By Dottie Ryan

“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” Psalm 139:23-24

To invite the Holy Spirit to “search my heart…and try me” has been the cry of many women this summer as we have participated in the “Heart of a Woman” Bible study based on Psalm 139 and Colossians 3. We have walked alongside each other in our personal journeys to strive to become more Godly—holding ourselves and each other accountable by being in covenant with each other and with God. What this has required of us is to observe our thoughts, attitudes and actions so that we can identify the unrighteous fruit in our lives (produced by walking in the flesh), then to do our part in tending the gardens of our hearts so that we can find the root cause of our sin. By the guidance of and through the power of the Spirit of Christ that dwells within us, we then moved to discover the lies we’ve been believing, get to the roots, and pull them up (mortify our flesh) so that the soil could be prepared for planting righteous fruit (by walking in the Sprit) that comes from believing in and standing on the Word of God and walking that out in the midst of our daily lives. If we have taken this journey seriously, it has been a painful one. Yet most would agree that we have come to praise Him in the suffering because we “are given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him.” (Phil 1:29 NIV)

I awoke this August morning and rose to spend some “quiet time” with the Lord.  After having read the eMoment [i] devotional for the day and how it pointed out Pride and how deceptive it can be, I saw it was talking to me . . .

 “The disciples were a part of “the” group. They were in the “in” crowd with God. Or so they thought. They were where it was happening.  Jesus knew what they were thinking and what was in their hearts. What kind of pride is this? Be careful. Spiritual pride is very deceptive. All pride is deceptive. If we knew we were being prideful we would be too prideful to be prideful and we would be less prideful..Or would we?”

. . . I emailed a friend of mine because having read this, I began feeling the affects of my own sinful pride, the shame it began to produce in me, and I began to spiral. I fell prey to my emotions and I felt ‘stuck’. I told her:

“The diary of my deceitful heart lays open and bare as the Lord continues to use these eMoments to speak to my sin. O-U-CH!  This morning’s eMoment uncovered a deeper level of some ugly pride that needs to die.  And I hate it! I hate that it still lives in me.  And while I am thankful that the Lord continues to reveal this to me, I’m not always sure how to receive His grace and mercy.”

As I recognized the familiar pain it produces, I also saw that by staying in the “feelings,” I was producing fruit of unrighteousness.  Yes pride was indeed being exposed in my life.  But it was not a new fruit – it was something that has often surfaced; yet sometimes disguised itself throughout my life as shame – or plainly put – unbelief.  

                                                      Pride — Shame Unbelief Stuck

This feeling-stuck place had become my default. As I began to see the cycle, I realized that I was believing the lie and still walking in the old man.  Sin.  Plain and simple I was choosing to be led by my emotions and failing to come up under the truth of the Word of God that I had been crucified with Christ—and that the “old me” had died.  It was important for me to “see” from God’s perspective by searching the Word of God and making a decision to come up under Its authority regardless of my circumstances or how I feel.  I confessed my sin to the Lord and prayed for a repentant heart. It was just a matter of moments when I was led to a sermon by John Piper on “Killing Sin” [ii] …my answer had come. I didn’t have to stay “stuck.” And God was walking me through the process. He is faithful!

Piper says that there is such a thing as “well-placed shame:”

“For example in 1 Corinthians 15:34 it tells us to: ‘Come to your right mind, and sin no more. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.’

Here Paul says that these people ought to feel shame. ‘I say this to your shame.’ Their shame would be well-placed if they saw their deplorable ignorance of God and how it was leading to false doctrine (no resurrection) and sin in the church. In other words well-placed shame is shame for what dishonors God—ignorance of God, sin against God, false beliefs about God.”

As I read these words, I knew that the Lord had directed me to this particular sermon and at this very moment. He began to speak healing to the pain of the shame I was stuck in through the words of a pastor in Minnesota.

When Well-Placed Shame Lingers Too Long

In the case of well-placed shame for sin the pain ought to be there but it ought not to stay there. If it does, it’s owing to unbelief in the promises of God.

For example, a woman comes to Jesus in a Pharisee’s house weeping and washing his feet. No doubt she felt shame as the eyes of Simon communicated to everyone present that this woman was a sinner and that Jesus had no business letting her touch him. Indeed she was a sinner. There was a place for true shame. But not for too long. Jesus said, “Your sins are forgiven” (Luke 7:48). And when the guests murmured about this, he helped her faith again by saying, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (v. 50).

