Guilt. It’s a feeling we’ve all experienced at some point in our lives. You made a mistake, hurt someone, or didn’t live up to your own standards, and now you’re plagued by guilt. It weighs you down, saps your joy, and makes you feel unworthy.
As Christians, what does the Bible say we should do when we’re feeling guilty? How can we deal with it in a godly way? In this post, we’ll explore what Scripture teaches about guilt, its purpose, and how to find freedom from its grip.
The Purpose of Guilt
Guilt serves a valuable purpose – it alerts us when something is wrong. The Bible says our conscience bears witness to God’s standards of right and wrong that are written on our hearts:
“They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.” (Romans 2:15)
Guilt is meant to act as a warning light, signaling to us that we need to repent and change course. But just as the check engine light isn’t meant to blink forever, neither is guilt. It should lead us to godly repentance and change, not ongoing condemnation.
The problem comes when we allow guilt to linger and fester. Unresolved guilt festers into shame – a feeling of being unworthy, unacceptable, and unforgivable. Shame can prevent us from drawing close to God and receiving His forgiveness.
So what should we do when we’re feeling legitimate guilt over sin?
Take Your Guilt to God
King David is a great example of what to do when you’ve really messed up. After committing adultery and murder, David feels the pangs of guilt. But wallowing in guilt is not his response. David immediately takes his guilt to the Lord:
“For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” (Psalm 51:3-4)
David acknowledges his sin and brings it into the light before God. We need to do the same – owning our sin and bringing it to the cross. Be specific in confessing your guilt to God. Taking our guilt to Him accomplishes several things:
- We acknowledge God’s perfect standard of holiness.
- We admit we have fallen short of His standards.
- We receive His forgiveness and cleansing. The Bible says in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
“Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” (Psalm 51:7)
By taking your guilt to God, you can exchange it for a clean conscience before Him.
Receive God’s Forgiveness
Once you’ve confessed your specific sins to God, trust that He has forgiven and cleansed you. Don’t hold onto false guilt after repentance. The Bible says:
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
To experience true freedom from guilt, we have to receive God’s complete forgiveness deep into our hearts. We tend to still feel guilty even after we’ve repented, clinging to condemnation and shame. But Scripture tells us that is not God’s heart toward us:
“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
Once you’ve repented, believe you are fully forgiven. God has removed your sin and guilt as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). You are no longer guilty but have a cleansed conscience before God.
Accept Christ’s Sacrifice for Your Guilt
Not only has God forgiven your guilt, but Jesus paid for it with His blood. Isaiah 53:5 tells us:
All your guilt was placed on Christ at the cross. He bore God’s wrath so you don’t have to. Your guilt has been fully atoned for if you have placed your trust in Christ. Accepting this truth by faith is key to walking free from guilt’s grip.
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
You don’t need to suffer under guilt when Jesus already suffered for your guilt in your place. Believe this and walk in freedom.
Renew Your Mind with Scriptural Truth
In addition to repentance, confession, and receiving God’s forgiveness – an essential part of overcoming guilt is to renew your mind with truth. As long as we believe the accusing lies of the enemy, we will wallow in false guilt.
Some important truths to meditate on when you’re plagued by false guilt:
- My guilt has been fully paid for by Christ. (Isaiah 53:5)
- I have been forgiven and cleansed of all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
- There is no condemnation for me in Christ. (Romans 8:1)
- I am loved, accepted, and called righteous by God. (Ephesians 1:5-7)
- I have been redeemed and set free in Christ. (Galatians 5:1)
Preach these powerful truths to yourself until they override guilt’s condemning voice. As Romans 12:2 says, be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Release It to God
Sometimes guilt just nags at us even after we’ve repented, received forgiveness, and renewed our minds with truth. We may need to actively release it to God in prayer daily, even moment by moment.
Follow David’s example and bring the guilt back to God: “Lord, I release this guilt to You. I know I’ve been forgiven and cleansed by the blood of Jesus. I receive Your love and acceptance of me. I repent of holding onto false guilt when You have freed me.”
Actively releasing guilt to God can help break old thought patterns that hold us in bondage. As 1 Peter 5:7 encourages, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” Don’t carry your guilt – give it to the Lord.
Move Forward in Freedom
Finally, walk forward in the freedom Christ purchased for you. Don’t stay stuck in the rut of guilt. Press on into the calling God has for your life.
Paul wrote of his own struggle with guilt over persecuting Christians. But this is how he responded:
“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)
Keep your eyes fixed ahead on what Jesus has called you to, not gazing backwards at past sin and guilt. Jesus has set you free – now walk forward boldly into His purpose for your life.
- Guilt serves a purpose – it alerts us to sin and the need for repentance.
- Bring your guilt to God, confessing your specific sins to Him.
- Receive His complete forgiveness and cleansing through Christ’s sacrifice.
- Renew your mind with scriptural truths about your forgiveness in Jesus.
- Release guilt to God when it nags at you after repentance.
- Move ahead into the freedom Christ purchased for you.
Friend, you never have to suffer under guilt’s weight when the truth sets you free. Jesus paid it all. Your sins – past, present and future – have been washed clean and removed as far as the east is from the west. You are fully loved and accepted by your Savior. Walk forward in freedom today.