How Do You Handle Guilt
“How do I handle the guilt of having lived in
adultery for twenty years?” a woman asked me.
First, I led her to the Lord. Then I assured her that
the past was forgotten, just as if she had never sinned.
The blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7).
The moment we receive Him, we start a new life. Our
past is never remembered again.
God has promised, “Their sins and their iniquities
will I remember no more” (Heb. 8:12). It is often said
that God casts our sins into the sea of His forgetfulness
and puts up a sign: “No fishing allowed.”
However, Satan can use guilt feelings to rob us of
our joy and effectiveness for Christ. Often he brings to
our remembrance the past with all its ugliness. To
overcome this assault, we must have full assurance
that we have been forgiven of our sin (the promise of 1
John 1:9). Then we must dwell with Christ in daily
communion, constantly aware of His glory and the joy
of knowing that He wants to use us in spite of our past.
Having received forgiveness in Christ, we must next
forgive ourselves for our failures. This is what I believe
the apostle Paul was thinking when he wrote, “forgetting
those things which are behind, and reaching forth
unto those things which are before” (Phil. 3:13).
I picture Paul sitting down one day and, in a state of
despair, declaring, “I am the worst of sinners.” Then
the Holy Spirit whispers, “Forget those things which
are behind. You did your best. You did all that you
could do, and God knows all about it, so forget all the
things which are behind you. Press toward the mark
for the prize of the high calling of Christ” (see Phil.
The Holy Spirit makes the same statement to us
today. Do all that you can now and leave the rest with
the Lord. Look toward the future.
Our thought processes can work to our advantage
or to our disadvantage. I believe that “Gird up the
loins of your mind” (1 Pet. 1:13) means don’t allow
yourself to look back, especially on failure and on the
sins for which you have been forgiven. Think on those
things that edify the soul. Philippians 4:8 expresses
beautifully the kinds of thoughts that should fill the
minds of Christians: things that are true, honest, just,
pure, lovely, and of good report.
It is very hard for me to reflect on my life. I have
found it much healthier to look ahead, reflecting only
long enough to say “Thank you, Lord.” I never
wallow in guilt, even for two minutes. I will not allow my
mind to do that.
I learned to control my thoughts at a very young
age. After singing in church one night, I was angry
with myself because I thought I had done a bad job.
My brother Bob asked, “Did you do your best?”
“Yes, I did,” I answered.
He simply said, “Well?”
“Thank you, Bob,” I replied.
That lesson stuck with me. During the first year of
our ministry, I fought those angry feelings when I
didn’t do a good job. The Holy Spirit seemed to speak
to me as Bob had done.
“Did you do your best?”
I realized that although I might not do a superb job
every night, I could do my best… and that’s all that is
Each of us struggles with personal failure.
Remember Paul’s frustration in Romans 7? The things he
wanted to do, he didn’t do. The things he didn’t want
to do, he ended up doing. That is also true in my life. I
echo his cry, “O wretched man that I am! who shall
deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God
through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 7:24,25).
You may feel guilty over a son or daughter who has
strayed away from God. Don’t condemn yourself by
asking, “Where did I go wrong?” Did you do your best
in rearing him or her for Christ? Then claim the promise
of Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he
should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from
it.” Don’t spend the rest of your days in regret. Rather,
seek God’s guidance in helping your child now.
Forget the past and let your love and concern show
through your prayers to the God who cares. Hands
off — God is at work!
We will never be perfect in this life, but it’s good to
know we have been forgiven — not only for our past
sins, but also for our daily shortcomings and the
weaknesses that will cause us to fall short of the glory
of God throughout life on earth.
Think of it! We are forgiven… past, present, and
future! “There is therefore now no condemnation to
them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the
flesh, but after the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1).
No condemnation! And no guilt!