” or “It’s too late for you,” you have Holy Spirit power within to overcome his lies. Begin with renewing your mind. Welcome the transformation that follows as God’s Word enlivens you with new thoughts and healthier patterns.
God’s Word is a two-edged sword, sharp enough to slice through negative chatter that entangles the mind. Flex your faith, meditating on the truth that makes you free (John 8:32). When you integrate Scripture into your daily rhythms, (for example, verses scribbled on post-it notes, memorized, or voice recorded in your phone), God’s word will wage war against all that opposes you, including self-directed hatred and shame.
Put it into practice
Tear down the old pathways that proliferate negativity.
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5
Reset, through repentance.
Welcome forgiveness, through the blood of Jesus. Turn away from your sin and turn toward righteousness to find healing from the effects of shame.
Trade old thoughts for new.
Isolate the specific lies of Satan that you have believed and God’s truth as found in the Scriptures.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. – Philippians 4:8
Concluding thoughts and next steps
While all have sinned (Romans 3:23), Jesus took the penalty of sin so that people might believe and be saved. God would not have sacrificed His only son to die an excruciating, torturous death otherwise unless He viewed the end as worthy of redemption’s price.
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin in our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. – 2 Corinthians 5:21
Sin traps us in cycles that require God’s power to break. Dealing with shame can weigh us down and may require God-given means to overcome, such as family, friends, a pastor, or even a compassionate Christian counselor. Connect with us in this leg of your journey. The counselors at Seattle Christian Counseling are ready to come alongside you and help you find healing from the shame of sin.
“Forgiveness”, Courtesy of Josue Escoto, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Red and White Balloons”, courtesy of Christopher Beloch, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Positive Thinking”, Courtesy of Cata, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Hens and Chicks”, Courtesy of Annie Spratt, Unsplash.com, CC0 License