I did not pack enough bags for this guilt trip! I am not to blame and will certainly not feel bad about this! I wish they would stop making me feel so guilty. Have you ever said these words or had these thoughts? It is likely that if you are over the age of 3 that you have. No one likes to feel guilty. It’s an ugly feeling that starts in the bottom of your stomach and lingers until resolved. Sometimes we bring it on ourselves. Sometimes it is others in our life that seems content to constantly push guilt and shame our way. It is in these moments in life when a single word or look, like a sharp knife, slices thorough our emotions only to leave a sinking feeling of culpability behind.
Seeing that guilt leaves such an ugly mark, one would think that it is a bad thing, bad indeed and something to be avoided at all cost.
But is it all terrible? Can guilt be beneficial? Is it good or is it bad? The answer is yes.
The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:13, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.”
What things do you think Paul had to forget? Was it his accomplishments in the flesh before salvation? Maybe so. After all he was a Pharisee of all Pharisees. But just maybe it was his past sins. After all, I can only imagine the guilt of his past must have plagued him. Maybe those things that were behind him were the memories of the many Christians that suffered and died at his own hands. We all know how easy it is to feel guilty about past sins. God forgives and forgets. We try to, but yet Satan never does. The enemy loves to bring our faults and failures back up to us. It is this type of guilt that is bad, guilt from our past that has already been forgiven.
But some guilt is necessary. The law of God makes the unbeliever guilty. “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God,” Romans 3:19.
Likewise, when a believer sins it is accompanied with guilt. “For I am ready to halt, and my sorrow is continually before me. For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin,” Psalm 38:17-18. This type of guilt is good. It is a necessary emotion given to us by God. Picture it as a “check engine light” on the dashboard of your car. It brings to your attention a problem under the hood. It should be used to help us acknowledge our sins. It should drive us to repentance. But once we have done that we need to leave our guilt at the cross.
Here is a sure way to tell if guilt is good or bad. Bad guilt – the kind that we need to let go of – will always push us away from God. It brings shame and makes us self focused. It hinders our spiritual walk and makes us ineffective for the Kingdom. However, be sure that good, godly, healthy guilt will drive us strait to the arms of God as His mercy and grace floods our hearts.
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