I used to have a massive problem with guilt. I remember how I suffered with it. It was horrible! I would get up in the morning and wish it was time to go to bed because it was always there…lurking…condemning me with thoughts like this: "You didn't… You should have… You shouldn't have… You should know better. You did it again. You're never going to be nice. What do you think you're doing preaching to other people?"
Like I said – it was horrible. But I can honestly say that today, I am completely free from guilt and the condemnation it brings!
Now, I'm not saying I don't do wrong things sometimes, but I have learned the truth about what Jesus did for me that gives me forgiveness of my sin and keeps me from carrying around the terrible burden of guilt, letting it steal my life day after day.
I've learned that it's good to have a healthy grief about my mistakes but instead of just feeling bad about it, I come to God, admit what I did that was wrong, sincerely repent of it, receive His forgiveness and then move on. The truth is, we don't have to live with the burden of guilt!
Guilt is mainly caused by the way we think about God's expectations of us, our sin (mistakes), and the remedy for our sin. Guilt enters as a thought, which creates a feeling, and then we live by that feeling. But here's some more good news – we don't have to live by our feelings or make decisions based on our feelings. If we're smart, we won't believe our feelings when we know they don't line up with what God tells us in His Word, and God's Word tells us that Jesus has paid the price for the forgiveness of our sins and removed our guilt.
Second Corinthians 5:17 says, "Therefore, if any person is [ingrafted] in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation (a new creature altogether); the old [previous moral and spiritual condition] has passed away. Behold, the fresh and new has come!" We see in this scripture that being a new creation, or born again, means we are in Christ – we have personal, intimate relationship with Him. And because of that relationship, we have whatever Jesus has and the Holy Spirit lives in our spirit. So His righteousness is now our righteousness and we can have His grace and strength to do what's right.
What we need to do is see ourselves in Christ and identify with Him as our substitute, who paid the price for the cleansing and forgiveness of our sin. Our identity is no longer "sinner" but "new creation in Christ," and there's a difference between our "who" and what we do. I like to look at it this way: My children don't always do things that I like or agree with, but they are always my children. It's the same way with us and God, our Father.
The thing that keeps us from knowing who we are in Christ is thinking more about what we've done wrong than what Jesus has done for us and how we can live for God. We have to stop thinking about what we're not and start thinking about the progress we're making in our relationship with Him. I don't do things perfectly all the time and I haven't arrived, but I'm not where I used to be, and thank God, I'm on my way!
You are too, if you've given your heart to Jesus and asked Him to be Lord of your life. And the best thing you can do is fellowship with God more, through prayer and Bible study, and worry less about what you've done wrong. The closer you get to God, the more you'll know what's right and wrong. And the closer you get to God, the more strength you'll have to do what's right.
Please don't be discouraged if you don't feel like you're getting this all at once. It took time for me to really get it that Jesus paid the price for the cleansing and forgiveness of my sin and then receive His forgiveness. That's why guilt tormented me as long as it did. But if you will keep seeking God, study the Word, and fellowship with God, you will get completely free from guilt and condemnation.
You may be thinking, "But Joyce, I still make mistakes." Yes, we do. And God knows that. He understands our nature and knows we have a lot to learn. He knew what He was getting when He called us into relationship with Him. But He is so merciful! He loves us and He wants us to be free to come to Him when we do something wrong, admit it to Him with a sincere heart, receive His forgiveness and press on.
Trust God's love for you more than you trust your feelings. Ask Him for help when you need it, and enjoy a life of peace and joy as you leave guilt and condemnation behind.