Like a bad tooth or a lame foot is reliance on the unfaithful in times of trouble. Proverbs 25, verse 19.
Let’s ask a question: have you ever relied on someone for something and they didn’t follow through? Have you ever loved someone and they’ve been unfaithful to that love? Or have you done it yourself? I’m betting your answer is like mine. Chances are you don’t have to think back very far to remember when someone did you wrong or willfully failed to measure up. Chances are I don’t either. So let’s not dwell much on that. We all have enough times of trouble, so here’s to hoping that when yours come, you aren’t the unfaithful. You know that we don’t have to cheat to be unfaithful. We can lie; we can say things with a hidden agenda; we can be oblique; we can think we can hide from God. Whatever our vice, any time we deviate from the loving, wise truth of the Almighty we are unfaithful. It’s a tough thing to realize that we sometimes are what we don’t want to be; it’s a tougher thing when those we count on are the same.
Take it from me: being unfaithful breeds guilt, lots of it. I’m reading a brilliant book: The Search for Significance by Robert McGee. In it, Mr. McGee talks about how our fears and our habits surrounding them keep us from finding significance through God’s love and power. One of the ways in which that happens is when we clothe ourselves in guilt. It almost comes natural. When we do wrong, we incur guilt. That’s a pretty basic thing. The book talks about the difference between guilt and being guilty. We can be guilty, be convicted of our wrongs and our sins, but we don’t need the guilt. The guilt starts as a natural reaction when our conscience, our voice of God, informs us that perhaps we should feel bad about something we did, said or even thought. In and of itself, that’s not a bad thing. Like our feelings, guilt can be used as a quick gauge in measuring right or wrong and how we should deal with them.
But it becomes a bad thing, like a bad tooth or a lame foot, when we rely on it to hide ourselves from our shame or our responsibility. It becomes a lie when we internalize it and believe we deserve the guilt, we deserve what happens to us because of the bad things we’ve done. It is compounded when others dog-pile onto it, whether with or without merit. That guilt can start to overwhelm us, occupy our thoughts, take a much bigger place in our psyche than it merits. The enemy uses that lie against us, and because he’s a damned coward, he uses it most effectively when we are weak, vulnerable, or even desperate. It is a weapon of choice for him.
Before we know it, things get worse as we choose to use that weapon on ourselves. When we wrap ourselves in guilt, refusing to let go of it, refusing to let the Son take that guilt away, we are the unfaithful. We become the unreliable in times of trouble, and don’t you just know that every day is a time of trouble. Like a bad tooth or a lame foot, we let ourselves stay crippled and hindered from being healed.
Here’s the crazy comparison that turns guilt upside-down: guilt versus conviction. Guilt accuses us (over and over in fact). The Spirit of God convicts us. He shows us what we do wrong, not to hammer us or hurt us but to show us the destructive nature of those wrongs, how they keep us apart from God. Guilt says “I’m a screw-up and I’m no good” but conviction says “you screwed up but God makes you good.” See the difference? Guilt has a long record of wrongs while conviction ends at the cross. God uses conviction, his righteous justice and His healthy principles, to show the destructive seriousness for our sins…and then immediately declare us ‘not guilty’ through His Son. Astounding and astoundingly simple yet earth and guilt-shattering in its implications.
That which isn’t biblical isn’t best. That, too, isn’t very hard to understand. Has anyone ever been unfaithful to you, ever said they loved you and did something contrary to that? Don’t everyone raise your hands all at once. For years I’ve carried around much guilt and it has weighed me down, caused me to say and do things that are contrary to God’s Spirit and His desire that I should live in His love. Relying on the unfaithful to do faithful things for you isn’t a biblical thing; being the unfaithful to the faithful isn’t a biblical thing; willingly being the unfaithful while wrapped up in the noose-rope of guilt isn’t biblical either. It’s time to let go of that. It’s time to pony up and admit that I am the unfaithful and I have been the unfaithful in my thoughts, words, and actions. There are many ways in which my unfaithfulness has manifested itself, and some of those are much worse than others. I have felt much guilt because of them, and some of the things I’ve done have caused me to be righteously guilty.
End of story; that’s where it stops. I’ve confessed things I’ve done and owned them, and I still own the consequences of them until they’ve played out however they will. I don’t need to keep confessing the old sins over and over now that they are forgiven. God will remember them no more. I ask and need Him to do something about it. The next thing that happens is where I ask God to convict me of them, and point to my sins and show me where I have done wrong in His eyes. He does that by taking the hand of my soul and conscience and leads me to the cross where He says “Guilty on your behalf. You are declared innocent. Go and sin no more.” My bad toothache and lame foot are spiritually healed and I’m free to leave that unhealthy guilt there at His tortured hands and feet.
Sure, the guilt continues to come back on bother me, especially early in the morning or when I am vulnerable. As we talked about, Satan is a miserable coward. Rarely does he attack us in a full frontal manner. I can’t take back things I’ve done, and I also can’t let the unfaithfulness of others occupy such an important place in my life anymore. That’s a tall order, I know, and the world we live in doesn’t make it any easier. What makes it easier is letting go of it, every time it comes back to haunt, understanding that it’s ok to be convicted guilty but it isn’t to carry around the guilt. He forgave and declared you and I innocent, even when others hold it against us or we try to hold it against ourselves. All we have to do is believe that. Relying on the unfaithful hurts, but the healing medicine of convicting forgiveness carries away what we carried around and bids us to be and do better.