6 Guilt is banished through love and truth;
Fear-of-God deflects evil.
Fear-of-God deflects evil.
(Proverbs 16:6 The Message)
We deal with guilt so many times because of well-meant intentions - our failures doing nothing more than bolstering our stores of guilt that we already have way too much of in the first place. What is it about guilt that has so much power over our lives? I think it might actually be that we fear what we cannot seem to control - so we hold onto what is familiar to us (guilt) instead of letting go (grace).
We feel guilty because we lost control - so we try to control our behavior in some "better" fashion the next time. Have you been down that road a time or two? I daresay that I have! When we don't quite succeed the "next time", we add another ration of guilt to the already heavy load of it we carry around! Then we wonder why we don't "feel" well!
The Amplified Bible adds just a little clarity to this passage:
6By mercy and love, truth and fidelity [to God and man--not by sacrificial offerings], iniquity is purged out of the heart, and by the reverent, worshipful fear of the Lord men depart from and avoid evil.
There is a purging process for our guilt to finally "feel" like it is removed from our lives. That purging process involves much on God's part, but very little on our part! God removes the stain of our guilt - we respond to that grace by departure FROM evil and turning TO God. So, how do we make this practical in our everyday living? I think we find the answer in the "ordered steps" that God outlines for us in scripture.
1) We BRING our guilt to the only one who can actually absolve us of that guilt! Too many times, we take our guilt everywhere else, or choose to "manage it" ourselves. What a futile place we find ourselves in when either of those is our plan for dealing with our guilt!
2) To really be FREE of guilt, we need to believe that God cares about our guilt! We only want to bring things to God that we figure he really cares about. The truth is that God cares about our guilt! Real or imagined, confessed or held onto, our guilt belongs in God's hands - not ours! I think we feel that our guilty feelings are something that we need to hold onto and this limits God's ability to heal us where we so desperately need his healing!
3) God is responsible for the MERCY and LOVE part of dealing with our sin (our guilt is usually associated with our sin). We have the part of being truthful and maintaining open relationship with God. That's what it means to have "fidelity" in our relationship with God. God's answer for our guilt is first for us to "confess" it - that is where communication begins!
What we sometimes find ourselves doing is stopping with the first "confession" of our guilt. When that guilt rears its ugly head again later on, and it will, we don't bring it back to the one who helps us remember that his mercy and love are already covering over that guilt. As we are faithful to bring it back to him as many times as it takes for us to actually begin to feel like it has been dealt with and we can let go of it, God is faithful to bring us face-to-face with is grace and love once again. He isn't "re-forgiving" the sin, he is just reminding us that it has ALREADY been forgiven and he loves us so deeply!
When we learn to take the steps God designs for our freedom, we finally begin to see the light at then end of the tunnel - and we find it is not an oncoming freight train laden with guilt! In fact, it is a carriage of grace, festooned in all kinds of wreaths of his love and grace! Be free - climb on board that carriage and let him usher you onto the next step in your growth - freed from guilt and embraced in his love.