As the sun shines on God's creation, we are reminded of its beauty. The green tree leaves shimmering in the light and gently fluttering in the soft breezes are beautiful. Gazing on such a sight can lift our mood and bring us pleasure. But we do not always enjoy such wonders.
Life sometimes pulls a dark curtain over our thoughts and emotions, even on sunny days. We are unable to appreciate nature's unrivalled beauty. We feel sad about something that we have done or not done, said or not said. We believe that under the circumstances, we could have done better. We feel guilty.
We may run our dark thoughts along a track with a great sign overhead reading: "If only", which has many stories. It is not unusual for parents who have lost a dearly loved child through accident or illness to blame themselves for the death. "If only I had driven Mary to school that day, the accident would never have happened to her." "If only I had watched Adam's diet more carefully, he wouldn't have become ill and died."
At such times, our guilty feelings stem from failing to realize that we made the best decision that we could have made at the time. If we had known what would happen, we would have made a different decision, but we didn't know. We forget that we do not control the events in this world. We condemn ourselves for things that have happened which were, in truth, beyond our control. We set impossible standards for ourselves to live up to, and then, we become our own judge, jury, and executioner. When we mistakenly blame ourselves for some unforeseeable event, such condemnation is false guilt.
God's Spirit helps us to discern the difference between real guilt and false guilt. We can let go of false guilt thoughts through the freedom that God has given us in Christ Jesus. When we recognize that we are caught up in this trap of false guilt, we can make the decision to trust God's Word: "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:1 NIV) God frees us from self-condemnation, according to His Word.
Real guilt has its basis in a conscious decision to do something wrong. David knew that he was sinning when he chose to lie with Bathsheba and again when he decided to send her husband Uriah to his death.
When we are truly guilty of an offence, it is our responsibility to make it right to the extent that it is possible, while asking God's forgiveness. We do not need to spend our time in regret, for when we confess our sins to God, He forgives us. God's Word reminds us: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9 NIV) God frees us from all past sin.
When we are not sure of the validity of our guilt, we can ask God to reveal to us the truth as to whether our guilt feelings are false in perception or whether they are is based on wilful, wrong decision-making. We can be assured that He is ready to free us from our guilt feelings, whether based on our own unattainable standards or on a conscious, sinful choice.
No good purpose is ever served by continuing to allow feelings of guilt to tightly wrap us in ropes of regret and self-condemnation. We are freed from all condemnation and forgiven because God's Word says so, and we can walk into the sunshine and be happy, for we are beloved by God.
Prayer: God of mercy and wisdom, teach us to recognize the difference between real guilt and false guilt. When we have truly sinned, show us how to make amends as we seek Your forgiveness. Strengthen our faith to believe without doubt that You are a God of forgiveness and mercy, for we want to walk in the sunshine of Your love. Amen.
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Listen while you read: "Jesus Is All The World To Me" (Lyrics)