I don't know if it's just the way I was made or if it's just human nature, but I am my own biggest critic. I can tear myself down faster than anyone. I can't live up to my own standards most of the time, and I then wallow in this pathetic, self-imposed guilt. Does this sound familiar to anyone else? The guilt comes in all different forms, whether it's that I'm failing as a mother and wife or that I'm simply not doing enough for God. I make myself feel guilty all-the-time, but it's almost always guilt based on my standards--not God's.
Today in my reading, I was studying the book of Galatians. It's all stuff I've read countless times before, but I immediately started crying and feeling overwhelmed with guilt. The Word was convicting in a new way. I was reading in chapter 5 where Paul talks about all these various sins that will keep us from Heaven. It's a list with a lot of heavy, deep, talked-about-in-church-a-lot sins, but it also has a list of what are everyday kinds of sin in my life. He lists idolatry, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfish ambition, and envy, among all the others. Idolatry doesn't just mean that you shouldn't bow down to carved statues and tiny little idols, it means "the immoderate attachment or devotion to something," according to my buddy Webster. Do you know what that means? It means I'm guilty of idolatry anytime I let something in my life bump God out of that #1 spot. I can treat my family, my social life, my TV shows, my anything as an idol when I let it become what steals my devotion. Am I ever hostile? Yes. Do I ever have quarrels with others? Yes. Am I jealous or angry or selfish or envious? Yes. < Insert terribly guilty feelings here. > It hit me hard.
Paul says, "...anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God." That's heavy. It's especially heavy because these aren't always things that I take control of in my life. Sometimes, I let these things control me. I stopped and prayed that God would forgive me and convict me when I behave like this, and that He would help me change. It felt good to cry out to God and to really feel like He was speaking to me through my reading today.
I continued to feel guilty, though. How do I let myself live like this? God deserves so much more from me. I've been a Christian for far too long to still be acting like this. I was letting the guilt get to me. It wasn't a healthy guilt. I'd already confessed my sin and asked for forgiveness. God was good with that. His grace had already covered it.
I realized that God's grace may have already covered it, but I wasn't giving myself any grace. I can't just give grace to others, I have to be able to give it to myself. This cycle of self-imposed guilt isn't healthy. It gets me focused on me. It gives me a bad attitude that can make me fight with my husband, be un-loving towards my kids or be envious of some other person who I think clearly has it all together. It's not what God wants for me. He gave me grace. I need to give some to myself. If God can forgive me, I can forgive me, too.
Galatians 5:1 says, "So Christ has really set us free. Now make sure you stay free, and don't get tied up again in slavery to the law." When I continue to live in guilt, long after God has forgiven me, I'm falling back into this slavery to the law. Yes, the laws are good and necessary, but God's grace forgives me when I fail. He gives me the grace to pick up myself up, try harder, and focus on what's most important. Love. Paul goes on to say in verse 6 that "What is important is faith expressing itself in love."
Do you need to give yourself some grace? Do you hold onto guilt like I do? The next time you're feeling like this, get down to the root of the problem--are you feeling guilty because there's a problem in your life that needs addressed or are you feeling guilty because you're not giving yourself grace in a situation where God already has? If Christ has truly set us free, we need to live in the freedom of His grace.
2 Corinthians 12:8-9
God, help us to live in the freedom of your grace and not be bound by our own self-imposed guilt.
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