Dealing With Past Failure And Guilt
But with you (speaking to God) there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. Psalm 130:4 ESV
A student caught cheating on an exam, stops going to church. A mother of a child with disabilities lives in constant torment, convinced that God is punishing her child because she lived with her husband for a year before they were married and conceived her child during that time. A senior citizen–the victim of three heart attacks–sends a large check to a man who was his business partner forty years before with a terse note saying, “I had to get this off my chest before I meet my maker…”
All three face a common problem–a troubled conscience producing guilt that tears apart their hearts and lives. Many today, not understanding the nature of God’s forgiveness, live lives that are full of frustration and self-condemnation. Take for instance, the man who wrote and said, “I am the most frustrated, confused, defeated individual you will ever hear about. I have a wonderful family, wife, 3 boys, and 1 daughter, all saved, yet I am so miserable. You said something on your program that may be the key to my need. You talked about forgiving yourself…. I just cannot forgive myself for…” He then went on to mention something that had happened years before.
Those skeletons in the closet keep making their lethal forays, stealing our peace of mind and leaving their muddy footprints in our lives. Most messages such as I have just mentioned revolve around moral problems, usually ones that took place a long time ago. They all result from the failure really to understand the nature of God’s forgiveness, which results in the inability to forgive yourself.
The next two minutes can free you from the shackles of a burdened conscience. Observe carefully. First–the case for God’s forgiveness is found in the pages of the Bible. If the Bible is true, as I believe it is, then forgiveness is based upon the nature and character of God Himself. In the pages of Scripture, God promises forgiveness to us provided we turn from our sin to a Savior and confess our need for forgiveness. Have you settled it in your mind that God would not lie? If you have, the next question you must ask is: Did I confess my failure to God?
David, a man who knew the guilt of moral failure, wrote, “But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.” (Psalms 130:4, NIV). Isaiah spoke of God, saying, “He will abundantly pardon,” (Isaiah 55:7). Micah wrote, “He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:19, ESV). The New Testament says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Did you confess your failure? Some of you could say, “I have asked God to forgive me hundreds of times!” Well, did He do it? He promised to. Suppose your son came to you and said, “I did wrong, Dad, and I want you to forgive me,” and you said, “It is all right, son. I forgive you.” If he came to you the next day and said the same thing, and the next day, wouldn’t you say, “Son, I told you yesterday that I forgave you. It’s settled!”
Surely God must feel the same way when we refuse to accept the fact that when He forgives us, as though we had never sinned. Forgiving yourself is tremendously important, too.
Resource reading: Psalm 51:1-19