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.
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