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Guilt – A Self-Inflicted Wound

What follows is an article I have just read addressing the issue of ‘guilt’. Guilt and self-pity often walk hand-in-hand bringing down an immense sense of helplessness and hopeless. The self-focus of these two keeps a person’s eyes off God and thoroughly fixed on the problem(s) they struggle with. The article is written by Alfred C.W. Davis, MBA, M.Div. of Agape Healing International Inc.

Many Christians say they feel detached, numb, alone and cut off from God. They often describe their situation as feeling like being in a prison, a pit, a box or some type of bondage. When I hear these words in a person’s story, along with the descriptors of shame and self-criticism, I begin to listen for the condition of “guilt” that presents itself as a lack of self-forgiveness . I define guilt as: atoning for one’s own sin through self-punishment. Leanne Payne describes it in her book “The Healing Presence” as “our failure to receive forgiveness from God – P.82.”

In our culture, we are taught to be responsible and performance oriented. We learn that we need to do things to take care of ourselves. When we experience a feeling of remorse, we intuitively start to do something to deal with it in our own strength. God’s solution of confession, repentance and receiving the forgiveness of the cross seems too easy. So, we use our superior intelligence to complicate the process. Knowing that we are guilty, we begin down a destructive path of self-criticism, self-judging, self-accusing, self-condemning, self-blaming, self-loathing, and self-hating. This process is a form of self-wounding that leads to confusion, fatigue, headaches, hopelessness, depression, suicide and possibly death.

In 2 Corinthians 7:10 it is described in this way, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but wordly sorrow brings death.” Judas is an example of how guilt works. In Matthew 27:3-5, it says, “When Judas, who had betrayed
him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse”….. “So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself”. Judas could not forgive himself and his way of dealing with his wordly sorrow was to punish himself by taking his own life. This is the extreme result of guilt, but even in less extreme forms, guilt still leads to spiritual death and a separation from God. Guilt is a form of unbelief that says “The forgiveness of the Cross does not apply to me.” In a distorted prideful way, guilt leads the person into a process of self-justification through self-punishment.

Godly sorrow is the conviction that I need to get on my knees and confess to God my sin and inadequacy. In 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” The problem is that guilt makes us believe that we are not purified and not forgiven. After confession, many people revert back to guilt and function out of the repetitive cycle of self-criticism, self-hatred and self-punishment. But, God’s plan is better. He wants us to be free of the pain and hurtful feelings so that we will sin no more. His solution is to empower us so that we will repent and change and live a more holy life. Receiving the forgiveness of the Cross is the key to living a victorious life.

How does one overcome guilt? First, be aware of how the words of guilt create a self-imposed prison. Second, work through a prayer of self-forgiveness and lay down all the self-destructive words. Third, invite Jesus into the dark place where you have been hiding and ask Him to lead you out. Fourth, accept the truth of the forgiveness of the Cross of Jesus Christ and claim the benefits of freedom for yourself. This is God’s plan for you, as it says in Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourself be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Retrieved from: Dr Grant Mullen’s Article Archive
October 20, 2007

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Self-Pity, further thoughts…

How does self-pity differ from the factual statement of pain and the cry to God?
Do people who can’t hear God no matter how much they want to have self-pity standing in the way so all they can hear is themselves and their own pain?
There are the ones who are “obviously” in self-pity because they are continuously expressing “woe is me” in one way or another. Their whole demeanour is one of “woe-is-me”, even the way they talk is very whiny. This is off-putting to others. Such people may have few friends, or if they do they may be suffering in a similar way.
There are others whose self-pity is not so obvious. The clue seems to be that like the “woe-is-me” people, they keep coming back to the same things and going over the same ground, like a merry-go-round that never stops for them to get off.
With either group deflection into self-pity happens often and quickly. It seems to be a protection of some sort. Self-pity has a genuine core of real and true pain but it also seems to have a blame element that shows them as the victims and everyone else as the victimiser. This self-pity seems to have a power to keep the person focused on themselves and on their pain. Sometimes it is very cleverly couched in such a way as to keep the true identity hidden. If self-pity is exposed as self-pity then the person is forced to face it and do something — make a choice to deal with it (whatever that means) or to remain in it and stop wasting the time of counsellors, friends, prayer team, etc.
How does one face and deal with self-pity? Leanne Payne’s “Restoring the Christian Soul”, Part 1 addresses this in part by identifying self-pity as a manifestation of self-hatred (and self-hatred as a manifestation of pride).
Another way to face it is to keep on acknowledging it and “putting it aside” while address the real issue. Initially, this will be next to impossible but with the help of trusted friends and counsellors, it can happen. As the healing progresses, the roots of the self-pity are slowly removed. As God brings his truth into the wounds where self-pity has been rooted its reason for existence is removed. Where there are demons attached to the self-pity they lose their right to remain and must leave (of their volition or be sent packing). Change should become obvious to the person and especially to others. If it doesn’t then need to investigate what is going on. Is there a lurking demon that needs to be dealt with? Is there some hidden sin? Vow? Judgement? Something? God knows and can reveal it.
If the person is only used to looking at their pain they may need help to turn their eyes to Jesus and fix them there and so learn new habits, new habits that are God-focused not self-focused.

