Stop for a moment to consider the distance between here and there. If you are considering the distance between your forefinger and your nose, it is likely not further away than the end of your arm! If you are considering the distance between your home and a small island in the Pacific the distance may be two or three thousand miles. Consider the distance to Mars and your journey just got beyond what you have ever traveled before. Now, consider the distance between your guilt and your sin - it is likely a lot closer than you'd like it to be! When God's grace comes on the scene, though, that guilt and sin go through a separation far greater than any distance we are capable of understanding with our finite minds! Our sin is separated from us as far as the east is from the west. That includes the guilt associated with that sin - if we allow God to separate us from it at the same time he separates us from the sin. Too many times, we hold onto the guilt and go through some form of 'separation anxiety' because we cannot fathom how completely God has removed our sin from our lives.
The key is in first understanding God's position on our sin - it is already forgiven in Christ Jesus. We think of it as something we must endure some form of 'punishment' over, but when we fully begin to appreciate the purpose of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection, we begin to realize the 'punishment' for our sins (past, present, and future) was already placed squarely on his back! The 'separation' of us from our sin was accomplished at the cross - the 'separation' of us from our guilt over that sin is accomplished at the foot of the same cross. Guilt serves a purpose - it tunes us into something that is problematic in our lives. It gets us to the point of admitting we need to stop, take notice, and allow some adjustments to be made in our lives. It causes us to refocus and get our attention rightly placed. It isn't to be held onto, muddled over, allowing it to build up into waves of shame. It is to be the thing that causes us to realize God's grace brings separation - as far as the east is from the west - of us from our sin.
Guilt isn't about God forgiving us - it is about us forgiving ourselves. Since the beginning of time, we have had the hardest time giving ourselves 'absolution' when we know we have done something 'wrong'. God built us with this internal sense of 'imbalance' that comes when we have engaged in behavior that is not good for us. It is this imbalance that he intended as a means of communicating where it is we need to adjust our choices. Guilt was always intended to help us, not to drive us deeper into despair or fretting. It was not ever supposed to drive us into the self-pity of shame. We need to learn to see and use our guilt as God has designed it - as a warning to consider what we have been doing and then to adjust our behavior so that we are back in line with what we know we should be doing.
If God is able to remove our sins as far as the east is from the west, do you think he might also be able to remove our sense of shame over those same sins? Shame is really what comes as a result of what we, or others, are telling us about that sin. If we start telling ourselves the truth that God tells us about how wide this separation is, maybe we would have less opportunity for shame to take hold. I think that may be a lesson we all need to embrace - God's grace is sufficient to cleanse us of our sin, but his Son's actions on the cross were more than sufficient to remove both the guilt and the shame of that sin. The distance we put between our guilt and us begins at the cross and it never meets up with us again. Just sayin!