By Chris WittsWednesday 21 Aug 2013Morning Devotions with Chris WittsUncategorizedReading Time: 0 minutes
The name Sarah Winchester may not mean anything to you,but in American history she is well known. By 19th century standards,she had everything going for her. She was very rich and influential with a $20 million inheritance and $1,000 a day in product royalties,and I’m talking about the late 1880’s. It was a lot of money back then. She had power and privilege,but she was very unhappy. It was said that as her wealth increased,so did her own personal misery. In 1866,Sarah gave birth to her only child,Annie,who lived only for 6 months. She was deeply traumatised over her daughter’s death,and became convinced her family was cursed and she started to withdraw from society. Fifteen years after that,her husband William died from tuberculosis. She sought the advice of a medium who said her family was cursed. Why did the medium say that? Simply because Sarah had married into a famous family – the Winchester family,that had invented the Winchester repeating rifle. It was a weapon that had been used to kill thousands of North American Indians and US Soldiers. The Winchester rifle is still known today as a widely recognised brand of rifle.
The medium told Sarah the spirits of those killed by the rifles had taken revenge on her daughter and husband. She advised her to build a large house and keep building. And so,that’s what she did. She bought a house in California and for the next 38 years,carpenters worked on the house 7 days a week,24 hours a day,building more rooms. Only when she died in 1922,did the building cease. On 6 acres of land,this mansion took place and although deserted,can still be seen today. It’s known as the Winchester Mystery House,with 12 bathrooms,160 rooms,and 2,000 doors.
Why did she do such a strange thing? One word = guilt. Driven by a soul-destroying sense of guilt,Sarah Winchester built her house in order to atone for the deaths of those killed by her husband’s rifle. Her rambling home for the dead was an effort to redeem her life,and get rid of the guilt that plagued her.
Guilt can be such a terrible thing. It eats away at the heart and soul and robs a person of their joy. One ancient playwright said “Nothing is more wretched than the mind of a man conscious of guilt”. Guilt and shame are closely connected emotions.
But what is guilt? Many authors have written about it,but I like what David Seamands says in his excellent book “Healing Grace” . He says “guilt is a form of mental and emotional pain we experience when we feel responsible for doing, or not doing,something which violates our personal moral standard”. There’s something inside us that knows when we’ve done something wrong. It might be a disturbed conscience or a sense of guilt. But it’s there nonetheless. One little 6 year old girl was asked “what is a conscience?” and she said “it’s the spot inside that burns if you’re not good”. We know what she meant. Guilt comes to us when we violate our own inner code of conduct which in effect says “you ought to be ashamed of yourself”.
It’s not healthy to hang onto our guilt. If we don’t deal with it,it will build up and build up – one guilty feeling on top of another every time we do something wrong. This can lead us to feel bad about ourselves and we often start to punish ourselves in different ways. I heard about a girl who was dieting and every time she would eat something that she wasn’t supposed to,she would punish herself by cutting out her next meal entirely! She was constantly telling herself that she was fat and ugly and this just made her more and more miserable. This is not a healthy way to live.
The good thing is that there is a way to deal with our feelings of guilt. It says in the Bible that if we turn to God,apologise for our sins and ask for forgiveness,that he will do just that. He will wipe our slate clean and our feelings of guilt will subside. Isn’t God amazing? If you’re struggling with guilty feelings today,don’t waste your life carrying them around with you – tell God how you are feeling and why. It says in the Bible at Acts 3:19 “Repent,then,and turn to God,so that your sins may be wiped out,that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”