Days of winter gloom blew away a long time ago. Dreary clouds have cried the last of their April showers. May flowers spread their petals to embrace the spring. These days, the sun beams warmly, pouring a healthy dose of Vitamin D over me. After months of winter lethargy, I finally have ENERGY again!
The storm clouds of life act similarly. If I’m caught off guard, trials can bring me down so that I don’t experience true joy. Then I feel guilty knowing I should be overflowing with joy because of the many blessings God has given me. And I am grateful to God for His blessings, but a disconnect occurs that is sometimes difficult to figure out how to reconnect. After all, I recognize that I’m Christ’s ambassador; people should be able to see my joy in the Lord no matter what circumstance I’m experiencing. Then I spiral downward from guilt to shame.
GUILT vs. SHAME
I’m convinced by the Scripture that guilt is the convicting work of the Holy Spirit (II Corinthians 7:9-10). Then I know I’ve done wrong and that I need to repent, learn my lesson, and move on. I’m also convinced that shame comes from Satan and his minions. Shame imprisons. Shame refuses to extend forgiveness. Shame discourages me from picking myself up to try again.
When I feel shame, I know that God hasn’t abandoned me (Hebrews 13:5). Rather, I haven’t properly attired myself in His armor so I’m ready to face a broken, cursed world (Ephesians 6:10-18). Have I brought my struggles before the Lord, spending time with Him in the Word and in prayer (Matthew 11:28)? Am I focusing on things above (Colossians 3:2)? Am I relying on God’s strength instead of my own (Psalm 37:39)? Am I actively thanking and praising God (Philippians 4:6)? Usually the answer to one or more of these is “no.”
But once I honestly answer these questions, how do I escape the downward spiral? I see where I am and where I’m supposed to be, but how do I get there?
It takes one little step at a time – a difficulty in a world filled with instant gratification. Maybe the first step means starting with praying for the desire to do those things that will fill me with the joy of the Lord. Then maybe I can pray for forgiveness, both forgiveness from God and the ability to forgive myself. Then I can focus on looking to God for the will and the energy to change my outlook. After that, I will be equipped to take action, one baby step at a time. But if I expect too much of myself right from the outset, burnout or becoming overwhelmed can result from taking too big of steps too quickly. It’s important to celebrate each victory, no matter how small, and to give myself grace when I make mistakes along the way.
Let’s step out from under the clouds into the sunshine so we can break free from shame and embrace the joy of the Lord. Our prayers of thankfulness and praise will chase away the clouds so we can fully enjoy God’s blessing of May flowers.
Family Radio Staff