Fighting for Faith: Shame and Guilt

Before your Community Group:

Read Psalm 32 in its entirety out loud. Try to summarize the Psalm in a sentence or two. Do you notice any repeating words or images throughout the Psalm? Write down 7-10 observations.

How does David define the “blessed person” in Psalm 32:1-2?

Look at verses 3-4, what emotions would you say David is experiencing because of his sin?

How do verses 6-7 and 10 offer hope to those who place their trust in God?

Read the psalm again and note the use of the words cover and hide/hiding. Do you see any shift in how David uses this language as the psalm progresses?

Read 2 Corinthians 7:9-12 and 1 John 1:7-10. Contrast godly grief and worldly grief. How does confession free us from the power of sin?

Study Information:

These community group study guides are not designed to provide an exhaustive approach to the various emotions we will be studying, but to help us interact at a basic level with these core emotions we experience as we follow Jesus in faith.

We have all experienced guilt and shame at some point in our life. It can trace back to the first moment we were caught doing wrong and the feeling of separation we felt with our parents or friends or whoever it was we sinned against. Guilt and shame can push us forward to repent and seek restored relationship or we can respond by pushing away because we do not want to have to do the hard work of owning our sin. The more we push away from repentance instead of seeking restored relationship, the more calloused our hearts can become causing us to experience less sensitivity to sin.

Feeling shame and guilt, as an emotion, can be useful to reveal to us that something is not right in ourselves and in our relationship with God. 2 Corinthians 7:9-12 discusses Godly grief versus worldly grief. Godly grief leads to repentance and salvation, worldly grief leads to death because it turns inward and prevents us from realizing we have a God who desires to free people from the penalty and the affects of sin and death. Followers of Jesus will feel guilt and even shame and a benefit is that it can prompt them to do 1 John 1:9, confess our sins to God and be cleansed. People who do not follow Jesus may experience guilt and shame as a wake up call that life is not how it ought to be. However, over the long haul, we’re told in 2 Corinthians 7:10 that unless that turns into repentance (godly guilt/grief), worldly guilt just leads to death.

How are we to think of guilt and shame?

At a core level guilt reveals to us that we did something that was wrong, and shame intermixes into that and makes identity statements about who we are. A way to think about it is: guilt says “I did bad”, shame says “I am bad”. You could be experiencing shame for multiple reasons including sin issues in your life, things you regret doing in the past and have been holding onto for years, as well as being the target of sin and abuse. The negative side of shame tells us that we are not worthy and will never be worthy so we should give up on holiness and embrace the fact that we are dirty. Shame and guilt, in their most destructive expressions try to tell you that you’re trapped and have no hope of change and will always be a sinner.

What is the hope for the follower of Christ?

We’re going to spend our sermon time and time in this study guide in Psalm 32 which offers tremendous hope for followers of Jesus. Notice in verses 1-2, BLESSED! is the man whose transgression is forgiven and sin is covered and in whom the LORD does not count iniquity. This may seem like an impossible feat, but as the Psalm moves forward we see in verse 6 that we can offer prayer to God and in verse 7 the LORD becomes a source of deliverance from sin and a hiding place. Look at verse 10, through faithful trust in the LORD we have access to his steadfast love, which (to quote the Jesus Story Book Bible) is God’s “Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.”

Likewise Psalm 32 shows us the danger of holding in unconfessed and unrepentant sin. When David had kept silent about his sin, his bones wasted away and he felt God’s heavy hand on him (32:3-4). The remedy for his guilt and shame was to, in verse 5, acknowledge his sin and not cover his iniquity. There was freedom in naming his sin to God. Guilt and shame led him to confession and forgiveness.

There is hope for followers of Jesus because God offers us his steadfast love and we have access to him through Christ’s atoning work (32:6, 10). Your shame in particular wants to make an identity statement over you to say that “you are forever bad” or “you are dirty”, but we know that in Christ we have a new identity as blood bought redeemed saints and dearly beloved children of God who can go to the Father, in Christ, by the Spirit and experience the forgiveness and restoration that was already purchased for us on the cross.

Do not let guilt or shame condemn you, but rather speak the truth to your heart that forgiveness is found at the cross and let them lead you to restored relationship and fellowship with God.

Questions for discussion:

At your community group: Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week?

How does the beginning and end of Psalm 32 show us that forgiveness leads to fellowship with God? (Look at 32:1-2, 10-11).

What are the spiritual dangers of holding guilt and shame in, instead of confessing to God and seeking restored relationship? Why are people tempted to try to cover/hide their sin from God?

Have you noticed things like public figures who get caught for wrong doing and they come out with “sort of” apologies? Contrast true confession with false confession of sin.

If guilt says “I did bad” (actions) and shame says “I am bad” (identity), how can we practically minister to other believers who are experiencing guilt and shame? 

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