I was reading this morning in Genesis about that fateful day when Adam and Eve ate that forbidden, tempting fruit. The day the agonizing guilt immediately rushed in and caused them to hide from the One Who made them. That’s what sin does. That’s what guilt and condemnation do. That’s what the enemy wants. He’s after our intimacy with God because he knows that’s where our life is made complete. That’s where we find our significance, our hope, our strength and our meaning. Guilt left unattended destroys because it sends us running in the wrong direction. How many people stand stranded in their lives because guilt has taken its toll? How many sit in church pews untouched and unmoved because guilt has separated and destroyed true intimacy? It may not even be something we have done, but it may be false guilt and constant accusations in our minds. How many are exhausted and missing true passion because guilt has sucked them dry?
I’m guessing millions. That’s the enemy’s plan. It says in Revelation 12:10 that he is the accuser of the brethren. He accuses and we listen – but we don’t have to because of the Cross. If we have decided to live according to God’s Kingdom through repenting of our own way, we have an Advocate. I John 2:1 says that Jesus is our Advocate and I’d say He’s a good one. He sees us clearly and knows us intimately. He’s the smartest man who ever lived and can see through every lie the enemy speaks. The enemy wants to separate us from our Advocate and not allow us to hear God clearly. He wants us to listen to his lies instead. If we constantly live in guilt, we will never be able to move forward in our relationship with God. Sometimes the guilt is more of a nagging feeling in the back of our mind and sometimes it’s in the forefront of our thoughts, but if we don’t deal with it, it will steal our joy and our life.
That day that Adam and Eve sinned, their shame sent them into hiding but God found them. He’s always seeking people. He’s not just sitting there watching – He’s looking and not only that – He has a plan. He covered them with animal skins but He had already set a grand plan in motion. One that would eradicate sin, tear down the wall of guilt, shame and sin and restore relationship with His people once again. He wasn’t willing to leave us separated from Himself and He went to great lengths to make a way for us to be near. The thing is, anyone who has been around the church for any length of time knows this, but from my own experience and the stories of others, I would venture to say that a whole lot of us walk around under a heavy load that we were not meant to carry. Guilt and condemnation that is not dealt with will always steal something valuable from us. Always – because that’s what it’s meant to do. Conviction from God will always lead us TO Him. Guilt and condemnation will cause us to hide and avoid Him.
For many years, I felt guilty about everything. Sometimes I didn’t know what I even felt guilty about, but just a vague sense of being guilty about SOMETHING. I wore guilt all the time because I didn’t recognize where it was coming from. I talked to God about a lot of things, but never that. It was a little too close to my heart. I buried it, but the guilt affected everything. I didn’t want to voice it – it was something deep that I carried with me everywhere. The accusations were many, “You’re a bad mom, a bad sister, a bad wife, a bad daughter, a bad friend.” “You’re not praying enough, spending enough time with God, doing enough, being enough.” “You’re not pretty enough, thin enough, happy enough, vibrant enough, fun enough.” “You’re not friendly enough or outgoing enough.” “You’re not patient enough, kind enough, loving enough.” “You are not enough.”
Most people who knew me would have had no idea that this is what I lived under. In fact, to be honest even I had no idea what I was living under until God came to that place and changed everything. The enemy tries to come in with new accusations, but now I know what it feels like to be free from it, so I can detect it a lot easier. Like I said, it was way below the surface. When we live under this though, it steals the very life from us because we are not meant to carry it. It makes us oversensitive to criticism. Have you ever responded strongly to someone just suggesting you do something differently? It makes us take every little comment as an accusation. Do you take things the wrong way often? It makes us unable to receive love. Have you ever had a vague sense of being unloved even though you are told you are? It makes us depressed. Have you ever felt depressed for no apparant reason? It makes it hard to connect with God on a heart level. Have you ever felt just vaguely far from Him even though you have no known sin you are hanging onto, but you just can’t seem to connect in general? It makes us inwardly exhausted. We are heart heavy. Have you ever felt inwardly exhausted for no reason that you can see? False guilt could be plaguing you. There is another word for this false guilt – condemnation.
