Sunday, August 16, 2009

Expectations and Hope -- Suffering is not Shameful

Over the next few post I will be looking at the difference between expectations and hope as they relate to suffering. This came out of a personal devotion time that turned into a group devotion time on the deck of Roger and Bonnie Hayslip’s in Golden, Colorado. Involved in the devotional think tank with me were Estela, Roger and Bonnie along with their son Brandon, and Dave and Luanne Hook. Since Bonnie and I suffer from chronic ailments this devotional time with lots of input really helped us both. I will not try to remember or give credit to who said what. Just know that all this came from all involved.

Proverbs 10:28 seems to be a good theme verse for this devotion. “The hope of the righteous is gladness, But the expectation of the wicked perishes.”

Suffering is not Shameful

Shame is the underlying foundational emotional motivator of humankind. It is my belief that shame is the first negative emotion spurned by sin in the Garden of Eden. Before sin, man and woman were naked and not ashamed. The first thing after sinning they saw their nakedness in a new knowledge and hid their nakedness with fig leaves. It seems to me that the new knowledge created a shameful feeling and a response to try to cover their shame in hiding. God covered their shame by sacrificing an innocent animal and making clothes out of the animal skin. Yet, shame is still skin deep in mankind.

When a Christian suffers, particularly from health issues, it is built into their sin nature to feel a sense of shame. Why am I suffering? What did I do that was so bad that I have to go through this suffering? Is this punishment? Am I being disciplined by God? I must be a bad seed. Somehow, I know I’m to blame for this.

The patron saint of suffering is Job. The Bible says “Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth.” (Job 3:1) Job cried out, “Have I sinned? What have I done to You, O watcher of men? Why have You set me as Your target, So that I am a burden to myself?” (7:20) “I loathe my own life.” (10:1) “I am a joke to my friends.” (12:4) “I am one at whom men spit.” (17:6)

Yes, Job stayed true and faithful but can you hear the shame in his voice. When suffering there is not only the battle of physical health, but also there is the battle of shame and faith. It’s as if shame and faith are the two sides of the same coin. Some days you flip it and it comes up shame. Other times it comes up faith.

The shame of sin was temporarily covered by God in the Garden with an animal skin. In Christ not only have we been clothed in an eternal covering but we have been “crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin.” (Rom 5:6) Shame is the result of sin and results in the death spoken of in Genesis 1-3. So, when Paul speaks of the believer continuing in sin he says “what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.” (Ro 6:21-22) Jesus’ word to the church at Laodicea is “I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed” (Rev 3:18)

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 8:1) The cause of shame has been eradicated on the Cross and, now, though there is still a battle within, shame is a lie of the Devil. We are to live our lives “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2) He bore the shame so we don’t have to.

So, I’ll say it again, there is no shame in suffering for the Christian. Sometimes we do things that are shameful for a Christian to do but God does not shame us. God does not shame us because Christ died once for all and it was totally completely absolutely perfectly utterly sufficient. The scriptures say that if someone who has been saved were able to lose his salvation it would be “impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.” (Heb 6:6) If that be the case, it seems to me, that if God shamed those who have already been saved from sin and shame He, too, would be saying that what Jesus did on the Cross was not sufficient to totally completely absolutely perfectly utterly save that person.

“Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom 5:1) When there is peace there is no shame. If you’re a believer who is suffering and have a twinge of shame realize that feeling is not from God. There is a peace, contentment, in the presence of the Lord. Thus, peace in the midst of suffering can be experienced as we recognize the fact that the Lord is present in the suffering. He has not forsaken us. He has not left us to suffer without Him. There is no shame in suffering for the Christian.

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