Through muffled sobs on the living room floor, my friend confessed her affair. Silent tears slid down my own cheeks as she physically shook in my arms. It was heartbreaking, to say the least—but nothing compared to the immense beauty and pure magic of witnessing God do a redeeming work in her heart and marriage over the next several years. And though she humbly embraced forgiveness from both God and her husband, she still found herself wondering how to overcome the guilt she was feeling.
We’ve all done things we regret. We’ve gossiped and lied, betrayed and wounded. We’ve chosen the easier thing over the right thing, pleasure over holiness, and our own way over God’s. In a nutshell: We’ve all fallen short.
We feel guilty because we are guilty.
But God is so rich in love and mercy that, while we were still sinners, He made a way. Jesus left heaven and came to this dusty ground with the sole purpose of taking our place—paying our rightly deserved death penalty.
Our chains are gone, but our enemy doesn’t want us to remember that part. The devil, also known as the Accuser, continues to charge God’s people—just like he did in the old days—by holding us down in a never-ending shame cycle of blaming, pointing fingers, and repeated accusations.
You won’t change. You’re not really forgiven. You can’t come back from this—at least not completely. God won’t use you now. You’re contaminated. You’ll never be trustworthy again. Your life is ruined. You are nothing. You are guilty. End of story.
Satan loves to build his case upon half-truths. Though we are guilty, this unfortunate verdict isn’t the end of the story. The devil is the prosecutor in this world-sized courtroom, but God is the ultimate judge and Jesus is our defender.
When we touch a hot stove, we feel pain, which helps us steer clear of its danger. When we choose to sin, we feel guilt, which reveals a problem that can’t be fixed on its own. Guilt that brings conviction is good because it encourages us to turn away from that sinful choice and run to Jesus—the only one who can forgive sins. But guilt that brings condemnation is bad because it jumpstarts a paralyzing cycle of shame and hiding without a return to God’s path and without healing—the main goal of the Accuser.
When we allow “good guilt” to be a catalyst that nudges us to the foot of the cross, Jesus is faithful to cover and cleanse our contaminated selves with his precious blood—paid in full as the penalty for our infractions. We don’t deserve it, but that’s grace. He purifies our unclean hearts. God not only removes our sin, but He also frees us from guilt.
So how do we get our guilty feelings to match up with the truth—that we’ve been justified and forgiven? My same sweet friend who experienced the power of God’s restoration says, “We must saturate ourselves with the Word of God and surround ourselves with truth-speakers who can remind us who we are when we forget.”
We can’t recognize the enemy’s schemes unless we’re familiar with our Father’s voice. Surrounding ourselves with truth-speakers means doing life with other imperfect souls who are pursuing Christ and allowing Him to pursue them. People who will remind us: You made a mistake, but you are not a mistake. You are a child of God, made in His image, forgiven and loved, redeemed to bring Him glory. Our God is a God who restores and redeems His unworthy kids—the overarching theme of The Greatest Book on Earth.
When God looks at us, He sees Jesus—who separates our sin as far as the east is from the west. And when this happens, the Accuser’s charges are silenced.
We can stop feeling guilty because we are no longer guilty.