Breaking Free from Shame and Condemnation

A Christian woman with her head in her hands because she feels under condemnation

By Bethany Broderick

I sat alert at my desk in the front of Mrs. Hinton’s Bible class. She stood before 20 distracted (and slightly smelly) middle schoolers and pointed to a map of ancient Israel on the board. 

“Take out your colored pencils and shade the different lots for each tribe of Israel,” she instructed. 

While a group of boys in the class groaned, I dove into the worksheet, precisely outlining the borders of Naphtali, Issachar, and so on down the Jordan River. 

Even as an awkward tween, I loved learning about Bible history. 

And in my 13 years of Christian school education, Mrs. Hinton’s class remains the most vivid in my mind.

Month after month, judge after judge, Mrs. Hinton walked us through the repeated cycles in the book of Judges. 

I can still draw Israel’s cycle of sin and deliverance: Israel rebels against God. God disciplines them through the oppression of foreign nations. Israel repents and cries out for help. God sends a judge to deliver them. 

While I left Mrs. Hinton’s class more knowledgeable about Old Testament history, I was also more afraid of personally incurring the wrath of God. I was terrified of starting the cycle of rebellion in my own life. 

A Christian woman sitting in a church pew with her head bowed in prayer

Every time I made a mistake, I feared experiencing the same wrath of God that brought an entire building down on Samson and the Philistines. 

And so, I began my own cycle. 

I spent years trying to be “good enough” to avoid the wrath of God. For a while, my striving would work. 

I got good grades, led youth Bible studies, and avoided the “big” sins I had been warned against. 

Yet, eventually, the cracks would break through my façade, and I would slip into shame and guilt. I would lash out at my parents, attend a party I shouldn’t, or betray a dear friend. 

I pleaded for God to forgive me, promising to do better next time.

And for a while, I would—until I made another mistake I couldn’t conceal or excuse. 

For years, I held onto this picture of God I drew from Mrs. Hinton’s Bible class. I imagined God shaking His head in condemnation and disappointment at my flailing attempts, no matter how hard I tried to please Him. 

Weary from this never-ending sequence, I wondered how I would ever break the cycle of condemnation.

A Christian woman walking along a dirt path, enjoying freedom from condemnation

Breaking the Cycle of Shame and Condemnation

More than a decade later, I started a chronological Bible reading plan for the first time. I began to see how the story of the book of Judges taught me all those years ago fit into Scripture’s grand narrative of redemption. 

I had viewed God as a ruthless judge who waited for me to make a mistake so He could punish me. Now I saw God as He revealed Himself throughout Scripture: 

“A God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” – Exodus 34:6, ESV

The book of Judges is as much about God’s steadfast love as it is about His justice. 

God loved the Hebrew people so much that He wouldn’t let them continue down a path that led away from Him.

God persistently pursued His people, even when they rebelled and turned in the opposite direction. Over and over, He sent a judge—a rescuer to save the Israelites from their oppressors and from their sin. 

God didn’t delight in their punishment. 

Rather, He delighted in bringing His people back into His steadfast love.

At any point, God could have righteously destroyed the wayward Israelites. Instead, in His faithful love, He promised to send a true and better Judge who would break the cycle of sin once and for all. 

He knew His people needed more than an earthly ruler to rescue us from human oppression. Our very hearts needed rescuing. 

That is why, out of love, the Father, who rescued the wayward Israelites, also sent His Son to the cross. 

Even when we were living in rebellion, God pursued us. 

Rather than pouring out His wrath upon us, God’s wrath—which empowered the judge Gideon to route armies and Ehud to execute evil kings—came down on His own Son instead. 

The cycle of rebellion started in Genesis 3 was finally broken. The ultimate judge had come to set us free once and for all. 

Now, there is no condemnation for the people of God (Rom 8:1). There is no wrath left for us; it was all absorbed by Jesus on the cross. 

The gospel doesn’t merely proclaim we’re forever separated from God’s wrath. It provides us with the sure hope that we can never be separated from God’s love (Rom 8:39).

A Christian woman with her arms open wide with abandon, basking in the sun and the grace of God

Beginning a New Cycle of Grace

While I may have memorized all the facts about the Book of Judges as a young teen, I didn’t understand its purpose in light of the gospel. Now, I realize that the Book of Judges shouldn’t lead me to fear but to worship

Rather than being weighed down with burdensome guilt, the book of Judges invites us to walk in the steadfast love of the Lord, who would—and did—do everything necessary to save us from our sin.

Condemnation still knocks at our heart’s door daily. 

On better days, perhaps we’re tempted to pridefully strive to earn God’s approval with good behavior—volunteering for another church opportunity or donating to another ministry. 

On harder days, maybe we struggle with wallowing in the guilt of an ill word spoken about a friend or an angry outburst against our husband. 

Instead, we can choose to walk a different path—one not shaped by a cycle, but by the cross. One where we humbly confess and repent of our sins and don’t let shame burden our shoulders. 

We don’t have to live in fear of losing God’s favor or incurring God’s wrath because His perfect love has cast out every fear of condemnation. Nothing can separate us from the love of God—not anything in this world or anything in ourselves. 

Bethany Broderick

Bethany Broderick lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with her husband and three young children. Her work has been featured on The Gospel Coalition, Risen Motherhood, Well-Watered Women, and more. Her first book will be released through B&H Publishing in Spring 2025. You can connect with her on Instagram @bethanygbroderick or on her website

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