Have you felt guilty because of something you have done? By “something”, I mean a “sin” … whether with your full knowledge, or perhaps without knowing you were sinning? I am certain that if you are a Christian, you will answer “yes”. Guilt is one of the effects of sin and can plague you and literally immobilize you spiritually, emotionally and even physically. At its worst, guilt can drive you into depression of the deepest, darkest type. David was a great man of God … yet when he sinned, his conscience was strickened. Take Psalm 6:2-3 as an example:
Ps 6:2 Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am faint; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are in agony.
3 My soul is in anguish. How long, O LORD, how long?
Here you see the emotional (faint), the physical (bones) and the spiritual (soul is in anguish) aspects of guilt that arises from sin bringing David into the darkest place of depression. The most agonizing part is his cry, “How long, O LORD, how long?” The person in this state cannot see tomorrow or even the next minute. The pressure upon the soul is so extreme that all of life is literally stopped.
Let me quickly add here that not all depression is sin and guilt related. Many struggle with clinical depression, and the only cure and way back from that dark place is prescription medication. There is nothing wrong when such a person seeks medical help. The topic here today is sin leading into guilt leading into depression … as was David’s case.
Take another example from David’s life:
2 Sa 24:2 So the king said to Joab and the army commanders with him, “Go throughout the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beersheba and enroll the fighting men, so that I may know how many there are.”
3 But Joab replied to the king, “May the LORD your God multiply the troops a hundred times over, and may the eyes of my lord the king see it. But why does my lord the king want to do such a thing?”
4 The king’s word, however, overruled Joab and the army commanders; so they left the presence of the king to enroll the fighting men of Israel.
David knew it would be a sin to count all the men available for battle. He knew his trust needed to be in his God who was the true Captain of the Military … and could win battles without the help of Israel’s military. He has mighty resources at His disposal, such as the wind and confusion which He used to gain victories … yet David wanted the count done. Joab the commander knew better. He was more sensible, but his king had the authority and he needed to submit. So the count was executed, with Joab returning to his king with the numbers.
2 Sa 24:9 Joab reported the number of the fighting men to the king: In Israel there were eight hundred thousand able-bodied men who could handle a sword, and in Judah five hundred thousand.
Now what follows is “our personal experiences” … once we have been adamant in sin, we can’t push back the clock. What’s done is done! We read on:
2Sa 24:10 David was conscience-stricken after he had counted the fighting men, and he said to the LORD, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. Now, O LORD, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.”
1 Ch 21:8 Then David said to God, “I have sinned greatly by doing this. Now, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.”
Him being “conscience-stricken” is no small matter, as Psalm 6:2-3 explains. But David accepted responsibility for his actions (his sin), saying … “I have sinned greatly by doing this.” Before we get to guilt, there needs to be sin … then he pleads for pardon, which includes the removal of guilt. He admitted his actions were foolish (wicked and rebellious).
So, how does one exit this dark and dismal tunnel caused by sin, leading to guilt that drops one into that awful pit of despair, despondency and depression? Let’s use David again:
Ps 32:3 When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.
5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”—
and you forgave the guilt of my sin.
Doing nothing–keeping silent–is itself sin, because it does not acknowledge personal sin. The longer David remained silent, the more guilt increased the depression and misery he was in. In fact … he feels that God squeezes and squeezes him to the point of total exhaustion as if he was without any strength, energy or water to pursue crossing the desert during the extreme midday heat. It was at this point that he, like in 2 Sam 24:10, admitted he sinned!
He did not blame someone else. (David could easily have said that Joab did the “actual count” … I only said “do it”.) The very first step towards creeping out of depression that is guilt induced is admission that leads to confession of sin.
In verse 5, we see what follows after confession of sin … God “forgave the guilt of my sin”. Far too many Christians walk around with guilt leading to various shapes of despondency, depression and despair because they will not believe God can forgive them of certain sins! This in itself is a tool the devil uses to handicap God’s people, limiting their joy, happiness and service, be it in the church, the family, at work or in society.
What we need to grasp is that receiving God’s forgiveness is an act of faith, just as repentance and surrender to Jesus as Lord is. When we pray asking God to forgive us of our sin, we have faith that God hears and forgives when we are sincere. Peter writes:
1 Pet 3:18 Christ died for sins once for all
And John writes:
1 Jo 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
If Jesus paid for all our sin, past, present and future, it means that all past, present and future guilt has been dealt with. In faith, you need to trust that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses all God’s people (including you) from all sin and guilt. It is a matter of faith. God smiles upon His children who trust the merits of Calvary … because that alone is His Rescue Plan that gains final victory over our enemy, the devil, releasing us from his bondage and placing us into the comfort and security of God’s eternal love.
Gracious Father, help us to trust You fully so that nothing prevents us from enjoying complete salvation through Jesus. We pray for those struggling with guilt and depression. Mercifully deliver them from this bondage. Amen.