Beloved in the Wilderness
I know that some of you may be tired of talking about all of this, but I for one need to sit in this pain a little bit longer. Feel free to join me.
I read in a recent Fox News article, “The Vatican responded Thursday to the report of hundreds of Pennsylvania priests abusing children, saying in a statement: ‘There are two words that can express the feelings faced with these horrible crimes: shame and sorrow.’”
Shame and sorrow.
I want to spend some time sitting with these two words today.
I find it interesting that the Vatican chose the word “shame” rather than the word “guilt” because as psychologist Joseph Burgo expresses, “Guilt and shame sometimes go hand in hand; the same action may give rise to feelings of both shame and guilt, where the former reflects how we feel about ourselves and the latter involves an awareness that our actions have injured someone else. In other words, shame relates to self, guilt to others.”
To feel shame is to feel humiliation when you recognize that your actions do not align with what you know to be good and right and true.
Shame is often associated with sin.
Sorrow is often epitomized by painful feelings of loss or disappointment. It is a close companion to grief.
Sorrow is often associated with sin.
These words make sense for the situation at hand.
A lot of words could make sense right now. Or not make sense at all.
But shame and sorrow are emotions that reach deep into the core of an individual. They are currently making their home at the heart of the Body of Christ as a whole and as individual, hurting people. The Body and all of its parts are grieving and that is okay.
The question now is how do we get up? How do we cope with this grief? How do we address this shame and sorrow?
In Scripture, St. Paul reminds the church of Corinth that, “…godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death.”
The Church needs this shame, this sorrow, this grief to be godly. For it to be fruitful, it must lead to repentance and salvation. As a hurting Body, this must be our prayer even if we don’t yet have the words to pray.
Because here’s the thing, this grief could very well lead to death. It could lead to a large death and it has led – and will probably continue to lead – to a lot of mini-deaths.
And that is exactly what the devil wants. He wants this to be a worldly grief. His greatest fear is that we will embrace this deep pain as a godly grief.
You see, as Lisa Brenninkmeyer writes in the Walking with Purpose young adult women’s study, Beloved, “The enemy thinks he has fashioned the perfect weapon to take you out at the knees.”His goal is always to cause death and he thinks he has won. But the truth is, “What Satan intends to use to destroy us, God uses to transform us in beautiful ways – if we cooperate with the process.”
Beauty can come from grief. It doesn’t always, but it can. It can come from godly grief.
The challenge lies in the fact that we are currently in the wilderness.
Lisa writes in this same Bible study:
It’s dark and frightening in the wilderness. The wasteland makes everything seem pointless and can cause us to feel ruined. When we’re in the howling desert, searching for an oasis, our desperation can reach a fever pitch.
This is where our Father meets us. We are lost and wandering, and He comes for us. Instead of waiting for us to clean up and make our way back to Him, He goes on a rescue mission, enters into the confusion and the mess, and grabs hold of His daughters. As we’re promised in Matthew 18:14, “Your Father in heaven is not willing that any one of these little ones should be lost.” That includes you. He has come to rescue you, the apple of His eye.
It can be hard to believe in godly grief in the wilderness. This sort of darkness and despair can seem pointless and endless.
At this moment, I feel confused and hurt and lost. I’m sure many of you can relate. But in this moment, above all, I know I must remember that God is here in this mess and confusion with me and you and the whole Body of Christ. God never leaves us alone in the wilderness.
In the book of Deuteronomy, we read the truth that, “He found them in a wilderness, a wasteland of howling desert. He shielded them, cared for them, guarded them as the apple of his eye.”
Even in the wilderness, even when we are paralyzed by shame and sorrow and grief, even amidst our righteous anger, we are the apple of God’s eye. We are His beloved children.
He knows we are hurting. I promise, He is hurting too. And, He wants to hear our hurt. I encourage you to speak it out loud to Him.
I don’t have any answers to any of this grief right now. But I do know that the devil will truly win if we let this situation harden our hearts and cause us to forget God’s love for us.
If you take anything from this, know that God is hurting with you. He is broken with you. But this shame and sorrow is sandwiched by our belovedness. God has never ceased to call you the beloved. He has never ceased to chase after your heart. So I beg of you, don’t you forget it either. In the pain, in the grief, be angry, be confused; feel whatever it is that you are feeling. But don’t stop praying. Don’t turn away from the God who moves mountains to tell you that you are loved.
Pray for salvation and repentance. And, allow this grief to be godly.
P.S. In case you missed it, read Lisa Brenninkmeyer’s recent response to the abuse scandal.
2 Corinthians 7:10
Brenninkmeyer, Beloved, 17.
Brenninkmeyer, Beloved, 17.
Lisa Brenninkmeyer, Beloved: Opening Your Heart Series Part 1, 15-6.