Coping With a Guilty Heart
There will come moments in your life where you will sincerely feel in your spirit how you have sinned against God or have done wrong in the eyesight of the Lord. Out of this feeling comes a feeling of guilt, shame, and conviction. Guilt and shame are relatively close and conviction is different from both guilt and shame. Conviction is when the truth of a matter shows you where you are wrong. In order to faithfully mange any feelings of conviction you may feel, you must first seek the truth about your circumstances, own the truth, and be willing to implement the truth. Real conviction should cause you to learn of your mistakes and be empowered with a greater ability to do better the next time.
Where does conviction initiate? Conviction initiates when the Holy Spirit within you comes into contact with the truth of God’s word. When you know the truth, the truth shall make you free (John 8:32). In knowing the truth, your freedom comes in the form of being able to withstand the temptation to do the wrong things that you once have done (Matthew 4:4). Conviction is necessary for the appropriate growth of any Christian soul. Without conviction, you have no moral compass to obey what is right. Conviction will lead you into the pathways of God’s righteousness. It will cause you to be honest and truthful in all of your dealings.
Guilt on the other hand does not necessary cause you to be empowered with the ability to see the truth. It only shows you the despair of your wrong doing and allows you to sense the imminent consequences of your actions. Just like in a court room, a sentence cannot be rendered without a guilty verdict. Feelings of guilt can cause much distress and despair in your heart. It can interrupt your day to day functioning as you try to cope with the regret of your actions. You may end up trying to imagine the extent of the consequences and the punishment. Guilt can also make you feel like you are not worthy of God. Sometimes, depending on what you have done, guilt can also make you feel like you do not want to live.
As a Christian, feelings of guilt go against the purpose of salvation. It is in Christ that we are redeemed. Guilty feelings usually are accompanied by other feelings that are not of the nature of our Salvation. Because Jesus died for our sins, we are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. The issue that many of us face when we are feeling guilty is that though Christ has forgiven us, we have not forgiven ourselves or we have not been forgiven by those we have hurt by our actions. This cycle of unforgiveness can cause your heart to feel that you have fallen out of the grace with God, even though you have prayed and asked for Forgiveness from God. This is not of God and is not a fruit of Calvary. The whole point of Calvary is to overcome the deathly consequences of sin through salvation. This means that the cross brought freedom to our souls to not carry feelings of despair, fully recognizing that our heavenly eternity is still fixed. The cross does not guarantee that any earthly consequences to our sins will not manifest, but spiritual consequences of sins are overcome through the blood of Jesus.
A great example of this is when Jesus was on Calvary mountain being crucified with two other men. One, a thief, called out to him and said, “remember me when you enter your kingdom” and Jesus said to him, “on this day, you will be in paradise with me.” (Luke 23:39-43) This shows us that while the thief still endured his earthly consequences he was forgiven by Christ and was able to be freed from all guilt upon entering heaven. Use this to always know that guilt is not meant to reside with you.
Anyone dealing with feelings of guilt that are full of despair should meditate on the cross. They should take their feelings to Jesus, realizing that what they are feeling guilty for, God has already paid the price for by sending his Son.
The truth of the matter is that most guilty feelings are not because of feeling fear of eternal damnation, but it is fear of a temporary and light affliction that may result which does not compare to the Glory that is later revealed. In this, we must remember that God’s grace is sufficient for us. We must also acknowledge that we deserve our just reward because God is just and the law of sowing and reaping is what the earth was founded upon. God sowed a word into nothing and therein manifested the universe. One should find peace in knowing that the God of our Salvation is able to be our deliverer in all situations. Turn your guilt into faith by believing that All things work together for the GOOD of them that love the Lord and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) Ask the Lord to give you a spirit of endurance to endure hardship with faith knowing that in the end, you will come out lacking nothing.