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Self-Pity

Self pity is a very debilitating ‘disease’. I have noticed that a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness go along with self pity. It’s a three-some which robs folk of life.
It’s like:
· being on a merry-go-round that does not go anywhere but round and round.
· Like a whirlpool sucking one down deeper and deeper into despair, discouragement, and disillusionment.
· Like a swamp, a quicksand – very hard to get out of.
Self-pity is not a healing feeling – it’s a “woe is me” feeling that focuses on how badly done by I am. It’s a collapsing in on oneself so our horizon becomes smaller and smaller and darker and darker. It declares “I am a victim”, “I am not to blame”, “I am in pain and you’re supposed to comfort me, rescue me, something”
The emotional pain of self-pity is intense and dreadful but it is not a pain that leads to healing. More often than not it deflects from the true source of emotional pain.
It’s as if  … if I can take off this weight of self-pity (like a coat) and put it aside for a while and then look at what’s underneath it, what’s being hidden by it then I will get to the true source of my pain. Doing this puts one of a path towards hope again.

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Admitting powerlessness … a journey towards hope

Nouwen in his book “Reaching out” speaks of our need to accept our powerlessness. To admit powerlessness means we acknowledge we do not have the events of our lives under control. We hold onto the illusion that we are masters of the universe and to admit powerlessness means we are admitting this is not so.

How many defences do we have in place to hide our powerlessness? How strong is our need to have safe control of our lives? How unstuck do we become when we cannot control what is happening to us, in us or around us?

Admitting how powerless we are is but one step towards healing. We then need to turn to God, admit our pain and how much it hurts to be so powerless and ask him to come and help us. Failure to turn to God leaves us in the pain of powerlessness and opens the door to being overwhelmed by despair and hopelessness. God, and God alone is our power, our refuge, our strong tower.

As I pray with people I am continually coming face to face with the pain of powerlessness. The pain is so great. And, whilever we look for ways to alleviate the pain ourselves we will remain stuck in powerlessness and its consequent pain. We need Jesus to take us back to the roots of our powerlessness and allow him to heal us at that wounded place. It’s something he loves to do.

Adapted from: Neilsen, Mark. 2003. Renewed for life. Daily meditations from the works of Henri J. M. Nouwen. USA: Creative Communications for the Parish.

(Originally posted in: Healing Prayer Blog on Bhojli.com 21 June 2005

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The Presence of God

“The presence of God is an eternal fact. He never leaves us alone or forsakes us. It is when we lose sight of Him that we falter and sink beneath the waves. We need to regain a clear vision of the Presence, to perceive the reality of His relationship with us and act upon it.”

He never leaves us or forsakes us. We cannot slip out of His love and care.

“Faith is the discovery that He is at hand: “in Him we live and move and have our being.” Faith is the joy of knowing that we dwell in Him and He in us. You cannot imagine this, you cannot even make it happen, but you can experience it as a fact. It is necessary to keep ourselves sensitive, what the Celt calls “to tune the five-stringed harp”, to keep our fives senses alert to the fact of God and His surrounding presence.”

