Good and bad guilt - Hope 103.2

Good and bad guilt

By David ReayMonday 8 May 2017LifeWords DevotionalsFaithReading Time: 0 minutes


Read Psalm 32:1-5

1         Oh, what joy for those
              whose disobedience is forgiven,
              whose sin is put out of sight!
2         Yes, what joy for those
              whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt,
              whose lives are lived in complete honesty!
3         When I refused to confess my sin,
              my body wasted away,
              and I groaned all day long.
4         Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me.
              My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.

5         Finally, I confessed all my sins to you

              and stopped trying to hide my guilt.
           I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.”
              And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. (NLT)

There is good and bad guilt, true and false guilt. The bad sort of guilt comes about from us holding ourselves responsible for things which are not our fault. These guilt feelings are hard to deal with because they are based on false foundations. We can walk around with a deep sense of shame without there being good reason to do so.

Good guilt is when we recognise that we have in fact gone wrong; we face up to our failings. Not to do so is a lie which has consequences. Our psalmist discovered this when he refused to face his shortcomings. While we can be wrongly swamped by false guilt, we can also wrongly deny true guilt.

Yet even true moral guilt can be problematic if we don’t realise there is a remedy for it. I can be overcome by true guilt and feel there is no way out of it. As Lady Macbeth once famously said, the waters of the oceans could not wipe out the stain of her guilt.

There is no reason for us to believe that. We have a remedy for true guilt. Jesus took it on himself on the cross and if we trust in what he has done then we share his acceptability and not-guilty status before God.

We need to avoid loading ourselves up with false guilt. We need to avoid being overwhelmed by true guilt. Instead, guilt can be God’s way of pointing us to the mercy and grace available in Jesus.

David Reay

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