Q and A

Why Do I Feel So Much Guilt?

#2 in Q & A Series

Well, all of us are guilty. Feeling it and having the ability to do something about it is a gift.

There are lots of reasons why people feel guilt. Maybe you have done or said something wrong. Or maybe you have been influenced by your culture, family, or a non-New Testament religious organization that has you convinced you are not worthy. Regardless of the reason you are feeling “so much guilt,” the New Testament has the solution for you.

Guilt can be a motivation to improve our lives. In Romans 3:19, Paul writes,

. . . the law is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God.

Paul is saying that all of us need to take responsibility and not excuse our own ungodly thoughts, words, and actions. We all fall short of God’s ideal and need Christ’s righteousness for us to be in right standing with God.

Once his righteousness is in us, we experience great confidence. In I John 3:20-21, John writes,

Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if we don’t feel guilty, we can come to God with bold confidence.

Feeling guilty is our state outside Christ or in disobedience to Christ, but as we abide in His righteousness, we are cleansed and gain great confidence in him. This is easy. It is a relief.

In Matthew 11:30, Jesus said,

For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.

In II Corinthians 11:9, Paul said,

I have never been a burden to you, and I never will.

So if you are part of a local church and are enjoying your walk with the Lord, you are able to be free from guilt, have the power to do what you ought with joy, and function with a clean conscious. That is, unless your local church imposes guilt on you.

I decided early in my ministry career that I wanted my Christian service to be like Jesus’ and Paul’s in this respect. Every ministry I have ever led has been structured to be an uplift, an encouragement, a relief to people. Life is difficult enough, we don’t need Sunday worship to be a burden as well. And on Sunday mornings, when we as believers gather to celebrate the resurrection of Christ and, consequently, our own resurrections, we worship, fellowship, give, and publicly read the Word together, but we don’t impose guilt. It’s not the purpose of a church to add a burden to people’s lives. Our worship experience can be done freely, joyfully, and without pressure. That is why I am opposed to religious leaders imposing guilt in order to increase attendance, extract funds, or motivate people to action by using guilt.

Sadly, many Christians do not feel guilty because of the convicting power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, but because of leaders who impose guilt in order to control them. These types of leaders have been in the church from the beginning, and very often they are our most popular leaders. Paul warned Timothy about them by saying,

They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that! They are the kind who work their way into people’s homes and win the confidence of vulnerable women who are burdened with the guilt of sin and controlled by various desires (II Timothy 3:3-6).

I notice these leaders scrutinize the weaknesses of others and present themselves as morally or spiritually superior. Watch out!

Our modern culture demands justice and public ridicule for some sins, while other sins are embraced. Immorality, theft, and addictions demand punishment. Judgmentalism, lovelessness, and blame, however, are lauded . When our leaders model socially acceptable sins, they appear sinless in our culture, while other sins are scorned. This duplicity makes worldly “Christian leaders” appear spiritually superior by discreetly highlighting their own self-righteousness and subtly focusing on the inferiority of others. Everything about this is contrary to the New Testament.

We all need Christ. 1 John 1:8-9 says,

If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.

New Testament Christianity is an uplift to people. It lightens our load and offers a solution for guilt. The cross sets all of us free from the need to humiliate others, even the unrepentant. It’s just not our role. We offer dignity, confidence, and joy because of the love and righteousness of Christ. Remember the fruit of God’s Spirit within us is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Because of the reality of the cross, our lives are a Sabbath rest.

I’m going to take some time in my back yard and gratefully enjoy Him. I’ve lived long enough now, that I feel no need to be an expert in anyone else’s sin. I only feel compelled to let others know the freedom they can find in Him. That’s it. And that’s not hard.

If you feel guilty, then repent. Receive your forgiveness and be transformed, renewed, filled, and healed, so your life will improve.

Now, smile a grateful smile, and rest.

By tedhaggardblog

Ted Haggard is the Sr. Pastor of St. James Church in Colorado Springs, CO and founding pastor of New Life Church and past president of the National Association of Evangelicals. He is the husband of Gayle, and the father of Christy, Marcus, Jonathan, Alex and Elliott.

15 replies on “Why Do I Feel So Much Guilt?”

