Of all people, my dad taught me much about both of these words. The beauty and the ugliness of them.
My daddy was an irresponsible kid at heart. Not exactly marriageable but what any kid would (think) wanted for a dad. We would stay up late, watch movies and drink coke cola. Go camping and hunting together. Make a mess anywhere we went. Cook up some of the best, but not healthiest, snacks. He even brought my sister and I cookies one night after we had gotten into some kid trouble. We kept it our secret for the longest time.
While we thought that he was a pretty cool dad without worries of his own, he was struggling. I didn’t learn about a lot of things my parents struggled with until I was married and off on my own. When I began to watch things unravel, I quickly realized why my mother had been afraid for me to get married so young.
My father and friend, struggled with addiction that led him to feeling guilt from every angle. Guilt is supposed to be a healthy emotion. One that leads to correction. On average, if someone feels guilty, they would admit where they were wrong, ask for forgiveness and attempt to make it up to them. My dad did this too, but he was sick so it was a constant merry go round of the guilt and grace cycle that we all had to experience. And my mom had to endure it even much longer.
Guilt and grace comes hand in hand. We all deal with guilt and as for grace, we constantly need it and/or we’re giving it. As a child, I needed it and my dad gave it. He gave it differently than others did and looking back, I realize it is because he needed it so differently himself. We had a big family and one that was full of love and grace. When he would mess up, he always had someone to go to – because of grace! Simply because of their grace.
The thing is, this grace is merely from others and not the same grace that God gives.
Grace can be a hard concept to wrap our minds around, whether it be from others or from Christ. However, we as humans cannot fathom that grace is free and unconditional through Christ.
God sent His son to live on this cruel earth and die a horrific death to save you and me. He has offered us grace beyond our understanding but we have to accept it. By accepting it, we live by faith as Romans 3:22-24 reminds us “even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
Grace is undeserving favor as a gift from God. It is freedom. Not to get away with our mistakes. Not freedom from taking responsibility. Freedom of the guilt. Guilt is heavy, lies to us, and threatens our health and well being.
I really didn’t see my dad look to Christ for forgiveness until later in his life. My dad looked for grace through others. He was often dependent on his family’s forgiveness and forgetting about God’s. He searched for worldly acceptance rather than peace that God provides. I truly believe this is how the cycle constantly continued with him. He couldn’t truly break the guilt without accepting God’s grace.
How often do we all fall into that desire for others to accept our failures and forgive us? You see, true grace allows God to be the righteous one, and not ourselves. Grace is God’s goodness and it is His gift to us. Nothing that our goodness, or lack there of, can gain or lose.
“Yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”
2 Corinthians 7:9-11
Guilt can be a healthy emotion leading to change. Instead of guilt motivating us toward depression, secrecy, or constant worry; allow it to motivate us to live by grace and gratitude. Thank God for the opportunity to confess our sins to him, for His forgiveness, and most of all for the faith to accept His forgiveness and move forward.
That last step is hard.
We can confess all day long but if you’re like me, I continue to bring it up in my head allowing me to beat myself up for what I did or didn’t do. I continue to find ways to try to ‘make up for it.’ I may even allow sadness to set in and wallow in the self pity. Yep, even after knowing I am forgiven. This is when I have to understand that Christ has paid the debt for my sins and that I can move on with confidence and that He deserves my praise and thankfulness. I can know this because His word teaches me so, over and over again. Thank you, God.
“I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I have not hidden.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
And You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah” Psalm 32:5
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9