Alone with my thoughts and a cup of coffee (dcaf, of course, I'm breast feeding), my mind scans through countless conversations I never had the courage to initiate. I think about failed attempts with someone in my extended family, missed opportunities to grind harder simply because I was discouraged in the results. I think about last year and the year before and the year before that.
Regret is a word we don't want to deal with, but if we are honest, the very thing we don't want to admit is what keeps us awake at night. We brag that we have no regrets, but the shame of undone things still linger in our minds when all is quiet. It's time to stop being quiet. It's time to shake off the shame.
Realize your guilt is not from God.
We feel ashamed or regretful when we've made decisions that don't align with God's love for us. It could be in relationships, a business decision or even thoughts we've entertained privately. When we do things contrary to the word of God, it's called sin and sin causes guilt and shame. If you have already confessed your sins—either once or a million times—and are still feeling the guilt of shame, those feelings don't come from God.
Romans 8:1 tells us “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Condemnation is the feeling of hopelessness, but God doesn't continue to bring back to your mind what you did. Psalm 103:12 says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”
Basically, this means that God doesn’t continue to see that sin any more. He doesn’t remember it or bring it back in front of you so neither should you.
Reshape your understanding of God's love for you.
In my book, I emphasis that God's love isn't for good girls. It's for those of us who are not good. None of us are perfect. None of us are holy or sinless or even shameless. Sometimes we continue to feel guilty about our bad choices because we see God as a distant judgmental person, looking to see if we mess up. But the Bible says that Jesus understands us- even our sin and even our shame. No, He never sinned, but He was tempted, just as we are.
Hebrews 4:15 15- For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet he did not sin.
Jesus understands and is compassionate for us and our issues. He loves us and is eager to forgive us, but we must confess- meaning admit our wrong doing- and then we must renounce -meaning that we must not entertain the idea of doing it again. This is true repentance: Confession and Renouncing. Once repentance occurs, then the forgiveness God offers begins to heal our shame and propel us in a relationship with Him. And it's in this relationship where we can clearly see that we are loved and not judged.
Saturate yourself in the healing words of Scripture.
Some of us hold shame from sexual pasts, or from abuse or drug use or unhealthy family dynamics. Maybe we've suffered from the sins of others, not necessarily our own. Maybe we have been victims. Maybe we have lied or cheated or simply done something that our convictions can't make peace with. Whatever might be resurfacing in your heart, stop listening to the voices of doubt, self-condemnation or accusations. These are lies and God is not a liar. You are not defined by these struggles. You are not hopeless or a lost cause. You are not worthless or unloveable. You matter! You are loved!
Sometimes, it's hard to believe this, though, isn't it? Sometimes, even if it seems small and unimportant to outsiders, we have a tendency of holding onto our shame because we can't find the strength to simply let it go. So, I encourage you to immerse yourself in the loving truth of Scripture and begin living like a loved, forgiven child of God. Every promise God declares in Scripture for His children applies to you. You are not exempt and your past cannot hold you back from God's beautiful future for you!
Surround yourself with Encouragement
The best way to help you combat your negative feelings and thoughts is to simply submerse yourself in environments where those thoughts are being opposed. When we would have our Pearls of Hope Meetings, I personally found it a great place to receive encouragement from multiple people who would listen to me, prayer with me and assure
me of my worth and God's love over me. I was able to do the same for others and it cultivated a beautiful community of love, trust, faith and growth.
If you are not connected to a church or a Bible study or a few great girls who are living for Jesus, too, I suggest you mission yourself to connect this year. No man or woman, for that matter, is an island. If your idea of spiritual growth doesn't involve connecting with others, then you are only fooling yourself. You cannot grow alone. You cannot love alone.
We need people and in this journey with Jesus, He makes provisions for us to create kingdom friendships for our encouragement because He knows that life is difficult. It's not an easy path and the mistakes you made last year won't be the only issues you ever experience. There are more to come, but there will also be ever increasing love to cover you in those moments, but you have to take on the responsibility of opening your heart and letting people in.
Remember that God uses people to touch other people. So as you are learning and growing and becoming, know that it's not in vain. Your struggles are there to strengthen your faith in the Lord and to encourage others, as well. Shaking off our shame may be one of our strongest tests of faith, but as we begin to believe God's love over us, I am confident that our guilt will melt away and our shame will break apart in the presence of our loving Savior.
You are not your past. You are loved and victorious! So live well and shake of the shame!