You have no reason to feel guilty; you didn’t do anything wrong or bad (at least not lately!). And yet you feel a strong sense of guilt. Nobody is accusing you or trying to make you feel guilty but you just can’t shake your feelings of unworthiness and shame.
I struggled with guilt for the three years I lived in East Africa. I still wrestle with feelings of being undeserving and unworthy of good things. But I have good news! This morning, while walking and talking to Jesus, I realized that He wants me to be healthy, whole, and happy. The world needs me to learn how to stop feeling guilty for no reason. And I figured out how to trade guilt and unworthiness for freedom and joy.
Why are you wrestling with guilt, shame, and unworthiness? Maybe you’re struggling with guilty feelings after your mom or dad died. Maybe you’re pregnant, and you feel bad because your best friend, sister, or coworker is struggling with infertility. Maybe you recently receive a raise and promotion at work, and you feel embarrassed and undeserving — and even a little ashamed even though you have no reason to feel guilty.
My three-year teaching stint in Nairobi, Kenya was the longest, most painful season of my life. I struggled to live with joy and peace among millions of poor, starving, oppressed people who dreamed of eating a daily meal of goat stew and chapati. I was anxious and insecure teaching eighth grade, even though the students were well-behaved and my teaching load was light. I felt guilty about everything even though I’d done nothing wrong and had no reason to be ashamed.
“Instead of saying yes to God and adapting to a new season in life—like Esther in King Xerxes’ palace—I succumbed to insecurity, doubt, and fear. I identified more with Naomi, and isolated myself in loneliness and despair. Instead of leaning on God’s strength and provisions like Hagar in the desert, I stayed blind with tears and grief. Instead of crying out like Hannah who loved God for who He is despite her circumstances, I tried to succeed on my own. I, like Sarah, marched blindly and willfully ahead of God.” – from my book Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back.
It took a long time for me to learn how to stop feeling guilty for no reason. I’m still learning and growing forward, but today I was given a fresh new insight.
How to Stop Feeling Guilty for No Reason
This blog post is part of my She Blossoms Through the Bible project; I’m writing an article for every chapter in every book of Scripture. One of my favorite articles is 3 Steps to Emotional Freedom in Jesus – Exodus 12 because it’s so practical and liberating! I hope these three ways to stop feeling guilty will be just as meaningful and encouraging.
1. Know who you are
“Moses entered the cloud as he went up the mountain, and he remained on the mountain 40 days and 40 nights.” – Exodus 24:18. The cloud was the Lord’s shekhinah glory on Mount Sinai, and Moses got to experience it for 40 days and 40 nights! Moses heard God’s voice, experienced His presence, and received His word. God had a unique, special relationship with Moses. Moses knew God in ways we never will, and God blessed Moses in ways He’ll never bless us. Do you think Moses felt guilty for being blessed by God’s presence and favor? Probably not. Moses was too busy living, teaching, preaching, judging and leading God’s children to worry about guilt — much less learning how to stop feeling guilty for no reason.
We need you to know and be your healthiest, best self. Feelings of guilt, shame, and unworthiness are NOT you at your healthiest, best self. Guilty feelings are not from God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit. On the contrary, guilt and shame are direct attacks from the accuser (the deceiver, liar, satan). The accuser accuses you of being bad, wrong, not good enough, unworthy, and guilty. The worse you feel about yourself, the more smug and satisfied the accuser is. The last thing the accuser wants is you to be your healthiest, best self! And so the attacks continue. You struggle with guilty feelings even though you have no reason to feel bad or ashamed. Your time, energy and thoughts are focused on everything but the freedom, peace, joy and love of Jesus. And the accuser wins.
2. Eat and drink with Jesus
“God did not harm the Israelite nobles; they saw Him, and they ate and drank,” says the narrator in Exodus 24:11. My Bible commentaries didn’t comment on this, but I think it’s amazing. Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and 70 Israelite elders got to see the God of Israel! “…and they saw the God of Israel. Beneath His feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire stone, as clear as the sky itself.” Moses and his companions ate and drank with the Lord God Himself, in His company, in His presence, with His blessing and companionship. That is unheard-of. Most of the Bible says “you shall not see the Lord and live” (Exodus 33). The eating and drinking part makes more sense; the Angel of the Lord (Jesus) was always providing food and drink. Jesus became bread and wine. Why? Because He is life, joy, freedom, peace and blessing.
How do you “eat and drink with Jesus”? This is the best tip on how to stop feeling guilty for no reason! This morning I ate and drank with Jesus when I walked with a lexio divina podcast. I talked to God about feeling guilty for how much goodness I have in my life. I asked the Holy Spirit to set me free from feeling ashamed and bad about all the gifts He gives me. I worshipped God for who He is, thanked Jesus for the joy and freedom He offers, and invited the Holy Spirit to heal my guilty hard little heart. And I realized that God wants me to be healthy, whole and happy. You — my She Blossoms readers, my church, my community group, my fellow students, the world — need me to stop feeling guilty for no reason, and keep blossoming into who God created me to be. For when I blossom, you get the blessing. And God gets the praise! Win-win-win.
3. Find practical ways to stop feeling guilty
Look at how much work Moses did in Exodus 24 alone: climbed Mount Sinai, told the Israelites what God commanded, wrote down all the words of the Lord, rose early the next morning, set up an altar, sent out young Israelite men, oversaw the burnt offerings and sacrifices, performed fellowship offerings to the Lord, divided the blood according to God’s directions, read aloud from the covenant scroll, went back up Mount Sinai, saw the God of Israel…and finally ate and drank. Then Moses went up to the mountain, which was covered in cloud, for six days. On the seventh day God called to Moses from the cloud. Moses entered it and stayed there for 40 days and 40 nights. That man did not just sit back and look for tips on how to pray, find God’s will for his life, hear Jesus calling or follow the Holy Spirit’s leading. Moses took action when God nudged him.
How might you cope with your guilty feelings? Knowing who you are and spending silent time with Jesus are excellent ways to stop feeling guilt and shame. But you also need practical support, encouragement, and guidance. Perhaps you need to talk to a wise mentor or trusted friend about feeling guilty for no reason. Or maybe there is a reason underlying your guilt. Remembering the past when you feel ashamed or guilty is painful, which is why it’s good to talk to someone you trust. Find practical, safe ways to deal with guilt, unworthiness, and shame.
God is offering you the gift of salvation, peace, joy and freedom. This is a gift He offers daily, hourly, even moment-by-moment. Jesus really does want you to be free, healthy, whole and happy. The Holy Spirit will help you blossom into who He created you to be…but you have to cooperate. You have to choose to face your sins, weaknesses, failures and regrets. You have to remind yourself that we need you to be happy, healthy and whole — and that you do not need to feel guilty for no reason. Remember that even though the accuser keeps heaping coals on your head, you have the power to move out of the way. And that power comes from Jesus, freely available to you if you ask for and receive Him.
“May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.” ~ Numbers 6:24-26.
With His love,
P.S. If you feel guilty for an actual reason and you just can’t shake it, read How to Cope When the Past Keeps Returning to Haunt You.
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