I sighed, staring at the mess that had accumulated upstairs. We are in the midst of renovations, and there are unpacked boxes that we have nowhere to put. I said I was annoyed with the mess, but I was actually ashamed — ashamed when people asked to see upstairs or see our renovations, ashamed when people asked how we had progressed, and ashamed that the mess found its way downstairs.
I complained to my husband, “Once the renovations are finished up here, then I won’t be ashamed anymore. I’ll finally be able to take pride in our home.”
He looked at me with his kind, brown eyes. “I don’t think pride is the answer, honey. Yes, the upstairs will be done, but then what? Then will you be ashamed of the kitchen and dining room, because they haven’t been renovated? And what about the porches? Then what about the car? Pride is never the answer. Pride is sinful. As believers, we are called to thanksgiving.”
Maybe you’re not ashamed of your house. Maybe you’re ashamed of your body, your finances, your job, or your past. Whatever it may be, I want to warn you of the trap that I fell into, and point you back to Christ.
What To Do With Our Shame
When we are ashamed of something, we feel embarrassed; or, like we aren’t meeting an expectation that society has set. Our reaction to these feelings may be to find a reason to boast. We want to replace our shame with dignity. Find a quick, positive attitude about it. This seems like the natural response. The opposite of shame is pride, so it must be the answer.
1. Don’t Boast in Yourself
However, God’s Word never calls us to take pride in ourselves or what we have. In fact, it speaks against the prideful person:
- “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2).
- “Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished” (Proverbs 16:5).
- “Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin” (Proverbs 21:4).
- “Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Proverbs 26:12).
- “For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar” (Psalm 138:6).
Pride is sin — disobedience to God. Pride is care for ourselves and our own glory; it’s our want of praise.
2. Humbly Consider God’s Grace
Isaiah 48:9-11 says,
“For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.” (emphasis mine)
In this passage, the prophet Isaiah speaks God’s message to Israel—a disobedient people who strayed from God and his commands over and over again. God reminds Israel here that he shows them grace, not because they deserve it, but for his own name’s sake, so that he will be glorified.
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Like Israel, we need to be reminded that the grace we have received from God—the forgiveness of our sins through Jesus Christ, the gift of eternal life, and our many earthly blessings—was not given to us because we deserved it.
As Christians, we should be such a humble people because we know how much undeserved goodness God has shown us. God asks us in his Word, “What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). A humble heart says, “I can do nothing good on my own, and I can have nothing good by my own efforts. Thanks be to God, who is worthy of all my praise and gives good and perfect gifts.”
3. Turn Your Focus Onto God
The apostle Paul could have become ashamed of himself during his ministry. He was often brought low by imprisonment, beatings, and people speaking poorly of him. This was a man who had gone from being a renowned Jewish leader to a suffering, poor follower of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:22-30).
But Paul declares in Romans that instead of being ashamed of the gospel, he boasted in the power of his God:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’ (Romans 1:16-17)
The gospel tells us that we are all sinners in need of Jesus Christ, the perfect God-man, to live the righteous life we cannot, and die in our place, absorbing the wrath from God that we deserve. It tells us that we must respond to this good news by repenting of our sin and following Christ. Yet, people hate this idea that they need a Savior and must submit to God.
Paul could have been ashamed of the gospel, embarrassed by what people might think. But instead, he found courage and joy to proclaim it when he recognized that in it the power of God is revealed. When he focused on God’s power as he proclaimed the good news, he had no reason for shame.
4. Give Thanks to God
Rather than turning inward and trying to find a reason to boast, we can leave shame behind by giving thanks and glory to God:
When you are ashamed of your past sins, remember Christ’s complete atonement that dealt with each of them (Colossians 2:13-14). Praise him that you no longer bear those sins or need to pay the heavy price for them!
When you are ashamed of your lack of material possessions, remember that it is God who has given you what you have (Matthew 6:28-30). So exalt in God as the perfect Giver of all things, and as your Sustainer.
When you are ashamed of your lack of knowledge, remember that God is the one who supplies all wisdom in his Word (Psalm 19:7). Thank God for how he gives wisdom so generously when we humbly seek it.
When I was ashamed of my home, I had to turn to God in thanksgiving for the house he has provided and the money to do renovations.
Whatever it is you feel shame about today, confess it to God in prayer, and seek to glorify him. Trying to cover up your shame with boasting only adds sin to sin, but we are most content and joyful when we glory in God.