Abide in Me

April 8, 2016

Bearing Each Other’s Burdens

April 8, 2016

The Burden of Shame

April 8, 2016

I sinned the other day. Of course, I sin a lot, we all do, but this was a different sin. This was not one of my normal, go-to sins. It wasn’t like a little gossip or a tad bit of pride, it was an actual, real sin. The kind of sin that other people do; people who aren’t walking with the Lord, people who aren’t good Christians… people who aren’t me. I don’t sin like that. But I had. I had fallen, had messed up, and there I sat in the depths of my very own depravity and despair.

Now I have to say, I know all about sin and forgiveness. I’ve read the verses and studied the passages and knew what to do. I knew that Christ died for my sins. I knew that if I confessed my sins to him that he would be faithful and just to forgive, and so I did, and he did. I knew that there is nothing new under the sun, that there is no temptation new to man, that nothing I did surprised God. I knew he loved me, had chosen me, had saved me, had sealed me, and that I was his child able to call him Abba… but in that moment, I didn’t feel any of those things.

I felt guilt and condemnation. I felt shame.

I prayed for forgiveness and knew in my head that I was truly forgiven, but sitting there, the way I felt didn’t change. I could not get past the fact that I had done this thing; this thing that that I had apparently thought myself above.

Romans 8:1 says that “there is therefore now no condemnation in Christ Jesus.” I want to make it really clear that the shame I was feeling was not from the Lord. He wasn’t sitting there throwing my sin in my face. He wasn’t condemning me over and over again; that wasn’t him because he doesn’t do that. He had already removed my sin and covered me with his righteousness. I was totally, one hundred percent forgiven. But I didn’t feel that way and I didn’t know what to do.

I was desperate, though, so I did something radical; I told someone about my shame. I confessed my sin.

The Darkness of Shame

Isn’t it funny how strongly we fight against the idea of confession? I’m not even talking about apologizing to someone we’ve wronged; that is a totally different thing. I’m talking about being open and honest about our sin and struggles to trusted believers. Confessing is then not about gaining forgiveness, it’s about togetherness; it’s about help.  But we quickly convince ourselves that we should not tell other people, even trusted people, about our sin because it will be embarrassing and uncomfortable. Maybe we’ll be condemned or ridiculed. Or perhaps, maybe even worse, nothing will happen and we will have opened ourselves up, just to be cast aside. Maybe they won’t care. Whatever the reason is, we convince ourselves (pretty easily) that it’s safer for our hearts, and pride, to keep it in.

We choose to believe that keeping our sin secret will ease our shame. If no one knows it will go away. If they don’t know we can’t be hurt. So we tuck it away, try to deal with it ourselves, plaster smiles on our faces, and head off to our happy Christian lives hoping no one looks closely enough to see that our armor is damaged and we’re bleeding out.

We think confessing will make it all worse but we are so very wrong. God paints a different picture of confession. One not of shame, but of freedom.

The Light of Forgiveness

I know there are other passages that talk about confessing our sins to others, but the one that has made the biggest difference to me is found in Galatians. In chapter 6, Paul is talking to the believers in the church in Galatia about sin. Specifically, he is calling the church body to step in, gently, when they see one of their own struggling under sin. The purpose, though, is not to judge or condemn. No, the reason is far better. He says in 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Paul is calling us, as brothers and sisters in Christ, not just to simply point out sin where we see it, but to actually walk with each other through the process of overcoming it.

He is telling us to help each other because sometimes we cannot carry the burden of sin on our own.

The word “bear” is a verb that means to lift up, to carry, to take upon yourself. It is literally the idea of taking upon your own shoulders what someone else can’t carry. John Pieper talks about burden here being, ”anything that threatens to crush the joy of our faith—whether a tragedy that threatens to make us doubt God’s goodness, or a sin that threatens to drag us into guilt and judgment.” Paul is literally calling the body of Christ to be on the lookout for the suffocating side effects of sin. He’s telling us to help each other when the burden of sin is too much to handle; when the temptations are too strong and shame is overwhelming.

That day, as I sat in the darkness of my shame, I could not carry it on my own. I needed help from someone who loved me and loved the Lord. In this case, it was my husband. So, in my desperation, I went to him and told him how I had struggled, and how I had fallen. I told him how I had confessed to the Lord, knew he had forgiven me, but could not move on. I was stuck in my shame.

And do you know what he did? He looked me in the eye and spoke truth. He told me all the things I had already known but couldn’t believe because I was trying to tell them to myself. He reminded me that I was totally forgiven. That my sin was gone. That I was loved. That I was precious to my heavenly father and that I didn’t need to feel ashamed. He took my burden that was too heavy for me, and he carried it too.

I cannot begin to describe the lightness that filled my heart. Did telling him change my standing before the Lord? No, not at all. Did his words magically make everything better? No, but his tender care helped more than I can say. Over the next few days, as shame crept back to whisper words of condemnation, he saw and he spoke truth again. And again. And even again. As many times as I needed to be reminded, he was there. He had nothing new to add, no great secret to feeling forgiven. He just spoke truth over and over again; he carried my burden and slowly but surely I began to feel the grace of God. Grace, let me tell you, is like a warm ray of sunlight shining into a cold, damp cave. Better that that. It’s freedom. It’s life.

Now, I know in Galatians Paul is addressing the believer not entangled in sin. But in my case, no one knew and they would not have known unless I told them. In that moment, Paul’s words became an invitation to me to seek help. His call to the church reminded me that we are all in this together and that all believers will sin, all will struggle. I am so, so thankful that I shared, because in confessing my sin to a trusted believer, I was helped out of the darkness of shame and moved into the light of freedom.

So what about you? Are you sitting in the darkness of shame? Are there sins in your life bringing condemnation to your heart? Are you, like I was, sitting alone and hoping that eventually any feelings of shame you have will go away? Because if you are, I urge you to find someone you trust (someone who is walking with the Lord, who knows you, and is mature) and talk to them. It’s ok to recognize that the burden of sin is sometimes too heavy to carry on your own.

Dear friend, if that is you please know that Christ has paid the penalty for your sins. You are forgiven by his blood! “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us…” Eph 1:7-8a.

And you, dear friend, if someone comes to you, bear their burden in gentleness and love and in doing so, know that you are fulfilling the law of Christ.

*I know that the topic of sin and confession and all of this can bring up a lot of hurts in a lot of people. Please know that I am planning on continuing this conversation in later posts to address more. In the meantime, I’m always here if you’d like to message me to talk. Praying for you, friend.

Leave a comment