Read Psalm 103:8-14
8 The Lord is compassionate and merciful,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
9 He will not constantly accuse us,
nor remain angry forever.
10 He does not punish us for all our sins;
he does not deal harshly with us,as we deserve.
11 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
12 He has removed our sins as far from us
as the east is from the west.
13 The Lord is like a father to his children,
tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
14 For he knows how weak we are;
he remembers we are only dust. (NLT)
Any individual with an ounce of self-awareness knows about human imperfection. We all fall short of the glory of God. We are all badly in need of his grace. Such an awareness is healthy,leading us to an embrace of that grace expressed through Jesus Christ. We could call it healthy guilt: fleeing into the arms of a compassionate and pardoning God.
Then again,unhealthy shame is another matter. Guilt recognises the bad things I do and can drive me to seek forgiveness. Shame concludes that I am a bad person and drives me to despair or hopelessness. A shame-ridden person magnifies their faults,writes themselves off. The bad things they do make them bad people.
This is unhealthy because it is untrue. Such shame drives us into the dark shadows beyond the renewing grace of God whereas true moral guilt drives us to seek that grace. It is undoubtedly true that we fall short of God’s standards. But it is also undoubtedly true that he invites us to turn to him,that he loves us beyond measure,that we are not beyond help or beyond hope.
The God described in our Psalm today is not one to bury us beneath shame. He invites us to face our failings and trust that Jesus had dealt with them. He invites us to face our failings and yet refuse to call ourselves failures.