Shadows and Joy

I have been working on the manuscript of a second book for almost four years now. Unlike my first book, this one has taken a lot longer to write,and often that is because I am writing about experiences as they happen. When people ask me what the book is about I tell them it’s the true story of our family’s journey out of the “shadow of shame.”

“No shadow of shame” seems like an unrealistic expectation for our family’s life. Considering the shameful tragedy, the evil choices, and broken promises that litter our past, it seems like an ideal, or perhaps an etherial promise meant for a place beyond our world.  But I found it tucked into a Psalm written by David at a time in his life when tragedy, evil choices, and broken promises dogged him. Psalm 34:5 says, “Those who look to Him [God] for help will be radiant with joy. No shadow of shame will darken their faces.” (NLT)

David, who had been anointed by the prophet Samuel as the next king of Israel, was an outcast. He fled through rugged terrain, hid in caves in the wilderness, and was driven from his own country by an enraged King Saul. A wanderer outside of the Promised Land, he found himself in Philistia, a country that was Israel’s prime enemy at the time. Realizing his own dangerous predicament amidst the enemy, David devised a scheme of self-protection. With drool flowing down his beard, he scratched wildly on the door frames.  The king of Philistia fell for the ruse. David, although at first pegged as the one who had slain Goliath, was dismissed as a lunatic and thrown out.

David lived in the shadow of the shame cast by King Saul’s unrelenting pursuit of him, in spite of his innocence. He suffered the injustice of broken promises. But after fleeing to the land of Philistia, and finding himself at risk before King Achish, instead of relying on God, he devised a scheme of his own to avoid exposure. His fear-drenched choices only lengthened the shadows of shame.
When David saw his own efforts as pure madness (pun intended) he was able to acknowledge that only in looking to the Lord for help would he find radiant joy and step out of the shadow of shame.

Both Joel and I have experienced periods of desperation and self-mitigation. Like David, we have attempted to make the best of our situation using our own wisdom and cunning. But as David discovered, we also have found that those efforts only lengthen the shadow of shame.

Instead we have both found God’s radiant joy pulsing through us as we have looked to him for help. It is a journey. It is a process, but it stats with looking to him for help.

What about you? Have you lived in a shadow of shame–either as the result of your own actions or those of someone else? Have you exhausted every possible means of getting out from under that shadow? Have you looked to him for help? Next week I’ll share a little bit about what that “looking to Him” for help has looked like in our lives.

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