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The shadow of shame

Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces. — Psalm 34:5

W. H. Auden, in one of his poems, talked about the “faces along the bar” and how they reflected the lives of their owners, “who have never been happy or good.”

Auden’s insights were accurate. While some eyes dance with intelligence, more seem weary with looking. While smiles lurk perpetually at the corner of some lips, potential snarls curl downward on others. And the brows of many are permanently creased with furrows of worry, rather than displaying the relaxed muscles of a contented life.

David, the psalm writer, recognized that faces, including his own, tell a story. He talked about “those who look to [the Lord] for help will be radiant with joy” (Psalm 34:5). He believed that looking to the Lord changes the way you look!

Paul outlined a similar idea when he said, “We can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory even more” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Throughout his life David had been exposed to dangers and sorrows that had driven him deeper into a life of trust and dependence on the Lord. As a result, David was able to say, “I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me, freeing me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4).

There was a definite connection between looking to the Lord in prayer and the radiant joy on David’s face when delivered from the fears that had gripped him. Facial muscles long accustomed to being knotted with tension were relaxed by joy and David became radiant!

In the past, fear had contorted David’s features and shame had darkened his face. The burden of unforgiven sin had shown with the heaviness of unrelieved shame. But as he had looked to the Lord for forgiveness, he had been relieved of guilt and released from shame. And he promised others that if they, too, looked to the Lord, “no shadow of shame [would] darken their faces” (34:5). The furtive look that fears exposure would flee and the worried frown that dreads discovery would disappear.

When all has been exposed and forgiven, there is nothing to fear. Release and relief are free to relax the face, and smiles are born.

The faces along the bar of life belong to people looking for solace in their pain, longing for friendship in their loneliness, hoping for joy in the midst of their disappointments. They need a smile, a touch, a message of encouragement.

Who better to bring it than the one who can say with conviction, “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (34:8).

For further study: Psalm 34

Content taken from The One Year Book of Devotions for Men by Stuart Briscoe. Copyright ©2000. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.