“You meant it for evil against me, but God meant it for good” Genesis 50:20
The pangs of guilt will hang on indefinitely unless dealt with in the God-given way. Like a whale must surface to breathe they keep on re-surfacing at unexpected times throughout our lives until “killed.”
When Joseph’s brothers travelled to Egypt twenty years after they had sold him to slave traders they were still sensitive to the guilt of their sin. When Joseph (whom they did not recognise) questioned their honesty and accused them of being spies they immediately remembered their guilt for selling Joseph (Genesis 42:21). The memory and guilt were still as fresh as the day it happened. Worse, they believed that it had meant the death of Joseph (v 22) and that it was God who was punishing them for their sinful act (v 28).
It would appear that Joseph’s intent was to bring his brothers to the place of repentance from which they would seek forgiveness from God and himself. Joseph knew that this was the only way his brothers could be released from the pain of guilt. Though they had hurt him deeply he still sought their freedom from that guilt. This is evidence of a man after God’s own heart. A sinful man would seek revenge on those who had done him harm.
Joseph knew that God would forgive them if only they would humble themselves and ask. He also knew that he had already forgiven his brothers and had seen God’s hand in all that had happened (45:5-8; 50:20).
We will try all sorts of ways to get rid of guilt except repenting of it and asking God’s forgiveness and all we succeed in doing is suppressing it until it surfaces again. When it emerges again it is all the stronger having been nourished by our pride and stubbornness. In old age it will manifest itself in bitterness, anger, selfishness and intolerance, to name a few manifestations, unless it is done away with through confession and forgiveness.
There is only one way to be rid of guilt and it is not by suppressing it. It is by coming to and seeking forgiveness from the One against whom we have sinned. Jesus dealt with our sin on Calvary’s cross where He died for the sin of the whole world. Therefore God is justified in forgiving our sin when we come in repentance and ask.
“If we confess our sins, He faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). This requires naming the specific sin, agreeing that it is sin and believing that Jesus Christ bore that sin on the cross. When we accept that forgiveness as a gift from God through Jesus Christ we will experience the joy that comes with being free from guilt.
The commencement of a new year is often a time when people reflect. If you find guilt resurfacing as you reflect do not suppress or ignore it. Seek forgiveness firstly from God for He will surely give it for Jesus’ sake. If you have sinned against or wronged another person do all you can to restore that relationship. Time does not heal guilt. Only God’s forgiveness removes guilt and He is able to do so because Jesus died for our sins.