“I feel that guilt is based on fear, and godly sorrow is based on love; guilt makes a person want to hide from God, while Godly sorrow makes a person want to approach God; guilt puts the focus on the problem (ourselves), and godly sorrow puts the focus on the cure (Jesus Christ)…”(Cheyenne Brashear)
A couple of months ago my husband and I were asked to speak in church. The topic was the Savior’s Atonement, Grace, and Mercy. Despite not loving to speak in front of large groups of people, I felt good about it and knew the Lord would be with me. Then my journey began. It wasn’t ten minutes after accepting the call to speak that an old familiar feeling of guilt came over me. I know guilt. Guilt looms over me. It follows me around constantly like my own personal raincloud. I often feel insignificant, small and worthless. I can feel guilty for anything and everything. Guilt feels so awful that I would do whatever it takes to not feel guilty. Sad to admit, but guilt was behind many of my motives for doing good. I thought this was normal.
The feeling intensified. I started to feel despair. Small things, big things-it doesn’t matter. I can’t put into words how dark and horrible I started to feel. The feeling grew over the next several days. I felt so hopeless. So depressed. I couldn’t understand why this was happening now. I desperately needed the Lord so I could prepare and give a talk in church. When I start to feel bad like this, I eventually pull away from God or at least try to stay a safe distance. I thought he was the source of my guilt. He wanted me to change, to be better, to try harder. Guilt had distorted my view on the world and had me feeling bad about good things.
The gospel has been such a source of joy in my life. Yet it has also been the source of pain-or so I thought. Often times when I felt on fire with my faith and the Spirit, the guilt would work inside me and eventually defeat me. I thought this came from what an awful person I was, from my lack of obedience. I sensed the Lord was teaching me something through this experience. Wow-did he teach me. What I learned completely changed my world. Rather than turning it upside down, he turned it right side up.
Looking back on this experience I can’t imagine learning this any other way. The intensity of guilt was hitting me with enormous force-like a big boulder I could hardly keep from crushing me. It’s hard to put into words the despair and darkness I felt. In the middle of it all, I instinctively knew that I was going to learn something big that would change my life and that I needed to share with others. I had to try to work this out with the Lord-I desperately needed His spirit to be with me giving my talk. I just needed to function. I needed peace!
In my desperation for peace, I asked my husband for a blessing. I couldn’t find a way to feel better and thought it was all from my lack of obedience. I hoped for the black cloud to lift, to just feel good again. What happened next was better than immediate deliverance. The Lord showed me how to overcome this stumbling block for good. My husband left for work and I sat alone, feeling defeated. I googled lds & guilt-hoping for an answer.
In my internet search I discovered guilt has been the source of such pain and suffering for so many-some even leaving the church over it. I have known this church is true for a long time. I know Jesus is my Savior and I know the Book of Mormon is God’s word. Turning away from the gospel was not the answer. My heart ached as I read these women’s stories. I could feel the bitterness in their words. I knew they were missing out on so much but they didn’t want to feel guilty anymore so they left something so precious in their search for relief. Then I found what saved me and changed me. I searched guilt on a blog I have enjoyed reading and found a discussion on guilt from readers: http://unblogmysoul.wordpress.com/2011/08/04/feeling-guilty/ “Satan commanded Cain to make an offering unto the Lord because he knew what would come of it. I feel he does the same thing today. I feel that Satan tries to get us to do “good” things all the time, but he tries to make us do it out of fear, guilt, obligation, or pride. When a prompting comes from the Lord, it not only sounds right to the mind, but it feels right in your heart also. When God speaks, it appeals to our spiritual nature within us. I feel Satan is completely content when we give gifts to God as long as it’s not our hearts.
“I think a lot of times people confuse guilt with godly sorrow. It seems to me that guilt comes from the adversary, while godly sorrow comes from God. In the scriptures, Satan is called ‘the accuser of our brethren'(Rev.12:10). Jesus Christ is the judge of the world, and yet he says, ‘for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.'(John 12:47).
“I feel that guilt is based on fear, and godly sorrow is based on love; guilt makes a person want to hide from God, while Godly sorrow makes a person want to approach God; guilt puts the focus on the problem (ourselves), and godly sorrow puts the focus on the cure (Jesus Christ)…
“Godly sorrow is a gift from the Spirit and comes through exposure to the Spirit. Godly sorrow manifests the goodness of God and His great love for us. It seems to me that the sorrow comes in because we feel great sadness when we sin and seperate ourselves from the goodness of God. After awhile we grow tired of anything that seperates us from everything that is good (our Father in Heaven, and His Son, Jesus Christ). In short, godly sorrow leads to repentance (Romans 2:4).” (Cheyenne Brashear)
This spoke to my heart! A light came on. I felt hope rising within me. I knew this was my answer. I didn’t fully understand it but my I knew the Lord was telling me something. This was real and while I didn’t quite know how-I knew this would change my view of the world and my Heavenly Father. At first I almost felt like it was too good to be true. No way can this be real-I wanted to embrace it whole-heartedly but Satan had deceived me for so long that this change wasn’t immediate. I sent this quote to my husband and said this is it! This is my answer. He agreed. Poor guy has been trying to help me understand this for so long but I just wasn’t getting it.