Pastor Ted it is so wonderful to see you evolve like you have been. Praise God. To hear what comes out of your heart is an honor. Thank you for extending yourself now in blogs. You are healing and helping more than you know!

It is such a wonderful thing that my relationship with my Lord and my relationships with others are built around His love and not guilt. My relationship is also built around repentance. Those are the things I have to share with others. It’s not my job to convict. It’s my job to give good news, not condemnation.

We have been set free forever from guilt and shame by the blood of Christ. So no one needs to ever feel guilty. If the Holy Spirit convicts you of sin, repent. The blood of Christ will wash away the guilt instantly!

Sometimes the Holy Spirit convicts us when we do something wrong. I don’t think this is the guilt I sense in the question. This guilt is vile. It is not of God. Based in false beliefs, it is the shame we heap upon ourselves when we have inner pain which causes us to believe that we are not worthy. Not worthy of anything; sometimes not even worthy of life. A good friend of mine says what we believe about ourselves is like the roots of a tree, growing beneath the surface and controlling the overall health of the tree. Healthy beliefs, healthy tree. Let there be no mistake. GOD has forgiven us! Your sins are removed as far as the East is from the West. This guilt doesn’t come from Him, He loves us. Remember John 3:16? For God soooo loved me, He gave His only son to die for me so I have the opportunity to be free of guilt and shame. Wow, do I deserve that? I can’t imagine I do but God sure thinks so. That is what makes it so special. Are you kidding me? Nope! He knows every hair on your head. He sees the sparrow when it falls, He sees to it they are taken care of. How much more so does he love me! Here is what I say. This guilt is often placed in our mind by unnatural events. Being raped, abused, unloved, etc. plant seeds that grow roots of guilt, shame, unworthiness, etc. which all make for a fairly unhealthy tree (and sometimes reproduces more of the same tree unless we break the cycle). We act out to ease the pain we feel. We look at porn, we drink, we take drugs, we become religious for the wrong reasons, we spend money, we eat, we do all sorts of things we don’t want to do because something chemical happens in our brain that causes that guilt or pain to go away, if even for a little while, only to be followed by guilt and shame because we are not the person we aspire to be which in turn means we are unworthy. Wait, isn’t that sort of where we started. Yep! One big vile, vicious cycle. How do we break this cycle? God has already given us the answer. If God is willing to forgive you…get this…it is OK to forgive yourself! Guilt gone! Instantaneously? Not quite but it does start a new root that over time chokes out the old ones, especially (as the song goes) with a little help from your friends, or a therapist. God loves you. Love yourself. If you need a friend, I am here, at St James Church.

Feeling guilty is a very human condition connected to our values, the way we think and knowing right from wrong. We want to see repentance in our children and our spouses when they have done something wrong, and that is okay 🙂 That gives us a teachable moment and it gives us the chance to forgive one another and to ask the Lord for forgiveness.
But when guilt starts wearing us down because we have suffered with it for a long time; then there’s a problem because we crucify Jesus all over again! We are saying that because we can’t forgive ourselves and that HIs forgiveness isn’t enough we have to live our lives in condemnation. Then all is lost!! Our Christian foundation is lost and our eyes is on ourselves and not Jesus. He is the alpha and the omega. The ONE who saves and that is why we call ourselves HIs followers. His love conquers all!

When we have guilt the best prescription for guilt is to take it in prayer to our Father and allow him in His faithfulness to cleanse us and not to carry the guilt any longer. Jesus carried it to Calvary.At times He will lead us to ask or seek forgiveness from others when someone else is involved.

This was well thought out and well written. Each of us needs to spend time reflecting how we are “working out our own salvation” and less time on correcting or judging the flaws of others.

Peace and love for the christians who do well.Let the word do the work.It is our task to believe and rest in Him. Some words of jacob frans_-_-Not every christian knows what Ted knows.Some christans need more peace and rest.Their need our prayers.I am my brothers keeper.god bless you Ted.

Knowing and understanding our identity in God the Father through His word and Jesus as our example, is what frees us from our deficiency’s. Our identity is the determining factor in the freedom GOD has given us through His promise’s. Ted Flood

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