I would like to propose a crazy idea: guilt is a gift from God. How can something so uncomfortable be considered a gift? I will address this question with a question: how many of us voluntarily bring our whole lives to God when life is comfortable? Not many.
Guilt, then, can be the nagging pain that causes us to seek help from God. In the process of seeking Him, we may experience salvation for the first time – or renewed intimacy once again. Whether we are a seeker or a long-time Christian, this experience can bring the spiritual and emotional peace we long for.
Guilt is a gift signaling that God has drawn close to us. Remember what Jesus taught: “None of us can come to Him unless the Father draws us.” (John 6:44) This draw – the desire to gain release from anxiety and pain – is the coming close of our Heavenly Father. He pierces the veil of our conscience with pain. Without it, we would remain trapped. With it, we can be set free.
When our soul opens, everything in it drains out. When guilt and shame drain out, God’s presence fills us. Guilt is a gift, because it signals that God desires to fully indwell our being. Have you ever experienced this?
People who have never experienced this in-flowing of God’s Spirit can be tempted to seek release from guilt through other people – or on purely psychological terms. If we have gossiped about a close friend, then offering our apology and seeking restoration can heal the guilt we feel. The problem is this: many of our sins are not so easily fixed.
Take divorce, for example. We can apologize to our former spouse and our children, but the marriage may never be restored again. The consequence of divorce may continue to inflict great pain on our loved ones for years to come. That is a heavy load to carry. I encounter some people who still experience the guilt of divorce decades later. Maybe your sin is different, but you know what it is like to carry long-term guilt. Most of us get ourselves caught in the snare of sinful situations that prove nearly impossible to solve. No wonder we resort to trying to find relief through others.
I recommend that folks pursue whatever psychological help they may need, but we should never leave God out of this process. If the One who gave life now wants to be the giver of salvation and release us from guilt, why should we reject Him at the very moment when He is drawing close to us? Do we really think that we can do better for ourselves compared to what God can do for us? God may not be asking us to “do” anything. He may simply be inviting us to accept His presence.
God may simply be saying: “Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest for your soul.” (Matthew 11:28-30) We owe no other human being our guilt, and no other person ultimately can take away our guilt. Yet when our soul is pricked by the pain of guilt and we open our whole heart to our Creator, He comes into our soul and melts the guilt away. We may discover that “we” have bottled-up the guilt inside us. God never asked us to carry this kind of load. He assures us, “I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
If you are a seeker of God who is experiencing deep guilt, think of your situation in a new way. God is not holding a hammer over your head; he is inviting you to open your whole heart to Him; and he can exchange your guilt for His presence. Guilt can be the signal that your day has come: God has drawn close to you. The scriptures promise: “Come near to God, and He will come near to you.” (James 4:8)
Some may protest in understandable frustration: “if guilt is a signal that God wants to give me His presence, why have I felt this pain for so long?” Once again, we are the ones who hold onto guilt: that is not what God asks of us. So, my friend, the long-term presence of guilt only signals that God has NOT given up on you. He has been reaching out his loving arms wanting to relieve you of your suffering for a long time. After all, you are His child. Let Him in; and He will fill you up.
What about Christians who experience guilt? Join me next time as we take a close look at how believers can deal with guilt. God bless you.
Click Part 3 to continue this series.
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