In the attic, I have a briefcase filled with every letter I’ve ever received from the time I was 13 years old until I began college. It has been with me through three states, five cities, and nine homes. Two weeks ago, I sat in my living room floor with that briefcase opened for the first time in ten years and started a trip down memory lane. In the case were letters from friends in middle school, relatives from out of state, and birthday cards from my parents. There were short stories and poems I had written, and old pictures I didn’t even know I had. While most of the letters brought back wonderful, happy memories, some of those letters brought me a tremendous amount of pain. There was one series of letters, in particular, from an old boyfriend whom I remember having treated very, VERY badly. I felt so convicted as I read his sweet words, remembering how I’d eventually responded. More than anything, I just wanted to tell him how sorry I was. But the sad thing is that I can’t. His phone number has changed, his parents no longer live at his old address, and he’s nowhere to be found on the internet (I know, I looked.)
Guilt is one of Satan’s most powerful tools against us. It tears us down and makes us feel dirty, ashamed, and contemptible. It strips us of our self-confidence and turns us against ourselves in self-loathing. One of the worst things about guilt is that there is usually nothing we can do to change what has been done. There is nothing I can do to take back the hurt and pain I caused the boy I treated so badly. I’m not even able to contact him to apologize. Sometimes our sins can cause so much destruction that the entire life of another person is altered by our actions. What can we do about this?
Obviously there is confession and repentance, but what about restitution? What if we can’t make up for what we’ve done, or make it right somehow? What do we do with the guilt that comes from knowing that we’ve hurt another person? I think perhaps the answer lies in prayer:
“Whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.” (John 14:13-14)
When my sins have wreaked havoc in the lives of others, I have a promise from Jesus Christ that whatever I ask in His name, it will be done. God is called the “redeemer” 18 times in the Bible. The word “redeem” literally means “to compensate, or make amends for.” Another word for “compensate” is “requite” which is literally defined as: “to return something lost or stolen, usually through the fault of another.” God is our redeemer! God has put Himself in charge of making amends for our mistakes when we can not make them for ourselves. God has made Himself personally responsible for returning what has been lost or stolen – even when it’s our own fault!
Guilt has no place in the life of a believer. It is unforgiveness directed toward ourselves. While it’s true that our sins can be incredibly harmful, self-loathing will not help us to put right the damages we have done. In fact, guilt will only take us further away from God and the power He has given us to affect change in the lives of those whom we have harmed. We have a biblical promise that God will redeem us of our sins when we confess and ask forgiveness. He has placed upon Himself the full responsibility of recompensing others for what we have taken, when we are not able to do it ourselves. He the compensation for our sins.
“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16).
Charles Roberts, from Tennessee… if you’re out there, please know that I am praying for you.