Because of Christ’s sacrifice, we can approach God without shame and experience a deep relationship with Him.
There I was, standing on the white, glossy square tiles in Walmart, tapping my toe as I waited to make my returns. People were hustling, a busy hum of activity ringing through the building as I glanced up to linger on the giant poster of a smiling mom and her daughter plastered across the back wall.
“I wonder how long they keep those posters up there, and how long this line will take,” I thought to myself.Then, seemingly out of nowhere, my bored thoughts were interrupted by something much more meaningful.
“You know Jen, there’s no room for shame in our relationship,” came the whisper of the Holy Spirit.
I pondered His words, wondering what hidden key or secret gem of truth was buried in this unexpected phrase.
“There’s no ROOM for SHAME in our relationship.” These words stood out to me. I had no idea exactly how to define shame other than a seemingly “ugly feeling”. It’s the keystone of the phrase a parent or teacher has been known to throw in reprimand: “Shame on you!”.
Is it wrong? Why is there no room for it? I thought it was supposed to help us do better! Maybe there’s more to it…
Only a few days after that interruption, I came across a Ted Talk by a woman named Brene Brown, who studies people and the impact of shame on relationships. Here’s how she defines shame:
“an intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”
Suddenly the Holy Spirit’s words seemed more loaded than random. If shame drives us to believe we are unworthy of love and belonging, it makes sense why this topic would concern Him regarding our relationship.
I began to dig a little more and found that shame:
- Can follow people throughout life if they don’t deal with the lies it produces, and can ruin their ability to experience vulnerability, connection and intimacy in their relationships… whether with people OR with God.
- Shame attaches to your sense of self worth, and tells you “something is wrong with you” rather than the voice of guilt which says “something is wrong with what you did.”
- Shame is an emotion we, as humans, are not built to process or live with. It is the foundation of toxic thinking, which then produces fear, and distorts our behavior in dramatic ways as we try everything in our power to off-put the overbearing weight of it. Blame, hiding, and escapism are symptoms of carrying shame.
- People who chronically carry shame experience much higher levels of depression, suicide, hoplessness, dis-sastisfaction with life, and broken relationships.
As I began to realize just how impactful and disorienting shame is, I looked to see what scripture says about it, and I found something very interesting.
Shame is the only emotion we see both at the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve sinned, and at the cross, when Jesus paid the price for that sin.
In Genesis 2:25, we see that Adam and Eve were both naked and unashamed. There was no barrier to their intimacy, there was no confusion in their hearts, no weights they carried around. They were fully seen, fully known, and had no feelings of shame.
However, that changes after they sinned:
“But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’ He answered, ‘I heard You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.’” Genesis 3:9-10
In the next verse, God asks him how he knew he was naked. He didn’t know how to process it. He ran and hid for fear of God (something he had never done), because suddenly, he was keenly aware of what was wrong with him: he was naked and felt shame over it.
His sin brought shame into the world, which they were not cognitively, spiritually or emotionally built for! He was built for the Garden…the place of walking with God in unhindered fellowship and relationship.
Guess what? We still aren’t built for shame. God designed us for the garden-style relationship with Him:
How do we get back to the way we were designed to live?
Fast forward to the cross and we see that Jesus made His way to the crucifixion, stripped almost naked and carrying the full weight of the shame of our sin. The shame of humiliation. The shame of mockery. The shame of false accusations. He felt it. Every ounce.
But in Hebrews 12:2, we are encouraged to follow Him by “… fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Who, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God.”
WOW. Scorning shame was His last move before sitting down with the Father. True sonship. True fellowship. True identity.
He set an example for us to not absorb shame when it presents itself, but to scorn it…to reject it.
Why? Because shame actually drives us to hide from our Savior, from our Father, and He knew that. Hebrews tells us that despite His crying out, He treated shame with contempt… He didn’t make ROOM for it, even in His heart. He carried it, He felt it, but then by keeping the true goal before Himself (restoration and union with God for His people), He was able to scorn the lies and weight that shame brings.
This simple sentence the Holy Spirit had whispered to me that boring day at Walmart brought such a transformation I didn’t even know I needed.
So here would be my encouragement to you: when you start to feel the creepy, crawling, suffocating experience of shame climbing up your soul, remember these things:
- God doesn’t make ROOM for shame in your relationship with Him, and neither should you.
When we make room for something, it usually means we adjust other things to accommodate it, like moving furniture to make room for a new book shelf. Do NOT shift things in your life, like going to church, spending time with the Father, or reading His word, in order to make room for the shame trying to invade your soul. Shame was NOT God’s plan for you, and Jesus made a way to be free from it.
- Remind yourself that shame only produces actions and beliefs that destroy.
Shame causes us to shift our identity from a “child of God” to “something is wrong with me”. But the word of God says you are the apple of His eye, that you are His Beloved and that He loved you, knew you and ordained your life before the foundations of the world, even knowing full well every single mistake you would make. Reject shame, and radically trust that NOTHING can separate you from his love. (Romans 8:31-39)
- Shift your thinking… from shame based (something is wrong with me) to grace-based (even on my worst day, Jesus finds me worth loving.)
This is a subtle shift, but a life-altering one!
When it comes to shame, let the Holy Spirit do His work of helping you consider the joy set before you, which is union with the Father, so you can scorn shame and sit in full sonship with Him too.
Jenilee Samuel is founder & podcast host at Java with Jen Podcast, CEO of J. Samuel Styling, mom to four boys, and serves alongside her husband as Executive Pastors in Orange, Texas. She grew up as a missionary kid and felt a call to ministry and missions at 14, when she started making disciples as a small group leader who trained other leaders as well. She and Stephen have been Pastors in various roles since 2005. Her personal mission is to hasten Jesus’ return through relationship-discipleship, equipping the church & it’s leaders to hear His voice and walk as Jesus did, and funding missions through business. She has spoken to groups ranging from 8 person Bible studies, to 85,000-person stadium events, but she considers her greatest achievements to be those she has discipled into a deeper walk with Jesus, who then disciple others to know him better too. Discipleship & hearing God’s voice is at the core of her life-mandate… that and coffee on the side doesn’t hurt ;).