People who suffer from guilt and shame seem to major on the “wretched man” type Scriptures (Rom. 7:24), insisting that the heart is deceitful (Jer. 17:9) or we are sinful (Isaiah 1:4). Yes, of course, Scripture says we are sinners, but sinners saved by grace! It’s when we insist on our own way and walk in our own understanding that we are corrupt. Once we accept Christ, we are the righteousness of God by faith (Phil. 3:9) and we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16). Sure, we can still sin and walk in self, but that’s where sanctification comes in. What we must remember is God’s character—his gentleness, loving-kindness, and mercy. We must remember Romans 8:1! If you are a believer, God’s intention is to conform you to the image of Jesus Christ (Rom 8:29), not to condemn you. And frankly, he’ll stop at nothing until he accomplishes this goal. He’s on your side! Romans 8:31 is the best news ever!
So if you’re struggling with either guilt or shame, the good news is that God has an app for that. He’s on your side. Make the correct diagnosis and apply the correct remedy. Apply it over and over until your thoughts and feelings are in alignment with God’s word. You’ll be amazed at the change in your behaviors. Let me know how it works for you.
Guilt or Shame? Do You Know the Difference?
Diagnosing Guilt and Shame
Guilt and shame both make us feel bad about ourselves. Sometimes awful. The result is often self-condemnation, hopelessness, and depression. We try to fix the problem, but all too often, we fail, leading to despair. We feel like Paul in Romans 7:24: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” So what do we do?
The good news is that God has indeed provided the rescue we need. But here’s the deal: you need to apply the right remedy, and to do that, you need to make the right diagnosis—are you suffering from guilt or from shame? Still be confused? Let’s look at an example.
Susan explodes with anger whenever something doesn’t go her way. Doesn’t matter whether it’s traffic, work, or family. She just explodes. She’s done it for so long, she’s decided that she’s just angry woman. She’s taken on anger as her identity—who she is—filling her with lots nasty feelings.
So how does she diagnose the problem so she can apply the proper treatment? Here’s how I approach it:
- Is this a behavior or a character trait? In this case, anger is a behavior—something she does. She lashes out. She yells. She curses. She seethes. Therefore, the problem is guilt and the antidote is confession, repentance, and believing that she has received God’s forgiveness.
- Does she feel better? Probably not because the repeated guilt has created repeated shame. So there’s another question to consider.
- Does God define her as an angry person? Is this her character, who she is? Who she was created to be? Here’s where we turn to Scripture, and the more of the Word you know, the easier this step will be. Look for passages that use the word you’re dealing with (in this case, anger), or passages that include “you are” or “I am.” Sometimes the passages you’re looking for will be a command. For example, Ephesians 4:26 acknowledges that we will be angry, but warns us to not sin in the process. Sometimes the passage you’re looking for is the opposite (consider 1 Thes. 5:5, Gal. 5:22, Col 3:12). Apply the word of God to your problem.
Once we’ve correctly diagnosed whether we’re dealing with guilt or shame, it’s much easier to apply the correct remedy and find freedom.
Guilt or Shame? Do You Know the Difference?
Warfare in the Old Testament
What did warfare look like in Israel during the time of Joshua, Judges, David, and Isaiah? What about the Egyptian, Assyrian, and Babylonian militaries? How were they the same? Different?
OK, call me a geek, but I love this stuff. I’ve written Bible studies on the books of Joshua and Isaiah and on the armor of God. While many biblical allusions are military, most of us know very little about biblical warfare. Now there’s a resource that is both approachable and well documented.
Warfare in the Old Testament: The Organization, Weapons, and Tactics of Ancient Near Eastern Armies by Boyd Seevers explores the military strategies and armaments of the Ancient Near Eastern armies of Israel, Egypt, Philistia, Assyria, Babylon, and Persia during the Old Testament period. Each section begins with a fictionalized story of a warrior during one of the wars discussed in Scripture. While a little contrived, it does make a potentially dry subject a little more personal. The narrative that follows describes the military organization, weapons, chariots, and tactics. The book features many excellent full color maps, line illustrations taken from archeological finds, excellent and informative footnotes, and Kregel Academic’s signature semigloss paper. It’s an excellent reference and actually an interesting read.