‘Warts and all’

Selwyn summarises the last eight weeks reflecting on what has been termed the uncomfortable psalms.

He writes (with minor edits): ” … there are psalms for every season of life: psalms of orientation, psalms of disorientation and psalms of reorientation. The uncomfortable psalms bring us face to face with those dark emotions that arise within us from time to time … but we must be careful that we do not indulge or wallow in these negative emotions.

The book of Psalms, when looked at from an overall perspective, is a book that insist we admit to any pain caused by: anger, resentment, anxiety, fear, guilt, shame, envy, jealousy, loneliness or despair.  Then, having acknowledged our emotions (and not buried them), we turn to God for deliverance.

Having done so we are then to go on rejoice in the Lord and give Him the adoration and praise which is due His name.”

Perhaps this is the most important point – if we allow any of these emotions to take over our heart then we are limiting our ability to focus on Jesus. Our time and energy is spent serving the feelings created by the negative emotion. Hence, it’s important to turn to God for deliverance – because, any of these emotions, which has taken up residency in our heart, is not going to be tossed out without some effort on our part, and a lot of help from God.

It’s all about putting God back on His throne in your heart  – and giving all your energy to worshipping  Him, leaving no room for any negative emotions but being filled with love, joy and peace (that comes from a right relationship with Jesus).

I can understand why Selwyn picked Psalm 108, as the psalm  to end this particular issue. The very first verse indicates the solution to all negative emotions – for our hearts to have total confidence in God!

Psalm 108 (A psalm of Davids, NLT): “My heart is confident in you, O God; no wonder I can sing your praises with all my heart!

Wake up, lyre and harp! I will wake the dawn with my song.

I will thank you, Lord, among all the people. I will sing your praises among the nations. For your unfailing love is higher than the heavens. Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the highest heavens. May your glory shine over all the earth.

Now rescue your beloved people. Answer and save us by your power.

God has promised this by his holiness: “I will divide up Shechem with joy. I will measure out the valley of Succoth. Gilead is mine, and Manasseh, too. Ephraim, my helmet, will produce my warriors, and Judah, my scepter, will produce my kings. But Moab, my washbasin, will become my servant, and I will wipe my feet on Edom and shout in triumph over Philistia.”

Who will bring me into the fortified city? Who will bring me victory over Edom? Have you rejected us, O God? Will you no longer march with our armies? Oh, please help us against our enemies, for all human help is useless.

With God’s help we will do mighty things, for he will trample down our foes.”

No lasting power

Selwyn continues his discussion on the emotion – shame.

His concluding remarks are good – because they highlight the importance of having Jesus sitting on the throne in our heart. It’s a throne that only has room for one person or thing; if we put our trust in money or job security or our family then we have taken our throne away from Jesus. We must do something to re-install Him, to His rightful place – if we want to be released from debilitating, negative emotions.

Selwyn writes: “Today, I imagine, is decision day for many of you reading these lines in different parts of the world> if you have something in your heart around which your affections are entwined to the detriment of your Christian life, get down on your knees at some appropriate moment, confess it to God, ask His forgiveness and put Jesus Christ once again on the throne of your heart.

Those who live close to God will not have to live close to shame. They may feel shame, but it will not be debilitating shame. Shame has no lasting power in a heart that puts God first.”

In John’s Gospel, we read (14:23-24, NIV): ‘Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. … ” ‘

If you love Jesus and obey His teaching –  God will live in your heart; and, His perfect love will drive out negative emotions, such as shame. We can trust in His love, and live, knowing that shame or its companions cannot take a permanent hold of your heart.  Do you agree?

Never again!

It’s good to remind ourselves that anything (besides God) which we give the highest place in our lives to  – is idolatry.

As Selwyn says in today’s study: “Whenever we put something in God’s place and worship it (give it the highest priority) we are committing idolatry. That something can be success, learning , money, a car, work, children, freedom, reputation, service. How often do we trust things (family or work) to satisfy our souls rather than God. How often do we depend on our abilities, our health, our degrees, our accomplishments, rather than on Him? Idolatry is sneaky worship; it is worshipping something the self has created rather than our Creator God.”

The biggest risk for many of us – is making our husband or wife, & children – the highest priority in our lives – in the sense, that they give us the most meaning, for what we do.  God – must be – way out in front,  in terms of our priorities – our family responsibilities should come a distant, but important second priority. Do you agree?

God created you, your husband or wife, and your children – it is His will alone, as the Creator  – that our, and their existence depends upon.  This fact should never be far from our hearts. It’s a truth upon which we can meditate, and it may help protect us from this sneaky, sin of idolatry.

What are your views on this topic?

Idolatrous trust

Selwyn makes quite an interesting statement – ‘the root of shame is misplaced dependence’.

He recalls an occasion when he ministered to a woman – who, felt shame whenever she fell beneath her own standards. Selwyn told her that her shame was linked to idolatry  – her god had become ‘perfection’. He concludes this study, this way: “The exposure of her trust in perfectionism (to make her feel ‘good’) rather than in the living God at first made her feel foolish, but eventually it led her to a deep trust in her heavenly Father.”

