Breaking Free from the Burden of Guilt
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
At first I seemed to handle the stress of Dave’s illness well. I just worked harder to keep up with the demands. But there was no way I could begin to meet all the needs that surrounded me. I started falling short of the expectations I placed on myself and the more I fell behind the louder the accusing voice of guilt became.
SO I pushed myself even harder until I totally burned out and was thrust into the pit of depression. It wasn’t until I was confined to bed – unable to take care of myself – that I realized I had a problem.
The only way I was set free was when a wonderful Christian counselor stepped in and helped me identify all the guilt burdens I was carrying. He helped me identify the false expectations I was trying to meet. He helped me see the Truth about what God expected of me. He helped me evaluate each expectation individually so that I could identify the legitimate expectations and throw away all the others. When I look back on the load of expectations and resulting guilt I was carrying, it is no wonder I collapsed under the burden!
I discovered that guilt motivated many of the things I did. I did things because I felt I should do them. That doesn’t mean I did things begrudgingly. It simply means I did them because I felt other people expected me to and I wanted to please them. So I learned to ask myself what my motivation was for doing a particular thing. If my answer was I should or I ought, that became an alarm for me. I’d take pause to see if I was doing it because it was what God called me to do or because of someone else’s expectations.
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God?
Or am I trying to please people?
If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
I actually believed that I should have been able to meet everyone’s needs that crossed my path. But I believed a lie. God never intended us to meet the needs of everyone around us – that would be an impossible task. Our responsibility is to obey God and to meet the needs that He would have us meet.
Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart.
I even felt guilty for having needs of my own. I confused stewardship of my own health and needs with selfishness. If I was ever going to be able to help others – I needed to tend to my own needs first – make sure my own tank was filled before I filled the tanks of others. It was OK for me to love myself first.
‘Love your neighbor as yourself’
I felt guilty expressing the pain and grief I was feeling. I hated to be a burden to others. But there is a time in all of our lives that we need to allow others to come in and share our burdens because they are too heavy for us to bear alone.
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.
I even felt guilty that I could not remove the pain Dave was suffering. I had to learn that it was not my responsibility to heal Dave. Dave’s suffering was out of my control – I could only do so much and with much prayer, I had to leave Dave in God’s hands.
It wasn’t easy to break free from the burden of guilt – much of which I had carried all of my adult life. Even today, I at times fall into the guilt trap. But when our hearts are troubled and burdened by guilt, we can bring the guilt that troubles us before God. We can ask Him to shed the light of His Truth on our guilt so that we can discern what is true guilt and what is false guilt. And as we learn the Truth we can be set free from the burden of false guilt.
“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
On the journey with you,