Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. —Psalm 51:1-4
Today we’re going to Psalm 51. The first four verses are the focus. Suffice it to say, this Psalm was written by David in the aftermath of his epic, compounded sin with Bathsheba. He cuts right to the chase in this prayer because he is driven to God by the crushing weight of “my sin is ever before me” (v.3). He’s certainly got a load of guilt that needs off-loading.
I’m going to go against the grain at this point and suggest to you that guilt is a good thing. Okay? It’s not nice, but it’s necessary. It’s not enjoyable, but it is enlightening. And guilt is not forever, but it is for now. It has a purpose. Guilt is good. It’s a moral alarm in your life that alerts you when you’re outside of God’s boundaries. You’re making choices and taking action. Suddenly you sense—Bwup; Bwup; Bwup! Lights begin to blink and your conscience goes off and it says, “Yeah? No! No! Not here. Not now. Not this.”
Sadly today guilt—like the sin that it alerts us to—has fallen on hard times. People are more interested in ignoring, bypassing, or rejecting guilt than in wondering if guilt might have a positive purpose. In the aftermath of David’s affair with Bathsheba, every action taken by David had guilt written all over it (see 2 Samuel 11-12). He tried to trick Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband. Then David had him killed. It took the courageous confrontation by his friend Nathan to help David see that he was operating entirely in guilt mode but missing entirely where guilt was trying to drive him—to repentance. One look at the horrible extent of his sin when Nathan said, “You are the man” (2 Samuel 12:7) and guilt wiped David right off his feet. David couldn’t wait to repent.
It may not be easy, but the first response to a twinge of guilt ought to be, “What have I done?” Guilt shouldn’t fester, and guilt can turn out to be false, but before assigning it to be removed or ignored, we may have to let it do some good work in us and bring us to repentance before God. —James MacDonald
· What experiences in my life come to mind when I think of good guilt?
· What steps do I take when I realize I’m feeling guilt?
Prayer: Father, thank You for the gift of guilt. I know it is a tool Your Spirit uses to awaken me to disobedience, self-centeredness, and wandering from fellowship with You. Remind me to always begin my response to guilt by letting it drive me back to You. That way, You and I can figure out what to do with it next. Thank You in advance for Your faithfulness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.