Have you ever felt guilty about something? I bet you have. Maybe you said something to someone who crossed the line and you felt badly. Maybe you behaved in some way that was less than stellar – maybe no one even knows – and you keep rehashing it in your mind. Whatever the case, we’ve all said and done things that we wish we could forget, right?
Recently, I’ve seen situations like this play out up close and personal. From children to adults, we all deal with situations in which we’ve…..well, screwed up. This week, I’ve witnessed my kids wrong one another and then meltdown when they were busted. I’ve witnessed friends face the consequences of financial burden. And, I’ve walked with a friend whose husband confessed to an affair. These circumstances may all be vastly different with varying levels of consequences, but the emotional state is the same.
We feel guilty when we make unwise choices that cause pain. Most of the time, our guilt brings with it shame, embarrassment, and a desire to hide. Yet, Scripture teaches us to respond in a much different way. Check it out:
2 Corinthians 7:10 “For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.”
Here’s the deal: God wants us to recognize the pain we cause when we sin, yet He wants MUCH MORE from us. Guilt – wallowing in the pain, shame, and sorrow of our actions – gets us nowhere. Well, that’s not true. It does get us somewhere. It takes us down a road of sadness, depression, low self-esteem, and stagnation in our relationships. But, God has a different plan for us. He wants us to feel conviction to change our ways.
Sounds pretty church, huh? Well, it’s true. Read 2 Corinthians one more time. The kind of sorrow God wants us to feel leads us away from sin. In other words, if we’ll allow Him, God will allow us to feel the pain our choices have caused and drive us to avoid those mistakes in the future.
There’s a difference between guilt and conviction. Guilt leaves you feeling full of shame and embarrassment with no real plan to prevent those mistakes in the future. Conviction moves you to make changes so you won’t walk the road of shame and regret ever again.
Worldly regret and Godly sorrow. One leads to future pain, the other leads to spiritual gain. Which will you choose today?