Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Dealing with Guilt (Psalm 38)

"My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear" (Ps. 38:4).

People often feel guilty in the midst of difficult circumstances. A husband who has neglected his responsibilities as head of the family will feel guilty when his marriage begins to crumble. A dishonest employee will feel the heavy hand of guilt when faced with charges from an employer. Such situations allow for legitimate feelings of guilt. When people are truly guilty of something, they should feel that guilt. Sometimes people who are guilty of wrongdoing suppress such feelings of guilt, but this does not change the fact that they are guilty.

We live in a decadent culture that refuses to recognize or accept guilt as a reality in human experience. Because our culture has rejected absolute standards of right and wrong, guilt is something detrimental to happiness and must therefore be denied. Incorrect behavior is openly embraced and accepted, but the guilt that comes with it must be removed. If someone feels guilty about something, our society foolishly teaches us that the problem lies in the feelings of guilt, not in the behavior that created the guilt.

Such ideas stand in stark contrast to Christian teaching. The Scriptures clearly tell us that all men are guilty before God because all men have transgressed His law. Only through faith in Christ can such guilt be removed. Only through the forgiveness that comes through the person of Christ can the conscience be quieted and peace brought to a troubled soul. God has given every man a conscience to bear witness, to accuse or excuse, to torment or to comfort. Sadly, much of our society has silenced the conscience, numbed it, or seared it so sin can continue unhindered by feelings of guilt.

When we feel guilty, we must not ignore it, but examine the source of such guilt. We must first acknowledge the reality and legitimacy of it. If we have sinned in some way, we must repent and accept God’s promise of forgiveness. The only way to deal with guilt is to confess our sin, not to suppress it, and to find forgiveness with God. Sometimes we feel guilty after we have already repented of a sin and asked for forgiveness. Such unwarranted feelings stem from an unbelief in God’s promise of forgiveness. If He has forgiven us, we have no reason to feel guilty. Satan may accuse us, but we have peace with God through Jesus Christ.

Have you been influenced by the culture regarding the reality of guilt? Do you see guilt feelings as a mere psychological phenomenon? If you have sinned, welcome the guilt as the chastisement of the Spirit. Be grateful for the chastisement, and the forgiveness you receive in Christ.