by Ron DeBoer
In Khaled Hosseini’s best-selling novel, Kite Runner, the book’s main character, Amir, witnesses a horrific act of violence against his best friend, Hassan. But instead of defending his friend, Amir watches from a distance and then runs home. In the days that follow, he watches his friend transform from a bubbly, idealistic boy into a depressed, guarded individual. Every day Amir carries the guilt of his friend’s violation with him, so that eventually his inaction comes to define his perspective and indeed his core self. Because his friend becomes a constant reminder of his own guilt, Amir eventually tries to eliminate Hassan from his life by trying to frame him for a theft he didn’t commit. This act, of course, creates another layer of guilt for Amir.
Perhaps you carry a lot of guilt with you, too. You work too much and don’t spend time with your kids. You kept quiet when you should have spoken up. You damaged someone’s property or reputation. Or perhaps you carry with you secrets no one else knows about. You regularly view pornography, you are cheating on your spouse, or you have gone to places or indulged in sins that brought you temporary joy but long-term guilt.
Only you and God know the secrets you harbor and the guilt you carry.
David knew a thing or two about guilt. A boyhood hero who killed a giant in the name of God, David succumbed to his temptations and not only lusted after a married woman, Bathsheba, but eliminated her husband on the front lines during battle so he could have her all to himself.
In Psalm 38:1-4, David cries out to God in guilt: “O Lord, don’t rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your rage! Your arrows have struck deep, and your blows are crushing me. Because of your anger, my whole body is sick; my health is broken because of my sins. My guilt overwhelms me—it is a burden too heavy to bear.”
Do you sometimes feel like David? Do you find yourself in those lonely hours of your life praying to God like this?
The good news is that God forgives those who ask for it. In Psalm 51:2-3, David pleads with God, “Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night.”
Recognizing your sins and asking for forgiveness is the first step in feeling your guilt lifted. Proverbs 28:13 says, “People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.”
God knows we sin. He knows we carry the guilt of that sin. Psalm 32:2 affirms his happiness when we are honest: “Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared from guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty.”
No feelings of guilt for what you have done or thought or didn’t do are too big for God to wipe away. 1 John 3:20 tell us, “Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything.”
Many Christians who have sinned continue to feel guilt, long after they have asked forgiveness and stopped their sinful acts. In fact, their feelings of guilt are compounded because they feel it is wrong to doubt God’s forgiveness. Ephesians 5:8 assures us that when we are forgiven, we are free of our sin: “For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light.”
Friends, it doesn’t matter what you have done. It might be recorded in an official file somewhere—in a warden’s office or in court documents—or only in your own mind. You may have once been guilty, but God forgives your sins and wipes away your guilt.
Ask forgiveness, ask for God’s help to resist temptation, and live your life as a person of light.