“God Who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, Who was betrayed and put to death because of our misdeeds and was raised to secure our justification—our acquittal, making our account balance and absolving us from all guilt before God.” Romans 4:24-25
Guilt—like shame, embarrassment or pride—is something you feel about yourself. Guilt is usually based on your actions or inactions toward others or toward God. You look at yourself, you believe you've done wrong in the eyes of another or in the eyes of God, and a wave of guilt comes over you. Given how uncomfortable guilt can feel, it can provide a strong motivation to apologize, correct or make up for a wrong, and behave responsibly. Since doing so helps preserve social bonds and avoid harm to others, guilt, despite being a “negative” feeling, can sometimes be good. Research suggests that guilt-proneness may be related to empathy as well as trustworthiness. The degree to which people feel guilt varies, and those with certain personalities may experience relatively little (if any) guilt.
False guilt can occur. It's usually wrapped up in the fear of disapproval or acceptance. If you don't do this or that—which you may not really want to do—then you'll feel rejected, isolated. This tricky emotion puts us on the hamster wheel of life, a never-ending treadmill of uncertainty. There's always something else to do, someone else to please.
God has an amazing solution for guilt in the Person of His Son, Jesus. On the cross, Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. By surrendering our lives to Him, He wipes away our punishment for all of our sins, and the guilt, shame and fear that comes with it. When we have a relationship with Jesus, we're not guilty anymore! That doesn't mean we will never sin again, but it does mean we don't have to sit in our guilt with no way out.
Paul wrote that, without Jesus, we all are sinners who are guilty in God’s sight. But Jesus was raised from the dead to “secure our justification.” He provided “our acquittal.” He made “our account balance, absolving us from all guilt before God.” As the Bible tells us, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Are you carrying any burdens? Any guilt? Confess your sins to God. Then accept His forgiveness and Jesus’ finished work. He died and rose again so that you could be free!
If you are suffering from the burdening emotion of guilt, first ask yourself, "Why do I feel guilty?" What in your life has created the guilt you are feeling? If it's the pressure to conform or act in a certain way, ask God to give you confidence to live your life in His plan, and not feel that you must "fit in" to be approved by other people. If your guilt is coming from wrong actions, or inactions, in your own life, confess those to ask and ask for forgiveness. If you need to ask forgiveness of someone else—a friend, family member, coworker—ask God for the confidence and strength of character to go to them and make it right. We have a great resource for prayer you can go to online to enhance your daily prayer time with God. And, if you need to talk to a staff minister about guilt, we're here to listen to you confidentially, pray with you, and give you additional words of encouragement to live a life free of guilt.