Ever since I can remember, I’ve struggled with overwhelming guilt.
One of the earliest instances I can recall is when I was in elementary school, probably around 3rd or 4th grade. There was a rule in the cafeteria that we weren’t allowed to share food. If I had to guess, it most likely had to do with food allergy concerns. One day, I secretly shared a marshmallow with someone. It wasn’t even one of those regular sized ones, it was a mini marshmallow probably one third the size of my finger. Regardless, I felt so guilty about it. I let the guilt eat away inside of me for two days before I finally broke. Crying, I called my dad into my room and told him what had happened. He said it was okay and that I had nothing to worry about. After that, I felt a little better, but it took a while for me to move on.
Looking back on it now, my obsession over sharing a marshmallow was absolutely ridiculous. However, at the time it felt real and serious. I felt like what I did was unforgivable and I let anxiety get the best of me.
Many times, the person most difficult to forgive is ourselves.
There have been so many more occurrences like the marshmallow incident and each time, even after I had suffered the worldly consequences of my actions and everyone involved had forgiven me, I still felt the guilt of my sin. I would even pray and ask for forgiveness, but I would still feel ashamed.
Right now, I am stuck in one of those times. Sin has crept into my life and even though I have already suffered the consequences and been granted forgiveness, I still feel the need to punish myself for my actions.
Overwhelming guilt is evidence of a problem with accepting God’s grace and forgiveness.
Time and time again we are told that we are saved by God’s grace when we repent. He immediately forgives when we ask. In 1 John chapter 1 verse 9 it says:
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
In this verse, it says we are purified when we confess our sins. It doesn’t say that we will be on good terms with God, or that maybe He will let it slide. We are given a clean slate as soon as we repent, any time that we repent and for any sin we commit.
So what’s stopping you from accepting God’s grace?
There’s a few different things that might be holding you back:
You might not believe that you are worthy of His grace and forgiveness.
I know I struggle with this concept immensely. Often times, I find myself thinking, “well God may have forgiven them but He would never forgive me.” It’s easy for me to believe that God will forgive others but I have a hard time believing it for myself. If this is what’s stopping you from accepting God’s grace, take a look at Ephesians 2:8-9:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
This passage explains that we are saved by God’s grace and not by our own doings, meaning no one is deserving. So you might be thinking, “Okay, so that still doesn’t make me believe that I’m worthy of His grace, it just further supports my belief about being undeserving.” But if you think about it, no one is deserving, but you believe that your friends are forgiven, then so are you. None of us deserve to be forgiven, yet we are because we are loved by Christ.
You might not believe that God’s grace is sufficient.
Sometimes, its hard to believe that we can just repent and be given a clean slate. So many times in the Bible it talks about doing good works for the kingdom of God. It’s easy to fixate on those passages and get caught up in the lie that we have to earn our way into heaven. In order to debunk that lie, lets go back and look at Ephesians 2:8-9. It says that you are not saved by “your own doing,” but by grace through faith alone.
Another relevant scripture is Matthew 7:21-23. It says:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”
At first glance, this seems pretty harsh. Honestly, it is. After all, it describes a situation in which people get turned away from heaven. You might even think that this passage, once again, contradicts the point I’m trying to make here. It looks like no matter what those people did, they still weren’t saved. However, Jesus’ point of saying this is to reveal that acts don’t mean anything when it comes to salvation. Even after these individuals did things that made them look like good Christians, Jesus turned them away because of the state of their heart. If you are saved by Jesus and have accepted His grace in your life, you are saved. Nothing you do or don’t do can change that.
You might feel that you haven’t received appropriate punishment for what you did.
I often try to punish myself for my sins all the time. If I feel like I haven’t suffered enough consequences for my actions, so I tend to not accept God’s grace until I think I’ve received fair punishment. Looking at it from an outsiders perspective, however, that is a really silly way of thinking. The only fair punishment for sin is death, which Jesus suffered in our place. There may be worldly consequences for our actions, but we will never have to endure fair punishment because of Jesus.
Satan likes to take a hold of us using guilt. He twists the truth and condemns us, and its so easy to fall into his trap. Allow God’s grace to save you. Accept His forgiveness and truth. Let him purify you.
Scripture referenced in this post:
1 John 1:9
Additional verses about guilt and forgiveness:
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”
I’ve been meaning to post something about the current events of today. Although I haven’t said anything, I care immensely for my POC brothers and sisters in Christ. I haven’t forgotten about you. Currently, I am looking for the right words to say. For now, I will simply say that I hear you, I support you, and I love you. Please stay safe and stand by one another. Together in Christ, we will prevail.