Grace Versus Guilt

UG Guilt Versus Grace

I absolutely love Easter! It has been a part of my story since the very beginning. Let me explain:

I was born on Easter. It has always been a joke amongst our family that I was born into the church since my parents were timing contractions as they sat through the Easter morning service listening to Chuck Swindoll. Apparently, his message that morning got me excited about life and I made my official entry a later that evening.

I’m always thrilled when my birthday and Easter fall on the same day; it hasn’t happened in years, but I feel like it always reminds me to celebrate my spiritual birthday as well as my physical one. When I decided to follow Jesus and trust Him as my savior, He gave me grace and forgiveness for all my sins. As Jesus said, this makes us born-again (John 3). Honestly, there is no better birthday present! I wrote a devotional about it for Rest Ministries; click here to read it.

So, where does that leave us on the day after Easter? We spend the day celebrating Christ’s resurrection and then life goes back to normal. We, or at least, I tend to forget. It is kind of the post birthday blues, if you will.

I struggle with Guilt. I know most of us do. Maybe it isn’t guilt with a capital G, but even minor guilt is pervasive in our lives. Some guilt is good; we need it as the Holy Spirit brings things to our attention with it. Things we need to deal with. Things we need to make right and ask forgiveness for.

But the rest of the guilt?

The guilt that I didn’t get done all I wanted to because I was sick (like I said, check out my devotional) or the guilt that I should have been bolder with my faith when talking to someone. The guilt that comes when I don’t feel like I am being a great parent and the guilt when I don’t measure up to my expectations. The guilt that comes from the tyranny of the “if only” or “shoulds and ought to have”.

That guilt. That life-sucking, draining, discouraging guilt.

When Easter is over, our focus fades from grace and makes room for the guilt to gallop right back in. I think it is because I don’t focus on Christ everyday like I do on Easter. The good news of Easter is for everyday, not just that one Sunday a year. Translation: one day a year I live in God’s grace and the other 364 days I try to do it all on my own.

I know I am more acutely aware of this than most people. I live with a chronic illness that has kept me in constant pain for the past 25 years. There were 6 days that I can count that the pain lifted for a few hours (I scare everyone because apparently my personality becomes extremely bouncy and extroverted instead of my normal laid back and quiet self- I am a totally different person!). This incurable illness has forced the issue of dependency on God; it is literally God working through me in my life. It has made me see God in everything. While this is not something I wanted, it has been a blessing in disguise because God has used it to transform me into a very different person that I would have been otherwise: I’m becoming more of who He would like me to be.

In spite of being dependent on God, I feel guilty because I think, somehow, I should be able to do more. I want to do more… but I can’t. It is beyond frustrating to struggle with guilt from my inadequacies! And you know what? If we are all perfectly honest with ourselves, some form of this haunts all of us. It might not be because of a chronic illness, but we each have our bents as C.S. Lewis says.

We do this because we don’t trust Him enough.

We do this because we don’t give Him everything.

We do this because we think we know better than Him.

We do this because we don’t live like Jesus’s act on the cross was enough.

We do this because we don’t fully realize the power of Grace.

Inconceivable.

Somehow, we think our pasts, our presents and even our futures might be too much for Grace to handle. But, if an infinite God paid infinitely for our finite sins, it is safe to say they are covered. That is Grace with a capital G. It wasn’t cheap. It cost everything and if we live in guilt, what we really believe in is cheap grace. That is the kind of grace that can’t fix our problems and the kind of grace that just buys fire insurance and doesn’t mean that we actually have to give up ourselves to get.

I’m dying to myself little by little each day. As I do, God takes over and grace moves in. In terms of my struggles, I honestly don’t have much, but if I do all that I can for Him, there is nothing to feel guilty over. Like the widow who only had two coins, but gave them both, God is far more pleased with that than if I only gave Him a fraction of my life even if I were healthy or rich or smart or anything else that I wish I was.

This is what Easter is: it is everyday grace. Even though the holiday is over, we can keep celebrating because grace is 365 days a year for the rest of eternity. As we die to ourselves and stop trusting in our own plans, we let God come in and slay our guilt. Give everything to Him today, again and everyday. It is time for us to live like Christ’s death really meant something. We can’t ask for a better “birthday” present, but we have to open it up and use it.

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