Through reading, studying and prayer-I learned this horrible guilt has never come from my Heavenly Father. These feelings have never been from God. He has allowed me to feel them and to be tried and tested. But he has not been the source of these feelings. There is opposition in all things (2 Nephi 2:27) and the adversary will work on us and do anything to keep us from God. We are here to be tested and use faith and come unto Christ-to deny ungodliness (guilt) and be perfected in Him (Moroni 10:32). The guilt, despair and hopelessness came from Satan. When guilt would hit me hard, my go to move was often backing away from God. The Lord showed me how much he wanted to bless and help me but I turned away time and again not realizing God wasn’t the source of my pain and that He really wanted me to heal me.
I could see and feel the difference. With the destructive guilt cycle I had been going through over and over I felt sad, desperate and angry. I was ashamed and wanted to hide from God. Godly sorrow was different-it involved love. When I felt godly sorrow I wanted to change and rise above. Godly sorrow brought me to my Heavenly Father and instilled a desire to be more like Him and leave my sins behind.
When my husband and I were asked to speak, we were encouraged to use the September 2013 Ensign which had some excellent articles on the Atonement, Grace and Mercy. One talk in particular by Brad Wilcox titled “His Grace is Sufficient” was excellent. https://www.lds.org/ensign/2013/09/his-grace-is-sufficient?lang=eng I read it over and over feeling like this was the talk I needed to learn and speak about. Yet I still felt so bad and knew I was missing something. I would get hung up on “doing my best” knowing that I was never really doing my best and that I could always do better.
The Lord continually taught me some very important and life-changing lessons during this time. I learned of my inherent worth. How anything I say or do does not change my divine worth. I was previously worried that if I really believed this then I would be accepting mediocrity and just excusing my weaknesses and sins. I was wrong-thank goodness I was wrong! As I’ve been learning of my (and everyone’s) unconditional worth, I am bursting with joy and happiness. I am aware of my weaknesses and I’m sad when I mess up, but I don’t get hung up on these things. I know in whom I trust (2nd Nephi 4:19). I learned more of grace: “Grace is not a booster engine that kicks in once our fuel supply is exhausted. Rather, it is our constant energy source. It is not the light at the end of the tunnel but the light that moves us through the tunnel. Grace is not achieved somewhere down the road. It is received right here and right now.” (Brad Wilcox) With God’s grace I could rise above my mistakes and weaknesses. I mess up daily and but I am continually trying to follow the Savior. This has been a winding road with often two steps forward then a step or two back. The weaknesses and sins are just part of the refining process and have shown me how very much I need my Savior. His grace has allowed me to feel immense joy and love despite my troubles. What glorious news-that I will never save myself but that my Savior will. A huge burden started to lift.
I saw the light. This light grew within me and yet I still felt held back by something. I knew instinctively that the feeling I was having came from Satan. It was as if there was a dark hand on my heart and it felt heavy like I wasn’t yet free. I knew that because this was such a huge stumbling block in my life and was crucial to my progress (as well as something I needed to share) that the adversary was doing all he could to keep me down. I was confused and wondered why I felt this darkness and what could I do to lift it.
I talked to my sister (who is amazing!) and she sent me this talk that seemed to be the last piece of the puzzle in preparation for my talk: http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=251. The talk comes from Elder Bednar and is about the enabling power of the atonement. Wow-the Lord knew exactly what I needed to read and when. I learned of the daily strength the atonement gives me. I knelt in prayer asking for the Lord’s power to lift this darkness and to please save me. The darkness left. The Spirit brought to my mind times that the Lord’s strength was with me (having our 6th child, being called as young women’s president, sharing the gospel with someone dear to me). These were things that I thought would be so hard but they weren’t-they were a great blessing to me. Then I saw times in my life when the Lord wasn’t with me and I was left on my own (when I was engaged to the wrong man, going on a trip when I felt uneasy but ignored the feeling, sharing something with others out of guilt, and other times when things felt so hard-like I was walking through tar). It was clear these were the times I didn’t have the Lord with me. These were times I was doing something contrary to His will. Sometimes they were “good” things, yet I realized they weren’t what I was supposed to be doing at the time and I forced my way through it-these experiences ended in disappointment and regret.
What a transforming experience the Lord gave me. I look back and see He was guiding me all along-despite my fear and unbelief. He has been showing me the truth and light in my life and how this all comes from Him. He has also been showing me what does not come from Him. What sweet relief! I could earnestly pray again and open up to the Lord. I wasn’t afraid. I have been receiving His love and truth line upon line (Isaiah 28:10). I receive according to the faith I have. Perfect love casteth out all fear (John 4:18). My love and faith is nowhere near perfect-but He is. And I know in whom I trust (2 Nephi 4:19). His grace is truly amazing.