This past week I have been thinking about guilt – no I don’t have a guilty conscience! A friend asked for my thoughts for a presentation she is putting together. When I was little I used to be terrified of doing something wrong and being arrested – irrationally so. I remember walking with my friend’s parents and they wanted to cross the schools playfields. A sign on the fenced said ‘Trespassers Prosecuted’. I was beside myself with fear that we would all end up in prison. In school when the headmistresses demanded the girl who pushed the old lady on bus no 27 come forward and confess I wanted to cry ‘Yes it was me’, even though I walked home from school and didn’t take the bus.
I always thought my over tuned sense of guilt was a bad thing, but looking in the bible I find that guilt is God given. Guilt is not meant to be a punishment in itself – God is not saying ‘Oh you did wrong, not let me watch you squirm’. Guilt is designed to turn us back to him in repentance so that we can find forgiveness.
Psalms 38:4-18 My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear. 5 My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly. 6 I am bowed down and brought very low; all day long I go about mourning….18 I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.
Guilt is designed to drive us to our knees in confession and repentance – it is meant to be a place of transition, not a place to wallow and fester. So perhaps it is a sign I am growing old (other than the gray hairs!), but I am growing to love guilt. Not loving the feeling of guilt but loving the gift of guilt.
John 16:8 When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment:
Thank you God that you love us enough not to leave us in our sin, but that you guide us by your Spirit back to you again and again for forgiveness.