Afriend opened up to me about the sexual abuse he suffered as a boy. Prompted by God to face what he had buried for decades, he courageously began to unpack tragic memories of seduction and exploitation, events that shattered his innocence and left him drowning in an ocean of shame.

For decades my friend mostly kept the abuse a secret. He feared that if people knew the details, they would turn away in utter disgust. Like all victims of abuse, it was in the details that he carried his deepest shame.

As he unfolded his story, the closing line from the book Dangerous Territory by Amy Peterson kept running through my head—“You are loved, you are loved, you are loved.” Later that same day, I emailed him those words. He read them over and over, and wept. Letting someone see his greatest shame allowed love to enter in and begin to touch what it alone can heal.

A woman once opened up to Jesus about where her life was most broken. In her case, it was a string of failed marriages and living with a man who wasn’t her husband (John 4:16-18).

Jesus asked her to “go and get [her] husband” (John 4:16). She initially tried to avoid the pain and disgrace of her past by saying “I don’t have a husband.” Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband—for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!” (John 4:17-18).

Not the response she expected.

In love, Jesus didn’t turn away in disgust. Instead, He led her to the details of her greatest shame—and it radically changed her life. The love of Christ can heal our shame when we bring it to Him and others who can lovingly help us work through it.

NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Matthew 1:1-25