Overcoming Guilt

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Overcoming Guilt – Understanding Guilt
Many of us struggling with overcoming guilt in our lives. It is an emotion that continually plagues us, even years after the incident. “This may sound strange to you,” the physician reluctantly explained, “but I often struggle with overcoming guilt.” Although a gifted surgeon for many years, his careless driving as a teenager resulted in a tragic accident. Perhaps a single err in judgment, an indiscretion, or thoughtless remark has burdened you with an overwhelming guilt that seems relentless. While there are different forms of guilt, how we respond to that guilt is often a matter of life or death.

Since guilt can make us feel so miserable, “Why does God allow me to experience guilt?” True guilt is caused when we do not agree with God about the wrong that we have done. “You know my folly, O God; my guilt is not hidden from you” (Psalm 69:5). In Chapter 5 of Hosea, the nations of Israel and Judah are accused of many sins, including persecution, (spiritual) prostitution, arrogance, and unfaithfulness to God. While God is displeased with their behavior, He suggests that they admit their guilt and pursue the right course of action (Hosea 5:15). When God wants to punish the guilty one (sinner), He comes out of His dwelling place (Isaiah 26:21), but when He wants to show us His compassion, He returns to His dwelling place where He waits to be gracious (Isaiah 30:18).

Overcoming Guilt – Confronting Guilt
Perhaps your battle with overcoming guilt pertains to more practical issues. What are some ways that others confronted their guilty consciences?

  • Rebellion – After eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve tried to hide from God (Genesis 3).
  • Sibling rivalry and jealousy – Following a lengthy cover-up, Joseph’s brothers admitted their cruel actions (Genesis 42:21-22)
  • Pride and disobedience – Knowing that God barred him from ever entering into the Promised Land, Moses humbly accepted God’s judgment. Unselfishly, Moses expressed concern for welfare of Israelites in their wilderness journey (Numbers 27:14-17).
  • Lust and manipulation – Although he faced deadly consequences, King David confessed and repented of his sins to God (2 Samuel 12:13-14).
  • Betrayal and greed – Although remorseful, Judas Iscariot attempted to absolve himself of guilt by returning the 30 pieces of silver and then committing suicide. Yet he never sought forgiveness and mercy from God (Matthew 27:3-5).
  • Lying and disloyalty – Consumed by deep sorrow, Simon Peter, wept bitterly for repeatedly denying Christ (Matthew 26:75). Later Peter reaffirmed his devotion to Jesus (John 21:15-17).
  • Persecution and self-righteousness – Instead of attacking Christians, Paul surrendered to God’s plan, dedicating the remainder of his life to sharing the Gospel in Asia Minor and across the continental boundary into Europe (Acts 13-20).
Notice that God does not choose to eliminate from our nature the capacity to experience guilt. True guilt is beneficial because it: 1) Stirs compassion towards others, taking the focus off ourselves, 2) Convicts us of our wrongdoing, and 3) Compels us to turn away from destructive behavior. When we ignore our guilt or try to bury it in the deep recesses of our souls, we are lying to ourselves. “If we claim to be without sin [guilty before God], we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us...If we claim we have not sinned [disobeyed God’s commands] we make him [God] out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives” (1 John 1:8, 10).

Overcoming Guilt – Overcoming Guilt
From a human perspective, overcoming guilt entirely is a formidable task. We may try to ignore our consciences so that our capacity for remorse becomes negligible. But the guilt still infects our hearts, robbing us of joy and peace. A ransom price must be paid to set us free from our guilt. “God made him [Jesus Christ] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him [Jesus Christ] we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Since God desires to make us victorious over the consequences of our sin, there are practical steps that every individual can take when overcoming guilt.

  • Express genuine sorrow or grief (2 Corinthians 7:10). Guilt occurs when we violate God’s commands by disrespecting Him or others (Mark 12:30–31).
  • Confess our wrongdoing (sin) to god (1 John 1:9).
  • Repent or “change your mind,” thereby turning away from sin and evil (Acts 3:19).
  • Be quick to forgive others. Whenever possible, make the effort to reconcile with others who injured you (Matthew 6:14-15).
  • Give thanks for god’s grace and his forgiveness (Ephesians 2:4-8).
  • If those thoughts of guilt return, take time to thank God for His forgiveness. Remind yourself that your sins are forgiven.
When you surrender your life to the will of God, your fleshly tendency to sow negative attitudes and behaviors diminishes. The Lord is able to then build up your character, your endurance, and your faith in Him. He builds a new sense of quality into your life—you become the person God desires you to be and you acquire the joy and peace that overcomes.

“...all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ are brought into right relationship with God. This righteousness in unattainable...by any merit of man’s own, or any other condition than that of faith in Christ....The man who trusts in Christ becomes ‘the righteousness of God in Him,’ i.e. becomes in Christ all that God requires a man to be, all that he could never be in himself.”1

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