Have you ever felt a vague sense of guilt and you’re not really sure what’s causing it? Or maybe you do know what’s causing it, and it’s so terrible, you’re afraid that God can never forgive you? Feeling guilty can become a lifelong habit if we’re not careful because guilt can be deceiving.
We usually feel it when we sin, but we also feel it when we’re not sinning. If you’re a people pleaser or if you’ve grown up with critical parents or in a legalistic church, you probably know what I’m talking about. Sometimes you feel guilty even when you’ve done nothing wrong.
Situations That Make You Feel Guilty
Here a few examples of situations where you might feel guilty:
- When someone asks you to do something and you say no.
- When you think someone wants you to do something, and you say no.
- When you’ve sinned.
- When you haven’t sinned, but someone is feeling hurt by something you did or didn’t do.
- When someone is sinning against you and forcing you to go along with their sin.
- When you’ve sinned or hurt someone in the past and you can’t let it go.
- When you feel like you’re not being a good enough Christian.
- When you’re not living up to your own expectations.
- When you’re not living up to someone else’s expectations.
- When you’re struggling with a sin or idolatry.
As you can see by the list, sometimes we feel guilty because we’ve actually sinned, but not always. It’s helpful to talk the situation over with God.
8 Questions That Will Help You Talk to God When You’re Feeling Guilty
If this is something you struggle with, use the following questions to have a conversation with God about whatever it is that you’re feeling guilty about. I’ve added a few comments to the questions below to explain them a bit better.
1. Why are you feeling guilty?
It’s always best to define the problem first. Often what we feel is just a general feeling of guilt or self-condemnation. This question helps us pinpoint exactly what’s bothering us. What did we do (or not do) that made us suddenly start feeling guilty?
2. Why did you do (or not do) that? Or why are you feeling (or not feeling) that way?
This question brings up motive. Why did we do what we did? Often we did it for a noble reason, even though we’re feeling guilty. If it’s a feeling—for example, feeling guilty for telling your boyfriend no when he’s pressuring you to have sex—it’s important to know why telling him no makes you feel guilty. (The answer will probably be because you feel like you have to make him happy.)
3. Was that a sin?
This is a good question to ask ourselves because often we feel guilty about things we shouldn’t feel guilty about. (See the example I gave in the last question.) If you realize you haven’t sinned, that automatically eases the guilty feeling.
4. Do you think you’re feeling convicted by the Holy Spirit or condemned by Satan?
a. If you’re feeling convicted by the Holy Spirit, take some time to confess your sin. Has God forgiven you?
b. If you’re feeling condemned by Satan, what lies are you believing? What is the truth to each lie?
c. If your answer is “Neither,” are you trying to make someone happy? If so, who? Consider using the people pleasing questions to visit with God more about the situation.
Satan will do anything to hurt our relationship with God, and one of his tactics is condemnation, whispering lies to make us feel guilty when we’re not really guilty. It’s important to recognize where those guilty feelings are coming from and throw off any lies we’re believing. For the example I gave in question #2, one lie might be “I need to make my boyfriend happy.” The truth would be, “I need to make God happy, and God doesn’t want me to have sex with my boyfriend.”
Another lie might be, “If I don’t have sex with my boyfriend, I’ll lose him.” The truth would be, “God is enough to meet my needs if my boyfriend leaves me. And do I really want a boyfriend who will leave me if I don’t have sex with him?” (I’m hoping the answer to that question will be “No!”)
5. What does it mean that you’ve been saved by grace through faith? (Ephesians 2:8-9)
If you’re feeling guilty because of a sin on your part, it’s important to remember that God doesn’t demand perfection. We’re saved by grace, not by being perfect!
6. Is God’s grace enough to cover this situation? Why or why not?
The answer to this question should always be yes. Remember Peter? Jesus knew he was going to deny him three times, but he still gave him grace and still let him have a key role in the formation of the church.
The answer to this question should also be yes, but we need to remind ourselves that the answer is yes. If God told us to forgive people 70 X 7, I think we can feel safe in assuming He’s willing to forgive us that much!
8. Is there anything God wants you to do now?
The answer to this questions would depend on the situation. If you’ve sinned against someone, you may need to make restitution or ask forgiveness. If it’s something you keep doing again and again, God wants you to work on overcoming that sin with His help. If you haven’t sinned, God might want to help you work on people pleasing or anything else that’s causing the false sense of guilt.
9. What can you thank God for in this situation?
There is always so much to thank God for. Take time at the end of these questions to thank Him for as much as you can think of to thank Him for, including the fact that He forgives our sins. We can also thank Him for the promises in His Word. I’ve included some of those below and some other verses that tie in with this subject.
Bible Verses for When You’re Feeling Guilty
Psalm 32:1-5 How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit! When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”; and You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah.
John 8:10-11 Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”
Galatians 1:10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I still striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.
Philippians 1:6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:1-2 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.
Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
2 Corinthians 5:9 Therefore we also have as our ambition whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.
Hebrews 4:15-16 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
How About You?
Do you have any questions or Bible verses you’d add for guilt? If so, let me know in the comments!
Renewing of the Mind Project