As a mom I wear many hats – “tutor,” “taxi-driver,” “nutritionist,” “mediator,” “counselor,” and the list goes on. Of all my many roles, though, “nurse” is my least favorite – especially when I have to pull out these bad boys:
Splinters are a regular occurrence with our crew of climbers and every time someone shows up with one (sometimes days after getting it), I know I’m in for a battle. Because “It hurts!” they want me to “Make it stop!” but… “Do you have to use THOSE?!”
Over the years, I’ve become a professional splinter-remover. It might cause a momentary increase in pain, but I’ll get it out before you know it!
Nothing splinters our relationship with God more than guilt. It’s a nagging twinge of pain reminding you of what you’ve done wrong and how you’ve failed to measure up. The sting of regret has a way of holding us back from receiving and trusting in His love.
A couple weeks ago, as I was removing a splinter from the hand of my other regular patient – my husband – he said to me, “It’s amazing how something that tiny can cause so much pain!” When we sin, we may expect the incident itself to cause pain, but we don’t realize that those leftover bits of guilt can cause even more pain if we let them stick around.
In the Old Testament, God, knowing His people would struggle with sin and subsequently, guilt, set up a system of sacrifices. As the guilty person made their offering, the spiritual penalty was lifted from them and put on the animal – blood that was not their own was shed for their forgiveness (see Hebrews 9:22). They walked away having seen a visual representation of their pardon and the transfer of their guilt.
When Jesus died, He became the final offering and “we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all”.(Hebrews 10:10) We no longer need to make offerings for our sin since “by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (10:14) The spiritual penalty for our sin was transferred to Jesus as He hung on the cross – and He took our guilt as well.
As a Christian, I can accept that Jesus took my sin, but I have a harder time accepting that I can let go of the guilt, too. Remorse can be a good thing when it leads me to an awareness and acknowledgment of sin, but after that its job is done. Unfortunately, like many believers, rather than let the tweezers do their thing, I have a tendency to let those splinters stay lodged deep in my soul.
Guilt is a comfort zone because even though it nags away, we believe the constant reminder will force us to change. Maybe if I keep remembering what I did and how sorry I feel, I can guarantee it won’t happen again. I’ve sat up many a night reliving things I’ve said or done, telling myself, “I won’t ever let that happen again!”
Sometimes we hold on to guilt because the emotion of ‘feeling bad’ seems a deserved punishment. Lingering guilt multiplies the pain and helps us get back at ourselves for those “I can’t believe I did that!” moments. If we just let it go, it’s like we’re ‘getting away with it’.
Other times we think if we feel bad enough for long enough, we’ll somehow prevent any further consequences of our sin from happening. Maybe if I show God how bad I feel and how sorry I am, this will all be over. Even as we worship, we keep a grasp on guilt, hoping it will produce deeper emotion as we sing to Him.
But none of this feeling extra sorry, inflicting extra pain, or generating extra motivation is necessary because God has already said, “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” (Hebrews 10:17) If He’s choosing to not remember my sin, I can follow His lead and do the same! I can trust that, “where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.” (10:18) It’s then that I can truly “draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings.” (10:22)
Splinters happen and so does guilt. But anything beyond the prick of the Holy Spirit leading us to repentance is not of God. Whether it’s real or imagined, from sin or from an honest mistake, prolonged guilt has no place in the life of a Christian.
My acceptance of Jesus as Savior is also an acceptance of His acceptance of me – no matter what.* My weaknesses, failures, and even intentional sins are no longer mine – they are His and my life is now part of His much bigger plan. In her book, “Nothing to Prove,” author Jennie Allen says, “Your eyes may still feel glued to the carpet with fear and shame but God has a sneaky way of not only forgiving our past sin but redeeming the choices we thought had ruined everything.”
What guilt have you been letting nag at you?
Will you hold out your splintered hand and let the ‘Professional Splinter-Remover’ take it away today?
*”Ruthless Trust,” Brennan Manning, Chapter One