The power of guilt in our lives cannot be under emphasized. Those men are locked up inside a state ran penitentiary 24-7. They have no family. They don’t have nice things to make their lives more comfortable. They have to constantly watch their backs and be on guard for other inmates who may want to hurt them or steal from them. They sometimes have to watch their backs for corrections officers who are out to get them. They get beaten up, stole from, sexually threatened, and extorted. Some are going to be executed within the year. When these guys come to my husband for guidance in their lives, those aren’t the things that weigh them down the most. They come to him and ask for help in dealing with the mental torture that they put themselves through over what they have done.
I used to feel guilt all of the time. I felt guilty if I ate that extra cookie. I felt guilty if I paid too much for something that was JUST for me. I felt guilty whenever someone asked me for a favor and I couldn’t do it. I felt guilty that I wasn’t a good enough mom, wife, sister, daughter, and friend. I felt guilty that I had done drugs. I felt guilty that I sold drugs. I felt guilty because I often got drunk. I felt guilty because I alienated good friends in order to temporarily hold on to toxic ones. I really could go on for quite a while but I’m sure you see where I’m going. Do you see how heavy and dark it is to hold on to all of that negative emotional baggage?
Could I have made better choices? Yes, I could have. Would my life have went a lot easier had I made better choices? Most likely. Was I right to have felt guilty about those choices? You bet! Don’t get me wrong…I think guilt has its place. It is something that God put inside of us that can be a very healthy indicator to let us know when we are behaving in ways that we shouldn’t. But the problem comes in when we’ve stopped doing those things, asked for forgiveness and STILL can’t shake off our past sins or choices. Then we, like the men in prison, become captives to our own selves - stuck and afraid to make forward progress for fear that we aren’t worthy or good enough to be a part of some higher calling.
That is not what God intended for us. He sent his son to earth as a sacrifice for our sins. Do you honestly believe that Jesus’ blood is not strong enough to cover the things you have done wrong? Because when you ask for forgiveness and continue on feeling as though you are weighed down with guilt, that is essentially what you are saying. King David was a murderer and an adulterer. Rahab was a hooker. Peter was a liar. The apostle Paul killed Christians. Do you think that all of these men and women, who God himself exalted as great men and women of faith, are forgiven? Of course they were. And so are you (or you CAN be).
So allow yourself to accept the gift of freedom that is being offered to you. Accept it with joy and confidence. Don’t let your guilt cripple you and sabotage your efforts at improving yourself anymore.
“He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” Psalm 103:12
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1