Do you ever lie in bed thinking about all the things you did wrong throughout the day? Everyone is sleeping quietly, but you are actively reviewing your sins: the times you yelled in anger at your children, the occasions when you let your emotions overpower your self-control, and the points at which you indulged yourself and procrastinated instead of working.
I have been in that place many times, moments in which the light is not only off in the room, but also in my soul. My sins are before me, and I feel overwhelmed by guilt. It is like I am drowning in a sea of "if only"s—if only I had treated the children in a better way; if only I were more godly; if only I were more intentional in disciplining; if only I would get up earlier; if only I were more diligent; if only I were better.…
Have you ever felt that way? Have you felt so guilty that you run out of hope? Deep down you feel that God is disappointed in you, and you know that no matter how hard you try you can’t meet the standard. You want to be a good mother, but your sin is always before you.
This struggle with guilt is not exclusive to mothers; it is the reality of the redeemed heart that yearns to please God but finds itself in the horrible tension that sin produces. One of those dark nights, I found hope in this confession of the apostle Paul.
“So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:21–24)
My soul fights that same battle. Wretched woman that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Who can save me from the guilt that plagues my joy? Where will I find the hope I need to continue serving God? Paul points us to the solution for our conflict:
“Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7:25a)
The solution to the problem of guilt is found in the placement of our hope. If we look to ourselves, we will only find frustration and helplessness. But if we look to Christ and consider his work in our place, we will find hope. The hope we need is found in Christ! His perfect work in our place took us from death to life and changed our eternal destiny, but we cannot forget that he also saved us from the fatigue of trying to meet God's standard every day. He freed us from the danger of trying to be our own functional saviors and of presenting “works of righteousness” that are worthy of God's favor.
Jesus was the only one who met God's standard of justice. Being righteous, he took the place of the unrighteous. He took our guilt and gave us his perfect justice. What a glorious exchange! Even though we are guilty before a holy God because of sin, in Christ we can declare, “Jesus is my righteousness.” By grace through faith, God then views us as righteous. We are no longer guilty.
So when guilt wants to seize my hope as I lay my head on the pillow at night, I can declare with Paul: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).
I am free from the trap of performance. I am free from the deceit of comparison. I am free from the pitfall of people’s approval. I am free from guilt! And if I sin, I am free to run to God when I experience conviction, knowing that I have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (1 John 2:1). I am free to celebrate that God’s wrath is not upon my shoulders because my Savior bore it on the cross.
I am free to celebrate that Christ is my righteousness, and there is no condemnation for me. That is the present that the gospel invites me to open every day, and the tag says, “Guilt no longer defines who you are; the work of Christ on your behalf does.” Jesus is your righteousness! May that be your hope!
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION/ APPLICATION:
What is your typical reaction in this type of scenario when guilt invades your heart? Do you try to find hope by looking to yourself or Jesus?
What is the difference between guilt and conviction? When you sin, do you feel incapable of presenting yourself before God or do you run to God’s throne trusting that He sees you with the righteousness of Christ?
The next time you feel robbed of your hope by guilt, how can you respond with the word of God? What would this look like practically?
Betsy Gomez has a passion to help others savor the gospel. She manages the blogs and supervises media for Aviva Nuestros Corazones (Revive Our Hearts Hispanic outreach). She is (slowly) pursuing a master’s degree in Ministry to Women at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Betsy, her husband, Moisés, and their two sons, Josué and Samuel are soon transitioning to Irving, Texas; where Moises will serve as a Pastor. She blogs regularly for Aviva Nuestros Corazones, and her personal blog.