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The Prison of Guilt and Shame

Published 8/6/19

"Truly I know that it is so: But how can a man be in the right before God? If one wished to contend with him, one could not answer him once in a thousand times. He is wise in heart and mighty in strength--who has hardened himself against him, and succeeded?--he who removes mountains, and they know it not, when he overturns them in his anger, who shakes the earth out of its place, and its pillars tremble; who commands the sun, and it does not rise; who seals up the stars."


• Are you trapped by guilt or shame today?

• Without an arbiter, Job was trapped in a prison of shame and guilt. Can you relate? (Share some details.)

• Christ-followers have the arbiter Job was seeking in Jesus, our Savior and Lord. Does this truth give you hope? Why or why not? (Please explain.)

Bildad's counsel had erected strong prison walls for Job. Again Job acknowledged that he was indeed sinful while God is holy. That left him stuck as he wondered how he could ever be right before God.

When the Holy Spirit speaks to our heart and we're convicted of our own sin and guilt, it can be overwhelming. This conviction shatters our self-image that we are a "good" person. The holiness of God contrasts with our actual words, thoughts, and actions. We are confronted with our sin and the gulf that it has put between us and God.

In that state, Job cried out for an arbiter between him and his holy God. His shame and guilt had overwhelmed him to the point that he didn't even believe that his Lord would answer him (verse 16). He felt trapped, unable to move forward. He couldn't just "cheer up" (verse 27). Without a way to cross that gulf, he was condemned, and everything else he did was in vain (verse 29).

Many of us can relate to the despair that Job felt. Our pain may include guilt over what we've done or failed to do. Our hurt is compounded by shame over what has happened to us.

However, we have what Job longed for: a Savior who can cross that gulf. Through His perfect sacrifice on the cross and resurrection, Jesus cleansed us from our sins and made a way for us to become children of God. Moreover, He stands at the right hand of our heavenly Father, interceding for us in our time of need.

I've found in counseling hurting people that guilt and shame are often the biggest hurdles to healing. Some will say that they can forgive others but feel they just can't forgive themselves for the choices they made (or didn't make). Although they acknowledge that Jesus paid for all of their sins, they still feel that their actions are unforgivable.

But the problem is that God doesn't ever tell us to forgive ourselves. Instead, we are called to accept His free gift of grace and forgiveness. When we hold on to guilt even after we have confessed to God and asked for forgiveness through Jesus, we are essentially saying that our standards are higher than God's. That realization may be just the key to letting go of that self-condemnation.

We must always remember that when we become a Christ follower, we grab on to the hope that alluded Job. Jesus frees us from the prison of guilt and shame. Even in the midst of our pain, our Savior cleanses us, frees us from our past, intercedes for us, and gives us hope of blessings yet to come.


Lord, thank You for sending Your Son to wash me of my sins. Through You I can break free from the guilt and shame of my past." Find a way today to celebrate the freedom you have in Christ. Amen.


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