I have noticed that my eyes are sometimes so drawn to the sub-headings in my Bible, I forget to read one section as being connected to the next, which can greatly impact or deepen the meaning. Recently I read two familiar, consecutive sections of Hebrews and realized that I had never stopped to notice the significance of linking them together.
Hebrews 4:12-13 says,
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
These two verses make me uncomfortable. My first instinct is to hide the things of which I am ashamed. The fact that “no creature” is hidden from His sight, all things are naked and open to His eyes, and He discerns the thoughts and intents of my heart immediately brings up all the things in my mind and heart that I would rather leave alone, hidden in the dark spaces. The problem is that even when they are hidden, they still manage to slip out in my words, actions, attitudes, and priorities, but those things are easier to brush aside than the darkness that lies beneath them. We are so good at pretending, and others mostly don’t want to deal with the awkwardness of these dark places in us, so they are often just as happy to look the other way or make excuses for us as we are happy to pretend that the darkness is either non-existent or not that dark.
In order to enjoy real healing and change, we must deal with the dark places. We certainly can experience suffering due to circumstances outside of our control, but our own imperfect responses to adversity may stem from areas that need healing. The problem of shame remains, though– assuming that we can move out of denial and confront our own brokenness, how then do we deal with the shame of it? The exposure of the darkness necessarily reveals our inability to fix the problem on our own, but our shame often keeps us from showing our brokenness to others.
The very next two verses in Hebrews, which my Bible organizes into a separate section under a new sub-heading, provide a solution to the problem of shame. Hebrews 4:14-16 says,
Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in a time of need.
God doesn’t deal with our brokenness the way we do. We tend to either minimize it or become crushed under the weight of it when we get a glimpse of just how broken we are. The Lord neither ignores the darkness within us nor despises us for it. Just as an injury must be exposed before it can be treated, our brokenness must be laid bare before the one who sees all things, including our thoughts and intentions. This would be a terrifying reality if it were not for the truth of Hebrews 4:14-16– the perfect One who sees all is also able to sympathize with our weaknesses because He Himself was tempted just as we are, though He did not sin. He does not view our darkness with hatred towards us, though He is perfect. “He remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14) and knows from experience what it is like to be tempted. He understands our pain and suffering and has great compassion for our brokenness.
In Abba’s Child, Brennan Manning discusses how we often project our feelings about ourselves onto God, assuming that He has the same hatred towards us that we sometimes have towards ourselves. Just as we do not know how to bear honestly facing our darkness and sin without being crushed under the weight of it, we also have difficulty fathoming the depth of His great compassion for us. He is perfect and sovereign, in control of all, but He is good and kind and compassionate, ready to draw out the sin and pain in order to heal us. He desires to heal our hurts, to make us whole, to bind up our broken hearts, all because of His love and for His glory.
I have tried the denial and the hiding and the ignorance due to my own immaturity. I have tried to work really hard to be really good. When I came to a point in my life where I was confronted with how not good I was, despite all my efforts, I went through a season of feeling crushed under the weight of it and was wracked with guilt and shame. If this is the place where you find yourself, you are in the perfect position to receive His love, healing, and compassion and to experience the immeasurable joy of knowing His goodness as you never have before.
Whether you are a perfectionist like me who is realizing that not only will you never be perfect, you will never be “good” on your own, or someone who has stopped taking risks and given in to a life of sin, pain, and self-destruction because you are so filled with your own shame, God is ready to meet you where you are. I believe that He allows us to come crashing down so that we will be confronted with our desperate need for Him, which is the only way to get the healing and wholeness we crave. If we take small steps towards bringing our hurt and sin and shame to Him, we will find that He is infinitely more patient and compassionate towards us than we are towards ourselves.
He is the God Who Sees, and He sees you. This can terrify us until we come to know, in a personal way, that He is also the compassionate High Priest described in Hebrews 4. Come to Him, you who are weary and carry the heavy burden of sin, shame, and hurt, and in Him you will find rest. Take one small step toward Him, and just see what He will do. I am overjoyed to be joining the cloud of witnesses who have exchanged their songs of hurt and shame and despair for a song of His goodness that plays like an undercurrent running through my veins. If you haven’t already, I hope you will join the chorus of the ones He has redeemed. Wherever you find yourself, He says to you, “Come.”