I. How to deal with guilt
1) Identify the problem
First, we must ask and answer these questions: “What is wrong with me? What do I feel guilty about? What do I regret? What do I feel remorseful about? What are the faults in my life that I know need changing? What are the things I consciously feel guilty about, and what are the things I unconsciously feel guilty about that I don’t know about but are messing up my life?”
You have to approach this step with this attitude – “I’m going to be dead honest, quit pretending, I’m going to lay out what’s wrong with my life!” You can’t just say, “God, I’ve blown it in life.” Of course you have! We all know that. We’ve all blown it in life!
As you analyze yourself, you must be ruthlessly honest with yourself – no more pretending – be specific! This helps you to face reality, and helps you stop denying problems in your life.
Open your heart and mind to God and let Him reveal what you need to see: Psalm 139:23–24: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test my thoughts. Point out anything you find in me that makes you sad and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” TLB
As you begin to see the truth about yourself, you can rely fully upon God’s grace, knowing that He has forgiven you – no matter what you have done.
2) Accept responsibility for your faults
Proverbs 20:27 – “The Lord gave us a mind and a conscious. We cannot hide from ourselves.” GNT You will never have inward peace or tranquility, until you accept responsibility for your actions and deal with your guilt. To do this we need to:
Be radically honest: We ourselves are generally the greatest barrier or holdup to the healing of our own hurts, hang-ups, and habits. That’s why our healing starts with us being radically honest and saying, “I’m the problem – I accept responsibility for my faults!”
We can’t keep saying, “If I just change relationships, just change jobs, or just change towns, just change locations, then everything will be fine. The only problem is, wherever I go, there I am. And I keep messing it up.”
Don’t rationalize: We can’t keep saying, “It happened a long time ago” or, “It’s just a stage” or, “Everybody does it.” We need to be honest and face the truth about ourselves. Don’t minimize it, or say “It’s no big deal.” If it’s no big deal how come you still remember it twenty years later?
“Rationalize = rational lies!” That means telling your mouth and head what your heart knows is wrong. Just admit you messed up!
Don’t blame others: We blame others by saying, “It was mostly their fault.” It may have been mostly their fault, but God holds us responsible for whatever part is our fault. It’s time to stand tall and accept responsibility for our part in our life’s problems.
Don’t deceive yourself: We just need to admit where we messed up. What are you pretending to not feel guilty about? Don’t you think it’s time to finally deal with it and get over with it so you can get on with your life? Don’t you think it’s time to say: “Yes, that’s me—the good, the bad, and the ugly. I accept responsibility for my faults.”
“If you really want to stop defeating yourself, you have got to stop deceiving yourself, and pretending that it’s everybody else’s fault – when the issue is really you.”
Special note: If you have been physically or sexually abused as a child or adult, I want you to know that I am sorry that you suffered through that abuse. There is no way I can know the pain it caused you. When you start writing down your list of wrongs, simply put the words “NOT GUILTY” for the abuse that was done to you. No part of that sin committed against you was your fault. Renounce the lie that the abuse was your fault. Do take responsibility for how you may have hurt others because of your reactions to your past abuse.
3) Admit you messed up
1 John 1:8 – “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” NKJV If we say we haven’t sinned, we are living in a world of illusion!
4) Ask God for forgiveness
The basis for forgiveness is not how good or bad you’ve been. The basis for forgiveness is God’s nature. He cannot lie, and if He says He will forgive you, then He will forgive you.
The only sin God can’t forgive is the one that is not confessed: 1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” NKJV
A woman came in to see her preacher and said, “I’m depressed. I’ve been in bed for weeks, and I no longer have the energy to get out of bed and live.”
Sensing her deep pain, the preacher asked her, “Is there something in your life you really regret?”
She began to pour it out. “Yes. My husband travels. I had an affair and got pregnant and had an abortion. I have never told my husband about it.”
The preacher shared God’s promise that no matter what we have done, God can forgive us. Distressed, she replied, “It just doesn’t seem fair. Somebody’s got to pay for my sin!”
“Somebody already has,” the preacher assured her. “His name is Jesus Christ. That’s why He died on the cross. He died for that sin and every other one you’ve committed and confessed and ones you’re going to commit.”
She cried and asked, “How do I ask God for His forgiveness?”
II. How not to get forgiveness from God
Don’t beg: You don’t have to beg God to forgive you. He already wants to forgive you. God wants to forgive you more than you want to ask for forgiveness, because He is a forgiving God.
Psalm 86:5 – “O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help.” NLT
Don’t bargain: Don’t say, “If You’ll just forgive me, I’ll never do this again.” You don’t have to bargain with God to get His forgiveness. You don’t have to make deals with God.
