you choose Q: how do I deal with the guilt of my past?
Q: How do I deal with the guilt of my past? —Shellie
A: You’ve asked how you can deal with the guilt of your past, presumably due to some sin—something you regret. Perhaps you feel entrapped by these memories.
Jesus assured us that “every sin can be forgiven” (Matthew 12:31). If you have confessed and repented, God will forgive you (1 John 1:9), for “the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Though you’re completely forgiven, you may still have to bear the consequences of your wrong. And it’s only natural that you experience guilt and remorse when you think of the harm and pain you’ve inflicted on others.
Spiritual giants like Moses, David, Peter, and Paul had great faith and did great things for God. But they also failed significantly and committed great sins. Moses murdered an Egyptian that made him a fugitive (Exodus 2:12-15). David lusted and committed adultery with a married woman, lied and covered-up the adultery, and had her husband killed (2 Samuel 11-12). Peter denied Christ three times (Matthew 26:69-75) after assuring Jesus that he would never do it! (Matthew 26:34-35). Paul mercilessly persecuted Christians, imprisoned and tortured them, and caused their deaths (Acts 8:1-3, 9:1-2, 22:3-4).
When confronted with their sins, each of these men repented. Peter “wept bitterly” (Matthew 26:75). David confessed and embraced God’s mercy and grace, crying out, “Have mercy on me, O God, because of Your unfailing love. Because of Your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Against You, and You alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in Your sight” (Psalm 51:1-4).
We wonder how they must have felt when memories of their actions came back to haunt them, when they thought of their failures and sins. Paul certainly didn’t forget his past sins, branding himself as the “worst of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). But he did not let his failure prevent him from moving forward. He moved from being the great persecutor of the Church to being the great preacher of the Church.
Instead of feeling entrapped by the past, Paul chose to remember and celebrate God’s forgiveness and grace: “But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out His special favor on me” (1 Corinthians 15:10).
And God will do for you what He did for Paul: “But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of His great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in Him and receive eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:16). If Paul, the great persecutor of the Church, the “worst of sinners” had the guilt of his great sins taken away, there is great hope for all of us. And for you!
We need to dwell on God’s grace, not on our guilt! David did just that:
“May I never forget the good things He does for me. He forgives all my sins. The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. For His unfailing love toward those who fear Him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. The Lord is like a father to His children, tender and compassionate to those who fear Him. For He knows how weak we are; He remembers we are only dust” (Psalm 103:2-3, 8-14).
We will always feel some level of remorse and sorrow over the sinful things we have done in our past, but our focus should not be on how bad we are, but on how remarkable the mercy and forgiveness of God is.
I hope these thoughts have been helpful to you.
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