Friday, December 8, 2023

What to Do with Feelings of Guilt

 By: Lauren Thomas 

Guilt is common to the human experience. When we use it to repair our relationships and restore what we have misused, guilt is healthy and helpful. But what should we do when we experience feelings of guilt? As believers, how do we handle guilt appropriately?

1.     Repent. As believers, our first step when we feel guilt is to repent. Repentance means more than telling God you are sorry, or even asking for forgiveness. Repentance means turning and making changes. Sometimes repentance will involve apologizing to people you have hurt. 


If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9 (ESV)


Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out,

Acts 3:19 (ESV)


2.     Remind. Remind yourself of what God’s Word says about the forgiveness He extends to you. Meditate on, and even memorize verses that encourage you in your right standing with God through Jesus. Consider verses such as this:


as far as the east is from the west,
    so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

Psalm 103:12 (ESV)


3.     Pray. If guilt persists, ask God to send you the Helper (Holy Spirit) to reveal the source and purpose of the guilt you are experiencing. On the night of Jesus’ betrayal, He told his followers about the Holy Spirit whom He would send. Jesus used these words to describe the Holy Spirit: the Helper and the Spirit of Truth. Conviction is from the Holy Spirit, our Helper, who will guide us into the truth. If conviction is from Him, the only thing that will block His voice is ourselves.


Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:

John 16:7-8 (ESV)


13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth,

John 16:13a (ESV) 


 4.     Get Counsel. If after the above steps, guilt persists, seek counsel from a mentor, spiritual leader, or Christian counselor. Sometimes God uses others to convey truth to us. Seeking guidance is a sign of healthy submission. Just be sure you weigh all counsel against Scripture. God will not contradict Himself. And be advised, some guilt is the result of unhealthy patterns and cycles that may take time and work to change.* 


5.     Cease. If through all of the above, you continue to experience guilt for things you have repented of and changed, there is a chance the “Accuser” is involved. You are under no obligation to listen to him nor his destructive lies!


There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:1 (ESV)


For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Galatians 5:1 (ESV)


What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Romans 8:31 (ESV)



Are you currently experiencing feelings of guilt? If so, how will you apply these 5 steps for handling guilt?

If you have handled guilt using a similar process in the past, what step feels the most challenging for you? What makes that step challenging?

*Information in this blog post is not intended to replace diagnosis or treatment of mental health. 

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