Comic actor Dennis Miller said in one famous rant, “Guilt is simply God’s way of letting you know that you are having too good a time.” There is truth in that statement, but God has higher uses for guilt in our lives. God places the feelings of guilt in our moral consciousness for good purposes.
All of us have done things during our lives for which we are not proud. In some cases we have taken drugs, even sold our bodies for money. We remember with sadness those times when we were alone, cold, and hungry, and those actions seemed like the only alternative. We loathed ourselves for doing it and even more for liking it a little. For women it sometimes resulted in getting pregnant. Some of us chose abortions. We live with the pain of those difficult decisions.
However, never confuse guilty feelings with shame. Guilt comes from our moral recognition that we have “missed the mark”. Guilt is our moral compass indicating that we have done something bad…shame is the devil speaking to us telling us that because of our actions, we are bad people. Not true! God forgives us and can use those experiences to point us in the right direction.
Feeling of guilt can act as a deterrent. When we are tempted again, God uses those unpleasant memories we felt to restrain us from falling into sin again. Restraint, when exercised repeatedly, turns into discipline. Like muscle that gets stronger from free-weight workouts, our resolve to avoid sin gets stronger as we resist the devil and walk away from temptation.
Pain and guilt are motivators as well as deterrents. When we fully understand that Jesus Christ walked that last mile on death row to pardon us for our sin, we will be motivated to fall to our knees and give thanks to God. We can show our thanks through our words and actions. The realization of God’s wonderful gift moves us to a place of accepting God’s grace and forgiveness.