In the past, it was easy for me to feed into my fears about entering the public ministry, especially since serving God’s people was all I ever wanted to do. I grew up bearing the crosses of Tourette’s syndrome and anxiety, and hearing stories of many people like me failing to thrive in ministry was disheartening. So once I entered high school, I convinced myself that becoming a pastor would be living proof that my disability did not disqualify me from serving the Lord’s people. It seemed like an honorable thought in my youth, but this foolish lie was slowly killing me from the inside. I was truly passionate about entering this vocation, but the fear of failing fed into the shame of being considered worthless for service in the kingdom of God.
Thankfully, God graciously saved me from my self-inflicted shame and blessed me with my greatest fear of stepping away from my pastoral training near the end of my journey. At first, I thought my life was over, but God proved my shame wrong. Contrary to my fears, I now serve God’s kingdom in ways I never could have imagined. God fixed my eyes away from myself and lifted them to Christ. He has increased my joy, hope, and motivation to continue serving him in all the vocations he has called me to.
I share this story because as we go about our daily routines, we constantly face pressure to uphold standards expressed through social norms, academic success, family hopes, and personal goals. Failure to uphold these standards is normally met with failed relationships, ruined reputations, and feelings of hopelessness. This presents the perfect opportunity for shame to conceal us in a tight box, crushing us under the weight of an identity that tells us we are worthless. This only tightens our shackles of guilt and keeps us in a place where it is difficult to reach out for help.
If this is how shame rules our physical lives, how much worse does it rule our spiritual lives? How often do you feel ashamed when you fail to do what God says in his Word? In your desire to serve the Lord, when is your motivation rooted in joy as you praise the God of love and when is it rooted in fear as you feebly attempt to appease the God of justice? Don’t forget that “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). Our attempts to wipe away our sin-stained bodies with a sin-stained rag only cover us in greater filth. We have failed to make our garments white as snow; shame ensures we never forget that!
Yet God does not allow our shame free range to tear us apart. Our Lord absorbed our greatest shame as he took on human flesh, put himself under the law, and endured the punishment that we deserve.
This grace gives us much more than a second chance when we continually fail him. Because as many times as our failures crown us with shame, Christ points us to the crown of glory he has placed upon our heads, serving as a testimony to the victory he has won for us.
Shame no longer has the authority to keep us underfoot, because no amount of shame or failure can make God reevaluate how much he loves us. “Anyone who believes in [the Lord] will never be put to shame” because our shame was crucified with Christ (Romans 10:11). In this freedom, we only need to be in service to the audience of One, and our service will be met with heavenly honor and a glory that will never be taken away even when the rest of the world is.
So what will you do with this honor? Will you disregard Christ’s victory and return to your shame, which weighs down your eyes to stare at your sin in hopelessness and despair? Or will you heed Christ’s call to fix your eyes on him as you serve your Lord and neighbor motivated by joy and thanksgiving?
Lift your eyes to the God of honor who will transform your terrors of shame into blessings of honor. Show your shame just how inconsequential your performance is to your worth as a child of God. Prove to a world ridden with shame that your value will never diminish regardless of your vocation because you hold the greatest calling of being a follower of Christ. God will not waste the darkness he has allowed into your life but will work through it to bring you into his light and shower you with his glory.