When we as Christians become riddled with guilt, we must open the scriptures to find promises that will set us free. There are plenty of places in the Bible where we can find God offering his assurance that we are his children; and we are forgiven. I think of Psalm 103, for example. Listen to how it begins.
“Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
King David reminds his soul that God forgives and redeems. We can read David’s words to remind us that God forgives all of our sins. In verses 8-12, David continues to unpack a number of powerful promises that can encourage us today.
“The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”
I once heard worship pastor Christopher Greco (Prodigal God) say, “You do know that God is allowed to be angry with us?” The audience looked shocked, so he emphasized it again: “Yes, God gets angry.” This Gospel-centered pastor then compassionately reassured the audience of God’s love. My point is this: we tend to deny the reality of God’s anger and this keeps us trapped in guilt. Why?
I said in the last post that few of us voluntarily surrender our whole hearts to God when life is comfortable. When we are getting what we want and our “two or more masters” seem to be working for us, we live in a spiritual denial that can only survive if God is always happy with us. David was no such fool – he knew God could become angry. This was not a shock to him; and this theme runs throughout his writings. Yet he reminds his soul that God is slow to anger, and he will not harbor it forever because of his abounding love for us.
For those of us who struggle to imagine God being angry, we might need to spend more time in the Old Testament. I do not intend for that to come across as a fire-and-brimstone remark; however, I think it is spiritually healthy to be reminded of God’s full range of emotions. If you have never realized that God can be angry, then it is not surprising that you are struggling with guilt. How can anyone truly let go of guilt if God is always happy? It is God’s anger that causes our hearts to draw near to Him in humility; and it is humility that allows God to invade our inner being. In this place of humility, God meets us with His abounding love and our guilt will surely melt away as God fills us.
Many of us have the opposite struggle – we cannot get an angry God out of our heads. To us, God always seems to have that hammer above our heads. We need to be reminded that God does not always accuse. He will let go of his anger out of sheer compassion and move toward us. Why would the God of the universe move toward us? David answers this in verses 13 and 17.
“As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him…”
From this psalm, we find: so great is God’s love for those who fear him; the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; and the Lord’s love is with those who fear him. We cannot know true love unless we know the reality of God’s holiness and have a deep reverence for him. The deceptive belief that God never gets angry lures us into a comfort that traps us where we are – in our guilt. We miss out in moving closer to God who has moved close to us. Yet for those who can accept that God gets angry, something inside our soul can then be touched by his everlasting love and his compassion.
The promises of God transcend our understanding, but King David gives us reassuring imagery to magnify God’s infinite love for us: “…as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” God has blotted out our guilt in his sight by the blood Jesus shed on the cross. Our guilt is gone; utterly gone. Now He desires for us to live in the freedom of this knowledge – and in relationship with Him.
Many of us will be deeply reassured by these promises, but there will remain others of us who still are ravaged by guilt. Is there any other way to get relief from it? Join me next time and we will look at some other possibilities.
Click Part 4 to continue this series.
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