My dad took my nephews camping when they were kids. One of the boys had trouble casting his fishing line and ended up hooking his cousin just under the eye. The barb stayed outside the skin, but it still hurt (or scared) the one hooked badly enough that he shed a few tears.
But he handled the situation better than the one who did the hooking. He apologized over and over, and even after everything settled down, he kept asking for forgiveness. His cousin did his best to assure him that he was all right and that he forgave him, but my nephew continued to feel terrible for his mistake. He refused to fish the rest of the night.
Have you ever felt that kind of guilt? The kind that weighs so heavily on your conscious that you cannot enjoy the pleasures of everyday life? Have you ever caused someone pain, and no matter how many times you say, “I’m sorry,” and no matter how many times the person says, “I forgive you,” you cannot shake your regret? Or maybe you’re still waiting to hear, “I forgive you.” Maybe the person you hurt is gone, and maybe you’ll never hear those words. How do you deal with your guilt and pain?
I cannot tell you how to undo your mistake, but I can tell you that God does not want Christians to suffer indefinitely for past wrongs. He does want us to experience sorrow when we hurt others or commit some other sin. But once we recognize our error and sincerely want to get past our mistake, then He wants us to accept the forgiveness He offers us. Our attitude should be the same found in Psalm 51: “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!”
You see, we have a choice: We can let our sins drag us into despair, or we can allow our sins to pull us to our Savior.
Which choice do you think He wants us to make?
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9