Understanding Guilt and Guilt Feelings

Guilt is an objective state—it occurs when we have indeed done something wrong. It’s factual and absolute, independent of how we feel about it. God’s law, which reflects His holy standards, delineates what is sinful, and when we transgress this law, we incur guilt.

Guilt feelings, however, are subjective. They are our emotional responses to guilt, and they can sometimes mislead us. We might feel guilty when we are not, or we might not feel guilty when we are. This dissonance can lead to confusion, unnecessary suffering, or even a hardened heart, as feelings become desensitized through repeated sin.

The Gospel’s Power Over Guilt

The Gospel offers us a powerful solution to guilt: confession and forgiveness. As John writes, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). This promise assures us that when we bring our sins before God, acknowledging our wrongs, He forgives us. This forgiveness is not based on our feelings but on the truth of Christ’s sacrifice.

Dealing with Persistent Guilt Feelings

Even after receiving forgiveness, guilt feelings can linger. These feelings, while no longer indicative of our actual standing before God, can serve a purpose. They can lead to what the Bible calls “godly sorrow,” which produces repentance—a change of mind and behavior that leads to spiritual growth and maturity. However, it’s important to eventually release these feelings, trusting in the complete redemption Christ offers.

Speaking Truth to Ourselves

In moments of doubt and self-reproach, we must learn to speak truth to ourselves. Remind yourself of who you are in Christ: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). This self-dialogue is crucial because it reinforces the truths of the Gospel, countering the lies and accusations of the enemy.

Living in the Light of Forgiveness

As forgiven people, we are called to live in the light of this truth. This doesn’t mean our actions won’t have consequences, but it does mean we can face these consequences with God on our side, knowing that He is with us and for us. Like Hagar, we can be assured that God sees us, hears us, and has a plan for us—a plan marked by hope and redemption.

Conclusion: Embracing Forgiveness and Moving Forward

Let us embrace the forgiveness we have in Christ and move forward, doing the next right thing as a response to His grace. Let us live not dictated by our feelings but guided by the truth of God’s Word. Today, as we reflect on the truths of the Gospel, let us recommit to living in the freedom and joy of our forgiveness, carrying out our duties faithfully, trusting that God meets us where we are but does not leave us where we were.