If you’ve been struggling with illness for any length of time, you’ll be no stranger to guilt: ugly, miserable, hideous guilt.
Guilty for not working, guilty for relying on others, guilty for not serving in church, guilty…guilty…guilty… Aargh!! Every time we fall short of the standard we, others or even society have set, the misery of guilt has the potential to start knocking.
Other times we analyse our lives and ask ourselves ‘was it my personal sin that caused this sickness?’ ‘Is God punishing me?’ Even though in your conscious mind you know this isn’t true, deep down, somewhere in your innermost being, there’s that doubt.
We may even replay the painful memories of our sins, flaws or mistakes time and time again, like a bad movie. Too many of us are going around feeling guilty about the past. The Bible says this is an ‘evil conscience’. (Heb 10:22) . The condemning ‘I should have…’ ‘if only…’ type thoughts can dominate our thinking. We ruminate on mistakes and regrets and allow them to steal our present moments. Even if we’re not aware, on some level, the guilt can sometimes ‘live’ in our unconscious. Our bodies or our behaviours keep the score!
“Guilt is to the spirit what pain is to the body” Elder David A Bednar
Guilt causes us to have low self esteem, depression, eating disorders, insomnia, OCD and may even cause us to self harm. Often we don’t even recognise that guilt is the root! (so sneaky!). It doesn’t just cause us to feel bad emotionally, it impacts on physical health as well.
“Guilt is the thief of life” Anthony Hopkins
Shame is very similar to guilt. “When we feel shame, our bodies go into toxic stress…..Shame creates neurochemical chaos in your brain. It’s very disruptive to the internal networks of your brain….” Caroline Leaf. It is this neurochemical chaos that causes illness and disease.
Who is likely to suffer guilt or shame?
Are you worried how people perceive you? This is people pleasing which predisposes you to the feeling of guilt every time you mess up. Are you a perfectionist? Then your internal moral code may be irrationally high, causing you to feel guilt when you don’t reach your own standards. Are you self critical? Yep! You’re susceptible to those guilty feelings as well!
Q. Do you think that you have a problem dealing with guilt? How do you know? Is this something you think you can be free from?
So what can we do about our guilt?
Understanding the forgiveness of Christ, is a great place to start. The Bible tells us we are cleansed forever. (not until our next sin.)
“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Heb 8:12
I love the Message translation:
Another one of my favourite verses is from Ps 103:12 “Farther than from a sunrise to a sunset—
that’s how far you’ve removed our guilt from us.” I often say this when I’m thanking God for my forgiveness.
There can be times though, when we analyse our wrong-doings more than our forgiveness. God wants us to be Christ conscious, not sin-conscious! I really hope this sets you free today. There’s no need to beat yourself up or feel bad about those things you’ve gotten wrong either today or in the past. Phew! Praise God for Jesus!
“if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God” 1 John 3:21
“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.” Heb 10:35
Feeling guilty stops us drawing close to God, it stops us having confidence in his healing power. Our guilty conscience hinders us from receiving our healing from God which results in our faith being “shipwrecked”. (And we need faith to receive healing by faith!).
“Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck” 1 Tim. 1:19.
Ever since the cross, God has not been judging us for our sins. He isn’t punishing us, nor is he angry. In fact he doesn’t even remember the sins we’re busy obsessing over!
Q. Are you more focused on your forgiveness in Christ or on your past mistakes? What impact did this have on your relationship with him?
“…that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” 2 Cor 5:19
We don’t make atonement for our sins, neither do we need to keep on confessing them. Our sins were dealt with once and for all. It’s so important we get this right if we’re to live in the freedom Jesus died to give us and have the confidence we need to believe him for healing. Remember, it’s never about what we deserve, it’s always about what Jesus deserves. Walking around with an evil conscience devalues the sacrifice of Jesus. We are NOT being holy by clinging onto our guilt because feeling bad about ourselves when we mess up is not the work of the Holy Spirit. We need to have a greater revelation of the depth of God’s heart torwards us and learn to accept His mercy.
Q. Have you ever confused conviction with condemnation. How did you know the difference and what did you do?
Paul had a massive revelation of the forgiveness of God in his life. He’d been responsible for the murder of 100’s of Christians yet never allowed his past to ruin his future. He knew the power of redemption; Jesus had taken all his sins and guilt on the cross of Calvary. He understood how to accept God’s gift of no condemnation. He chose to ‘let go of what was behind…’ and moved forward into his destiny. Wow! God is asking us to do the same.
Q. What can we learn from Paul’s incredible example of letting go of past mistakes?
The more we focus on our past mistakes, the bigger they appear to us. In a way, we keep their memory alive. Keeping a record of your mistakes is like carrying around a rucksack with rocks in it; it weighs you down, hinders us from moving forward, is bad for our health and stops us living a life of liberty. The thing is, it’s our choice to carry the heavy load around! You see it’s our hearts that condemn us. (1 John 3:21). Most people think they have to get rid of all their sin in order for God to heal but this simply isn’t true, you do though, have to know how FORGIVEN you are!
How tragic that there are people who actually take their guilt to their own deathbeds, not realising that Jesus took this burden from us. He took our sins and our guilt to his deathbed! THAT’S HOW COMPLETELY AWESOME HE IS!
So why do we do this?
in childhood, whenever we did something ‘wrong’, we were ‘punished’ like with ‘the naughty step’, ‘time out’ or toy confiscation. As a result, the external punishment system becomes internalised subconsciously so whenever we mess up, we punish ourselves as though we’ve got some kind of internal police officer judging us. On some level we think we deserve punishment. If we don’t think this consciously, on some level the belief is there. God’s forgiveness towards us is CRAZY! That’s why we make it so complicated!
So how do we just let it go and let God?
Takeaway: 4 steps to releasing guilt, shame and condemnation
- Feel the pain of the guilt. Whereabouts on your body can you feel it? Can you describe it? What shape is it? Is it dense or hollow? What colour is it….? (This stops us telling ourselves stories about the guilt and just focuses our minds on the sensation, causing is to move through our body).
- Forgive yourself and release the situation so it has no emotional charge attaching you to it. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you just how forgiven you are. Write those scriptures out, again and again.
- Take your authority over the guilt or the shame. Speak to it! Tell it to go. (Mark 11:23)
- Caroline Leaf talks of “reconceptualising”. This is where you take a step back at the situation and see a different perspective. Why did you do what you did? Were your expectations of yourself too high? Are your memories of the event accurate? Were you comparing yourself to someone else….and so on? This helps us in moving forward in a constructive way, rather than going over the event again and again, condemning ourselves and adding fuel to the fire.
NB. There is nothing the enemy wants more, than to convince you that God hasn’t forgiven you, that he’s angry at you or that he wants you punished somehow. Make sure you remind him of the most famous verse on guilt:
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” Romans 8:1