Offering Hope and Encouragement in the Midst of Sorrow

                       DEALING WITH GUILT                                       


  Feeling like  guilt is getting the best of you?
Guilt is like an invasive weed that creeps its way into the most painful place in our hearts. Sometimes guilt is easily resolved. It may take a bit of humbling oneself, apologizing, receiving forgiveness, and moving on. Some forms of guilt, however, are not quite as simple as apologizing, and take years to resolve. As time passes, the intensity recedes, and guilty feelings are resolved in a slow progression of positive actions. There is a form of guilt I have recently become aware of that is very different from other forms of guilt and is not easily resolved. It tears at the edges of a wounded heart. There is no opportunity to whisper an apology or hear words of forgiveness. I have had the opportunity to speak with many young widows and widowers , and the subject of guilt seems to consistently come up. Those who have experienced loss through sudden death experience it, and those who go through a long dying process with their spouse experience it. Loving, considerate wives feel it and husbands who adored their wives, live with it. This type of guilt is not a respecter of a good relationship, nor is it partial to those who deserve to feel guilty.  Most widows and widowers have experienced some degree of guilt after the loss of their spouse. Whether in an impatient moment worn from the battle of a long illness, or during the course of normal daily living, the probability is that at some point in our lives we have said an impatient, inconsiderate, or cynical word to our spouse. Let me assure you that after the loss of our spouse, we will revisit every negative comment we ever made to them! They will pop up when we are grocery shopping; they will surface when we are merging onto the freeway, and they will rear their ugly heads during the still of the night. We do not need to remind ourselves to feel guilty. Guilt, warranted or not, will find some moment to trouble our minds. When our spouses died, they were immediately released from the cares of this world. God has removed from their minds remembrances of the struggles of life, including any hurtful words from their spouse. God has wiped away all earthly concerns, and they are enjoying being in the presence of Jesus. God encourages us to cast our cares, our anxieties, and our concerns upon Him as we continue to struggle with the things of this world. 1 Peter 5:7-11 reminds us, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary, the devil, like a roaring lion walketh about, seeking whom he may devour; Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after ye have suffered awhile, make you perfect, established, strengthen, settle you. To Him be glory and dominion forever and ever." Christians frequently make casting our cares upon Jesus sound simple. But in actuality, it is at times very complex. When we cast our guilt at the Master’s feet, it forces us to relinquish a part of ourselves that is difficult to give up. When we take a "guilt trip down memory lane", it serves as a type of punishment for us. Since there is no way to make it right with our spouse, we feel justified in accepting guilt as punishment for our words or actions. It serves as some sort of atonement for a wrong we cannot make right. In the Scripture passage, you will note that God mentions the act of humbling ourselves first, then talks about casting our cares upon Him. Isn’t it interesting that He first mentions humbling ourselves? After humbling ourselves we are to cast our cares on Him. Then comes a warning to be vigilant. If we have humbled ourselves, and cast our cares on him, thus releasing ourselves from the guilt that we carry, then we are warned that our adversary, the devil, sees us as prey to devour. At that point, to fall back into guilt, which once served as penance for a wrong we can never right, is to fall prey to our adversary, the devil. Armed with the knowledge of what God expects us to do, how do we make it a reality in our lives? Just because we know what we should do, does not make it easier for us to actually do what we need to do. We continue to carry our human emotions with us every minute of the day, and that often interferes with our good intentions. Disciplining our minds to not allow thoughts of guilt is difficult, but with prayer and practice God can enable us to restrict ourselves from dwelling on feelings of guilt.