How to Cope When Riddled with Guilt
If what hounds you is not past sin but idiotic blunders, see Christian Help When Haunted by One’s Stupid Mistakes for compassionate support. Otherwise, please keep reading.
As certain as it is that, like Jesus himself, his true followers will suffer temptation, so none of us can be a true Christian for long without suffering condemnation, feeling unforgivable, being hounded by strong guilt feelings, fearing we’ll end up in hell, or feeling unable to forgive ourselves.
This is so inevitable and so bewildering – and for some of us even terrifying – that I would be letting Christians down had I not written extensively on this subject. You deserve the delight of knowing that God’s approving smile upon you.
Nevertheless, it is vital to grasp that no matter how devastatingly real and intense the feeling, there is a vast difference between merely feeling guilty and actually being guilty. Likewise, there is a vast difference between having sinned in the past (no matter how recent or distant) and being rendered totally sinless in the eyes of God. Spiritual peace is not about lack of inner turmoil but about refusing to accept the turmoil as a genuine reason for concern and instead choosing to put all our faith in the pronouncements of the Holy Judge of all humanity.
In the wilderness Jesus defeated the devil’s attempt to twist Scripture, not by examining every theological argument about the disputed Scripture, but simply by holding on to another Scripture whose meaning was clear. Seeing that Jesus was resolute in clinging to that Scripture, the devil left him, “for a season,” or as the NIV puts it, “until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13).
We can expect no more than Jesus received. If you are resolute in holding on to Scripture’s affirmation that forgiveness and eternal life are available to everyone who seeks it through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, the devil might eventually leave you – but only for a while.
When you least expect it, wham! he’ll be back again, pouring on all the doubt and guilt and condemnation and emptiness and feelings that God has abandoned you – every powerfully convincing, deceptive feeling he can possibly muster.
Salvation is through faith and this satanic attack is your opportunity to shine, by proving that your faith is in Jesus and not in deceptively powerful feelings that are inconsistent with the Word of God and with the heart of God. The devil is a loser because every time he attacks and you resist, your faith grows stronger. And faith is of infinite and eternal value.
1 John 3:19-20 This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.