By: Julie Zine Coleman
“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.” - Romans 8:1-2
When you are a mother, guilt is a state of being. I am personally plagued with guilt every time I stop and think about my effectiveness as a mother. There are a thousand things I would do differently if I were to relive the years of raising my children. I would pray for them more often. Spend more one-on-one time with them. Make them do more chores. The list goes on forever.
A working mother has an extra portion of guilt. Trying to maintain a teaching career while raising a family was definitely a challenge. Sometimes my children got the short end of the stick.
I taught at the Christian school where my children attended. One day my daughter’s fourth grade teacher came into the faculty lounge at lunchtime. She sat down next to me and said, “Julie, you have to hear what Melanie gave as a prayer request this morning.” This couldn’t be good. I braced myself. Doris continued, “She said: ‘Would you please pray that my Mom would cook us a homemade meal? It’s been soooo long.’”
The entire table erupted into laughter. That particular week, my husband had been gone for business. Most nights we had stopped at McDonald’s on the way home, so that I didn’t have to face cooking and homework while solo parenting. I sat up straighter in my chair. “OK,” I promised. “Tonight, I am going to make meatloaf, potatoes, and green beans. Comfort food. My days of being a bad mother are over. At least for this week.”
That afternoon, we had a faculty meeting after school that went until 5 PM. I wearily gathered up the papers from my desk and headed down the hall toward the parking lot. On the way, I stuck my head in Doris’ room. “Keep praying,” I told her. “We are going to Wendy’s.”
Yes, guilt is a burden. Most women I know exist in a state of guilty feelings. We never can do enough or do it well enough.
What Does the Bible Have to Say about Guilt?
You might be surprised.
Guilt is never referred to as a feeling. In Scripture, guilt is a condition. It is the condition into which we are born. We inherited it from our ancestor, Adam. Romans 5:18 tells us “through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men….” One bite of the forbidden fruit, and we were all doomed.
Of course, thankfully there is more: “… Even so, through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.” When Jesus suffered and died on the cross, the Heavenly Judge banged the gavel, and those who believe are set free. One man’s act condemned us. The other’s act paid our debt in full.
So technically, we are not guilty anymore, at least in God’s sight. Yet we do sometimes feel the crushing weight of guilt upon us. When this happens, we need to discern the source of the thoughts that put it there.
The Difference between Feeling Guilt and Conviction
One of the many benefits to our salvation is that the Holy Spirit resides within us as a guarantee of our salvation. He does more than inhabit us. He guides us and teaches us. This includes letting us know when we are in the wrong. His conviction for our sin is a healthy thing. It prompts us to repentance and to make peace with those we have wronged. But once we have confessed the sin, and, if necessary, have gone to those we have offended, it is over. Water under the bridge. Time to move on.
Yet still, we may hold tight to guilt, refusing to forgive ourselves. Satan loves this. The Bible calls him “The Accuser.” Guilt is an extremely effective tool of his. It makes us focus on ourselves and our frailties, instead of on Christ and His sufficiency. Guilt can be paralyzing. We are loathe to repeat the same mistake, so in our shame, we stop trying.
Recognize the difference between conviction and guilt. Conviction is redemptive in nature. But guilt: not from God. Let the forgiveness that has been so freely given wash over you. Bask in His grace. Because you are free. Even if you eat at Wendy’s.
Julie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Her award-winning book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Women, was published in 2013 by Thomas Nelson. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily, a devotional site for women. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.
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