Feeling Guilty ... When You Are

Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. —Psalm 51:1-2 NLT

It started out so simply. He didn’t feel like going to work. He’d worked all his life. Hard work. Terrifying times. He’d finally made it to the top of the pile, and he just up and decided he needed a break. So, he told the others to do the work, and he sat at home and wandered about his palace. And then he let his eyes wander where they had no business wandering.

It ended terribly in adultery, murder, the death of a child, and the eventual dissolution of a kingdom.

Yes. We are talking about King David from the Bible. He had done so well. He had triumphed over the enemy Goliath and given glory to God. He had spared King Saul’s life when he had the perfect opportunity to spear Saul in that cave and rid himself of one who meant him great harm. He had waited for God’s timing to become the king, valiantly fought battles beside his mighty men, sung glorious songs to his God, and declared his trust and love for Him over and over. We read about his sinful fall with horror. How could this happen? Wasn’t David the man after God’s own heart?

We silently shiver as we realize that we, too, could fall no matter how firmly grounded in God’s Word we think we are. This totally true morality tale of the tallest order has much to teach us. David dearly loved God. Yet David sinned in a very big way. He felt guilty because he was guilty. Let’s learn from him today.

When you are guilty, don’t …

  • cover it up with more sin. Once David realized Bathsheba was pregnant, he did everything he could think of to make it look like the child was not his but her husband’s. When that didn’t work, he carefully arranged a scenario in battle so that her husband would most likely die. And die he did. As fallen humans we can be guilty of cover-up attempts too. Instead of confessing when we lie, we try bigger lies. When we’re caught doing wrong, we twist the truth to cast the blame on someone else. Well, yes, I did lose my temper, but you should have seen what he did.
  • worry more about your reputation than the truth. I can’t speak definitively for King David, but I do know that I have worried too much about “looking good” at times and tried to make myself appear in a better light than I deserved. I suspect he also wanted to maintain his reputation even by lying. Ironically, the story I might be best remembered for in a former ministry circle is the time I deceived a dear family about a broken wooden elephant leg. People resonated with the story of my guilt and eventual confession. I still hear from women who heard me tell that story! [Sigh.] Here’s the thing. We do not need to guard our reputation and act like we are perfect when we are not. Hiding our sins and pretending we are better than we are is wrong. Reputations are more thoroughly ruined by deceit than by honesty. Tell the truth. You and I are sinners saved by grace and appropriately sharing our sin struggles can benefit others. In any case we are not to point to ourselves, but to Christ and share through our lives that He has saved and restored us time and time again. Worry more about telling the truth. That’s the best way to maintain a good reputation.

When you are guilty, do …

  • admit it fully without rationalization. Even when I do confess a sin, I often want to justify it in some way. I want to blame it on a hard day or what the other person did first or claim that I didn’t fully know what I was doing. This does not please God. When we are wrong, let’s admit it. David fully confesses his sin in Psalm 51. In the first two verses he begs, “Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin” (NLT). Later in the psalm he names the sin of having Bathsheba’s husband killed. “Forgive me for shedding blood,” he cries (vs. 14). He does not once point the finger elsewhere. He owns his sin and is broken by it. When we remember that God knows everything and sees everything it quickly becomes obvious that fully admitting what He already knows just makes sense. Our response to Him must be simply, “This is what I did. It was wrong. And now I come to You with my guilt.”
  • come in full repentance to the God who forgives. Here is where the blessing comes. When we are willing to admit our sin and see that we are indeed guilty, our loving God and Savior fully forgives. You see, guilt is not meant to torment us; it’s meant to lead us to a place of honesty and sorrow and humility. It’s meant to lead us to the God who forgives sin and washes away both the sin and the guilt. No one who belongs to God has to live with shame or condemnation. We were bought with a steep price. Jesus took the punishment for our sins on Himself and offers us redemption and restoration. All we do is simply come and admit what He already knows. David’s wonderful prayer of repentance declares beautiful truths about God’s forgiveness. His honesty and his contrite spirit is why he was a man after God’s own heart. Please don’t ever hesitate to confess sin and be forgiven. If you are a child of God, your inheritance is the continual forgiveness won for you on that cross so long ago. Wasting time wallowing in guilt and shame is in itself sinful! God has work for us to do. Let’s honestly confess sin and move on toward the goal of sharing the good news of Christ’s love for the world—and not let Satan keep us in a place of shame.

As we end this chat, pray with me using David’s own words from Psalm 51:7-10. “Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me—now let me rejoice. Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.” Thank You, Lord, for Your great forgiveness and cleansing. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

To see our companion post look at last week’s Feeling Guilty ... When You Aren’t.

You are loved,



Sweet Selah Ministries

To inspire a movement away from the belief that “busy is better”
and toward the truth of God’s Word that stillness and knowing
Him matter most—and will be reflected in more effective work and service

To offer biblical resources and retreats that help women pause (Selah)
and love God more deeply as they know Him more intimately (Sweet)

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2 Responses to “Feeling Guilty ... When You Are”

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  1. Patricia Dexter says:

    I had a particularly rough day today. I was very angry at God and I let Him know about it in my car driving down the road and yelling at Him for an unanswered prayer that I’ve had for years. I was not very nice. I felt so awfully guilty after especially since my husband apologized which he never does. I prayed immediately for forgiveness but I still had a guilty feeling. After reading this I’m not feeling so bad now. Than you.


  2. Sharon Gamble says:

    Oh Pat. So glad this helped you receive God's forgiveness and grace more fully! He takes away our yuck. Every time we ask. Oh what a Savior!! Love and hugs and wishes for a better day tomorrow!

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