Conemnation means the expression of very strong disapproval. It also means censure. Of course the enemy would use this as a tactic in our lives. If we feel that God has a strong general feeling of disapproval for us, we will never run to Him. Never. It just won’t happen. This is why when His love is revealed to our hearts, we come running. We can’t resist Him. We were made for Him. His perfect love casts our fear. Fear of disapproval, fear of rejection, fear of failure and fear of censure by the one Who made us. This One Who seeks us, loves us beyond what we could ever know. He sees our strengths, our weaknesses and our sins, yet He still seeks us and desires us for Himself. The one thing that can separate us is sin and He destroyed that barrier through the Cross. Sin can’t stand for a moment against the Cross. Romans 8:1 says, “There is now NO CONDEMNATION for those who belong to Christ Jesus. This means, if you are His, condemnation isn’t for you. You don’t have to live under it anymore because it’s not from Him. Conviction – yes. Condemnation – no. Conviction means we are guilty of an offense. Conviction will lead us to the Cross, repentance and back to Him.
I once heard an amazing illustration. There was a man visiting a foreign country. He was with his guide and noticed that a man was walking behind a herd of sheep. He was beating them, driving them from behind and treating them harshly. The man was perplexed because he had seen shepherds earlier who seemed to treat the sheep quite differently. The shepherds would gently lead the sheep and speak softly to them. The man asked the guide what the difference between the shepherds was. The guide responded, “Oh, that is not a shepherd that you see, that is a butcher and the sheep are on their way to be slaughtered.” That little illustration has brought so much clarity to me. It has helped me to distinguish between condemnation and conviction more easily. False guilt and condemnation are vague, life stealing and put up barriers. Conviction is direct, life giving and causes us to run Who can make us whole.
Usually the last thing we want to do when we feel guilt and condemnation is to go to One who can free us. Is it any wonder that the enemy loves it when we live under this? We may still go to Him, but we leave the place where we feel the condemnation and guilt untouched. I am learning that those are the places that I need to bring to Him the most. When I do, He exposes the lie and that area of my life is no longer subject to the lies of the enemy as easily.
The place I have seen Him do this most is in my mothering. I used to lay my tired head on my pillow every night and immediately there would be a run through of my day with highlights of all the ways I had failed as a mom. This could be anything from one of my children’s fingernails being too long, not playing with them enough, a temper tantrum from a kid deemed too old for that, all the way to mishandling a situation. These little movies that would play in my mind began to defeat me in my motherhood. I would wake up defeated and wondering how I would mess up that day and what kind of guilt would come that evening when I finally quieted down. Quiet time was filled with loud accusations in my mind. I honestly think that this is one reason why so many people have a hard time being still. An unhealthy heart that needs tending always becomes loud in the silence. Anyway, when God began to expose this for what it was, I found that I didn’t fear failure as much, I could enjoy my day and thank God for the growth I could see happening in both me and my children. Their failures didn’t tap into my guilt anymore, so I could respond correctly. When they wanted to talk to me about something that I was doing that was offensive to them, it no longer tapped into my ‘bad mom’ guilt and I could respond in a way that was healing instead of being defensive. I could hear what they were saying without all of the hidden lies being attached to the real issue. God wants to free us from condemnation so that we can walk in the wholeness and joy that He paid for.
What to do if you find yourself living out of guilt:
- Ask Him if there is any sin that you are holding close or unwilling to give up. If so, give it to Him and ask Him to forgive you. If it’s a sin that keeps coming up and you can’t seem to overcome 1)pray about talking to someone else who you trust. Sometimes, especially if it is a deep, hidden sin, when we open up about it, it loses its power over our lives. James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins to one another that you may be healed.” Confessing to another can bring healing to your heart. 2) Ask God why this particular sin has a hold on you. Sometimes there is a deeper heart work that God needs to do.
2. Ask God to show you what He thinks about you and to show you His heart for you.
3. Ask God to help you to be able to see the enemy’s lies clearly.
4. When you feel the familiar guilt, go straight to God with it instead of ignoring it or trying to process it on your own. He knows the source and He will show it to you as you wait on Him.
God, thank You that You know me completely. Thank You that You are a good God and that you paved the way for me to live completely free. Thank You that You know my deepest thoughts and they aren’t a mystery to You. Thank You that You, the God who made all things, have numbered the hairs on my head and that there is not a thought in my mind that You do not understand. Thank You that You are a God who is near and not far away and I can come to You even when I feel naked and ashamed whether as a result of my sin or as a result of false condemnation. You are a God Who covers my nakedness rather than exposes me. Thank You that I don’t have to feel guilty for not feeling the way that I am ‘supposed’ to, but that You want to bring true freedom to me. Thank You that You are my advocate and that Your love is higher than the heavens. I come to You now with my guilt and condemnation and give it to You. Please help me to see things as You do and be wise to the tricks and plans of the enemy. Thank You that you are fighting for my freedom and if I cling to You, I will find it.