Learn how shame affects your identity and how God’s love can replace shame with a new story through the powerful example of the woman at the well in John 4. Discover the difference between guilt, sin, and shame and how to confront your deep places to allow God to change your story and shift the way you live.
I grew up in a culture of scary faith. Not only did I constantly question my salvation, but I also lived by checking off the boxes of being a ‘good’ Christian girl. It felt like an impossible battle that kept me in a place of shame.
I don’t want to blame shame for my sin. Biblically, sin came before shame (Genesis 3:1-11). But shame has a way of pushing us further into sin. Because shame, unlike sin, acts on our identity, shifting our belief about who we are.
Instead of sin being what we do, shame makes it who we are. And when it becomes who you are, it becomes part of your life. Like an appendage, you may not like it, but you can’t escape it, at least not without changing your identity and your story.
This podcast talks about God’s view of shame using the story of the woman at the well in John 4. It’s a story that shows God’s deep devotion to changing your story, removing your shame, and being filled with his love.
God wants to write a new story through you. To shift your identity and replace the shame with his love. I pray this podcast brings you a better understanding of God’s deep and immense love for you and why He sent His only son to rescue you. A gift you cannot earn but only accept.
Going Deeper Than Sin
The story of the woman at the well has been the inspiration for The Living Well. The more I’ve studied it, the more I’ve understood God’s deep and immense love for us. Love that is outside of human logic and unconditional in every aspect.
Love that wants to penetrate the deepest parts of our being to the core of who we are. But doing that means confronting those deep places. The places filled with hurts and traumas, some our own and some passed down from generation to generation.
In the Christian walk, we often stop here. We stop at our sins when God wants to confront our shame. He wants to take the shame because that changes your identity, changing your life story. Without that, you cannot experience love because shame is the antagonist to love. It prevents you from experiencing love.
The story of the woman at the well is a beautiful picture of God taking her shame, rewriting her story, and filling her with love. Let this story remind you of what God wants to do with you. He wants to change your story for his glory and your good. But before we go there, you must clearly understand the difference between sin, guilt, and shame.
Sin + Guilt Are Not The Same
Shame is relatively misunderstood even though, throughout the Bible, God talks about shame. It hasn’t been until recently that research has more accurately defined shame, allowing us to understand the separation between shame, guilt, and sin.
Guilt is doing or having done something that does not align with your values. Guilt is not always bad, but it can be helpful. It allows you to learn, make progress, and redirect your life.
Sin is also an action word. Similar to guilt, sin is acting on something against divine law. Sin and guilt often go hand and hand, using guilt to help you move out of sin.
But sin can also get tangled with shame. When this happens, it has the opposite effect. Instead of leading you out of sin, it perpetuates you further into it. That’s because shame, unlike guilt, acts on your identity. It’s not just something you did, it becomes who you are. You didn’t just lie. You became a liar.
Shame is an intensely painful feeling making one feel unworthy of love and belonging. It is the antagonist to receiving and living God’s love or any love hindering your repentance and relationship with God. It creates a gap in your life, leaving you hiding the void or attempting to fill it with unhealthy things masking the love you feel unworthy of.
When shame is your identity, it creates your misery.
Your identity is what creates your sense of self. It isn’t you but rather what you’ve allowed to shape you. Your identity encompasses the memories, experiences, relationships, beliefs, and values. It’s your identity that becomes the foundation for how you live.
While you were designed for an identity built on love, too often, through trauma, repressed pain, and even generational sin, shame uproots love and becomes your identity.
Unlike other emotions, shame hates to be seen. It likes to hide. Sometimes it masks itself in positive things, making shame hard to see. But even when you can’t see it, shame controls how you live, feel, and interact with others and the world around you. It leaves you circulating in what you’re not, looking for a temporary escape, only to end up in a pattern of self-created misery.
In many ways, shame leaves you running back to sin not because you want to but often out of survival. Or because sin is the only thing you’ve found to mask the void of the belief that you are not wanted, loved, or have been abandoned.
But it doesn’t have to stay that way. The way to change is to give shame a place to go. Nail it to the cross and be changed by the love of Jesus. When you free your shame, you can live out of the identity of love, which is exactly how you were designed.
6 Biblical Truths To Free Your Shame
God’s interaction with the woman at the well shows the powerful way to release your shame. It happens through the daily encounter with God in our lives. And the steps involved are laid out so clearly in the story of the woman at the well.
01: Jesus seeks you in both full humanity and full divinity
God doesn’t just peer down to Earth, but He sent His son to live fully human. To know our pain and struggles and understand shame so that he could teach us how to fill those gaps with living water. As the story begins, Jesus comes to the well, worn out and exhausted from his journey.