Maybe, shame is one of those emotions which is a red flag –  with many, it’s a red flag that signals the loss of position in our community of peers. The circumstances which causes the ‘loss of face’ is often very different – from what may cause us shame as a teenager; as compared to when we are the ‘mature’ aged!  Shame and grief may also be a useful red flag, when we realise that we have fallen short of what God requires of our lives. It may just be a temporary waving of this visible flag – but as long as we understand the cause of our shame – and what we need to do, to address the causes; then, as a warning which we notice and heed – it could be an useful emotion. What’s your view?

The root of shame

There are two points which I dwelt on, when I read today’s study.

The first was this statement: “There is no doubt in my(Selwyn) mind that those who struggle with deep shame do have a flawed sense of self.”  Maybe this statement reflects the truth that we are all flawed in this fallen world – I think, every ‘normal’ person experiences various levels of shame throughout their lives –  at those times when we have experienced a severe ‘loss of face’  – we all struggle with the sense of deep shame – just, that some are better than others, in hiding it.

Selwyn then recounts the incident when he dried up in front of an audience – and experienced an intense sense of shame. He says: “Anyone in that situation would have been embarrassed, but not everyone would have felt the degree of shame I experienced. What was my true god at that moment? Looking good. On whom was I depending? On myself and not on God. Shame, believe me, exposes the real source of our dependence; it reveals who our real god is.”

I think most people would have felt a very similar level of shame,  to totally dry up in front of an audience would be devastating to most public speakers. Yet, Selwyn identifies the real issue – what is our self-worth or self-image based upon? Looking good in the public eye – or humbly serving  our living God? [By the way, trying to do both, is not an option.]

Violence – a blood offering

I like this extract from today’s set verses, Job 10:9-16 (New Living Translation): “Remember that you made me from dust – will you turn me back to dust so soon? You guided my conception and formed me in the womb. You clothed me with skin and flesh, and you knit my bones and sinews together. You gave me life and showed me your unfailing love. My life was preserved by your care.

“‘Yet your real motive – your true intent –  was to watch me, and if I sinned, you would not forgive my guilt. If I am guilty, too bad for me; and even if I’m innocent, I can’t hold my head high, because I am filled with shame and misery. And if I hold my head high, you hunt me like a lion and display your awesome power against me. … “

This view, presents an interesting aspect of shame – as the verse in bold suggests that even if innocent – it’s the perception of others – that we are guilty – it’s the loss of our social position in the eyes of others which appears to drive this particular facet of shame.

Selwyn writes: “Another characteristic of shame is a desire to hurt either the self or the one who may have caused, or even witnessed, the matter that brought about the feeling of shame. …

Violence, it has been said, ‘ is a blood offering to the dark demons of shame … it lashes out to destroy either the self or blind the observer’. And nothing is more violent than suicide.”

Too often we read in the newspapers or see on TV news, the suicide of a young person who had their reputation, with their peers, damaged by an inappropriate comment. A comment, usually made these days on a social interaction, Internet site – consequently; the comment is public – anyone, could read it. The person, I guess, believes;  ‘Because everyone now thinks the very worst of me – I don’t want to go on living (with such a terrible label pinned to me)’. 

Perhaps, it’s partly due to the fact that some people measure their value according to the perception of their friends. The truth is, our value has been established by Jesus – He paid a ransom to save us from death. His very life was given up, to save us. In His eyes we are priceless – it’s this truth that we should constantly reflect upon – the penalty for all our sins has been paid, in full. Sin, often will cause us some temporary grief and shame until we turn to Jesus and seek His forgiveness then we should praise God – in recognition of what He has done (and continues to do) for us. Suicide (except in cases of mental illness) basically displays a lack of knowledge or trust in God’s love. Do you agree?

‘Nobody look at me’

[Part of my – filling in the blanks – series. 🙂  ]

Selwyn continues his discussion on the emotion of shame. He mentions that there are over ten occasions in the book of Psalms where the psalmist cries out; ‘Do not let me be put to shame.’ He goes on to say: “Another element of shame is the desire to hide from the gaze of others. … There is something about looking into the eyes of others when you feel shame that increases the sense of embarrassment and humiliation. … Shame cause us to flee to a world where it is bad enough to look at ourselves, but even worse to face the gaze of others.”

I think we need to understand that all have fallen short of God’s standards – we all have done something (or neglected  a call to provide help and assistance) that caused us to be filled with shame. The first place to go, to seek healing and restoration, is to God. Perhaps, when we approach Him in humility and with the attitude of a servant, we start to see our position in a clearer light.  Maybe, it’s our pride which magnifies the feeling of shame – especially when it concerns other people. In a similar way, perhaps it our stubborn independence which hinders our approach to our loving God. Our Father, who is watching out for us as we slowly drag our feet down the path towards Him – could that be the reason why He ‘runs’ to meet us and carries away our fears? 

The point I want to emphasise is this: Jesus loves you – He is not a distant God – He is waiting for you, to turn – and to walk towards Him. He will always respond with love to His ‘prodigal’ children!