Charlie Brown’s characteristic phrase was “Good Grief!” But is there such a thing as good grief? Most definitely. Can feeling bad about things we have done, a kind of grief, be good? The Bible surprises us with this:
Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for you were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. (2 Corinthians 7:9-10).
Here are three reasons why the grief of guilt can be good:
A capacity for feeling guilt means that we are human.
“In many things we offend all” (James 3:2).
Feeling guilt means that we are healthy humans.
Psychology has a term for people who do not feel guilty: psychopathic. This is not a new idea. Ephesians 4:19 speaks of people “who, being past feeling” plunge into depths of evil.
Guilt also motivates us to change.
Guilt, like physical pain, is not a goal; it is a guide. Guilt is God’s guide to joy. It tells us to move away from one thing and to another.
So, if guilt, like pain, is not the destination to get stuck in, how do we move on?
Make right whatever you can make right.
Make things right with God.
Repentence is not things we do to make up for our wrongs. People get hung up here. Repentence is just the desire to turn back to God. All normal people feel guilt, but most people just go on their way and bury that feeling along with all the other baggage of their lives. God’s purpose in designing guilt (yes, it is a gift designed by God) is to motivate us to turn back to Him. The creator of life has the plan for making life to be beautiful and good. Again. If you have never put your trust in God as your Savior and don't have a relationship with him, that is the very first step. Learn more about how to do that by clicking here.
Make things right with people as best you can.
There is a time and manner for talking to someone to acknowledge that you were wrong. Talking is better than writing. It’s hard, but it is more personal. Often, people are surprised by the positive welcome brought by their attempt to make things right. Talking is also better because the goal is to make offenses right, not to document them.
Some things can’t be made right. The offended person may have died. There may be financial matters you cannot presently repay. Do what you can; commit to do what you can in the future. Let the rest go. If God will not bring it up again (Hebrews 8:12), why should you?
The Apostle Paul understood guilt. In his youth, he thought he was doing God a favor by “entering into every house, and [arresting] men and women, committed them to prison” (Acts 8:3). Yes, the young Paul, before he was converted, was responsible for even the death of people who followed Christ. In the New Testament book Philippians, he wrote, “Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (3:13-14). With that balance, he could encourage others to “Rejoice in the Lord [always]” (4:4).
God has a way of bringing good wherever He enters the equation.
Need help with these ideas? God did not make us to be the Lone Ranger. Eagle Heights is a group of very fallible people. We understand what it is to realize when we have done wrong. We also have experienced God’s mercy and grace as we have made things right with God and others.
We do not look down on people for human frailty: we have plenty of it ourselves. We believe that God has called us to share with others the joy of responding in a biblical way to the “good grief” of guilt.
There is hope and there is help.
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