Life. A simple word pulsing with complexity. As you reflect, what images come to mind? Answers emerge from the day-portraits of our years—fun, stressful, challenging, hard, i-wish-i-were-dead, boring, exciting, an adventure, depressing—but I wonder: how often do we ever say, abundant?
And what is an abundant life?
With no effort of our own. . .
Women acquainted with spiritual abuse know the depth, the burden of always trying. Of always doing, hoping to measure up one day and find approval within lined faces of austerity. Always darkness, there, for we are taught that it is the will of God to heed the voices which grieve us, which communicate that our best is never good enough.
These words of Jesus illustrate His heart for those burdened and exhausted from the law. Quite a contrast to the realities of our everyday agony while we stumble beneath the weight of shoulds and oughts. These obligations shrill loudly, leaving us ashamed and guilty, as though fingers wag in our faces and declare aha! See, you are worthless! You are stupid! You can’t do anything right!
Oh, dear friend! I know the torment of these obscenities! We could, each of us, list dozens of items which remind us we fall short.
- I should read the Bible more
- I should have dinner ready by now
- I should exercise today
- I should pray harder
- I should wear dresses
- I ought to speak more kindly
- I ought to turn the other cheek
- I ought to be happy
Don’t truly good Christian women find these things easy? In and of themselves many of these things are good—however, all too often those of us raised in authoritarian environments consistently feel unacceptable, perpetually bearing the shame of disapproval. We are subtly taught we must perform or properly behave in order to receive love, affection, or attention, but even our hardest efforts leave us dry. It’s confusing, overwhelming, and spiritually exhausting: why do the daily disciplines of godliness leave us feeling empty, drained, unloved? Why do we not feel rested as we kneel before the feet of Christ?
Shame vs. guilt
It is important to understand the difference between guilt and shame. Healthy guilt produces repentance, restoration, and growth. However, shame drives us away from God, further from His healing rest. It enmeshes with our core until our very identity is toxic with lies—error that becomes the foundation of all we believe about ourselves.
Does this make me want to run to God? “Forgive me father, for I have sinned.“
Does this make me want to run away from God? “I am so wicked; God cannot look upon sin. I just need to go and die.”
Guilt is feeling regret over a committed wrong, externalized, and within proper context. I did a bad thing and I regret what I did. Shame is an emotion of perceived wrong, but internalized: I am bad. I always do bad things so that means I am worthless, no good, and should have never been born.
It can be extremely difficult overcoming a lifetime of shoulds and oughts. By ourselves, it is impossible. But Jesus wants you to become free. No more formulas, no more works, no effort. You don’t need to do one more thing to receive His love, His freedom, and grace. He says, Come. Drop everything you are doing, and rest. Let me give you what you need. Let Me be your source.
What would your life be like, if you simply stopped? If you answered His gentle beckoning? Consider His words an invitation to sanctuary. Let Him allure your tired and weary heart—and you will find rest for your souls.
A whole new life awaits.