I wake up, hands sweaty, heart racing and my head pounding. Guilt jabs me in the stomach, making me want to throw up. I want to escape, to undo what has happened, but I can’t. I can never go back. I can never change what has been done. I feel powerless over the future. My mind replays the scene over and over again for the thousandth time. The emotional pain seems unbearable. I fiercely grip my pillow between my fingers sobbing into its cushioned fluff hoping to drown it out and not wake up my husband.
I plead with God to take it away, to give me wisdom and discernment with what to do now. I scream out in anguish asking Him how long He will let it go on. “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14 replays over and over in my mind. But I am weary Father and I don’t have the strength I complain but before I even finish Matthew 11:28-30 pops into my mind “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Oh Lord, I pray over Psalm 27 again, Hear my voice when I call O Lord; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of you, seek his face! Your face, Lord, I will seek. Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior. Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me. Teach me your way, O Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors.
Sleep slowing starts to seep in, when my mind deviously starts wondering back replaying, yet again, scene by scene everything that happened. I jolt awake, telling myself to stop going over it and to just let God have it. I start listing off things that I’m thankful for and finally, sleep comes again.
We all have things in our lives that we can feel guilty about. Traumatic experiences that have left such a scar on our lives that they will never be completely forgotten.
Sometimes, I wonder, if that’s how David felt waiting for his son to die. That empty ache in his stomach that feels like an endless black hole wishing he could undo what he had done, pleading with God to take it away, to save his son’s life, knowing that he was the cause but being powerless to do anything about it. David wrote in Psalm 38:4, 10 “My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.” “My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes.” David knew what it felt like to have guilt that threatens to destroy you. But here’s the key:
He never stayed there!
Satan wants to keep us defeated to remind us over and over again of all the things we’ve done wrong. To keep us replaying circumstances that have emotionally devastated us. But in Christ we have freedom. David wrote in Psalm 40:1-3 “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.”
This is my “A” list that I have put together for things that help me when I'm dealing with a traumatic experience or struggling with feelings of "deceitful guilt" in order to gain freedom:
Acknowledge the Truth
I don’t know about you, but for me, when I’m in the midst of a hard situation where my emotions are all mixed up, it’s really difficult to be able to distinguish what’s really true and what’s a lie concealing itself as the truth. This one can take some sorting out, to really get down to what the real issue is and the truth behind it. Sometimes, it helps to talk to someone who isn’t emotionally involved, as it can be a lot clearer for them to see. Also, staying in, and searching the Word of God, is a must!
This takes humility! Getting help and letting someone into a vulnerable situation in my life, willingly admitting that I don’t have it all together, can be scary and a hard thing to do. Though, having someone to honestly talk to and wrestle through things with and even keep accountable to is a huge blessing!
The dictionary’s definition of forgiveness is "the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well." 1 John 2:9-10 “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light and there is nothing in him to make him stumble.” It’s really easy when we’ve been hurt or feel like we’ve been unjustly treated to hold on to anger and bitterness and sometimes vengeance, wanting to make the other person pay. All this really does is bind and cripple ourselves into unhappiness. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32. There is freedom in forgiving others. It doesn't always come all at once, sometimes it's a process, where we continually have to keep forgiving.
Refuse to Dwell on it. You can’t stop thoughts from popping up in your mind, but you can refuse to let them stay by forcing yourself to think about something else. I have a tendency to try and punish myself as a false sense of control, to keep blaming myself for every little thing, whether or not it really is my fault. I continually have to remind myself that I am not responsible for the action of others, but I am responsible for not letting myself become bitter over it. Philippians 4:8 is a great verse to remember during these times “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Action plan of escape
When you go through a traumatic event or experience, there end up being things that will happen in your day-to-day life that trigger a similar response to what happened the first time. It helps knowing what those triggers are. Then, having a plan in place to know what to do or think about when a trigger does happen. For me, it helps to mentally start listing off things that I am thankful for. It doesn’t even have to be about the situation at all. Just giving thanks for anything and everything I can think of right then, helps swing my mind away from feeling sorry for myself and letting fear and anger cripple me into its downward spiral, back to the truth. Also, memorizing scripture that I can recite easily when thoughts do come into my mind is a great way to remember the truth.
I want to leave with a prayer Paul prayed in Ephesians 4:16-21, as it is always an encouragement to me and I pray it may ring true in your life as well, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
Melody, a proud mother of three beautiful, adventurous children and the wife of one very loving and caring husband. Molded, daily, by the Maker of the Universe and longing to become more like Him.