There is only one foreseeable reason guilt can be a good thing—it causes us to repent. For one moment it becomes the ally of God, compelling us to turn back from the path leading to ruin and back onto a path destined for God.
But other than that one reason, guilt has no part in the life of the servant of God.
That’s not to say that it doesn’t have a part, for many of us struggle with guilt for one reason or many. Guilt for past transgressions, or for future lamentations, and guilt for reasons we do not know; all these come abounding in the name of the wrong motive.
Whenever we are motivated by guilt, a worthless emotion compels us forward.
Whenever we are ambushed by guilt, a troublesome thinking pattern emerges.
And whenever we languish in guilt, it provides the motivation to act. And any such action will not, ultimately, go well for us or for those related. Guilt is not love, no matter how we dress it up.
Show us a better way, Lord, we pray
Because we are so prone to darkness that is worlds beneath our consciousness, we are given to guilt much more readily than we hope or can help. Some have more problems with guilt than others. Some have more reason. But overall, we all struggle.
If we pray to God, asking for God to heal us of our feelings for guilt, we can, somehow, hope that God might replace these feelings of guilt with love that acts appropriately.
What must come with our prayers, however, is the courage to do what we can. Doing what we can will involve repenting. Are we to feel guilty for feeling guilty? No, not really. But it is still a sin to allow ourselves to fall into guilt’s trap.
Perhaps we have been lulled there. Now, no longer. We are shown a better way. Repent and be done with the guilt, once and for all, and when it comes back, we repent again.
We ask God for the better way. In faith we know there is always a better way than guilt. That better way is love. Guilt is merely a fabrication, a counterfeit, of love.
Guilt has no part in our flourishing lives. It can only hold us back. Best we deal with it—turning it over to God—allowing the grace of God to relieve us of it. Then we can love, freely and abundantly.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.