Dealing With Shame and Letting Christ Heal You

My Dear Readers:

AS I type this, I am elbow-deep in last minute revisions to chapter 11 of my book (ironically enough, the chapter is about a godly response to abuse suffered in the past). There is a correlation between abuse and addictive, self-destructive behaviors such as anorexia and bulimia, and while it is not an exact "cause-and-effect" situation, it deserves some discussion.

One common denominator between bad things done to us (abuse) and bad things we've done (bulimia, for example) is shame. Even after we know we've been forgiven, this feeling of self-indictment is hard to shake, even in the light of the Gospel.

I would like to direct you all to two posts written this week by Dr. Laura Hendrickson, writer and NANC counselor extraordinaire: "He Heals the Brokenhearted" (how shame affects us) and "The Cure for Shame: Resting in my True Identity". What Laura shared there, and the biblical solution, is much more articulately presented than I am capable of doing at the moment. Please, ladies, go read her posts and then spend some time thanking your Saviour Who has removed all your shame...and loves you.

She and I had a brief dialogue after I was blessed by her first post (yes; I still struggle with shame and believing Christ loves me -- and it has NOTHING to do with my past eating disorder history). I share this with you as you may recognize some of these though patterns in yourself; shame and allowing ourselves to trust in God's gentle and gracious character is something many of us struggle with - it is not unique to eating disordered ladies, although you may well experience it. Rather than re-hash everything we said, here are my comments and Laura's response (below). I hope that you will be edified by knowing that even we counselors, who are given the staggering priviledge of pointing others to the Great Physician, battle the same feelings and doubts.


Sometimes God answers a doubt/insecurity we have in an unequivocably clear way. This shame struggle I have been having is something that Christ has been recently opening my eyes to, and He has used the writing of other biblical counselors like yourself in addition to the Word. Most recently, CCEF's counselor Winston Smith posted a 2-part article on the interplay between shame and pride that keeps us running from Christ instead of TO him (this is really excellent: http://www.ccef.org/node/910).

As I did when I read your post above, I immediately thanked God because it spoke DIRECTLY to my own inner experience. I know the verses that speak to His removing our shame along with our guilt, but why do I still duck my head and hear the whisper "He doesn't like me" when certain memories flash? Why do I find myself whispering apologies to God for sin repented of over a decade ago? It's one thing to realize you are forgiven. It's another to not remember the past with shame. It still makes me shrink from His touch.

And then, as you said - Duh! - I realize the answer is still, always and ever, prayer - to the one Who redeemed me.

I did not divulge all of the more graphic details of my childhood abuse in my book, because someone (a NANC counselor, no less) made me feel even more ashamed. She greatly hurt me by saying "You got off easy". (While the most painful abuse was the constant verbal humiliation, I was molested by two immediate family members. No one else knows this. You don't say "incest" aloud in church...but it still causes shame). Even more so now.

I wish there were some magic "formula" that would change the way I feel inside; not just the doctrinal knowledge that I can share with other people. To be a truly effective counselor, I will have to truly be able to walk free of this shame that you describe, and really, truly believe that I can live beloved and unashamed before God. Posts like yours help, because you not only point back to the Bible and the Truth we should all internalize, but you also emphathize in a personal way because you walk through the same thing. You and Winston really seem to "get" it, and that compassion is what really helps get through to the hearts of those who struggle with shame. So, THANK YOU!
And her response:

Hi Marie!

Thanks for the link to Winston's article. It's a wonderful, succinct statement of a very important truth. I would argue, however, that we're all proud, certainly, but this isn't the biggest thing that keeps us survivors from calling out to the Lord. I think rather, that it's a pervasive attitude of mistrust, which results in a tendency to rely on my own resources (eating behaviors, cutting, masturbation, etc, etc) rather than crying out to God. And BTW, this is a natural human response. Our precious Lord, who loves us so much, knows our frame and isn't surprised that those of us who've experienced terrible things struggle with trust.

I don't believe that you have to conquer shame to be an effective counselor. I haven't, and I'm am. Paul tells us that God ministered far more powerfully through his weakness than his strength (2 Corinthians 12:9,10). It's recorded for our benefit, and I believe that we can have the same experience of God's power as we minister through our weakness as Paul did.

I'm going to keep on saying "Incest," "Rape," "Domestic Violence," "Molestation," and "Child Abuse" in church, because the church needs to hear it, and suffering women need to be comforted even more. I'm so sorry to hear about the woman who shamed you for your suffering. I've experienced some similar things in the past. So many don't understand. This is why I'm speaking out about these great evils--because they need to understand.

For more on relying on your own resources, see my post, Self Comfort or God's Comfort?

Please stay tuned, Marie. There is gospel truth that is a powerful weapon against the whispers of the enemy, that say things like that God is disappointed in us. My next post will address this very issue.

I'm praying for you.



1 comment:

  1. I am late for Church so this is a very short message.
    I would like to thank you for your article.
    God Bless you.
    Praying with faith for your needs.


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