Guilt. Shame. Pain. God Will Set You Free

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Why is there so much pain in the world? The answer is never easy, of course. Nor should it be. When we are in the midst of our sufferings, those sufferings that come to us through no fault of our own, we can not conceive of any answer that would make the pain we are in meaningful.

Worse yet, the suffering that we know we caused to another, the suffering of our own guilt, weighs more than any other kind of suffering.

The physical pains that we experience are intense, powerful, but mostly temporary. If not temporary, most can be lessened by palliative care of one kind or another. The psychological pains we have, that have come to us from others, their lack of care for us, even their abuse of us in any way, are deep and often seemingly insurmountable. Yet, even they, with much hard work, can be healed.

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It is the pain that belongs to real, not imagined guilt that weighs heaviest on us. Much of that pain is, ironically, only known to us. We bear it in secret, in the dark closets of our memory. But guilt is not easily ignored. It rises up chimera-like, in the most surprising of times and its pain is not lessened, but grows and we seem not to be able to do anything about it.

Our Christian faith tells us that our God is not distant, that he is, rather, intimate with us. He knows each of us, not the way another human being does, not even the closest of our friends, or spouses. He knows every memory, every error and every success precisely because he is with us individually. His love is so great that even though he knows our deepest guilts, he still loves us. The fact is that he loves us even more because of our weakness. That’s why he left Heaven, and became one of us. He wanted us to know that his love can not be conquered by our guilts, or our sense of failure.

One of the sins against the Holy Spirit is despair, the sense that I am so bad that even God could not forgive me. But that is an impossibility. The Incarnation proves that. “Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)

Though we all are guilty of sin; though we all carry some secret of guilt within us that we would be shamed to death about if anyone knew about it, our Lord still loves us. He let go of everything to free us from that guilt. He told us to forgive and we will be forgiven. Forgiveness can only come from love. It’s power to liberate is unlimited. Turn your guilt, your secret, over to Jesus then. Hear his voice saying to you, “I forgive you. You are my son, my daughter, your were lost and now you are found. Come, take up your place in my family once again.” This is the message of the Prodigal Father in the great parable we know as the Prodigal Son.

There is no sin so great that it is unforgivable by God, except that which we refuse to let go of ourselves. What must be done then? In our genuine sorrow we must confess, repent, and seek out the mercy of God who knows our hearts and our true intentions. He is the One who will set us free. This is no mere promise. This is God’s oath toward us made real in the Incarnation of Jesus and in his death for us on the Cross. God is love; and Love conquers all. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.