How did Jesus help her battle the crippling effects of shame? He gave her a promise: “Your sins are forgiven! Your faith has saved you. Your future will be one of peace.” So the issue for her was belief. Would she believe the glowering condemnation of the guests? Or would she believe the reassuring words of Jesus that her shame was enough? She’s forgiven. She’s saved. She may go in peace.

And that is the way every one of us must battle the effects of a well-placed shame that threatens to linger too long and cripple us. We must battle unbelief by taking hold of promises like,

There is forgiveness with thee that thou mayest be feared. (Psalm 130:4)

Seek the Lord while he may be found. Call upon him while he is near. Let the wicked man forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts. Let him return to the Lord that he may have mercy on him and to our God for he will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:6)

If we confess our sins he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners of whom I am chief. (1 Timothy 1:15)

Every one who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name. (Acts 10:43; 13:39)

Because God loves us and cares about all the details of our life, He will have mercy on us if we confess our sin, cry out to Him for a repentant heart, turn away from the sin we are indulging, and plant the seed of Truth in its place.  We must claim and stand on His promises.

This particular word from Isaiah 54:4-6 became very near and dear to my heart that morning as we ended our quiet time together.  I am now claiming it as a promise from God and using it to replace the lie of shame I had been carrying for so long.  And I know that I must write it out on an index card and have it at hand for me to use when the next attack of shame comes at me.

“Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore. For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is His name; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; He is called the God of the whole earth. For the Lord has called you like a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, like a youthful wife when you were refused,” says your God.

[i] To sign up for eMoments, go to the Home page and scroll to the bottom of the page.


by Angie Thomas

This week has been “one-of-those-weeks”. Nothing overly terrible, just tough for a variety of reasons. Hormones, disobedient children, a dear friend moving out-of-state, tax preparation (need I say more). As a stay-at-home mom there are just days when the walls seem to be closing in, when quiet, adult conversation without interruption seems to have vanished in the wind and mediating fights over plastic Easter eggs somehow has become my full-time job.

These are the days when life seems to be lived “in the trenches”. One little struggle leads to another and somehow I find myself wondering where our loving, compassionate God has gone? I know He is there, but often for brief moments in the midst of a 4 year old temper tantrum or a “to-do” list that seems to get longer instead of shorter, His felt presence seems to have evaporated. Is He really there with me, my true companion in the trenches of life?

Then my friend throws a curveball into my entire theology concerning my trenches. What if He is actually the trench digger? Not just with me in my trials, but actually orchestrating them? Hmm. Disturbing on many levels. But what if what my friend says is true, “He does this so we can see Him rescue us”? 2 Timothy 3:10-12 speaks to this “You, however, know all about my… purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings….the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…”

Now let me clarify that my struggles are nothing like the persecution that Paul and so many other brave Christians have faced or are facing in other parts of the world. But the idea that God not only allows but at times orchestrates our trials is a difficult pill to swallow. But oh, the power and the glory, the confidence in our Lord that develops when we seem Him rescue us from the grips of fear and hopelessness and when we taste the sweetness of His presence and His love when He holds us, as the storms swirl around us.

Trenches are not only necessary in the deepening of our faith, but can even be celebrated as we consider what Paul says in Romans 5:3-4 , “…but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Perseverance, character and hope, sign me up…oh and keep me in the trenches.

Contributing Writer: Susan Sampson

The most beautiful words jumped off the page of my bible the other day. They stared me right in the face and brought tears to my eyes as Jesus showed me just a small glimpse of what He has done for me.

I have read Psalm 103 more than once, but on this particular day, my Lord showed me verse four. In it He says, he “crowns you with love and compassion.” Such beauty and amazing grace in just a few words. I was immediately reminded of Easter.

Jesus, you wore the twisted crown of thorns that we deserve and instead you crown us with love and compassion! You accepted and wore the robe of mockery and shame and instead you have “clothed me with the garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10). You allowed your enemies to mercilessly pound six inch nails into your hands and feet and now our names are engraved on the palm of your hand (Isaiah 49:16) and written in the Lamb’s book of life (Revelation 21:27). You who knew NO sin BECAME SIN for us (2 Corinthians 5:21) and removed our sins as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).

Lord, I confess my unbelief and ask for your mercy to help me believe these truths. Establish these truths in our hearts Lord. Thank you Jesus for demonstrating your love for me on the cross, dying for me when I was still a sinner. Thank you that you did not come to call the righteous, but sinners (Matthew 9:13). I praise you Lord Jesus, my brother, my friend, my life. Help me to remember your Gospel every day and to live in humble gratitude. In your life giving name I ask these requests. Amen.