3 Truths for When Shame Threatens to Derail

John 18 tells of all the times when Peter denied Jesus. Not super moves on his part and not anything Peter was proud of. He clearly felt the weight of his betrayal and decided his best course of action was to go back to fishing. He was done with this “fisher of men” thing. He had blown it. Three times in front of a large studio audience.

Have you been there? You’re trying something new, and you know you’re on the right track. It’s awkward and you’re shaky using these new muscles but you can tell you’re going to be the good kind of sore afterward. For me, it’s been getting back to a healthy weight. I’m not trying to be Kate Moss here, just the Emily that fits into Emily’s jeans.

I am a nurse so I know that eating all-the-cheese-in-the-house every night is not part of my “get to a healthy weight” plan. I also know if I’m supposed to do everything to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31) and I’m eating chocolate chip cookies until I feel sick, I‘m not hitting the mark. But then WHY when I feel like I’m messing everything up do I make it even worse by eating all the bacon and eggs I have?

I know why. It’s shame.

I recently heard a sermon on shame that stopped me in my tracks. You can watch it here. It picks up right where Peter has decided to throw in the towel. The sermon had three points and I’m not much for reinventing the wheel so here goes:

  1. Jesus pursues us in our shame

When I’ve had a terrible horrible no good very bad day at the office (i.e. my house) I really struggle to get alone with God. I’d rather avoid Him because I know I am messing up my kids a little each day even though I couldn’t love them more, and I couldn’t be trying harder. In my mind God is disappointed with me and, in shame, I avoid Him and make a beeline for the block of sharp cheddar.

But God pursues us in our “yuck.” We know this because He came after Peter. When we think we’re no good for God, and that’s when Jesus comes and, if we let him, He reminds us of our true identity.

  1. He restores us from our shame

When we carry around shame we can’t have intimacy. Any experience you’ve had of betrayal is evidence of that. Things are broken and won’t be made right until the shameful thing is dealt with. Good news though! Jesus is in the business of restoration. He’s like the Bob Vila of relationships. He already knows about our shame. He has already paid for our shame. We might as well come out of hiding and let him restore our broken places.

  1. He replaces shame with purpose

His heart is FOR you. He is calling you to move past the same into a place of purpose. All of our purposes look different but we all definitely have one.

Shame almost made Peter leave the church. He was heading back to his old ways because he thought he had made too large a mess of things. It’s the same with us. If we hold on to the shame in our lives, it changes our trajectory. We can see from Peter’s example that the purpose God has for us affects more than just us. If I continue to eat things that make me feel badly, I (logically) feel badly which affects the way I care for others around me. My temper is shorter and don’t even TRY to talk to me when I’m in my closet attempting to cram myself into my clothes. It’s funny but also really sad in the moment. I do a lot of crying in the closet. Shame over our bad choices takes up precious mental space. I tell myself terrible things and that brings me all kinds of down. That’s not living. That’s not freedom.

So your issue might not be every conceivable variety of cheese like mine, but if there is something you are feeling shame about please consider the fact that you are being pursued in the middle of your mess by a Restorer who longs for intimacy with you and who replaces shame with purpose if you’ll let Him.

Which of these truths did you need to hear today?

photo credit: Christian via Flickr


  1. laura r October 27, 2014

    This topic hits so close to home…

    Jesus restores us from our shame.  That is the part of the shame journey I ‘m walking right now.  I had NO idea how much shame was covering me.  Seriously, I was drowning in it and I had no clue.  For me,  I have been spurred on to change by a few things:

    1. The question “To what end?”  I came to realize that I was doing so many of the ‘right’ things for the wrong reasons, which meant that the right things were actually the wrong things.

    2. The phrase  “Bring it to the light.”  I had no idea how much fear was playing a role in my life and how, as a result, I was letting things linger in darkness.  I was afraid to bring things forward, to ask the hard questions, to have the hard conversations, to bring things to the Father.

    3. The concept of “Lifting the face.”  In a study on the book of James the question was asked, “Who do you think you are when you judge some people worthy and you leave other people’s faces flat on the floor?”  This struck me… As I was processing this I realized that there have been times when I have left my own face on the floor, when I have judged myself as unworthy, where I have shrunk back in unbelief.

    It’s a process… I’ve read. I’ve prayed. I’ve cried. I’ve spoken my shame out.

    I’m grateful that he deems me worthy… He knows me.  He knows my struggles.  He knows my gifts. He knows my joys, my sorrows, my darkness… and He calls me worthy.

    1. Emily Thomas October 27, 2014

      Wow, Laura.  Thank you for sharing that!  You’ve clearly been doing the difficult, yet important work of not letting shame rule your life.  I think you are right on when you say so many people have shame in places they didn’t know it existed.  It’s insidious.  I am so thankful you are on this important journey and making so much progress!

      1. laura r October 27, 2014

        Thank you!

        Yes, I feel that there is so much shame that goes unrecognized in life.   It’s been a really eye opening last few months as I have journeyed through this.  It’s not over but the start of the journey, while being rather tumultuous, has been beautiful.

        Looking forward to the rest of this week.

  2. Brittany October 30, 2014

    The reminder that I feel like I need all the time is that Jesus pursues me in my shame.  I get so frustrated with myself as everyday I’m reaching new failures in this journey.  Nothing has ever brought me shame like my job as a mother, and it certainly affects my relationship with Jesus.  Yet when He first pursued me, He found me in my shame.  It’s not like that’s a new thing.  I don’t know why it’s so hard to just let Him take my shame.  The struggle goes on…

    1. Emily Thomas October 31, 2014

      “Nothing has ever brought me shame like my job as a mother, and it certainly affects my relationship with Jesus.” 

      Yes!! I couldn’t agree more.  Just today I was having to really think about what is TRUE about my mothering situation and my standing before Jesus.  (and it was not all the shame and fear of failure I was feeling).  Struggling along with you friend!

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