I once heard the story of a person who suffered with a medical condition called congenital analgesia. This is a very rare condition where the sufferer can’t feel any physical pain. People who suffer from this can’t tell when they’ve done harm to themselves. They don’t feel the warning signs of water that’s getting too hot or a stick that’s too sharp. They can break bones without realising it, and continue to do more damage as they move around unaware of the injury. They live their life in a constant state of being unsure if they’re actually safe or not. It’s a highly debilitating disorder and can easily lead to death, as symptoms of serious injuries or illness can be hidden for too long.
Bizarrely, I was reminded of this condition when I was trying to explain to our 6 year old son, Kyle why he felt so bad on the inside when he did something wrong. I was explaining to him that he was feeling ‘guilt’ and explained what a wonderful gift it is from God. I told him how guilt makes us want to say sorry to others, and to God, and makes us never want to do that wrong thing again.
I also told Kyle to thank God for the guilty feeling, as that’s our protection against doing wrong things over and over again. That inside pain is a fantastic warning signal. As we move into sinful behaviour we start to feel guilty, and then we choose to stop what we’re doing, rather than causing harm.
Just as we should all be grateful for the gift of the kind of physical pain that keeps us remarkably safe, we should be grateful for the gift of guilt – God’s mechanism for keeping us safe in the boundaries of life. Just as we listen to the warning signs of physical pain creeping in, we should respond to the warning signs of guilt and not just push it aside to be ignored, or prayed about to feel better.
Guilt is overcome by accepting the forgiveness of God, which means forgiving ourselves when we’ve done wrong. If we refuse to forgive ourselves, the feeling of guilt festers in our lives, and serves to mask other feelings of guilt that are there to continue that role as a protector.
If you’re feeling guilty today, ask God to show you if it’s His gift of guilt that leads you to repentance, or if it’s guilt you’re holding on to because you’ve not forgiven yourself. Either way, thank God for His amazing gift of guilt. It really can save you!
Prayer: Thank You, Father God, that You’ve given us all the amazing gift of guilt to protect us from harm. Forgive me for the things I’ve done wrong, and help me to forgive myself, so I can find true freedom in You. Amen.
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