Breaking Cycle of Guilt

by: Larry Davies | Sep 25, 2016

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.

sad-woman

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 and concerned?

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

Jesus spoke often of forgiveness but he also spoke of about 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 make adjustments in a difficult relationship. You cannot reconcile without getting actively involved and making compromises necessary to resolve a particular situation. One reason the woman I was visiting suffered was because she expected God to wave a magic wand of forgiveness over everything without 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 laughed. ”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.

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