Friday, May 20, 2016

Dealing With Guilt

Psalm 38:1-21

A Psalm of David, to bring to remembrance.

”O LORD, rebuke me not in thy wrath: neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure.  For thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore.  There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger; neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin.  For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me.  My wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness.” (Psalm 38:1-5)

There is a tendency for Christians to begin to think of themselves as being better than other people because they no longer have all that sin.  Every once I =n a while, we need to be reminded that we are not saved because of our goodness, but because of God’s mercy and grace, as Titus 3:5 says.   “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.”  When we forget that, we tend to let down our guard, and get involved in sin again. 

David asks that God would not wait until he is angry to correct him, because it hurt so much to know God was upset with him and the fellowship was broken.  Once again, David had gone into sin and like a person falling unexpectedly into the river, had that panicky feeling of drowning when the water closes over his headOne wonders if perhaps this Psalm was written after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband killed to hide it.  His guilt was a heavy burden, and he felt like someone with a putrefying wound that stunk as a result of his foolishness, leaving him feeling isolated from God. 

“I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long.  For my loins are filled with a loathsome disease: and there is no soundness in my flesh.  I am feeble and sore broken: I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart. Lord, all my desire is before thee; and my groaning is not hid from thee.  My heart panteth, my strength faileth me: as for the light of mine eyes, it also is gone from me.” (Psalm 38:6-10)

As we mentioned earlier, there is nothing harder to live with than a guilty conscience.  As a result of his sin David felt like a leper, unable to associate with others for fear of infecting them with his disease, while desperately craving human contact and reassurance.   The sense of guilt was crushing.  The momentary pleasure of the sin was far outweighed by the emotional and psychological pain it caused.   David had had a close relationship with the Lord, and his sin had separated them.  He craved restoration of that fellowship and peace with God more than anything else.  Without it his life seemed hardly worth living. 

“My lovers and my friends stand aloof from my sore; and my kinsmen stand afar off.  They also that seek after my life lay snares for me: and they that seek my hurt speak mischievous things, and imagine deceits all the day long.” (Psalm 38:11-12)

Not only had his sin broken his relationship with God, it affected his relationship with his wife and his friends and relatives.  Though they still cared about him, they were not sure where they stood or how to approach him.   His enemies seized on the opportunity to attack, setting traps, making hurtful comments, and accusing him of hiding other things, and this added to the pain of those who cared about him, resulting in their withdrawing even more.   People seldom consider how much their sin hurts those who care about them, assuming it only affects themselves.   

“But I, as a deaf man, heard not; and I was as a dumb man that openeth not his mouth.  Thus I was as a man that heareth not, and in whose mouth are no reproofs.  For in thee, O LORD, do I hope: thou wilt hear, O Lord my God.  For I said, Hear me, lest otherwise they should rejoice over me: when my foot slippeth, they magnify themselves against me.  For I am ready to halt, and my sorrow is continually before me.  For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin.” (Psalm 38:13-18)

When they begin to feel the guilt and the isolation it produces, people often begin to lash out at others, blaming them for their feelings rather than accepting it as the consequence of their sin.  David chose not to focus on what people might be saying and not to get mad at them.  Instead, he put his hope in the Lord, trusting God to protect and forgive him, even when his foot had slipped.  He was constantly aware of his fault, and discouraged by it, but he was going to confess his sin in real sorrow for having done it.  He was committed to doing what I John 1:8-10 tells us.   “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” 

Genuine repentance and confession of the sin to God is the only way to get rid of the guilt.  People who refuse to repent or admit they were wrong are stuck with their burden of guilt.  Unfortunately, popular psychology tells people their actions are not really wrong but are based on cultural norms, and thus they don’t need to repent or ask forgiveness.  While it provides a temporary relief, it does not resolve the problem, allowing the problems to accumulate and leading to depression, anger and outbreaks of violence. 

“But mine enemies are lively, and they are strong: and they that hate me wrongfully are multiplied.  They also that render evil for good are mine adversaries; because I follow the thing that good is.  Forsake me not, O LORD: O my God, be not far from me.  Make haste to help me, O Lord my salvation.” (Psalm 38:19-21)

We have real enemies in the world.  Some people take advantage of people who do what is right, and become our opposition.  We need God’s help and a sense of his closeness and guidance to keep from descending to the same level.  David asks that God not forsake him while he is struggling with his guilt. 

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