When All Else Fails

Basking in the Grace of God

The End of Shame



By Grantley Morris

I have a story about my wife but I publish it only because Vicki and I care about you and ache for you to have what she now enjoys.

As a teen highly devoted to God, Vicki studied deeply and passionately all that her church taught. Even Bible School lecturers were amazed at her understanding. A huge emphasis in her church was that life should be easy and if one’s problems persist, one must be out of the will of God or be failing to exercise enough of the faith he expects.

This belief has the advantage of stirring motivation to keep on believing and doing the right thing but it put enormous pressure on Vicki – as it no doubt has on many others under the spell of this teaching – causing her to fall into condemnation whenever life got tough.

Enduring difficult times is hard enough without being swamped with false guilt over it. Imagine, at the very time you most needed the comfort of knowing that God is with you, feeling that your afflictions prove God must be irate or bitterly disappointed with you. Imagine, when you most need love and support, being falsely accused and ostracized by people who believe a theory that contains elements of truth but is not broad enough to embrace all the facts. Imagine feeling an utter failure spiritually, despite having done your utmost to honor God in every possible way and having no idea what you have done wrong, but being told you must somehow have let God down by not having enough faith or having committed some unknown sin that one cannot even identify to repent of. This was Vicki’s torment that kept persisting despite her going to extremes in prayer and fasting and self-examination and self-loathing.

The flaw in what Vicki had been taught by sincere men of God, is that although they correctly identified two possible reasons for being oppressed by afflictions that refuse to budge, their message oversimplifies biblical revelation and, despite them revering the Word of God, it forces them to unconsciously ignore or distort much of it. It is like correctly believing that smoking can cause lung cancer but taking this truth to the extreme of mistakenly thinking it means all lung cancer is caused by smoking, and if you encounter a non-smoker who shatters this belief by contracting lung cancer, rather than admitting that your theory is too narrow to fit every circumstance, you conclude the person must be lying and must have been a secret smoker.

Vicki, along with countless thousands of others, was emphatically taught by devoted Bible teachers who cited Scripture after Scripture that proved their point, but twisted every Scripture that indicated they were oversimplifying spiritual reality by trying to apply it to every situation. For example, they taught that everyone should be financially prosperous. If someone objected by citing Jesus telling a would-be follower, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man [Jesus] has no place to lay his head,” (Luke 9:58), these preachers would retort that it means something other than the obvious and, without any biblical backing, claimed that Jesus was well-off; having a very successful carpentry business. If some cited Paul saying in several places in Scripture that he had gone hungry, they would say that everyone should have greater faith than Paul or that as modern, Spirit-filled teachers they have received a higher revelation than the man who wrote much of Scripture.

Anyhow, Vicki was oppressively weighed down by the belief that every trial that persisted must be punishment for some unknown sin or failure to adequately apply some spiritual principle. One day, she was at breaking point under the strain of serious problems mixed with the belief that although she knew not how, it must somehow be her fault. In the midst of her despair, God spoke. “My grace is sufficient for you.” Put another way: “My grace is all you need.” That thought transformed her.

Vicki knew the Lord was citing what he had told Paul when he had been under such attack that three times the anointed apostle had pleaded with God to deliver him and three times nothing happened (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). The great man of God was exceedingly oppressed. In fact, he told of this incident just after describing all the floggings, stonings, shipwrecks, deprivations and so on that he had suffered (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). When Paul was about to go down for the third time, the Almighty’s response was not, “Clean up your act, Loser!” but rather, “When all else fails, I’ve got your back.” To the man who couldn’t even get his prayers answered, the Lord did not say, “Screw up your face and manufacture more faith, like a woman trying to give birth to a porcupine.” Instead, he simply said, “Keep holding on. I’ve got everything in hand. No matter how bad it seems and how weak you feel, I’ve gifted you with all it takes to outlast the attack.”

Spiritual success was not dependent upon Paul’s spiritual works program. All that mattered was God’s grace – the divine approval that comes as a free gift and remains even when life seems like a never-ending disaster. In this case, grace was not a miraculous deliverance but the divine ability to triumphantly endure the worst that hell could hurl at him.

For Vicki, the take-home message was that the pressure is off. For everyone surrendered to Christ, all that matters is God’s grace, and it is big enough for every eventuality. If nothing – not even suffering or calamity or persecution or famine or inadequate clothing or peril or death threats – could keep one from God’s love (Romans 8:35), nothing can keep her from God’s grace. Everything hinges, not on her performance, but on the Almighty, and he is always up to the task. For everyone in Christ, no matter what happens, we can relax.

Suddenly Vicki saw that continually beating herself up over hard times had been needless. She had even been kicked out of a church for not having a flashy car. That made her a ‘bad witness;’ an embarrassment to the pastor’s prosperity preaching. (No doubt, Jesus and Paul would also have been politely asked to leave.) Those simple words, “My grace is sufficient for you,” released the revelation that suffering adversity is not proof of spiritual failure after all.

Vicki had thought it all depended on her. Finally, she realized that God had always been eager to take responsibility for her life. What mattered most was not her best efforts, but God. At last she could put her feet up and let God be God, instead of feeling compelled to keep trying to manipulate ‘spiritual laws’. No matter what hits her, the Almighty is big enough to handle it and he is on her side. This is not because she deserves divine support or could ever earn it, but because Christ deserved it and had earned for each of us and, in the greatest display of generosity the universe has ever seen, freely gives it to all who let him have their life. It didn’t matter what oppressive circumstances seemed to shout, nor what accusations self-appointed judges screamed: there is but one Judge and he sacrificed his life to give us something far beyond what anyone could ever earn; the priceless gift of divine favor; the enduring status that transcends time and the physical world.

Vicki had been a casualty of teaching that was Bible-based and yet was selective and failed to embrace the full extent of biblical revelation. Whereas Paul had learned to glory in things that humbled him and were labeled weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9-10), Vicki had been taught to see them (and hence herself) as failures. Despite Scripture repeatedly pronouncing trials as reason to rejoice (Matthew 5:10-11; Luke 6:22-23; Acts 5:41; Romans 5:3-4; 8:17; Philippians 1:29; 2 Thessalonians 1:4; James 1:2-3,12; 1 Peter 1:6-7; 4:13-16) she was left with the impression that they were reason for shame. This false sense of failure sapped her of the strength needed to triumph. Vicki had always felt duty-bound to pour her utmost into putting on a brave front, so observers were able to detect but a mere fraction of the toll it really took on her.

It was more than just what her church had taught, however. From her most tender years, Vicki had been subjected to a range of things so appalling that, for all her life, permitting even a vague public reference to it had been utterly beyond her. She can do it now only because of the life-changing experience featured in this webpage. Until then, powerful forces in her abnormal upbringing had combined with devastating childhood experiences to leave her victimized, driving her to always blame herself whenever the slightest negative thing touched her, or a family member. Now, however, the word God spoke into her heart has ignited a revelation that has cut through it all; releasing her from all self-blame and associated shame that had hounded her all her life.

Though I was privileged to witness the transformation in Vicki, it is beyond me to adequately convey just how profound it has been. It was like bright sunlight dispelling gloom that had always hung over her, flooding her with new confidence in God and empowering her to face every eventuality with joy and a steely resolve to serve God no matter what. The assurance that being in deep water does not mean failure and that no matter what self-appointed critics declare, God’s grace covers all eventualities, has endowed Vicki with a new zest for life and new love of God. She shows her new confidence in many different ways, even her body language. She looks people in the eye more than ever – not just bosses, work colleagues and acquaintances, but even me. I have always strongly believed in Vicki and done everything in my power to encourage and support her and affirm by word and action that I am on her side. Surely if there were anyone in whose presence she would have felt self-assured, it is me, and yet even when alone with me there has been a surprising boost in her body language, indicating a new-found confidence.

And this is what God wants for you but I wish I knew how to transfer it to you. I’m doing my utmost to usher you into this life-changing experience but it takes more than mere words. The Scripture God spoke into Vicki’s heart was not new to her. She had known those words for decades. As an impressionable teen she had even absorbed in the deepest part of her the impact of witnessing renowned and revered preachers inflating beautiful Bible truths to such grotesque proportions that they had the audacious arrogance to cite this very portion of God’s precious Word as proof that the Apostle Paul’s faith was inadequate and that they were greater than him.

I had been trying for years to help Vicki grasp the truth that has now liberated her, and for so many years before that she had been faithfully studying the Bible and communing with God. It seems all of this had been slowly chipping away at misconceptions she firmly believed were Bible-based until finally the dam burst.

May you, too, keep prayerfully seeking the God of truth, opening yourself up to him with the conviction that no matter how great your spiritual knowledge, in God there is always more.

I felt defeated ending this here, but I was at a loss to know how I could further help you since, despite all my efforts, it had taken Vicki so long to have this breakthrough. So on your behalf I sought God about how I might further assist. At first, the silence was disturbing but then answers flowed.

What I believe prolonged the process for Vicki was that although God loves us all and longs to forgive, we instinctively keep our distance from anyone we fear might be mad at us. Although Scripture pleads, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you,” (James 4:8) guilt – regardless of whether it is real or imagined – makes us loathe to do this. And keeping our distance from God makes it so much harder to hear from him and discover how loving and approachable he is, and to hear from him the truth that frees us.

Even the fact that God was so important to Vicki worked against her. It is bad enough to fear someone might reject you; it is worse still to have this confirmed. And it is one thing to be rejected by someone who means little to you; it is another to be rejected by someone who means everything to you.

Moreover, even if you receive assurance after assurance that God accepts you, if you are continually plagued with false guilt, those feelings will keep gnawing away, causing you to doubt anything positive the God of Truth tries to tell you.

Even the holy Son of God was strongly tempted (Luke 4:1-2). As surely as everyone on this planet suffers temptation (satanic attempts to deceive), false feelings will not magically disappear after hearing from God. We must decide what we will enthrone as our source of truth – God’s Word or our feelings. It is up to us to choose to put our faith in the power of Christ’s forgiveness rather than in the lies that alarmingly deceptive feelings scream at us.

After finally accepting the truth that God’s grace remains even when attacks abound, Vicki could at any moment have slid back into doubt. Taking her stand against this peril, she resolutely promised herself that no matter what disasters hit her, she would never again let herself believe accusing feelings that insisted she should feel shame over things seeming to go wrong, nor accept the reproach of self-opinionated detractors. Day after day she persisted in remaining vigilant, ready to attack every attempt of her old thinking to sneak back. By stubbornly doing so, she kept that promise.

Do the same and you, too, will soar to new heights in God.

More Help

The next page in the series will help but if you are still battling feelings of shame, I should draw your attention to these webpages:


Facebook? See Let’s Help Each Other

Comments? Prayer Request?

Grantley’s Mail Box: [E-mail] depress@net-burst.net

Other exciting pages:

[Related Pages] [Pain & Suffering Issues] [God’s Love for You] [Much More!]
[Bless & Be Blessed by Facebook] [Daily Quotes] [My Shame]

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