As you consider guilt, remember King David in the Old Testament. David's sins included adultery, lying, and murder. God forgave him for these sins because David had a truly repentant heart. God forgives any sinner with a truly repentant heart. Isaiah says," Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow (1:8)."
Many Christians struggle with false guilt. The best way to overcome false guilt is to understand it for what it really is. The more you grow to understand the grace of God, the more you will see that Christ followers have no right to condemn themselves. When you condemn yourself, you are trying to do God's job.
Here are three practical steps to handling guilt as recommended by Minirth Meier New Life Family Resource.
1. Practice regular moral self-examination and confession. This practice of accountability and confession goes back to the foundation of the early church in Acts.
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; According to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
This is a powerful prayer offered by King David as confessed his sins of adultery and murder. As you pray this prayer, you not only admit your sins to God, but also admit your sins to yourself. God also instructs us to confess our sins to another trustworthy Christian. This process penetrates denial; you will understand yourself and your weakness better. This also works to guard us from future sin. In addition, as you share your deep secrets with a trusted individual, guilt will begin to dissolve, allowing healing to take place. Through the acceptance of trusted friend—to whom you have confessed your sins—you receive tangible evidence of God's love and forgiveness of your sin. This brings the blessing of relief and release from the guilt feelings.
Are there consequences to sin? Yes. Keep in mind that God has forgiven you, but the consequences of your sin live on, even after your confession and forgiveness. This is the principle of sowing and reap found in God's Word. Paul, in the letter to the Galatians says, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows that will he also reap (6:7).”
2. Make amends to those we hurt
Making amends means saying, "I am sorry." It also means repentance and restoration (when possible) of what you have taken as the result of your sins and mistakes. For example, if you lied to someone, you would need to set the record straight with the one you lied to and commit yourself to a lifestyle of honesty and truth. Be sensitive to God’s leading in deciding how to make amends; there are times when making amends is not a good idea. If making amends will lead you back into a situation of temptation and endanger your recovery or if it re-injures the other party, then it is better not to make amends to other person. Seek counsel in difficult situations rather than rushing into action.
3. Embrace a new lifestyle that avoids guilt
If there are things in your life that are continual stumbling blocks, leading you back to sin and guilt, you need to make the decision to turn your back on those stumbling blocks. The Lord's Prayer In part says "and lead us not into temptation, but deliver from evil…" Renew your commitment to a life of total integrity, uncompromising truth, extravagant unconditional love, and cheerful forgiveness. Commit to offering immediate apologies and making amends where possible. This will naturally lead to experiencing less guilty feelings in your life.
So there is a light at the end of the guilt tunnel. The good news is you don’t have to carry it; you only have to confess your guilt to our Heavenly Father, and He will remove it from your shoulders. God did not create us to carry a guilt burden with us all the time and we need to learn to deal with it his way so it doesn’t make us miserable and unproductive. I pray that you will turn your guilt over to God and find peace in your life.