Shame and How it Relates to Telling Our Stories

This is a word that makes all of us uncomfortable, but we have all felt it at one time or the other. It is defined as “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.” Another definition is “a loss of respect or esteem; dishonor.” It is also defined as “a regrettable or unfortunate situation or action.”

These definitions have things in common. They all involve pain, loss, and the consequences of sin. Feeling shame makes us aware of our need for Jesus which is a good thing, but Jesus doesn’t want us to stay in the pit of shame.

I struggle though with shame in my life because I want to speak about the uncomfortable things. I feel overwhelmed when I keep having the same prayer request over and over, and I feel ashamed when I ask one more time. My heart hurts because of what is going on in my life, and I don’t feel like I can display that hurt within the church. Or maybe I should say I feel uncomfortable displaying that hurt within the church. Tears, tears, and more tears. God is using this pain to sharpen and define me, this I know, but does this involve displays of emotion? Should I feel shame because I hurt?

This is a question for the ages I think, and a question that is not well-defined by the church. I’m exploring this further today because of some things that were said last night when I was at church. Things I’ve heard said before, yes, things that are a part of church culture, but things that were brought into sharp focus for me yesterday because of what we’re going through right now.

It was a program about missions. A team from my church had gone to another country earlier this summer, and they were talking about their experiences during the trip which was to a Third World country. Two things, in particular, were said which were true, but also gave me some things of my own to think about.

The first was how appreciative the people there were of the little things they were given and of life and worship in general. They were content with what they had, and in comparison to the Western world, what they had, was very little.

Then, there’s the second thing, the thing that gnawed at my heart. I am not wanting to be too specific because my intent is not to hurt feelings, but just to describe how I felt.

A comparison was made between these people and some people in the United States who have a certain sense of entitlement about life, in general, and in what they should be given. Now, before anyone posts nasty comments, I said “some people” not all.  🙂

Anyway, I listened to these stories, and my shame was hot. Shame that I needed to ask for prayer; shame that my heart hurts; shame that my family was hurting right now because we don’t have a visual form of provision. I think that might be why so many people in the church stay silent about their own pain–because they’re ashamed of it and because so many have it so much worse.

But, we can’t stay silent about our pain. We all need to tell our stories if, for nothing else, to hear the collective, ‘me too’. Jesus is not ashamed of us. He died for us on the cross. We need to tell our stories of pain, illness, job loss, addictions, and faith struggles and not be made to feel ashamed. For we are all broken, and Jesus recognizes this. We have His gospel and His hope, and that is the strength I have amidst this time of waiting.

Romans 1:16 states, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes; first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.”

Here is another one from Romans 5:5. “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

So, I will not be ashamed of my circumstances right now, and I will not quit telling my stories! They might make some people feel uncomfortable, even in the church, but isn’t that what Jesus calls us to do–to feel uncomfortable?

God’s blessings on all of you today!

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