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Trade Your Cares for Calm: Handling Guilt

Trade Your Cares for Calm: Handling Guilt

Antidote to Guilt

Our guilt may be the result of a moment or a season in life. You failed as a parent. You blew it in your career. You squandered your youth or your money.

The result? Guilt. A harsh consequence of the guilt? Anxiety. Surprised?

Lists of anxiety-triggers typically include busy schedules, unrealistic demands, or heavy traffic. But we must go deeper. Behind the frantic expressions on the faces of humanity is unresolved regret.

Indeed, humanity’s first occasion of anxiety can be attributed to guilt.

That evening [Adam and Eve] heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden; and they hid themselves among the trees. — Genesis 3:8 TLB

What had happened to the first family? Until this point there was no indication they felt any fear or trepidation. They had never hidden from God. Indeed, they had nothing to hide.

The man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame. — Genesis 2:25 NLT

But then came the serpent and the forbidden fruit. The first couple said yes to the serpent’s temptation and no to God. And when they did, their world collapsed like an accordion. They scurried into the bushes and went into hiding, feeling a mélange of shame and dread. They did what anxious people do; they engaged in a flurry of cover-ups.

Can you relate? The only antidote to guilt is the power of God’s grace. I could take you to the city, to the church within the city, to the section of seats within the church auditorium. I might be able to find the very seat in which I was sitting when this grace found me. I was a twenty-year-old college sophomore. For four years I had lived with the concrete block of guilt, not just from the first night of drunkenness but also a hundred more like it. The guilt had made a mess of my life, and I was headed toward a lifetime of misery. But then I heard a preacher do for me what I’m attempting to do for you: describe the divine grace that is greater than sin. When at the end of the message he asked if anyone would like to come forward and receive this grace, iron chains could not have held me back. Truth be told, chains had held me back. But mercy snapped the chains of guilt and set me free. I know this truth firsthand:

guilt frenzies the soul; grace calms it.

You are a version of Joseph in your generation. You carry something of God within you, something noble and holy, something the world needs — wisdom, kindness, mercy, skill. That is what God is building in you. But remember, “It will take time.” Whether it’s highways or hearts, that’s just how these projects develop.

Unhealthy Ways We Manage Guilt

Here’s a Top-Ten List of how we try to deal with our guilt. See which sound a bit too familiar to you.

  • Deny it. Pretend we never stumbled. Concoct a plan to cover up the bad choice. One lie leads to another until we can no longer prolong the charade.
  • Minimize it. We didn’t sin; we just lost our way, got caught up in the moment, or experienced a lapse in judgment.
  • Bury it. Suppress the guilt beneath a mound of work and a calendar of appointments. The busier we stay, the less time we spend with the people we have come to dislike most: ourselves.
  • Punish it. Beat ourselves up. Cut ourselves. Hurt ourselves. Priests used to flog themselves with whips. We’ve exchanged the whips for rules. More rules. Pray more! Study more! Give more! Show up earlier; stay up later.
  • Numb it. With a bottle of Grey Goose. With an hour of Internet pornography. With a joint of marijuana, a rendezvous at the motel. Guilt disappears during happy hour, right? Funny how it reappears when we get home.
  • Avoid the mention of it. Just don’t bring it up. Don’t tell the family, the preacher, the buddies. Keep every- thing on the surface, and hope the Loch Ness monster of guilt lingers in the deep.
  • Redirect it. Lash out at the kids. Take it out on the spouse. Yell at the employees or the driver in the next lane.
  • Offset it. Never make another mistake. Seek perfection and expect it in others. Build the perfect family. The perfect career. Score perfect grades. Be the perfect Christian. And be absolutely intolerant of slipups or foul-ups by self or others
  • Normalize it. Really, it’s not that bad. Everyone else is doing the same… or worse. And after all, it helps us make it through the day
  • Embody it. We didn’t get drunk; we are drunks. We didn’t screw up; we are screwups. We didn’t just do bad; we are bad. Bad to the bone. We might even take pride in our badness. It’s only a matter of time until we do some- thing bad again.


Wave the White Flag

Confession is not complaining. If I merely recite my problems and tell you how tough my life is, I’m not confessing. Confession is not blaming. Pointing fingers at others without pointing any at myself may feel good for a while, but it does nothing to remove the conflict within me.

Confession is coming clean with God.

King David did. As if the affair with Bathsheba wasn’t enough. As if the murder of her husband wasn’t enough. Somehow David danced around the truth. He denied his wrong- doing for at least nine months until the child was born. It took a prophet to bring the truth to the surface, but when he did, David didn’t like what he saw (2 Samuel 11:1-12:13).

He waved the white flag. No more combat with God. No more arguing with Heaven. What was the result of such honesty?

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. — Psalm 32:5 NLT

God’s Words on Guilt

But all these things that I [Paul] once thought very worthwhile — now I’ve thrown them all away so that I can put my trust and hope in Christ alone. — Philippians 3:7 TLB

Now I am right with God, not because I followed the law, but because I believed in Christ. — Philippians 3:9 NCV

I am still not all I should be, but I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God is calling us up to Heaven because of what Christ Jesus did for us. — Philippians 3:13-14 TLB

The man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame. — Genesis 2:25 NLT

Then I acknowledged my sin to You and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin. God’s readiness to give and forgive is now public. Salvation’s available for everyone! — Titus 2:11 MSG

Journaling Through Guilt

  1. Think of some things from the past you still feel guilty about.
  2. Release them, one by one, to the Father. What feeling is replacing the guilt?
  3. Paul’s statement challenges us to forget the past and looking forward to what lies ahead. What are you looking forward to?

Excerpted with permission from Trade Your Cares for Calm by Max Lucado, copyright Max Lucado.

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Your Turn

Let’s come clean with God today. We don’t have to carry guilt around on our backs. We don’t have to live anxious, sleepless, and hiding from the pursuit of Jesus. We can walk right into His grace and be forgiven and relieved from the weight of sin. Let’s do it! Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily