Dealing with Guilt and Shame

by: Larry Davies | Jul 26, 2011

On our
first visit, after a few moments, she began to weep. “I’m so sorry.” For
the next hour, I heard a sad story of mistakes, misunderstandings and family
disagreements. None of them seemed all that serious, but her speech was
tortured with words of guilt and hurt. “Will God ever forgive me?” she
asked. For another hour we talked of God’s healing comfort and grace and
studied the appropriate Biblical passages. Finally we said a prayer together
with her asking God for forgiveness. All in all, it was exactly what a pastor
should do on a visit. I felt satisfied.

On our
second visit, after a few moments, she began to weep. “I’m so sorry!” For
the next hour, I heard the same sad story of mistakes, misunderstandings and
family disagreements. Just like before, her speech was tortured with words of
guilt and hurt. “Will God ever forgive me?” she asked. For another hour
we talked again of God’s healing comfort and grace and studied the appropriate
Biblical passages. Finally we said a prayer together with her asking God for
forgiveness. All in all, it was exactly what a pastor should do on a visit.
This time, I felt puzzled.

On our
third visit, after a few moments, she again started to weep and I began to
worry. The sad story of mistakes, misunderstandings and family disagreements
came as if every word had been carefully memorized. Like a broken record, her
speech was tortured with the same words of guilt and hurt. “Will God ever
forgive me?”
she asked. Again, I reminded her of God’s healing comfort and
grace as we studied appropriate Biblical passages. We said a prayer together
with her still passionately asking God for forgiveness. All in all, it was
exactly what a pastor should do on a visit. So why was I so confused?

What was
this poor woman’s problem? Why did she continue to torture herself with guilt
and bitterness? God had forgiven her so why couldn’t she forgive herself?

Jesus spoke
often of God’s forgiveness, but he also spoke of the need for reconciliation.
He said: “So if you are standing before the altar…, offering a sacrifice to
God and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave
your sacrifice there beside the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person.
Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.”
 (Matthew 5:23-26)

Reconciliation
means to settle an argument or to make adjustments in a difficult relationship.
You cannot reconcile without getting actively involved and making the
compromises necessary to resolve a particular situation. One reason this woman
suffered was because she wanted God to wave a magic wand of forgiveness without
any active participation from her.

Armed with
newfound knowledge, I prepared to visit her a fourth time. Again, she began to
weep and tell her sad story of mistakes and misunderstandings. This time, I
interrupted her and began to talk about God’s gift of healing reconciliation.
At first, she looked as if I had lost my mind, but didn’t stop me. After a
moment we prayed and I left having no idea what would happen next.

Months
later, during a family gathering, she was given the opportunity to tell her
story. It wasn’t easy, but after hours of talking and crying, years of
misunderstandings and deep hurts were brought into the open and God’s wonderful
grace began to heal a broken and deeply divided family. Reconciliation may be
one of the most difficult responsibilities we could ever face but the potential
rewards make it all worthwhile.

On a
later visit, after a few moments, she began to weep. “I’m so sorry,” but
then she began to laugh. ”So much has changed!” For the next hour, I
heard about family get-togethers and exploits of wayward grandchildren. Her
speech was more animated and full of life and hope. For another few minutes we
talked about community and church concerns. Finally we said a prayer together.
All in all, it was exactly what a pastor should do on a visit. I felt
enormously thankful.


2 responses to “Dealing with Guilt and Shame”

  1. Mildred says:

    This women in your story is a direct reflection of me and how I feel about my past pain and hurts that in which has crippled my present….The biggest is giving my child up for adoption. At this time in my life I was scared felt alone didn’t feel like I could be a good mother and plain and simply always as long as I can remember never felt that I was up to par…never enough. I have asked God to forgive me for my past asked Christ to save me (out of fear) but I believed he was the saviour and that he died for our sins because I rather believe that when I die, than not to. But I never felt free in my mind, a stronghold was developing in shaping and forming the way I see God; as more so a Taskmaster, distant, cold rather than a loving,merciful,forgiving, giving me clarity in my mind simply to think a complete good thought not distorted…I constantly feel like I have commited the “UNFORGIVABLE (UNPARDONABLE) SIN” in my mind and it seems to persist eventhough I don’t want to think it…Why wont God deliver me help me from this state of mind I’ve cried out to him so long I’m feeling weak….Please send helpful litarature if you can…Thank you

    • larrydavies says:

      First, please know there is no way I can totally understand the fears you are experiencing and the struggles you are going through but I can reassure you that God’s forgiveness is very real. What I believe you are experiencing is the ordinary doubts that have a difficult time believiing God could forgive you of so much. This is where continuing to strengthen your relationship with God is so important. Those hours spent praying, reading the Bible, attending a church and getting involved in a ministry begin to pay off. God has a purpose for you not just in forgiving you but in a continuing relationship and ministry. As you work to discover that purpose you begin to find your reason for being on this earth. 2 Corinthians 1:4-7 is very helpful in talking about God’s comfort as something you receive and then pass on to others. Please know that I will be praying for you. God bless, Larry Davies