I know a young man who is a Christian and he has a heart full of love for his Savior. He’s an amazing person. In his early years he made some mistakes. He was a drug addict and he ended up spending many years in jail. I’m assuming it was while he was in jail that he found God and over-came his drug addiction. He got on the right path and hasn’t veered from it.
I feel bad for him because he mentioned to me how much grief he caused his mother when he was younger and making those bad choices. His mother passed away a long time ago and he’s still suffering from guilt for the pain he caused her. I couldn’t convince him to let go of his guilt. For some reason he’s clinging to it.
Many of us do that and yes, God wants us to repent and feel bad for our sins, but for how long? Does he want us to mourn forever?
As with anything else, we can find the answer in scriptures.
2 Chronicles 7: 14 If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
Proverbs 28: 13 Whoever conceals their sin does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.
The above verses show us that, yes, we should feel bad about our sin and repent.
Luke 15: 10 In the same way I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.
Isn’t this nice to know. You are so important that the angels in heaven were rejoicing when you repented! I wonder if they’re watching us like spectators at a football game. When a touchdown is made the crowds go wild. When we repent, heaven is celebrating and shouting for joy.
Acts 3:19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.
Times of refreshing. That doesn’t sound like our Lord wants you to sentence yourself to a lifetime of sorrow and beating yourself over the head for mistakes you’ve made. He wants you to be refreshed. That sounds like a good thing.
I have a few examples to cover. Peter is one of my favorites. He told Jesus that he would never deny him. That very night he denied Jesus three times. When Peter realized what he did, he felt so awful that he went out and wept bitterly. Being a coward and letting down a friend like that goes against everything Peter believed in. He was at a low and felt horrible.
After Jesus rose from the grave, he had an angel tell the women to go and tell his disciples, and Peter, that he had risen. The angel singled Peter out among the disciples because Jesus knew Peter was at a low. He wanted Peter to have hope and to know he was alive.
At a later date, Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” He didn’t ask Peter this because he was needy and liked hearing that he was loved. He did this for Peter’s sake. Peter was still feeling bad. By Jesus having him state three times that he loved him, this sort of cancelled out Peter’s three denials. Peter went on to be one of the boldest preachers of the good news and he did it with great joy. He repented. He was forgiven. And he moved on. That’s what we’re supposed to do.
Another good example is the city of Nineveh. They were a wicked city and the people there did all kinds of evil things. God sent Jonah to preach to them and gave them forty days to repent. They repented in sackcloth and ashes. Can you imagine their joy when after the forty days they saw that God had forgiven them and not destroyed them? I can imagine there was great rejoicing. Their sorrow disappeared. They didn’t continue mourning for the rest of their days. (Forty days worked for Nineveh, but that’s not a required amount, just an example of the time frame that worked for them).
Paul and King David are examples of people who had one, or more, put to death who shouldn’t have been, yet they repented, God forgave them and they went on to live fruitful lives. They didn’t keep beating themselves up over their past mistakes. They moved forward.
If you’re still bashing yourself emotionally over things that happened ages ago, please stop. If you’ve confessed your sin to God, he has forgiven you. God wants you to move on and find joy in him.
1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Habakkuk 3: 18 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
Philippines 4: 4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!