July 2011

Welcome to the abounding-love view for the month. "...God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God's sight by the blood of Christ, He will certainly save us from God's judgment."1

What about guilt?

Once in a while, a letter arrives that I must share. Since I know many are struggling with guilt, I share what this dear woman wrote:

"I'm twenty-five years old. I just got married, and we have a two-year old with another on the way. I am writing to you because I read that you found God and became a Christian.

First, let me tell you that I am glad to hear that. I'm sure that prison is a difficult place, and I'm sure having faith helps a great deal.

Secondly, I have a question that I hope you'll be able to help me with. It has to do with feeling guilty. I hope I'm not being presumptuous in thinking that you might know a few things about this.

I used to be addicted to drugs, but I have been clean for over two years. I have been living my life right, being a good mom to my son, and don't feel like there's anything I could be doing better. But I still have all this guilt about things I've done in the past. I never hurt anyone. I was always the victim of my choices, but I did things while on drugs that I never would have done otherwise.

I grew up a Christian, and I know that the Bible says that when we repent, God takes our sins as far away as the east is from the west and gives us a clean slate. Well, I have truly repented for what I've done, but sometimes I get these horrible bouts of guilt and shame about my past.

I know that God won't give us a spirit of fear, but will He give us guilt? Or is that the devil attacking our faith? Like in your case, did God take your guilt away after you repented? I'm just looking for advice here. I hope you can offer some insight on this. I know that if God can help you, He can help me. I guess I'm just not sure how to go about getting help."

We all struggle...

Shortly after I received this letter, I had my own struggle with guilt and shame. I found that it is okay to struggle. There are no perfect Christians. James -- the half brother of Jesus -- wrote:

"...when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything."2

As you know, I've been writing my views on Restorative Justice as part of Victim's Awareness. I asked a friend to send me the Wikipedia pages on my victims so I could become more aware. After reading them, I learned a whole lot more than I had known about their lives and the great loss I had caused than I had known before. My heart broke; my faith was tested to the point of tears with feelings of deep guilt and shame, while experiencing the consequences of sin.

My faith was being tested so I could develop greater endurance, empathy, strength in character, and be ready for anything. I didn't know I'd experience a test by asking for these pages, but I'm glad I did. By not keeping my head in the sand, God was able to work in my heart to show me again that He is greater than all our past sins.

Consciousness of sin...

We have all broken God's law, which haunts us with the knowledge of sin. As a result, the whole world is guilty before God, "...for by the law is the knowledge of sin."3

Guilt comes from the consciousness of sin. The pain that I caused my victims, their families and friends, my family and friends, and their communities, and even the world, causes great guilt and shame for me. So now I must remind myself what God promised in the Scriptures long ago:

"We are made right in God's sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins.And we all can be saved in the same way, no matter who we are or what we have done.

For all have sinned; all fall short of God's glorious standard. Yet now God, in His gracious kindness, declares us not guilty. He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins. For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God's anger against us. We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed His blood, sacrificing His life for us."4

God is working...

I say to the young woman who wrote me, that God is working in our lives to build endurance and character through faith in Jesus Christ.

"We can rejoice, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us -- they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength in us, and character strengthens expectation of salvation. And this expectation will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love."5

The knowledge of God's love empowers us to overcome the guilt that afflicts us at times. His love at the cross promises righteousness by faith.

"So just as sin [and guilt] ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God's wonderful kindness rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."6

The key is to build a consciousness of righteousness by faith in Christ's finished work at the cross. Struggles will come; endure them and build character. God isn't finished with us yet. The best is yet to come. And remember, "...there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus."7

A Prayer for you...

Heavenly Father, my faith is being tested as I struggle with guilt and shame. I believe that you placed all my sin; past, present, and future upon Jesus at the cross. I believe that His blood cleansed and washed me from all unrighteousness. I proclaim freedom from guilt and shame because of the blood of Jesus Christ. I am redeemed. The price for my sin has been paid. Jesus took my punishment on the cross and rose again to give me the Spirit of Life because of righteousness. I thank you, Father, that I can now triumph over guilt and shame through Jesus Christ. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Scripture References:

1 Rom. 5:8,9
2 James 1:3,4
3 Rom. 3:19,20
4 Rom. 3:22-25
5 Rom. 5:3-5
6 Rom. 5:21
7 Rom. 8:1

Acknowledgement: A special thanks to Sherry for transcribing this months view!

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