Through before and through then and through forever after,
Through sighs and through tears and through too-little laughter,
Through pain and through sadness, through anger and fear,
Through wandering away and through clinging near.
Through pits of deception and mountains of truth,
Through hope and through striving, through longings of youth,
Through moments of stillness in search of Your voice,
Through dangerous journeys of self-proclaimed choice.
Through brokenness, hopelessness, running and hiding,
Through moments of peace and through blessed abiding,
Through hiding and fighting and self-disappointment,
Through moments of quiet mid healing anointment.
Through rounds of returning, through routes of remorse,
Through seasons of sinning as self runs its course,
Through rejection and judgment and waves of emotion,
Through confession, repentance and return to devotion.
Through exhaustion, bewilderment and endlessly trying,
Through pleading, demanding, blaming and crying,
Through distraction, attraction and refusing to race,
Through moments of stumbling while gasping for grace.
Through lovelessness, bitterness, through guilt and through shame,
Through pointless excuses and efforts to blame,
Through uncertainty and blindness, missteps old and new,
Through Your love I have learned that You carry me through.
— Thom Hunter
Few things have confused and confounded me more than guilt. I understand why we feel it and that we rarely do without deserving to, but I also understand why God designed a way beyond it, which, like so many of the great things God designed for our good, we reject and re-design, attaching words like “motivation” to it to make it sound good or “infliction” to make it sound bad. Truth is, guilt just . . . is. We shout it, tout it, internalize it, deny it, bury it, design a whole new life around it, stamp our own on our foreheads, hammer others with theirs. We motivate with it, devastate with it, testify to it, bow to it, and build a whole big room in our minds to cowtow to it.
We make examples of the guilty instead of models of the forgiven. You would think some people believe Jesus’ main reason for coming was to point fingers of accusation and pin people down with their sins rather than to heal with hands of grace and free them from the very sins by which we decide they should be known. If guilt is so great and powerful, then grace is not so immeasurable after all, which, of course, is not true. We put guilt on a big-black pedestal and keep a close eye on it because we are so familiar with it, while we revere grace from afar like it is beyond our reach behind the barbed wire of the guilt-barrier we pace behind.
We need to take a clue from what God considers good and valuable. Christ died to give us grace and take away guilt. I think we’re getting this one wrong and the casualties are mounting. Scriptures warning about sin are designed not to make us feel bad forever and lives in guilt-induced holes in the ground, but to lead us to repentance so we can place our feet on higher places. You can’t get there unless you leave the baggage of guilt on the barren ground where once you stood.
Does this mean that we should not feel bad when we do things we know — or learn — are wrong? Of course not. God gave us feelings too, which we set about to define as good, bad, hurt, inappropriate, strange, whatever. You feel bad because you’re guilty. You sinned. You follow those feelings back around to confession and repentance and cut them loose . . . or, as an alternative, you can wind them around your neck really tightly until you can barely breathe. That’s guilt.
If you are sexually-broken, you may have had sex with people you should not have; lusted over people God did not intend for you; used people who were not in your life for that purpose; abused your own body; cluttered your mind with images of others tangled in the messy quagmire of troubled and misplaced want and need; contributed mightily to the addictions of others . . . and lied about it all to keep yourself going in all the wrong directions while all the while you just wanted somebody to tell you how to get out before you;re outed.
And then, just in case you don’t feel guilty enough, someone comes alongside and says you’re just doing it for the fun of it, as if self-satisfaction has not become a ravenous Venus flytrap and you no more than just a little fly, so self-diminished. You want to fly off and be all good now, but your wings are just so weak.
God also gave us memory. If you remember what it was like to strain under the weight of guilt and then to soar upon the wings of grace, you can make better choices, which He also allows. You have free will: drown or climb.
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. — 1 Corinthians 6:12-20
God’s Word is clear. You do have the right to do anything, but that doesn’t mean it’s right to do it. In fact, there’s a clear choice: Honor God. That’s not guilt avoidance. It’s gratefulness.
Grace calls for gratefulness.
The next time a fellow Christian tries to encumber your pursuit of freedom with a reminder-laced boatload of guilt, producing the list of wrongs we all deny we keep, ask him or her to show you in the Bible any verse that justifies their actions or instructs them to place obstacles in your path to restoration. Remind them that putting on the full armor of God to face the world does not mean they can substitute the hammer of truth with a sledgehammer of guilt and go after others with it. Challenge them without harshness though; you don’t want to inflict guilt.
We can’t mix guilt and grace in a bucket to come up with a color that covers the wall and pleases all. It’s a choice, like good and evil, truth and lies, love and hate, death and life, faith and doubt, sin and sanctification, lost and claimed. Choose one of each: good? love? life? faith? sanctification? found? Or . . . evil? hate? death? doubt? sin? lost?
I’m taking door number one and the bonus of grace, which opens my eyes, lifts my head, stirs my heart, moves my feet and begins to put the distance between me and the guilt and the mongers of such.
In my own life, I wish I could have been strong enough to turn away from all the entanglements I too-easily embraced. I loved my wife and my sons and my daughter and I wanted my children to love me and be proud of me and want to honor me. But, I didn’t turn away; I turned life inside out. In fact, my own actions have separated my own children from the fifth commandment. (Yes, I feel guilty abut that too.) I thought somehow I could satisfy all their needs and gratify all my wants at the same time. On top of feeling guilty for all the things I did which put a distance between us, I bear the head-smack of stupidity and the impact of ignorance.
But for the grace of God. And the hope of heaven.
If you are struggling with sexual brokenness – or any habitual sin – the devil will use the mighty weapon of guilt and wield it in such a way that it casts a shadow across your searching eyes and threatens to block the light of grace. Don’t give him that.
Your self tells you that you should feel really guilty about what you have done in your life, and doubly-guilty about how it has affected others. But if that guilt leads you anywhere but to the throne of grace, then you’re just wandering. Satan prefers self-talk to self-control, just as he does guilt to grace. He wants to keep you mumbling in circles of mind-numbing remorse and shame.
Avoid the trap of guilt. Accept the gift of grace.
(Do you want to know how to share the truth with compassion to Christians who struggle with homosexuality or pornography addiction? Thom Hunter’s book, Surviving Sexual Brokenness: What Grace Can Do is available on Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com. It’s also available on Kindle. and Nook.)