Friday, February 21, 2014
The problem of guilt
I have always had major issues with guilt. Not the good kind, though it has plagued me when I was doing wrong, but I have also been plagued with the bad kind. The kind that I feel for sins that have been forgiven.
Maybe it isn't that prevalent among other Christians. I am unique, I'll admit that, but there are most likely countless other people in the same boat. We sin, repent, God forgives us, and we still feel guilty. Why do we? If God has forgiven us, and remembers the sin against us no more, than why should we feel guilty?
I never really thought much of my holding onto guilt until recent months. I am slowly coming to realize it isn't pleasing to God, and why would it be? I ran across this quote in a book I was reading by Brennan Manning that underscores that:
“When we wallow in guilt, remorse, and shame over real or imagined sins of the past, we are disdaining God's gift of grace.”
That makes me cringe a bit, and mentally say "ouch!" I had never thought it out to that extent, but that is what we are doing to hold onto guilt.
My struggle to believe God loves me is something I have often mentioned on my blog, and the guilt issue has played into that. I have fallen and strayed many times, and when I would repent, I always felt I had to beg God to forgive me and pray a long time. No matter how hard I prayed though, I always felt I needed to do something more to be totally forgiven. What that was, I never figured out, so I still felt guilty for my sins. Sins that God had forgiven.
Just today, I did something I knew displeased God. It was dumb, and I am not going to say what it was, but I was driving when I did it. I immediately felt guilt, which was good, and told God I was sorry and asked Him to forgive me. End of story........ or so I wish.
Here I am six hours later, still beating myself up over it, still feeling guilty. Should I? No. Absolutely not. Yet I do. Then I feel guilty for feeling guilty. No joke, I really do.
I have so totally missed the whole meaning of God's grace for most of my life. I got the message that God forgives sin, yet I felt my sins were never totally forgiven. Like a stained white garment that emerges from the laundry, cleaner, but still somewhat dirty. It sounds ridiculous. After all, I went to a Christian school all my life, church, Sunday School, and even four years of Bible college..... How did the meaning of God's grace escape me all that time?
Guilt for forgiven sins and wrongs is an added burden that we don't need to carry. It can't possibly be from God, for He wants us to be free, so it has to be from the devil. God doesn't remind us of past sins and mistakes, so who else would, other than the devil? And for so long, I have stood there and let myself be a willing target for the weapon of guilt.
I, and others, have made forgiveness harder than it is. If we sin, or do something that displeases God, all we need to do is ask forgiveness. We don't have to say the right words, or grovel. Yet I do grovel. I do try to say the right words and project the right amount of repentance into my prayer.
Thank God that He is patient with me. There is a song that was popular in the 80's that went like this:
He's still working on me
To make me what I ought to be
It took Him just a week to make the moon and stars
The sun and the earth, and Jupiter and Mars
How loving and patient He must be
He's still working on me
At times I look at the things I need to work on, the areas I need to improve upon, and sigh in discouragement. Guilt is on that list. And yes, it is displeasing to God when I hold onto guilt for something He has forgiven me for, yet He knows my heart, and is patient as He keeps working on me.
My prayer lately has been that He keeps working on me, chipping off the rough edges - of which there are many, and just like the clay, keeps shaping and molding me, just like a piece of clay.