‘We and our kings, our princes and our ancestors are covered with shame, LORD, because we have sinned against you.’ (v8) Daniel 9:7–8

Shame makes us feel uncomfortable. It speaks to all those actions and inner thoughts that we want to keep secret.

It’s about our sense of guilt and dishonour, feelings we recognise but too often choose to ignore. It causes confusion and often causes us to blush, an outward sign of inner discomfort.

As a teenager, I volunteered for my local Oxfam. I campaigned for the starving in the world. Yet, I remain uncertain how much good was achieved.

My question: to what extent was I serving my own need for self-approval? Was I acting self-righteously to compensate for my inner shame? I was, and remain, comfortable and cared for – whilst the hungry remain hungry to this day.

With God, we’re invited to become an open book. James criticises any form of faith that lacks substance. I rather like the tradition kept by some Christians of making my confession to someone else.

This doesn’t mean God cannot hear and forgive my private confession. Rather, it challenges me to ‘come clean’, to be transparent with a third party and name those thoughts and actions of which I am ashamed and embarrassed.

Shame, and our battle to bury its sources, dilutes our witness and hamstrings our service. We can’t expect a fresh move of God whilst we stumble through life with dark secrets hidden, nor can acts of charity compensate for my shame. Our behaviour might look Christian, but in our heart are we truly submitted to God? Form without substance is living death.

Related Scripture to Consider: Psa. 32; James 1:19–27; 1 John 1:5–2:2; John 8:31–47.

An Action to Take: Shame seems insurmountable but is really a mirage.

A Prayer to Make: ‘Lord, I renounce my shameful acts and thoughts and bring them into the light by confession to Jesus and trusted friends. I pray that You remove the shame of unfaithfulness from Your people. Amen.’

Photo by Enrique Ramos Lopez on depositphotos

Micha Jazz is Director of Resources at Waverley Abbey, UK.