The Guilt Train
Several years ago I took the train from Grand Rapids to Chicago to enjoy a day of shopping. A trip that would have taken three hours by car stretched into a five-and-a-half-hour journey. Mile after agonizing mile, we crawled along, watching cars whiz past on the highway. I felt disappointed, knowing that my time in Chicago would be cut short.
Like the slow train to Chicago, the guilt train has its share of passengers. At times we may find ourselves stuck on that train, afraid we will never get off. When that happens, we can remember that guilt is supposed to be a symptom of something wrong inside. Its function is to alert us to the presence of sin so we can take that sin to God and receive his forgiveness. But sometimes we wallow in the guilt, perhaps because we think we need to punish ourselves before God will take us back.
As Philip Yancey points out, “Guilt is not a state to cultivate or a mood you slip into for a few days. It should have directional movement, first pointing backward to the sin and then pointing forward to change. A person who feels no guilt can never find healing. Yet neither can a person who wallows in guilt. The sense of guilt only serves its designed purpose as a symptom if it presses us toward a cure.”(1)
Feeling guilty all the time? Ask yourself what’s behind those feelings. If you find that you are always feeling guilty about behavior that’s not sinful, confide in a mature Christian friend or counselor who may be able to help you break the habit. If you have done something wrong, ask God’s forgiveness and make steps toward changing. Whatever you do, remember that a ride on the guilt train isn’t supposed to take that long. Make a decision now to get off at the first possible stop.