Guilt - Trusting God with the past: Part 1 - Hope 103.2

Guilt – Trusting God with the past: Part 1

Morning Devotions is for those curious about the Christian faith and who want to explore Christian issues that relate to their daily life.

By Chris WittsMonday 9 Dec 2013Morning Devotions with Chris WittsUncategorizedReading Time: 0 minutes


How often do you feel guilty about something?  If you had a piece of paper and a pen with you and wrote the words “I feel guilty when”…I feel guilty when I eat that second helping of desert…I hurt someone…I think a bad thought…I don’t do something I should…I do something I shouldn’t…I stay home from church…if I cheat on my income tax”.  Speaking of Income Tax,you may have heard the story of a man who wrote to the Taxation Department…”Dear Sirs,Enclosed you will find a cheque for $500.  I cheated on my income tax return last year and have not been able to sleep well ever since.  If I still have trouble sleeping,I will send you the rest.”

We have all felt guilty,haven’t we?  Guilt is universal and timeless – when we lie or cheat,we feel deeply guilty inside.  Even the most hardened criminals feel a pinch of guilt within them for doing something unethical.  As kids we were told we are “bad” because we stole or lied.  This conditioning stays in the mind.  Noel Coward,the famous playwright,pulled an interesting prank.  He sent an identical note to twenty of the most famous men in London.  The anonymous note read simply – “Everybody has found out what you are doing,  If I were you I would get out of town.”  Supposedly,all twenty men actually left town.

Does that mean we all have a guilty conscience? Many doctors say that unresolved guilt is the number one cause of mental illness and suicide.  Back in 1991,the psychologist,Roy Baumeister of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland,studied guilt and discovered that the average person spends approximately 2 hours a day feeling guilty.  And for 39 minutes of that time,people feel moderate to severe guilt.  But before we start to feel too depressed about that,guilt is like an electric fence that gives us a jolt when we begin to stray beyond our boundaries.  It send an alarm to wake us up that something needs our attention.  Like pain,guilt tells us when something is wrong. When you feel it,you don’t just sit there,you do something about it.  And that is constructive.  In our lives,there is sometimes that harmful guilt that comes from condemning comments from people in our past who we respected,or had a lot of control over us.  We may have had a parent,grandparent,a teacher,or a preacher tell us – “You’re no good…you will never amount to anything…God will never love you or forgive you because of what you’ve done or who you are.” People who constantly come under this type of critical condemnation will experience not only guilt,but also anger,depression and perhaps even self-destructive behaviour.

Others have experienced living in a home with an alcoholic.  Living with someone who has an addiction may lead our conscience to work overtime and cause us to try to take responsibility for,and feel guilty about,things over which we have no control.  It is a liberating day for a spouse or a child of an alcoholic,to be able to say about this problem – “I didn’t cause it.  I can’t control it.  I can’t sure it. It’s not my fault.”

There is another form of harmful guilt called “garbage guilt”. It was dumped on us by well-meaning parents or significant others when we were young.  We may have done it ourselves,to our children,with the very best of intentions.  Eg,A well-meaning Christian mother or grandmother may have told us to clean our plate because there are starving children in China.  And today,as adults,we may feel guilty if we leave any crumbs on our plate,though we may be overweight.  It seems strange,but it does happen.

Do you know the Bible is full of people who struggled with this thing called guilt?  You can read about it in many places in the Old and New Testaments.  Centuries before Christ,the Hebrew people offered to God,guilt offerings.  Look in Leviticus 5 – 7.  They felt they had failed in their covenant relationship with an almighty and powerful God.