A few nights ago, I awoke to an annoying beeping sound. I stumbled around the house to figure out what the noise was, located the smoke detector, and attempted to solve the problem. The battery needed changing, but at 3:00 in the morning, I wasn’t coordinated enough to pull off the detector’s cover. Being the good wife and mother that I am, I took the next logical step. I shut all the bedroom doors, put a pillow over my head, went back to sleep, and let my husband change out the battery the next day.
Maybe I should have made stronger attempts to rouse myself and get the battery changed that night, but in a home full of solid sleepers, there was really no need. The smoke alarm was not going off, my household was not in danger, I didn’t leave anything burning on the stove (this time), and there was no fire. The beeping sound was an indicator—not that flames would engulf my house but that a simple battery needed to be replaced.
And so it is with guilt. As discussed earlier, guilt can be your safeguard. Guilt can be the incessant, blaring smoke alarm that warns you “get out of the house or burn”, and it can also be the quiet, yet unavoidable steady beep of the smoke detector indicating the need for a change. There are times you feel guilty because you are guilty, and there are times you feel guilty because your standard or expectation for yourself is different from the Bible’s standard.
Here’s a short list of the reasons parents (particularly mothers) feel a false sense of guilt:
- the child doesn’t act in the way he or she has been taught
- your parents, in-laws, or friends tell you what you should or should not be doing as a parent (and there is no biblical/medical/legal basis for their opinions)
- your child is sick due to something you did not cause
- you made a bad decision because you did not have the correct information and were not capable of obtaining it
- you were not able to provide something beneficial to your child due to lack of funds, resources, capabilities, or skills beyond your control
- you made an extra-biblical standard for yourself and failed to keep it
Anytime you start to feel the twinges or beeping sounds of guilt, you have got to access the problem. Figure out if you need to repent and change your course of action, or if you just need to “change your battery.” Take inventory and ask yourself “Where is this guilt coming from? Do my standards line up with God’s? Are my expectations of myself the same as God’s expectations of me? Am I listening to other voices when I should be listening to God’s voice alone?”
Picture yourself in God’s courtroom on judgment day. It is both a frightening and freeing thing to be in the presence of God when all of your sin, thoughts, and deeds are exposed before the Judge. But take heart, your own child will not be present as your prosecuting attorney. Neither will your child be your defense lawyer. This means that your child’s opinion matters greatly in your relationship with him or her, but it means nothing in your relationship between you and God. Your eternal case will not have a summoned jury consisting of parents, in-laws, friends, pastors, or authors. Your spouse will not be there as your bailiff, keeping order in this court. Neither do you get to be your own caseworker, advocating your own case. You alone will stand before God, your Judge. He will spread your words of this life before you (Matt 12:36-37) to see if your heart practiced bitterness or forgiveness. He will spread your works before you to see if they were produced by a heart of fear or faith. Those who rejected God in this life will be shown all of their sin and cast into hell by the Judge (John 12:48). But…those who have trusted Jesus have another person in the courtroom. Hebrews 9:27-28 tells about our advocate and mediator: “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”
Fellow Christians, please do not freak out when guilt arises. Do not over-react. There is no cause for alarm because the fire has been put out. Do not run around guilt-ridden. Learn to walk in the Spirit by changing your battery, replacing all of your standards, expectations, and opinions with the only One that matters.