Crazy title, huh? I know…I thought the same thing when I initially wrote it. But don’t stop reading just yet. I assure you, there is an encouraging message ahead.
So the inspiration behind this entry came from an intense conversation I had with a friend. While chatting, the story of a famous woman came to mind. I’m sure you’ve heard of her. Her name is Lady Macbeth.
The backdrop of Lady Macbeth’s story takes place in the early 1600’s and is featured in a drama entitled “Macbeth” by play write, William Shakespeare. He tells a tale about a woman named Lady Macbeth, who persuades her husband to murder the king in order to advance his career. Instead of feeling proud of her decision and the outcome of her actions, Lady Macbeth is consumed with guilt. Memories of the murder haunt her and eventually she begins to see “spots” of the king’s blood everywhere she goes. At the height of her emotional torment she yells, “Out, damn’d spot! Out, I say!…Go get some water and wash this filthy witness from my hand.” No matter how much she yelled or how many times she physically washed her hands, Lady Macbeth could not wash away the stain of guilt from her conscience.
Now if you are over the age of two, I am sure you know what it’s like to feel regret about something you’ve said or done. You know that nagging, heavy feeling that tends to linger long after the offense is committed. That, my sister, is GUILT!
We’ve all been there a time or two. It’s that unsettling feeling that reminds us how BAD we’ve been and the WRONG we did! It’s the guilt of: teen pregnancy. Violating the trust of a loyal friend. Taking something that didn’t belong to you. Being dishonest to your husband. Not spending enough time with your children. Sleeping with a random guy. Dropping out of school. Divorce. Eating that extra piece of cheesecake. Disobeying God.
I, too, have had my battles with guilt. In my experience, guilt is often masked by an enemy I like to call, “I Shouldna.”
Have you heard of him?
He also goes by “I shouldna ate that,” “I shouldna said that,” and “I shouldna done that.” As I explored this idea further, I noticed a specific change in my behavioral patterns whenever I allowed “I Shouldna” access into my life. My mood would change, I wasn’t as creative or productive, and I would even isolate myself from friends and family. But after being in a funk for a few weeks, I finally prayed and asked God break this oppressive feeling off my life. To my surprise, God said, “Chequita, I already did when you repented the first time. I forgave you. Now, you can continue to be consumed by what you DID or you can let Me show you what you Can and Should DO.”
You see, God wasn’t keeping me chained to the sins and guilt of my mistakes; I was. When I repented, God cancelled out my sins, never to remember them again (Isaiah 43:25). I was the one reminding Him of my mistakes and shortcomings. The more I rehearsed my mistakes to God, the more I was reiterating my failures to myself, which is how “I Shouldna” gained access to my heart.
Have you given “I Shouldna” access to your heart? Are you holding on to past sins, mistakes, or shortcomings that God have already forgiven? If so, I encourage you to Let it Go. Repent to the Lord and be confident that He has not only forgiven you, but He has also blotted out your sins, never to remember them again.
Now you may be thinking, “But what I’ve done is unforgivable,” or “I don’t think it’s possible to move past this issue.”
Here is something to think about: there is no stain of sin too deep that the blood of Jesus can’t wash out. You don’t have to live in guilt and condemnation (Romans 8:1). Jesus came to save us from our sins and to give us abundant life. Guilt is not of God. It is a tactic used by Satan to drive a wedge between us and God,; but we do not have to succumb to it. Wading in the stain of our sins and mistakes is never the answer. Instead, we can stand firm on this truth: the Blood of Jesus washes us clean; it’s a stain lifter…the ultimate spot remover!
As I think about the truth in God’s Word, I can’t help but to remember Lady Macbeth. I know it’s not based on a true story, but I wonder, what would have happened to Lady Macbeth if she had repented and released her guilt. Instead, she succumbed to an unbearable guilt that ultimately led to mental instability and she eventually died. In reading her story, one would conclude that the stain of Lady Macbeth’s sins was too severe to live with. I believe the stain of sin and guilt didn’t kill Lady Macbeth; living without the grace that flows from the blood of Jesus did.
My friend, it all comes down to this: we can’t change what has happened! Granted, there may be times when you can have a do-over, but even still, the initial damage is done. We have a choice: we can either let “I Shouldna” chain us to the mistakes of our past, or we can let God show us how to avoid repeated behaviors, which will ultimately help pave steps towards a positive future.
You don’t have to be so entangled in your GUILT that you can’t fully embrace your GOD. Repent to the Lord so He can release you from the yoke of guilt and condemnation. Then forgive yourself! These are the first steps towards freedom from guilt. You don’t have to “shout it out” or symbolically wash away your guilt and the stain of sin. The blood of Jesus takes care of that. However, we must take responsibility for our actions and come to terms with the results. Though this won’t be easy, it will be worth it. And to ensure that you have the tools to overcome your guilt, let’s walk through the following four steps:
- Release Yourself
Sometimes, we feel guilty over past sins even after we have repented to God. Thoughts like, “how will others see me?” and “Will I ever be able to go ___ again?” Sometimes we even begin to question God’s love for us.
It doesn’t matter what we think or feel;, we are forgiven once we confess our sins. This is God’s promise to us and He is faithful to not only forgive us, but to cleanse us of ALL of our unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). It’s clear that God’s forgiveness isn’t the hang up; self-forgiveness is. We know God has forgiven us, but sometimes the shame is just too big to get around, thus making it difficult to move forward. Though God has forgiven us, we continue to hold ourselves in bondage. The act of releasing yourself begins with this simple fact: you are not what you did. That sin, shameful act, or bad decision does not define you. Your identity is in Christ Jesus! 2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT says, “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” Once you have confessed your sins to the Lord, you must learn how to separate the sinful and shameful act from your true identity in Christ
I encourage you to use this time as an opportunity to connect to God in prayer. Find scriptures that will help build your faith. 1 John 1:9 tell us to confess our sins and trust that God is faithful to forgive us and to cleanse us of all of our unrighteousness. Self-forgiveness and affirmation through God’s Word will break the chains of guilt from our lives.
- Break the Silence
Secretiveness is a natural response to guilt. The anticipation and fear of criticism and rejection often reinforces a need to keep silent. By choosing to talk to a trusted person about what occurred, you can break the silence and end the torment in your mind. James 5:16 tells us to confess our faults to one another and pray for one another so that we can be healed. This individual can support you in your time of need and hold you accountable when encountering future challenges. Here are a few other scriptures:
- Proverbs 28:13 NLT – People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.
- Luke 12:2 NLT – The time is coming when everything that is covered up will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all.
- Seek Restoration
If you have offended or hurt another person, it is imperative for you to seek restoration. The first step is to recognize your transgressions and the need for reconciliation. Next, make a conscious effort to amend your actions by facing the individual, asking for forgiveness, and taking the next step to mend the hurt you caused (according to Matthew 18:15-20).
- Confront the Accuser
If you have repented of your sins but continue to feel guilty and condemned by Satan (the accuser of the brethren), confront his accusations with God’s Word. Remember, guilt is only a feeling. Ask yourself, “What is the truth? What does the Word of God say about my situation?” We have to fight the enemy with spiritual weapons. Tell your accuser, “Jesus’ blood has made free, and I am free indeed.” (John 8:36) “No longer shall I live in condemnation because I live in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1). Continue to speak God’s Word and you will build your confidence to walk in total freedom.
Remember, when God forgives, He forgets! So, if God doesn’t hold us on to our past sins and mistakes, why should we? Let it go! The guilt. The shame. And LIVE! Your sin was not only covered; the Blood of Jesus blotted Out that DARN Spot!