Guilt and regret are like a cancer that eats us up and destroys our hope and potential! They come as menacing scrutiny that stops us in our tracks and keeps us from being productive. They are a vicious trap from the devil to keep us captive in a hamster wheel of thoughts of failure and regret instead of reaching forth for the prize of the high calling of God.
But, how do we overcome guilt and regret?
We all have regrets. It is human. Because, as imperfect beings, we fail, we stumble, we make mistakes and we sin. However, there is NO reason to live with daily guilt and regret! I John 1:9 tells us that if we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive them and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Whatever it is that you cannot get out of your head; that thing that keeps replaying in your mind causing you heartache and grief, have you confessed it to God? Have you asked Him to forgive you? If not, do it. Go to Him right now.
Once you have confessed and asked for forgiveness you need to move on! God does not hold on to your transgressions to wield them over you later and neither should you. God is not petty like a human but is righteous and loving. He NEVER brings it back up. In Jeremiah 131:34b we learn that God will forgive our iniquity and remember our sin NO MORE. And Psalm 103:12 tell us that He has removed our transgression as far as the east is from the west.
We know that God is faithful to forgive our sins when we confess them and that He never brings them back up. So, why do we still feel guilt and regret? 1) the devil, 2) ourselves.
First, the devil is called ‘the accuser of the brethren’ in Revelations 12:10, who accuses us before God DAY AND NIGHT. If Satan can keep us tied up with guilt he can keep us from being the productive and faithful servants we are called to be. I believe that this is one of Satan’s most effective traps for Christians. We become powerless to share the gospel, exhort one another and pray when we fall for his trap of guilt. He will tell us lies like “God can’t use you”, “That was unforgivable”, “Your children will never get over this”, “It’s all your fault!” Don’t listen to him. Do not entertain these ideas. Remember Paul’s exhortation in Philippians 3:13. Paul had a jaded past of persecuting the church; actually hunting down and killing Christians! If anyone had reason for guilt and regret it was definitely him. And he encourages us, as himself, to ‘forget those things which are behind and reach forth to those things which are before.’
Second, the mind is a battleground where victories are won and lost. It all starts in the mind. Why else would God’s word have so many scriptures about protecting it? 2 Corinthians 10:5 teaches us to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. Take your thoughts captive (ie. imprison them!), making them obedient to Christ and His word! Hebrews 12:1 says to lay aside every weight (what a weight we bear when we carry guilt on our shoulders!). Philippians 4:6-7 warns us not to worry but to take everything to God in prayer and He will give us a peace that passes all understanding. And one of my favorite verses, that I repeat to myself almost daily, comes right after that in verse 8. This verse tells us what we are to think on; whatever things are TRUE, HONEST, JUST, PURE, LOVELY, AND OF A GOOD REPORT, think on these things. When my thinking gets off kilter and I start dwelling on a lie from Satan or a sin from the past (that I’ve already asked forgiveness for) I remind myself of this passage and question my thinking. Is this TRUE and HONEST and JUST? If so, is it PURE and LOVELY? And of a GOOD REPORT? Guilt is definitely none of these!
In closing, I’d like to share a personal story. I am a mother of four adult children. This is a hard truth for me to face but I wasted much time when they were younger steeped in guilt and regret. I blamed myself for everything, constantly berating myself whether any particular circumstance was the product of my own decision or not. I have a daughter who was raped. I blamed myself. I have two daughters that suffer from forms of anxiety and panic attacks. I blamed myself. It was brutal and debilitating. It caused me grief and depression. But God has since shown me two truths in my life that have helped me to process these trials and make peace with the past. (A) Our children are not just ours, they are HIS. And just as He is working in our hearts to draw us to Him, He is also working in our children. If their faith is to be real, they will face trials and challenges and hardships just as we do. But this is how God matures them and grows them and pulls them close. (B) He gave me this scripture. Read I John 3:20-21… if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart and knows all things. He knows. He understands. He forgives. If He doesn’t condemn you, don’t condemn yourself! Have confidence in Him.
I hope that if you are struggling with these same thoughts of guilt and regret that you do not suffer any more! Grasp hold of these truths and cling to them. Remember that God convicts you to repentance, He doesn’t send guilt or regret, and once He forgives, He forgets, He doesn’t hold on to it for a later day. And remember to focus your mind on God’s word and think on true, pure and lovely things!
May you find and keep the peace that passes all understanding!