Dealing with guilt

MarkBible Reflection

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. – Psalm 51:1-2

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

How do you deal with guilt? Guilt is something all of us have felt at one time or another. Guilt is a powerful emotion that can weigh upon us and overburden us. It can leave us feeling condemned. In Psalm 51 David was feeling guilty. This Psalm was written in response to his conviction of sin over his dealings with Bathsheba and Uriah. If you are unfamiliar with the story you can read about it in 2 Samuel 11. It’s a story of adultery, murder and cover-up, all committed by God’s King. How David deals with these issues is a model for us when we are feeling guilty.

Firstly, David admits his guilt to God. (v3-4) He doesn’t seek to blame others for his actions but he rightly admits that he has done wrong. He accepts full responsibility. As Christians, we will all experience feelings of guilt over the things we have done wrong. Part of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives is to convict us of sin. (John 16:8-11). When we are convicted we are to come before God to admit our failures.

Secondly, David asks God to forgive him. (v1-2) Once he realises his wrongdoing he pleads with God to have mercy on him. His plea for mercy is based on who God is; according to his unfailing love and great compassion. He doesn’t ask God to forgive him because he feels a sense of entitlement as God’s King, or because he has done some good things for God. David knows that, before God, he is guilty as charged. (v4-5) He knows his sin makes him unclean and unable to come into the presence of a Holy God. This is why David asks God to wash him clean (v1-2 & 7), and, amazingly, God shows himself to be compassionate and unfailing in love. He graciously washes David clean. The clue to how this cleansing takes place is seen in verse 7. Here, David asks God to cleanse him with hyssop. Hyssop was the plant used at the time of the Exodus Passover. During this time, God’s judgement was falling on the land and God’s people were ordered to sacrifice a lamb and to sprinkle the blood on their doorposts with hyssop. The angel of God’s judgement would see the blood and pass over the house knowing the lamb had been sacrificed in the place of the people. The sacrifice of the lamb points forward to Jesus’ sacrifice of bloodshed for us on the cross. His bloodshed enables us to be washed clean from all our sin and guilt so we can be forgiven and come into the presence of God. Like David, we need to ask God to forgive us. If we have done this, it means we can be free from feelings of guilt about our wrongdoing. We no longer need to feel condemned because, wonderfully, there is no condemnation for those who have trusted in Jesus. (Romans 8:1)

As we journey through this season of Lent and we are encouraged to mourn over our sin and seek God’s forgiveness afresh, may we know Him to be that amazing God of unfailing love and great compassion. May we know that by the blood of his Son, shed for us on that first Good Friday, all of our guilt and sin has been washed away and we can be welcomed into the arms of our loving heavenly Father.

Yours in Christ