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The Power of Guilt (February’s Verse)

Guilt is a powerful emotion. It brings with it a terrible fear—a fear that can be paralysing. Guilt can have many side effects—often seemingly far removed from our guilt; side effects that can range from anxiety about inconsequential things, to depression, to muscular and bodily pains, to a host of other areas.

Good treatment doesn’t simply deal with the symptoms but seeks to get to the root of the matter, but how do you deal with guilt for long past events? One way is to seek out those injured, apologise and make restitution. This is good, but not good enough, because we are still guilty in God’s eyes. We have also broken his law—a law intended to guard the people that we have hurt, and even though we make things right with them, we haven’t made them right with God. The guilt remains—and often we are aware of it niggling at us.

And what of those situations where we have done wrong, and can’t do anything to make amends, or having done so, still feel we can’t forgive ourselves—where do we go then?

The verse on the calendar for February points to the answer. Rather than just quote the verse, let me put it in its context. It’s from Psalm 130:

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;
O Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.

If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness;
therefore you are feared.

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning.

O Israel, put your hope in the LORD,
for with the LORD is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins.

Guilt places us in the depths, but where do we go? We can try self-help, counselling, making amends, but we can never pull ourselves out of the pit successfully. We will still be guilty, and we know it. How so? Because there is One who keeps a record of our guilt, and to him we must answer.

Yet that line that speaks of God keeping a record of our sins is phrased as a question, not as a statement of fact. Why is that? Because God offers to set aside our guilty record and to offer us forgiveness instead. He offers us mercy, forgiveness, and unfailing love—three medicines that deal with the root cause of guilt and not merely the symptoms.

Where do we find this mercy? We don’t earn it, we ask for it from the one who offers to take our record of sin and guilt and deal with it at the Cross—Jesus. Is guilt plaguing you? Let it take you to him, for “with him there is forgiveness” (verse 4).