Gee, I haven't done much today, I thought, throwing a load of laundry into the washer. That catnap now seemed like a bad idea considering my to-do list. For a second I wilted in guilt. Am I just lazy? Will I ever get my life together?
Then I recalled the previous weeks. I'd pushed nonstop physically and mentally through a hectic schedule. I probably needed that extra sleep! I thought, snapping out of my shame. As I shut the washer lid, I acquitted myself and celebrated. Yes! I'm making progress toward overcoming guilt's grip! It's been a long journey—and it's one I'm still on.
Guilt has been an ever-present plague in my life. Am I friendly enough to the parents at the Little League game? Am I spending enough time with my kids? Am I being a good witness to the store clerk, the UPS delivery man, the waitress, and every other breathing person with whom I come in contact? My list never ends.
On the outside, I appear outgoing and am reasonably confident in my abilities. But inwardly I can feel like a true failure at who I am. Disappointment looms as I picture where I long to be spiritually. I'm such a failure is my private pain.
Recently though, my small group began a new study. For weeks we zeroed in on how God loves us—no matter what. I always knew God loved me, but the unconditional aspect of his love started becoming more real. Then sermons on the radio and church signs everywhere suddenly seemed to shout the message of God's grace and mercy. The more I realized there was nothing I could do to make God love me less, the freer I felt within.
Now I work at owning that truth. I give myself a break and allow my girlfriends to encourage me to ease up on myself. While they still help push me toward accomplishing my goals, they remind me that no one's perfect. I'm God's child, and I can celebrate being me—quirks included!
But while friends are important, God's Word is the surest source of truth and encouragement when guilt rears its ugly head. Eating habits are one trigger for me. I remember a time of snacking mindlessly and eating too much at meals. When I braved the scales, the numbers reflected my bad choices. My thoughts accused me, You're overweight, and you'll always be that way. Then I recalled , "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."
I needed to change my dietary habits, but condemnation wasn't the answer. I learned the distinction between reaping what I'd sowed and rising above self-incrimination. God's Word brings life, and key Scriptures develop life-giving attitudes that conquer guilt.
Not all my guilt has been caused by actions as benign as sleeping or eating too much. Many of us experience guilt over serious issues, too. Whether it's an unwed pregnancy, financial dishonesty, harboring bitterness, or betraying a friend through gossip or jealousy—the truth is, God forgives. His grace covers my deepest guilt. And he's powerful enough to work through my simple inadequacies.
Will I ever get my life together? Some days I wonder what that really means. But as I nurture my relationship with God, I'm learning to ditch the guilt and embrace his unconditional love. As God said in , "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
Karen Morerod lives with her family in Kansas.
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