Guilt and sorrow

I’ve been dealing with some very serious guilt issues these past few days. I’m trying to understand what the Lord is telling me. The best way for me to do that is to write out what I’m feeling and explain myself on “paper” – so to speak.

A long time ago, I was married to a young man. We had three children together. We also shared some very hard years together. He wrestled with many addictions. He battled depression. Ultimately I chose to leave that man. His addictions and self-destructive behavior lashed out at me and the children and I simply could not raise them in that environment. As a woman, I was crushed by his unfaithfulness and the abuse I suffered. As a Christian, I struggled to forgive and I’ve been tormented by guilt.

We recently discovered that the young man I married so long ago died from an overdose. Whether or not it was intentional is not yet known to me.

The guilt, anger, sadness and all the terrible feelings I’ve struggled to put away are now rising up again with a vengeance. There are questions that will never be answered in this life. There are feelings that can’t be put to rest peacefully. There is so much left unsaid. So many things I said in anger, I wish I could ask for forgiveness from that person.

Yes, I was wronged. I was betrayed and hurt terribly. But I believe that person that hurt me was suffering too. But I was too young and inexperienced to recognize that hurt and offer peace and comfort. I think I will always be sad when I think of those years lost.

I’ve been so blessed to be married to a wonderful man for the last five years. He’s been an amazing father to my children. He’s been such a wonderful husband to me. He’s taken care of us and healed so many hurts. I know God sent him just for me and I’m overwhelmed with love, both for my husband and for the Father who knew what I needed to be restored. God is unimaginably good to His children.

Even though I am completely loved, since I have learned of my ex-husband’s death I am wrestling with guilt and sadness.

I believe I may have come to an important realization this morning. Guilt can be a useful tool of the Holy Spirit to convict us when we are sinning. That guilt can cause us to repent and turn away from that sin. That kind of guilt is good.

But that useful tool can be twisted into a weapon. When the guilt overwhelms us and causes us to dwell on our past sins, it is no longer a tool used for good. I believe that kind of guilt is an attack. It is an evil whisper in our hearts that says, “You can’t be good enough. Look what you did. You can never be forgiven.”

That’s a lie. We are forgiven, completely. We only need to ask God and He is so quick to pour out His love and forgiveness. And as I pray for God to heal my hurts and ease my guilt, I’m praying for the young man I married a long time ago. I’m praying for his family.

God can work sorrow into joy. His Word tells us this is true.

 “… and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
       to bestow on them a crown of beauty
       instead of ashes,
       the oil of gladness
       instead of mourning,
       and a garment of praise
       instead of a spirit of despair.
       They will be called oaks of righteousness,
       a planting of the LORD
       for the display of his splendor.”

Isaiah 61:3 (New International Version)

I praise God for the beauty He gives us in the midst of ashes.