Letting Go of Guilt
Luis Palau

Letting Go of Guilt

As Christians we rejoice that our salvation is secure in Christ, and that our sins are forever washed away by His blood. We marvel at God's infinite mercy to forgive us even though we don't deserve it. But often we won't forgive ourselves!

Yes, we know that "as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us" (Psalm 103:12). But from sunrise to sunset we needlessly carry the heavy burden of guilt.

For some reason we feel compelled to carry these heavy burdens, even though God never asked us to carry them. Just the opposite! So as God's servants, we need to learn to let go of our guilt.

Sometimes our burden of guilt is nothing more than false condemnation. When I was a youth, my mother absolutely believed the bottom of the theater would open up and drop me straight into the fire of hell if I ever went to see a movie, regardless of its message. I felt bad even walking by a theater. Now that was false guilt!

Paul Tournier, a respected Swiss psychologist, has said, "False guilt comes as a result of judgments and suggestions of men." People sometimes seek to control or manipulate us by inventing rules or regulations the Bible never mentions. As servants of God, not slaves to man-made decrees, we need to carefully and prayerfully identify such false guilt and let go of it.

On other occasions we carry heavy burdens of guilt because we don't deal with it properly. There are at least three inappropriate responses to true guilt.

First, we can repress our guilt. We try to cover it up and deny its existence. We focus on our insignificant faults instead of acknowledging our real guilt. As a result, we lose our peace and often suffer physically as well.

Second, we can regret our "mistake." But merely saying "I'm sorry" fails to acknowledge the seriousness of our sin and our responsibility.

Third, we can feel remorse for our sin. "I'll never do it again," we promise. Judas felt remorse after betraying Christ (Matthew 27:3-4). But he fell one step short of what the Bible calls repentance.

Repentance is the biblical, correct response to guilt. The moment we committed our life to Christ, our sins—past, present, and future—were forgiven. God's righteousness was satisfied. But now we must maintain fellowship with, dependence on, and obedience to God. This necessitates confessing our sins to our Lord as we become aware of them.

C.S. Lewis said true guilt is an inner alarm system that reveals sin in our lives and shows our loss of fellowship with God. The Holy Spirit uses guilt to prompt us to turn from our sin and back to the Lord.

Once we let go of false guilt and properly deal with our sins, we are free from the burden of guilt. Isaiah 55:6-7 gives us this assurance: "Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon."

Let go of your burdens and turn to God today!

To Ponder
Is there any unresolved guilt in your life? Over what? What steps, if any, have you taken so far to try to resolve it? In Matthew 11:29-30, Jesus promises His burdens are not heavy. It doesn't make sense, then, to carry a load of guilt. Why not? To Pursue If you're struggling with a vague sense of guilt, turn that over to the Lord. Ask God to pinpoint any specific, unconfessed sin in your life. As He does, repent of that sin, remembering God gladly forgives and forgets.