Today and over the next couple of weeks, we’re going to talk about guilt, what it is, and why we experience it? We’ll look at how the world views it, some examples of guilt in the Bible, and we’ll get the biblical perspective on it. Finally, we’ll discuss what we as Christians should do about it?
Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival.
Handling Guilt Biblically Part 1
We’re in a series on “Handling Emotions Biblically.” We have already covered anger, depression, fear and worry. If you missed any of them, just click on the link.
Today we’re going to start talking about guilt, but first, I want to tell you about a man I know. This man was under a lot of pressure. He was suffering from poor health. He seemed to have the weight of the world on his shoulders. He even seemed to be in a daze at times. He couldn’t focus. He was sad and depressed. And He thought about his problems all the time.
It was affecting him physically. His heart would race wildly and he was stressed out. All he wanted to do was sleep and, yet, when he tried to sleep he couldn’t.
If you’ve ever been around someone like that, it gets uncomfortable. There’s only so much you can say. That was the case with this man. He said his friends came around less and less and eventually some just quit coming. Maybe that has happened to you, either you have felt like this man or been one of his friends or both.
If you were trying to help my friend, how would you diagnose his problem?
Could he be clinically depressed, be suffering with chronic fatigue syndrome or have PTSD? Does he need medication?
It’s possible that you have met this man, too.
The man is David, and David was experiencing pressure at the hand of a loving God. David had sinned and God was dealing with him.
In Psalm 38 David said this:
1 O LORD, do not rebuke me in Your wrath,
Nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure!
2 For Your arrows pierce me deeply,
And Your hand presses me down.
3 There is no soundness in my flesh
Because of Your anger,
Nor any health in my bones
Because of my sin.
4 For my iniquities have gone over my head;
Like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me.
5 My wounds are foul and festering
Because of my foolishness.
6 I am troubled, I am bowed down greatly;
I go mourning all the day long.
7 For my loins are full of inflammation,
And there is no soundness in my flesh.
8 I am feeble and severely broken;
I groan because of the turmoil of my heart.
9 Lord, all my desire is before You;
And my sighing is not hidden from You.
10 My heart pants, my strength fails me;
As for the light of my eyes, it also has gone from me.
11 My loved ones and my friends stand aloof from my plague,
And my relatives stand afar off.
12 Those also who seek my life lay snares for me;
Those who seek my hurt speak of destruction,
And plan deception all the day long.
13 But I, like a deaf man, do not hear;
And I am like a mute who does not open his mouth.
14 Thus I am like a man who does not hear,
And in whose mouth is no response.
15 For in You, O LORD, I hope;
You will hear, O Lord my God.
16 For I said, “Hear me, lest they rejoice over me,
Lest, when my foot slips, they exalt themselves against me.”
17 For I am ready to fall,
And my sorrow is continually before me.
18 For I will declare my iniquity;
I will be in anguish over my sin.
A Closer Look
Let’s look closer at what David said:
“Your hand presses down on me.” He was under intense stress and pressure.
“There is no soundness in my flesh … nor any health in my bones … my loins are full of inflammation … my heart pants, my strength fails me …” His state of mind was affecting his health. He was suffering with digestive problems, his heart would race, and he had no energy.
“Like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me … my wounds are foul and festering.” David felt like the weight of the world was on him. He was disgusted with himself.
“I groan because of the turmoil of my heart … I am troubled … bowed down greatly … I go mourning all the day long … my sorrow is continually before me.” He was experiencing feelings of depression and anxiety.
“The light of my eyes, it also has gone from me … I, like a deaf man, do not hear.” He couldn’t focus. At times he zoned out.
“My loved ones and my friends stand aloof from my plague, and my relatives stand afar off.” It had gone on for so long, he friends and family just stayed away.
“Those also who seek my life lay snares for me, those who seek my hurt speak of destruction, and plan deception all the day long.” He was filled with self-pity and an everyone’s against me attitude. He may have, even, been paranoid.
A Spiritual Problem
But David’s condition was actually a spiritual one.
He had sinned against God by committing adultery with a woman by the name of Bathsheba and then to hide his sin. He had purposefully placed her husband where he was almost sure to get killed. And he did.
How did he process what he had done? Did he justify it somehow? Whatever he thought or did, he didn’t deal with it biblically. And now those sins of adultery and murder had festered. He had lost his peace with God and, consequently, his peace of mind. It affected his health, his emotions, his relationships with others, and his relationship with God.
I’m not saying that all feelings of guilt are the result of some horrible sin (we’ll discuss that more next week), but at least in David’s case, they were.
And David knew it, “because of Your anger … because of my sin … because of my foolishness.”
But God didn’t give up on David. He sent Nathan the Prophet to confront him (2 Sam. 12.1-15). David repented and, even though his repentance didn’t remove all the consequences of his sin, he was restored in his relationship with God. Verse 15:
15 For in You, O LORD, I hope;
You will hear, O Lord my God.
Like David, if we’re experiencing feelings of guilt and shame or the emotions that often go with it (fear, worry, anxiety, depression), we should invite God to examine our hearts. We might pray like David did in another psalm:
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting (Ps. 139.23-24).
Confessing our sins to God and receiving His forgiveness is the first step away from many of our negative emotions.
Next week we’ll look at how guilt and shame are tied to other negative emotions like fear and worry. We’ll also see how the culture has tried to remove all restrictions, including God’s law, to alleviate feelings of guilt, instead of dealing with the root issues. The following week we’re going to look at what guilt is biblically and how Christians are to deal with guilt and shame. We’ll finish out this series by discussing trials and suffering. Be sure to add your email here so you don’t miss any of them.
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