Don’t bribe: Don’t say, “God if You’ll forgive me, I promise to do a bunch of good things. I’ll go to church, I’ll do this or that…”
III. How to get forgiveness from God
We must confess our sins to God and ask for forgiveness! To admit or to confess means to “speak the same thing” about your sin that God says about it! We must say, “God, You’re right. What I did or am still doing is wrong.”
Confession means agreeing with God: Psalm 32:5 – “Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.” NLT
God wants us to come clean and admit that wrong is wrong, that we are “guilty as charged.” He wants us to “own up” to our sins. For the person who confesses, shame is over and realities have begun.
Proverbs 28:13 – “You will never succeed in life if you try to hide your sins. Confess them and give them up, then God will show mercy to you.” (GNB)
Many of us are reluctant to tell God the truth. We may want to pretend that God doesn’t know about our faults. We may not want to confess our sins to God because we don’t know how God could love someone who behaves as we do.
We may try to convince ourselves that we can bury our wrongs and never have to admit them. But sooner or later we will have to face the fact that dishonesty does not work to our advantage – that we eventually pay a high price for our self-deceit.
Our guilt cannot change the past just like worry cannot change the future – it just makes you sick and miserable today. But there is something about confession, about lining ourselves up with the truth of God, about repenting and turning away from sinful actions and attitudes that straightens us out. “Pain is inevitable for all of us, but misery is optional.” When we admit our wrongs to God, a great weight is lifted.
If you ask me to sum up the benefits of this choice in one sentence it would be this: “In confession we open our lives to the healing, reconciling, restoring, uplifting grace of Jesus Christ who loves us in spite of ourselves.”
You say, “I could never be forgiven for what I’ve done, I’ve gone too far, I’ve sinned too much, there is no hope for me, there is no way that God could ever love me or forgive me.”
You’re wrong! There is no sin too bad, too dark, too great, or too shocking, that God can’t and won’t forgive, every single time! If we can truly repent, God will surely forgive no matter what!
Isaiah 1:18 – “Come, let’s talk this over, says the Lord; no matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can take it out and make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. Even if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you white as wool!” TLB
IV. How does God forgive
God forgives instantly: He doesn’t wait. The moment we confess, we’re forgiven. It’s done. He never makes us wait or suffer for a while. He loves us way too much. Humans do that, but God doesn’t: Micah 7:18 – “Once again you will have compassion on us. You will trample our sins under your feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean!” NLT
God forgives freely: When we freely admit that we have sinned, we find God utterly reliable. He forgives our sin and makes us thoroughly clean from all that is evil. He freely takes away our sins. We don’t deserve it; we can’t earn it; we can’t work for it – it’s free:
Romans 3:23-24: “Everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s glorious standard, and all need to be made right with God by his grace, which is a free gift. They need to be made free from sin through Jesus Christ.” NCV
He forgives completely: God’s forgiveness is not in stages; it is not partial; it is absolutely complete. When God forgives, He wipes the slate clean and makes it like we have never done anything wrong: Romans 8:1 – “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus…” NKJV
Is there any sin in your life you haven’t confessed that is causing you to have a guilty conscience? The good news today is that you can be free of guilt – you don’t have to live with that burden any longer. Open your heart to God with honesty, no deceit, sham or make-believe.
Acknowledge your sin, confess it before God, and see it as God sees it. Turn from it, and avoid it at all costs. Bring it out in the open before Him, and renounce it. Then believe it when He says you are forgiven! Hebrews 8:12 – “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” NLT
Every Christian has suffered from the guilt that comes after sin, but the blood of Jesus covers every sin – every single time! Don’t let guilt drag you down after you have been forgiven. Accept God’s forgiveness, forgive yourself, and live with a clean, forgiven conscience!
Many of us have learned to respond to our own failures, shortcomings, and wrongs with judgment and shame. Now we have an opportunity to show mercy to ourselves, and to face our failures with the same compassion that God extends to us. “Is it possible that all the horrible things you’ve done have been forgotten by everyone – except yourself?”
God hates our sin, but He loves us even more than He hates our sin. So, if there is anything from the past that you may still be carrying, take a moment and call on His faithfulness, call on His mercy, ask for His forgiveness. Let Him refresh and restore your soul right now.
Then praise Him and thank Him for the work He is doing in your life and enjoy a fresh new beginning today! Somewhere, sometime, somehow you got tangled up in garbage, and you’ve been avoiding God. You’ve allowed a veil of guilt to come between you and your Father.
You wonder if you could ever feel close to God again. God is not avoiding you. God is not resisting you. The door is open, and God invites you in. Besides, “the softest pillow you will ever sleep on is a clear conscience!”
God’s mercies are new every morning. He’s not ever going to run out of compassion. He’s not ever going to run out of forgiveness. He’s not ever going to say, “Well, this is the last time I’m going to give you mercy.”
You can have a new beginning every single day! Lamentations 3:22-23: “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning.” NLT