Seeking God’s Face—A New HS Book with Practical Reflections
Jackson Wu and Ryan Jensen have authored a new book, Seeking God’s Face: Practical Reflections on Honor and Shame in Scripture. Many people will enjoy the devotional and challenging content. This post is one of the 101 practical reflections.
When Feeling Ashamed Is Not a Bad Thing
Look up to the bare heights, and see! Where have you not been lain with? By the waysides you have sat waiting for lovers, like a nomad in the wilderness. You have polluted the land with your whoring and wickedness. Therefore the showers have been withheld, and the spring rain has not come; yet you have the forehead of a whore, you refuse to be ashamed. Jer. 3:2–3
I (Ryan) lived a lifestyle full of debauchery while a sophomore in college. The strange thing about it is that I knew it. Having been raised going to church every Sunday, I had a general idea of how God wanted me to live. Yet, I knew I was far off the path. As the Lord sought me that spring semester, there were a couple of instances where I began to draw near to Christ but then withdrew, returning to my sinful lifestyle. In short, I was aware of my shameful behavior, but I wasn’t ready to face it or give it up. We often think that feeling ashamed is inherently a bad thing and speak of it in a predominantly negative tone. Naturally, this can spill over into our spiritual thinking as well. As Hailey Bieber, a professing Christian, once said, “I believe a relationship with God is the opposite of feeling shame. I don’t think that God wants you to feel shameful and that everything is a bad thing.” Is she right? Does God not want us to feel ashamed? Yes and no. Yes, it is correct that in Christ all of our shame is taken away (1 Pet. 2:6). However, there is an “already but not yet” aspect to this removal of shame. In this life, shame is still present, and it has its purpose. Bieber is wrong that God doesn’t want us to feel ashamed if we are acting in violation of his revealed will. He doesn’t ignore our sins or tell us that it’s okay. Instead, he calls us to feel ashamed of our sin before him. This can be seen in the passage quoted above. In Jeremiah 3, God rather sharply rebukes the Israelites for their vile behavior. Even worse than the depth of their depravity is that they won’t own up to it before God. Of course, their sin is a big problem. But compounding the issue is that they “refuse to be ashamed” (Jer. 3:3). In many respects, this is where I was back in college. I knew my behavior was wrong, but I wasn’t ready to own up to it before God. Yet, one morning he brought me to the end of myself. At that moment, I felt unworthy and deeply ashamed before God, like the tax collector who “would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’” (Luke 18:13). When we refuse to feel ashamed of our sin before God, we distance ourselves from him. Thus, feeling ashamed is not always a bad thing, especially when it brings us to the cross.
Hiding our shame only produces spiritual death (Rom. 6:20–21). Is there any area of your life about which you feel ashamed before God? Is it a result of sin on your part? If so, bring it to him now and let him cleanse you.
Jesus, thank you that through your death on the cross, we are clothed in robes of righteousness. Spirit, help us to not be obstinate with our sin. Convict us concerning sin and lead us to the cross.
Wow, this is really really good stuff. Shame is something that is present, serves a purpose, and can point us in a positive direction. Thank you. Seeking this book right now.
Thank you so much for your pertinent article. I have been really struggling with shame, but it is something that is rarely talked about in my circles. I have never considered it in connection with sun. Your article has given me thoughts to grapple with. I am especially moved but eh point that hiding shame brings death. I feel all my life I have been trying to avoid and cover over shame. I want to learn to bring it before God in a healthy way. I think the sin for me that has generated shame is independence and pride. I don’t want to be vulnerable or weak. I want to have a perfect “face” in front of others. But Jesus was not like that.