Guilt comes from a feeling of responsibility for some wrongdoing. Conviction can result from the Holy Spirit’s efforts to turn us away from sin and guide us to our heavenly Father. But not all guilt stems from ungodly actions.
False guilt, which is not prompted by sin, can surface for a variety of reasons, such as disappointment in one’s own performance, a sense of shame over past events, or criticism from others for unmet expectations. Rejection or a pattern of abuse from childhood can also trigger this emotion. False guilt is a powerful weapon the enemy uses to direct our thoughts away from the Lord.
Whether false or real, the emotion of guilt divides our mind, drains our energy, and creates a sense of insecurity. If we allow it to linger, we can start to have doubts about God’s goodness and love for us. Depression and hopelessness may follow. To cope, some people develop compulsive behaviors in an attempt to replace self-reproach with something pleasurable. Excessive amounts of food, television, internet, shopping, and exercise are common ways people try to push away self-condemning thoughts.
Addressing guilt quickly is important. Acknowledge the emotion to the Lord, and identify the reason behind it. If you’ve violated God’s law, ask His forgiveness, and take steps to change the behavior. If you discover false guilt, confess it and ask God to adjust your thinking to match His. In either case, praise Him because He doesn’t want His children carrying unnecessary burdens and has promised to forgive our sins.
Bible in One Year: Genesis 32-35