I sat around a table with yet another group of women who were confessing feelings of loneliness and shame.
“I feel like I don’t belong anywhere.”
“I see pictures on social media of people hanging out. Why aren’t they including me?”
“When will I get over my teenage insecurities?”
“Why are friendships with women so difficult?”
“I was rejected again.”
“I don’t feel good enough or capable enough to be used powerfully by God.”
From my perspective, every woman around that table was strong, gifted, beautiful, well-liked, outgoing, creative, and generally wonderful. In fact, that happens to be true of most of the women I meet. So if all of the women I know are fabulous, and yet all are plagued by loneliness and insecurity, something isn’t lining up.
I write and speak around the country about overcoming shame in Christ, and no matter the age or season of life, I find that shame and un-belonging—a general sense of “not enoughness” —is plaguing Christian women. This spirit of inadequacy is stealing our joy and freedom both in our relationships with God and in our friendships with other women. Shame and loneliness are robbing us of the power we have to change the world. And the worst part is—we’re allowing it to happen.
It’s time, women, to take back what shame and loneliness are trying to steal from us. Psalm 34:5 says, “Those who look to God are radiant; their faces are never covered in shame.” In other words, if we look to the Lord, we can reclaim our radiance in Him.
Here are four ways to begin doing that:
1) Remember His identity. It is essential to know who you are in Christ. You are his beloved daughter. You are his beautiful bride. But when shame and loneliness are creeping in, it’s even more powerful to know who Christ is in you. Hebrews 12:2 reminds us to “Fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross and scorned its shame.” Jesus is our Savior and our Shame-Remover. He endured the ultimate shame, so that we don’t have to. When we look to Jesus, he removes the dark covering of sin and shame in our lives and replaces it with his shining, radiant, joy. Anytime you feel like you aren’t enough, remember that Jesus is more than enough, and he gives you everything you need to overcome insecurity, loneliness, and shame.
2) Realize that everyone has a story. Last year, I ran into an old coworker at the grocery store. When we chatted, I noticed she was acting odd. The whole conversation was uncomfortable and tense. I came home and told my husband how frustrated I was. Did I do something to offend her? Why was she being so rude? Months later, I was still holding on to my petty bitterness (and complaining to whoever would listen). Finally, a mutual friend said, “Aubrey. Haven’t you heard? Rachel was diagnosed with dementia. She was probably struggling to recognize you and was embarrassed to admit it.” Talk about knife-through-the-heart conviction. After pulling my foot out of my mouth, I confessed to Jesus and others how narcissistic I’d been. I reached out to Rachel to see how I could serve her. And I learned a powerful life lesson: no one is thinking about me as much as I am. Everyone we meet (or run into at the local Target) has a story. If you have an awkward or even hurtful interaction with someone, stop and consider that she might be in a lot of pain before jumping to the conclusion that she is somehow rejecting you. Ask God to give you eyes to see a fuller, gracious picture of other women.
3) Recast your role. Instead of waiting to be invited, become the inviter. Plan a Girls’ Night Out and text all of the women from your workplace or neighborhood. Invite a few women from your church over for a pajama breakfast on a Saturday. Ask a woman to mentor you, or find a young woman you can mentor. Even if you’re an introvert, in social situations, be a conversation-starter. Go out of your way to ask open-ended questions of others. Yes, you want to be invited. Yes, it feels so good to be pursued. But the fact is, you never know who is sitting at home alone wishing she was being invited out, or who is sitting across the table feeling deeply alone, wanting someone to reach out to her. Plus, God might turn an initial invite or conversation into a lifelong friendship. When we can get out of our own insecurities and begin serving others, we fight against shame. God wants to use his daughters to dynamically change their world. Walking across the room or reaching across the table is a great place to start.
4) Renounce shame and loneliness. Colossians 1:13 says, “He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.” Whether or not we realize it, the lies of “not enoughness” or “unbelonging” are evil. They are not from the kingdom of Jesus. I sometimes wonder how many Christian women have given their lives to Christ, but stayed in relationship with wounds from the past and with the lies of shame. As for me, I was assaulted as a young girl. I know what it is to cling to, even grow comfortable with, the lies of shame. But I have since known complete freedom in Jesus. As women created by a compassionate and all-powerful God, It’s time to renounce shame, isolation, and loneliness – and start living joyfully, freely, and fully for Him.
These 4 R’s– Remember, Realize, Recast, and Renounce—are not intended to ignore or invalidate our feelings of shame or loneliness, but they are meant to put isolation and inadequacy back in their proper place – disappearing. There is no place for “not enoughness” in the souls of women who belong to a more than enough God. It’s time to reclaim our shame-free radiance in Him.
Aubrey Sampson is a church planter in West Chicago with her husband Kevin, and the author of two books: Overcomer: Breaking Down the Walls of Shame and Rebuilding Your Soul (Zondervan), and Game-Changer: Lament and Hope in Seasons of Difficulty (coming in 2019 with NavPress). Aubrey is a speaker and preacher, a mom to three hilarious sons, and a member of the Propel Women’s Cohort at Wheaton College. For more info, go to www.aubreysampson.com or follow her @aubsamp.