“Jesus, worn out from his journey, sat down at the well. It was about noon.”
Like us, Jesus got tired, hungry, and thirsty. He had needs and understood so clearly what it was like to be human. And from this place, he is able to come and meet the woman understanding her in full humanity.
But he also showed his full divinity. He knew the story that she had lived and what happened to her. He repeated it back to her, not to condemn her but to remind her she didn’t need to hide from him, but regardless he still wanted to heal her.
02: He’ll stop at nothing to find you
Jesus knew her story. She was a disgraced woman, and yet it didn’t scare him. Not to mention she was also a woman and a Samaritan. She even questioned the encounter in verse nine.
“How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a Samaritan woman? she asked him. For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.”
But Jesus, outside of cultural norms or position, still met her. And he didn’t just meet her. He came to save her. Just like he does you and me, he’s not scared of what you’ve been through, but he wants to transform your story giving you life.
03: He wants to meet you right where you are
The woman came to the well at high noon. Mid-day was not the standard time women drew from the well. Most likely, it would have been in the morning or evening hours when the weather was cooler. But knowing this, it shows this woman was disgraced from her community. She was forced to draw water when no one else was around. She had to keep herself hidden to just keep surviving.
But God shows us he knows our shame. He sees the story you are living and doesn’t want you to have to live it one more day. He’s not scared of what you’ve been through or what you’ve done, but he’ll show up in the middle of the mess to give you a way out.
04: God Brings Your Shame To Light
My favorite part of this story is how God eloquently calls out her shame. For years, I thought this passage was Jesus condemning her sin. But God does not condemn us (Romans 8:1). He understood her sin was rooted in her shame.
“Go call your husband,” he told her, “and come back here.” “I don’t have a husband,” she answers. “You have correctly said, ‘I don’t have a husband,'” Jesus said. “For you’ve had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”
Having five husbands seems like she had been sinning exponentially. But culturally, women were stoned to death for engaging in idolatry or divorcing their husbands. More likely, it was that man kept leaving her. She carried the shame of not being a suitable wife. The shame of being rejected, abandoned, and unloved.
But God saw her shame, he saw her, and he wanted to free her. To give her a new story to live out.
In the process, He told her about living water. Water that would fill the void of brokenness and the place shame occupied with love. Water that would prevent her from thirsting again.
Just like this woman, God sees your shame. He isn’t making himself known to condemn you but to free you. The shame may want to hide, but to free yourself by bringing it to light so God can change it.
05: He Gives You A New Story. He gives you a way out.
Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again. In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up in him for eternal life.”
He knows what you’ve done, where you’ve been, and the story you believe. And more than taking your sin, Jesus came to rewrite your story. He doesn’t just bring your shame to light but takes that shame and gives you a better story. He doesn’t just tell you not to sin but shows you a way out of sin.
You are his, and he’ll stop at nothing to save you from the self-created misery of the world. To bring you back into his loving arms and live out his purpose. Let his story be your story, and live in his glory.
06: Live The New Story
Don’t just talk about it but put it into action. Your action reinforces the story you believe. More than any other command, God, throughout the Bible, tells his people to “Go.” Go live out the new story. In the process, it will become your identity, just like the woman at the well.
“Then the woman left her water jar, went into town, and told the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They left the town and made their way to him.
She didn’t have to talk about her, but her talking about him proved she was changed. Shame keeps you centered on you, but love allows you to see everything else.
She was changed by his love that overcame shame, just like his love can overcome your shame.
Let God Change Your Story
I don’t know what story you’ve lived and believed, but I do know God has a better story for you. God has a story that frees you from your past pain and trauma. Not to escape it but to change it so it no longer can have a stronghold on your life, so that you can live free.
Don’t use this to discount the effect of sin but to dig below your sin and recognize your shame. If you don’t, you’ll keep repeating the same patterns of sin and self-hate. You’ll live the spiral that leaves you longing to be filled but stuck in a pattern trying to fix your problems. Let God bring it to light, not to hurt you but to save you from it.
You can’t fix yourself, but God can. But you have to let him. Let His love in. Let love becomes your identity.
More Resources I Think You’ll Like
- Four Lessons from The Woman At The Well
- Why I Gave Up Finding Myself (real story)
- Jesus Therapy: You Don’t Need a New Story
- Stop Worrying, God Has More For You
- 7 Lessons From Joshua: Leaving The Wilderness Season
Thank you Alexa! This was helpful and encouraging!
I’m so glad! It definitely was something I had to work through on my journey as well!