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When grace meets guilt, past shame is forgotten

Posted: Friday, June 24, 2005

Following his adulterous affair with Bathsheba, King David felt miserable.

Guilt, one of the most unpleasant human emotions, drained his life of the joy that had made him a composer and singer of sweet songs.

A man whose heart was filled with praise, now lived under a threatening cloud every day.

The guilty king felt older than his years. His thoughts were in turmoil and he had no peace. The one who had written about experiencing the constant care of his Lord now felt God had deserted him.

Viewing beautiful, bathing, Bathsheba from his housetop brought mighty David down. Lust accomplished in moments what the armies of his enemies had been unable to do in years of battle. David fell on his roof; guilt's anguish made him wish he had fallen off it.

Sound familiar?

Have you been there? Worse! Do you live there?

Psychologist Gershen Kaufman wrote: "Guilt refers to shame which is clearly about moral matters, a poignant disappointment in self-owing to a sudden break with one's most cherished values in living." No wonder guilt feelings are so devastating.

David's immoral involvement with Bathsheba violated values that had been the very foundation of his life.

During better days, he had pledged himself to purity. His mind had been occupied with thoughts of praise that have been preserved in the Psalms and are still treasured around the world because they lift those who read them to heights of joy in worship.

Now his joy was gone.

Lingering guilt can have devastating effects on its victims, bringing both emotional and physical illness, but there also can be a positive side to guilt.

These unwelcome tormentors may move us to deal with the root causes of problems that would otherwise remain unsolved. In these cases guilt feelings can move us to confess our sins so we can experience the freedom that follows forgiveness.

David confessed his sins to his Lord and was forgiven. Following his confession, he wrote, "I acknowledged my sin to you, and my iniquity I have not hidden ... and you forgave the iniquity of my sin," Psalm 32:5.

Forgiveness places the past forever behind us, and confession of sin always brings forgiveness: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins," 1 John 1:9.

Too often — being afraid to open up to God — we attempt to hide the real reasons for our guilt.

Hoping to find a way to relief, other than facing our wrongdoing, we postpone accepting his forgiveness.

Our refusal to expose our sins to the light only deepens our darkness and feeds our fears, however.

"Guilt makes cowards of us all," wrote Shakespeare.

Sensing a troubled man was afraid he had done something for which he couldn't be forgiven, I told him to remember the Lord didn't come to rub it in, he came to rub it out.

My simple statement about the purpose of God in redemption was all this guilty man needed to accept full forgiveness by faith.

When his guilt met God's grace, he was finally free.

Roger Campbell is an author, radio broadcaster and newspaper columnist from Waterford, Mich.

He was a pastor for 22 years and has been a guest speaker in Alaska churches from Anchorage to Homer.



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