It was late summer, during the lull that precedes the start of school. Bobby, 18, and his 16-year-old girl friend, Joanne, were on their way to visit friends. But before they arrived, Bobby fell asleep at the wheel and smashed into an 18-wheel truck, killing Joanne instantly. Bobby escaped with bruises.
Knowing he was to blame for Joanne’s death, Bobby asked God to forgive him. But that seemed too easy. And Bobby wanted others to know how sorry he felt. So a few weeks after Joanne’s funeral, he borrowed a gun and shot himself.
Carrying the weight of guilt
Bobby’s story reminds me of the story of the man riding down the road on a donkey, carrying a 200-pound sack of wheat on his shoulders. “Why don’t you take the weight off your shoulders and put it on the donkey?” asked a passerby. “You don’t think,” the man responded, “that I’d ask the donkey to carry all that weight, do you?”
Because we’re imperfect human beings, we’ll never be free from the weight of guilt. It’s there to remind us when we fall short of God’s standards.
People respond to guilt in different ways.
Take Judas and Peter, for example. Both were trusted disciples, yet both turned on Christ. Judas betrayed Him to a crowd of thugs and Hebrew zealots, leading to Christ’s capture. And then when Christ was on trial for His life, Peter denied three times even knowing Him.
Both men were overwhelmed with guilt. Judas wanted to advertise how sorry he felt, so he hung himself. On the other hand, Peter resolved his guilt before God, and went on to become the key disciple in spreading the news of Christ after His departure.
Our reactions to guilt may not be as dramatic as were Bobby’s, Judas’s, or Peter’s. But our response can either drive us further from God or closer to Him. The Bible makes it clear that God prefers the latter.
He only asks that we admit our need and trust Him with the load. And then we can walk in newness in life – precious, free, forgiven life.
How do you respond to guilt? Does it drive you further from God or closer to Him?