Why Christians Struggle With Guilt

Sam Petitfils

“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

If we walk closely with God, we will be troubled about our sin.  Because sin runs contrary to the nature of God, and because as Christians we possess God’s holy nature (2 Peter 1:4), we cannot be at peace while we sin against God.  But God knows that we are dust, in need of grace continually.  He has made a glorious provision through the blood of His dear Son to cleanse our hearts from the guilt of sin.  Unfortunately, Christians sometimes do not handle guilt the way God wants them to.

How not to handle guilt:

1) Suppress it
When we suppress it, we attempt to drown out feelings of guilt by not thinking about our sin.  But this only complicates an already troubling situation.  We try to divert our attention from our sin by thinking of other things to take our mind off our guilt.

2) Justify it
Some Christians try to justify what they’ve done by rationalizing it.  They compare themselves with people they know and conclude they are no worse than them.  When they sin they blame their upbringing, their parents, teachers, or someone else.  They compare themselves with others who do worse, or they focus only on God’s mercy and understanding and not on His holiness.

3) Run away
Some take the Jonah approach and run away from their guilt.  “If I just change my surroundings everything will be okay.”  But we can never run away from our guilt since it resides within us.

What should we do with guilt?

We should confess it.  The term “confess” means “agree with.”  We need to agree with God that we have broken His Word and come to Him in repentance.  We need to “confess it,” according to the verse above.  And what will God do?  “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” What a powerful display of God’s grace and tender mercy.  God not only forgives our sins, but removes them based on the work of His Son.

Christ has “freed” (Revelation 1:5) us from our sins based on the blood of Christ (Ephesians 1:7) so that we need never worry about facing God’s wrath (Romans 5:9).  Yes, Jesus removes the sin and guilt from our souls and destinies, having paid the penalty for our sins.

One final note about living for God based upon the knowledge of a forgiven life.  When we ponder the riches of God’s grace in Christ and what He has forgiven us, only then do we rise in gratitude with a renewed commitment to serve Him.  Paul commended the Thessalonians because they “turned” to God and away from idols in order to serve the living God (1 Thessalonians 1:9), the very God who “delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

Do you struggle with a besetting sin or, perhaps, a past failure?  Take it to the cross and then walk away knowing God has forgiven you and removed your guilt.  Then make a fresh commitment to “sin no more,” walking in fellowship with the One who can remove all guilt.


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