I recently finished a wonderful new novel called A Love Surrendered by one of my favorite authors, Julie Lessman, in which the hero in the book suffered from such shame and guilt over his past, he simply could not move on. His relationships with his friends were stagnant. He couldn't have a meaningful relationship with a young lady, and he couldn't even have one with God – or so he thought. Just a book character . . . right? Christians in real life aren't plagued by shame and guilt . . . wrong! After talking with many Christian and non-Christian women and family members I knew I HAD to write this post.
Us women are all so different—some of us like fishing, others cooking, gardening, hiking and one of my Facebook friends loves riding four wheelers (not me!). But one thing we all have in common is a past. The past is anything that happened before today. One may carry guilt over something that happened just yesterday, a year ago, or perhaps something that occurred in their childhood—and 30 plus odd years down the road it's still weighing them down. Some may harbor guilt or shame concerning events in their lives before they came to Christ, still others after they became a Christian. Many unfortunately bear the heavy burden of shame concerning sin that someone perpetrated against them.
Satan uses guilt and shame as a ploy to get the believer to think about past failures and to cause them to see themself in a distorted light. And he uses it with unbelievers as well – to make them feel unworthy of salvation. His objective is to keep us looking back at our past failures so much, that we begin to see ourselves as failures – the complete opposite of what we really are! How can we move forward with God with one foot still chained to the past? Remember Lot's wife who dared to look back (Genesis 19:26)—and thank God we live under the new covenant!
The woman at the well (John 4) was living a shameful life when she happened upon Jesus that fateful day. He told her she had been married umpteen times and the man she was now living with was not her husband. Did He condemn her? No, He was just telling her the facts and He told her how to get free! I'm convinced she repented, picked up a broom, beat that man out of her house, and lived a new life free from guilt and condemnation of the past. Romans 8:1 says—There is therefore now NO CONDEMNATION to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit!
The first step in freeing ourselves from the sins and guilt of the past – if we haven't done so already – is to repent and make Jesus the Lord of our lives. Simply ask Him to forgive you, come into your heart, and life, and make a new creature out of you—and He will! 2 Corinthians 5:17 says—Therefore if any man (or woman – my words) be in Christ, he/she is a new creature: old things are passed away; Behold all things are become new! ALL things!!!
The second step is asking forgiveness for not forgiving one's self for a past that is under the blood. A preacher said something so simple and profound one day that it literally changed my life and my whole thought process. He said that when a person will not forgive himself for the past and continues to carry guilt and shame over it, it is saying that Jesus' blood was not enough for us. Though He took upon Him the sin and shame of the whole world and shed His life's blood that we might find forgiveness – we are saying His blood wasn't enough; if we won't forgive ourselves. My shame and guilt were a thing of the past when I heard that. However . . .
The third step is to think about those things no more. Let them go! When satan tries to remind you of your past – remind him of his future! In Micah, God tells us that all of our sins are cast into the depth of the sea, never to be remembered any more by Him. I don't want to dredge them all the way up from there . . . do you? Hebrews 8:12 says—"For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." Now that our past has been blotted out, it's time to forget it, and as Philippians 3:13 says—Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before; I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus!
I would be remiss here if I didn't address something to you that I had personally battled over for years . . . guilt and shame over things that were perpetrated against you that were not your fault. Jesus bore the stripes, the shame and shed His blood for that, too. We may not understand why that had to happen to us, but we live in a sinful, fallen world and some day we will be rewarded for all the tears we have shed because of another's sinful actions. Kneel at the cross and leave your guilt and shame at his nail scarred feet. Give it to Him and He will carry it for you. It's too heavy for us to bear, brothers and sisters, but He already bore it for us at Calvary's cross.
I end this post with tears streaming down my cheeks as I know firsthand the suffering that some of you have carried around for years. Let's kneel before the King together and walk forward hand in hand with our heads held high, for after all, we are Princes and Princesses—children of the most High, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords!