Not all of you, or even most of you, experience chronic illness, but all of us, at one time or another, experience pain, suffering, frustration, and difficult circumstances where that ugly weasel, guilt, steals in.
Some of you feel guilt about your situations at home, work, church, school, or about a specific relationship. Whether it’s falling short of expectations you have for yourself, or expectations others have placed on you, somewhere, at some level, most of us believe we are or have failed at something, so we heap on the guilt.
My struggle with guilt frequently revolves around the innumerable factors that affect my POTS symptoms: not eating often enough, eating the wrong kinds of food, eating too much, taking my medications late, not doing yoga, doing too much yoga, moving too much, not moving enough, going somewhere, staying hydrated, sleeping enough, resting enough, stretching enough, having caffeine, breathing properly, and focusing on relaxing because my body tends to seize up. The list goes on and on.
Deep inside I believe if I just do everything right I won’t feel so awful, but the truth is that’s impossible. Even if I could, I still wouldn’t be okay. I still wouldn’t feel good or be capable of doing things normally. But because each of these do play some part, whenever I feel bad physically, I feel like it’s my fault.
I won’t even go into the guilt I feel about all the things I cannot do to take care of myself, Lynn, our life, and friends. It doesn’t matter if I cannot; I feel that I ought to.
Not only is this stupid, it’s wrong.
Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” [emphasis added]. God says that if you are His, your reasons for guilt are nullified, vanquished, nonexistent. “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies, who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died -more than that, who was raised- who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” [Rom. 8:33] Christ did not die so you would wallow in what He paid for.
I am not saying we shouldn’t try to succeed, be kind, and live virtuously, only that so much of our time is wasted in stewing in, and punishing ourselves for, the things we wish we had done. When we bury ourselves in that slough of despond, we actively prevent ourselves from living in the peace God has achieved for us and halt in our journey toward becoming more like Christ, which perpetuates a negative self-feeding spiral.
This is not the life God intends for His children. Strewn throughout the Bible are glorious explosions of joy, thanksgiving, and celebration about our true standing before Him. We are paid for; heaven is coming; we are free in Christ; we are heirs with Christ; “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to us.” [Rom. 8:18]
When we are saved, this is our reality.
But we cannot live with the appropriate effusion of gratefulness that comes from knowing these truths, when we are drowning ourselves in ought tos, should haves, and if onlys . God deserves glory and praise, not an obsession with self-flagellation.
Besides, what are we doing when we wish the past to be different? Are we not, in our day to day subconscious, rejecting the scriptural claim: “that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” [Rom. 8:28]. “All things” includes everything in our past. We must stop sinning against God by doubting His sovereign plan. When we do, we believe less of who He is, what He is capable of, and His victory over sin and death.
“He who did not spare his own son but gave him up for us all, how will he not, also with him, graciously give us all things?” [Rom. 8: 32]. We tend to think of how this verse applies to the present or the future, but it is similarly applicable to our past. God has allowed every screw-up, terrible situation, pain, fight, and frustration to occur. He is weaving all of them together in a epic, glorious, mind-boggling way that makes us into better people, brings others to Christ, and displays to us the depths of His character. This complex unfolding of events is profound and powerful. Just because we don’t get it, because we think it should have been another way, does not negate the truth that it is beautifully perfect, good, and right.
So lay down your pride of believing ‘if I only had this’ or ‘if I had only done that.’ You don’t know. God knows. God knows the way things are is perfect. You do not see all. You do not know all. You were not there when He breathed the world into being. Lay your life, expectations, wishes, hopes, and history at his feet. Move on, with, yes, the best intentions and plans, but go with freedom knowing there is no guilt over your past, present, or future, whether it is good in your eyes or bad. There is freedom to live this life for His glory as best we can, knowing we are on the path of sanctification and glory is on the horizon. It is not going to seem a smooth, direct road, but one day we will see how majestically complicated and perfect God’s plot truly was.
“In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” ~ Romans 8:37
No Guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me.
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny.