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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Faithfulness Blocked by Shame

As I prepare this post for later publication, my husband, Larry, and I are looking forward to speaking for a second time at an adult Fellowship Class. Our subject is shame and it's fun to me to see God's timing because that is what was going on with this Woman of Sidon. (See the two previous posts on this theme). The Woman of Sidon is experiencing shame. Let's see again her reaction:
 

So she said to Elijah, “What do I have to do with you, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my iniquity to remembrance and to put my son to death!” (I Kings 17:18).

That is the reaction of shame! The sin or embarrassment that she has been carrying over time now erupts into two primary reactions:

1. She lashes out at the person who seems to be threatening her (man of God). She exclaims, "What do I have to do with you, O man of God?" To her, Elijah is the agent of the exposure of her secret. In truth, he knows nothing about it--as far as we know. 

2. She feels exposed for all to see and know about her sin--and she believes the current "bad" thing is connected to that sin. She accuses Elijah of bringing her sin "to remembrance" and to bringing about the death of her son--even though Elijah was no where close when her son died. (Read I Kings 17 for the complete story).

All this has happened after she has been experiencing God's miraculous provision of unlimited flour and oil over two years during a famine. It might be hard for us to be compassionate toward this woman because we could easily think, "Why couldn't she trust God after all He's done for her?"

But it's because shame negates our trust in the goodness of God.
  
This Gentile woman has been carrying this burden, most likely fearful that someday the knowledge of her previous sin would be revealed for all to see. Additionally, the consequences she believed she deserved would be piled upon her. That's a heavy burden. And it has now destroyed her faithful trust in God.

Dr. Dan Allender in his book The Wounded Heart writes, "Shame is a dreaded, deep-seated, long-held terror come true: what we have feared has actually come about." Shame is when our deepest fear about our valuelessness and worthlessness is confirmed and exposed. And everyone experiences shame to some degree.

Because shame focuses on our own sin and seems to offer no forgiveness, we believe we deserve punishment and have a hard time believing God would want to forgive and cleanse us. The very nature of shame makes us want to hide and Satan uses one of his very powerful techniques of "secrecy" to keep us in that dark hole. 

"Don't look at me! Don't see the truth about me!" we cry

And Satan says, "Yes, don't let anyone see you. And especially don't volunteer the exposure of your sin because everyone will then know of your lack of value, likeability, etc, etc." 

Sometimes, our shame is based in our own sin and sometimes it's based upon a sin that was perpetrated upon us. We can ask for forgiveness and cleansing for our own sin and refuse to cooperate with Satan's lies.

The sin of someone else that was perpetrated upon us is not our sin. We are not responsible and it is not necessary for us to ask forgiveness. We did not choose to sin. We were a victim. But Satan covers up that truth through lies like, "I should have prevented that" or "Something I did contributed to the sin." 

For the shame that is based upon victimization, we can stand firm against Satan's lies. It'll take time for the feelings of shame to dissipate but in time they will. 

Next time we'll talk about the dreaded PFS--which is how shame is expressed. The Woman of Sidon was infected with it. You can find out if you are too. (Be assured, everyone is!)

Photo:  http://www.helpingpsychology.com/guilt-shame-and-public-life

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