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Shame and Grace

Shame and Grace

Too many of us are at war within ourselves. When that is the case, the following questions arise:

How can you extend grace to others when you have not received it yourself? Where do you go when you feel flawed? Where do you find healing when you know you are sick?

For me, the only place to go was to the feet of the only One who is perfect, the only One who fully understands how flawed I am and yet who loves me completely.

Jesus said, Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. – Matthew 11:28

When our Lord was brutally executed, He took upon Himself all the filth and decay of a diseased world. He knew that we could not make it on our own, so He took our place. Wherever He encountered darkness, He brought light. When He met people who were in hiding, He called them out. Whether it was a “scarlet woman” or a little man hiding up a tree, His words were words of healing and hope and freedom. Isaiah told us,

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. – Isaiah 9:2

I have a friend who is a missionary on the border between Thailand and Cambodia. He has a heart for people suffering from leprosy in the refugee camps. He and his colleagues began to spend time with those men and women, doing what they could to aid them physically and spiritually. Eventually a church was born, right there in the middle of a leper camp. During one of their services, a man who had been among the first to make a commitment to following Christ said, “One of the most wonderful things that has happened to me since I met Jesus is that now I can look you in the face. I was too ashamed before because of my disfigurement, but if Jesus loves me so much, then I think that I can hold my head up high.”

That is how it is supposed to be for us all. Jesus has restored our dignity. What we sold so cheaply in Eden, He has bought back for us at a great price. We all struggle with our humanity, with our soulishness, but cleansing is not found in the shadows; it is found in the burning light.

The word grace is now as familiar to me as wind or rain, although it took me some time to be able to receive this lavish gift.

Grace was never meant to be rationed, something we nibble on to get us through tough times. It is meant to soak us to (and through) the skin and fill us so full that we can hardly catch our breath.

My problem was that I had such a tight grasp on my life, there was very little room into which grace could be poured.


I remember running to the altar at the church I visited while in the hospital, dragging my shame and grief behind me. Everything was different from that day on. Grace gave me the courage to face my biggest fears and the harshest truths about my life because it held on to me and never let go. I felt an overwhelming thankfulness deep in my bones. I knew I could never pay for this awesome gift, but it had my name on it, and it would never be taken away.

True grace is so overwhelming you are compelled to extend it to those around you, whether they deserve it or not.

George MacDonald said:

Whether he pay you what you count his debt or no, you will be compelled to pay him all you owe him. If you owe him a pound and he owes you a million, you must pay him the pound whether he pay you the million or not. . . . If, owing you love, he gives you hate you, owing him love, have yet to pay it.

That is a truly joyful and liberating way to live. Your mind is set; your path is clear; you need not depend on the reactions of others to determine how you will react to them because you have already made your choice. Grace takes the initiative to live with passion and compassion; it does not play it safe, but lavishes itself on others, just as grace is daily lavished on us.

Can you imagine how the world would be transformed if we all chose to live with gracious, generous hearts? Can you imagine the peace we would encounter if we set aside our petty differences and narrow-minded prejudices and embraced one another as we have been embraced by Christ? This kind of living would transform everything it came in contact with.

Consider the woman who broke her jar of expensive perfume over the feet of Jesus. Even though she was criticized by others for the recklessness of her act, Christ reprimanded her critics, telling them they did not understand what she had done.

There is no better moment to pour your love out on another. Carpe diem: seize the day!

I treasure my volumes of the collected sermons of Charles Spurgeon, who spoke about grace with such depth and simplicity. He described returning home one evening after a very busy day when he was suddenly confronted by the text, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” He thought about the words for a while, and then their meaning came to him in a new way: “My grace is sufficient for thee.” He said he burst out laughing, it was so clear. “It seemed to make unbelief so absurd,” he wrote.

It was as though some little fish, being very thirsty, was troubled about drinking the river dry, and Father Thames said, “Drink away little fish, my stream is sufficient for thee” . . . Little faith will bring your souls to heaven but great faith will bring heaven to your souls.

All we have to do is humble ourselves before God. As we move toward Him, we will see Him running to meet us. We may feel incredibly unworthy (and we are), but we must remember that God loved us so much “He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Everyone’s story is different. Perhaps you have been told you should never have been born, that you were a mistake. Perhaps you were told you would never amount to anything. So many things that happen to us as children leave greasy fingerprints on our souls. Children who have been beaten feel at some level that they deserve their beatings; those who have been sexually abused become accustomed to equating anything sexual with “love.” Yet Jesus said He came to give us abundant life, life running over at the edges, more than we could ever imagine.

When you step out from the shadows into the storm, you may be at the mercy of the wind for a while, but Christ is Lord over the wind and the storms, and you will be truly alive — not just a whisper of who God called you to be. There is so much more to life than mere survival! God wants you to live, not just get through one more day. We can try in vain to fix ourselves, but only the One who made us knows the path to healing.

I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people… to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. – Isaiah 42:6-7

When you find yourself at an emotional crossroads, you have to choose whether you will push your emotions down one more time, dismissing them as lightly as a summer cold, or will you stop and listen and ask God to help you understand why your life is so painful? Perhaps, like me, you will find things out about yourself that are disappointing. I, for instance, am learning to distinguish between healthy shame that alerts me to areas of my life that need to change and the unhealthy ocean of shame that does not belong to me. At times you may be overwhelmed with sadness, but if you are willing to sing its song for a little while, a great burden will be cut from you and roll down the mountain.

Lord Jesus,

Your love for me is beyond my understanding.

I am so ashamed of what I bring to You today —

my fears, my shame, my hopelessness.

Today I choose to come out of the shadows

into Your light,

into Your healing,

into Your hope,

into Your life.


Excerpted with permission from Loved Back to Life by Sheila Walsh, copyright Thomas Nelson, 2015.

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Your Turn

Doesn’t that sound glorious? Are you weary and burdened? Overwhelmed with sadness, shame, or other unhealthy weights that do not belong to you? Do you long to have those unbearable loads cut from you so that you can turn and see them rolling away? Today, let’s determine to stop and intentionally listen and ask God to help us understand why life is so painful and partner with Him towards recovery, restoration, and being loved back to life in Jesus. We would love to hear from you about shame and grace. Come join the conversation on our blog!