I have the honor of leading the women of our church each month in an environment just for them called Girlfriends. This month we continued a teaching series, Who Am I? Our goal? To stop defining ourselves by the roles we play (wife, mom, employee, etc) or the ways others identify us (as the funny one, the perfect one, the lazy one, etc) and learn, instead, to define ourselves the only way God ever intended us to define anyone to do so – through the eyes of our Creator. So, we’re asking the question, Who Am I? and allowing God to answer us through His Word. Here is a summary of our time together this month:
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, messed up.
I’ve witnessed my kids wrong one another and then meltdown when they were busted.
I’ve witnessed friends face the financial consequences of unwise spending.
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 – the way we feel in the end – 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 and it affects how we view ourselves. We’re tempted to equate ourselves with those emotions….believing the worst about ourselves. All of us have felt shame and embarrassment over things that have brought us – or others – pain. So it’s a very normal feeling. But, there’s one MAJOR problem with this very normal feeling of guilt.
Guilt – wallowing in the pain and shame of our actions – gets us nowhere! Well, that’s not exactly true. It does get us somewhere. It takes us down a road of sadness, depression, low self-esteem, and stagnation in our relationships. Yet, Scripture teaches us, as followers of Christ, to respond to our failures 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 absolutely wants us to recognize the pain we cause when we sin, yet He wants MUCH MORE from us. He wants more than our acknowledgement that we’ve messed up. He wants much more than our wallowing in guilt when we mess up. He has a different plan for those who follow Him. He wants us to feel conviction SO THAT WE WILL change our ways.
The kind of sorrow God wants us to feel leads us away from sin. You see, God wants GODLY SORROW, not WORLDLY REGRET. In other words, God wants us to feel the pain our choices have caused. But, if we’ll allow Him, He will use those painful emotions to drive us – to motivate us, to remind us – to avoid those mistakes in the future. Godly sorrow is an understanding that whatever we’ve done to hurt someone else has also hurt God. Godly sorrow motivates us to repent….to change our ways….to turn away from our sin. To put measures in place to avoid those actions in the future.
Friends, there’s a difference between worldly regret and Godly sorrow. Worldly regret is simply guilt that leaves you feeling full of shame and embarrassment with no real plan to prevent those mistakes in the future. Godly sorrow is sorrow accompanied by conviction to make changes so you won’t walk the road of shame and regret in that area of your life anymore.
Worldly regret and Godly sorrow. One leads to future pain, the other leads to spiritual gain. WHO ARE YOU? You are forgiven. That was settled over 2000 years ago on the cross when Jesus died for your sins. Don’t settle for guilt when you mess up. Allow yourself to feel the conviction of your sins so you can walk away from those actions and relish the salvation God has given you!