When you fall into sin and feel in your soul that you have offended the Lord, there is much to think about. The first thought is always to put the situation right with an act of contrition, a sincere repentance, and a plea for mercy. Then our thoughts turn to an assurance of God’s love as we go forward with a strong resolution to put things right by not repeating the offence. At this point we are at peace.
However, sometimes we are struck with an overwhelming sense of guilt – even after we have confessed out sin and received a pardon. Even after an act of penance and a firm intention to go forward. Sometimes, we think that we may offend in a similar manner in the future, if we have a weakness which we are struggling to overcome, a weakness such as lust, anger, jealousy or pride. A weakness that is ingrained in our character so deep that its removal will take much time and prayer to heal.
Guilt can then enter into the soul and turn our thoughts to feelings of unworthiness. We can tell ourselves that we are unworthy of God’s love, unworthy of His forgiveness and unworthy to be called His child. When this happens we must take action immediately! We must rid ourselves of all feelings of unworthiness – not because we are worthy, but simply because we don’t have to be. None of us are worthy of God’s love and mercy, which is why it is called the grace of God. God’s mercy is a gift of unconditional love, not something to be merited.
Sometimes humility can lead us into feeling unworthy and we think that this is correct, it can then lead us to despair, but this is false humility. True humility is to believe that God is good, loving and powerful and that we are incapable of anything good without the help of His divine assistance. This is true humility. It is false humility to put ourselves down by saying we are evil or rubbish. We are not! We are a part of God’s creation and God does not make rubbish!
God knows our faults, He is aware of all the problems of our fallen nature and He grants us the grace and the time needed to heal. Despair on the other hand is a tool of the devil and it must never occupy our hearts.
To feel sorrow for our sin is good; contrition is one thing but an overwhelming sense of guilt is another. To lose your peace after your sins have been absolved in the Sacrament of Penance is to darken the beautiful light, which God’s mercy has placed in your soul. Be truly humble, accept God’s mercy and be grateful, ask for His grace and power to perfect that which is in you that troubles you. Allow guilt to lead you to repentance, but never to despair, for our God is a God of mercy.
By Geoff Heggadon