Circle me O God
Keep hope within
Despair without.
Circle me O God
Keep peace within
Keep turmoil out.
Circle me O God
Keep calm within
Keep storms without.
Circle me O God
Keep strength within
Keep weakness out.

David Adam talks of becoming in tune to God and his presence. He described the encircling Caim of the Celts which was “but an expression of the reality of the presence of God.”

God’s mercy and grace to us are very great. I am surrounded by the power and the presence of God – even though I may feel distressed, distraught, or abandoned.

“The Caim works¦ to re-tune us to the reality of the love and presence of God.”

The Divine Presence is always with us. There is never a time when He isn’t. But we need to be switched on and tuned to Him much like a radio needs to be switched on to receive the radio waves which are always present in the air. We switch on by calling upon Him.
Call upon Father God. Like a little child carrying a load too heavy for it we carry loads our Father wants to carry for us. He watches and waits, ready to help lift the load when we finally call out to Him. He’s more than big enough to carry both us and the load – and He will if we let Him.

Call upon Jesus, our Saviour. He has conquered death. He has conquered the worst this world can serve up. The wounds in His hands are eternal reminders that He can bear any load that we can hand on to Him for He already has borne the worst and heaviest – our sin.

Call upon the Holy Spirit. He is our counsellor, our comforter. He changes us from dry bones, from dust and ashes, from the worst that we are (imagined or real) to a person with a true reality.

A Caim slightly modified with which to begin the day:

The encircling of God is with me
The encircling Power of the Creator.
The enfolding of Christ be round me
The enfolding arms of His love.
The encompassing of the Spirit be round me
The encompassing of the Strength of God.

At the beginning of each day we arise in His presence. Like the sun rising above the horizon filling the land with light and the freshness of a new day so His presence rises for us as we call upon Him tuning our whole being to Him – encircling, enfolding, encompassing us.

“[He] is not a God of the remote past, a historical God, nor is [He] a God of the distant future, but a God who is near at hand ready to help. He is our God today. It is today that we are able to meet Him.”

Exercise:

Practice the Caim. Know that we dwell in Him and He in us.

Your Presence is in my life
Your Presence is all around me
Your Presence is Peace.
Your Presence is in my house
Your Presence is all around me
Your Presence is Peace.
Your Presence is in my work
Your Presence is all around me
Your Presence is Peace.

Choose new statements for the first line to express where you need to affirm His Presence. Change the last word of the last line. Substitute whatever gift of His Presence you seek.

(The Cry of the Deer. Meditations on the hymn of St Patrick. By David Adam. 1987. Harrisburg, PA: Moorehouse Publishing. p12-14, 16, 18, )

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God’s Love

Some years ago I wrote a reflection on God’s Love.I feel as though the renewal of hope depends on us knowing that God loves us, and that he really does care about what happens in our lives. I republish this short reflection in hopes it blesses and encourages you.

In a Lenten meditation entitled “God gives us love as we need it” Henri Nouwen speaks of God’s love and says, “There are two realities to which you must cling. First, God has promised that you will receive the love you have been searching for. And second, God is faithful to that promise.”
These are good reminders. Firstly, because God has spoken again and again concerning his love for us and his desire for us to receive that love. He states this throughout scripture. John 3:16 comes to mind as one example, “For God so loved the world …” The thing is, and we need to bear this in mind, there are no conditions to his love, he loves us period! While we assent to the fact of his love and have a mental (intellectual) belief about it, our experience of being able to receive and feel that love is often another matter entirely.

Secondly, in being reminded that God is faithful to what he’s promised, I am reminded that we so often struggle to believe that God really means what he says. Depending on life’s experiences it does seem as if a promise is not something that’s very dependable. This is where we do need to come to know who God truly is, his consistent character, and even though we’ve experienced broken promise after broken promise in our lives, that certainty of who God is helps us trust him for what he has promised.

There are two things needful when we struggle to believe God loves us, and to receive and feel it:
1) Get to know God for who he truly is
2) Get healed of the wounds of the broken promises of life

Neilsen, Mark. ed. 2003. Renewed for life. Daily meditations from the works of Henri J. Nouwen. USA: Creative Communications for the Parish. From Wednesday, Week 2 and quoting from Nouwen’s “The inner voice of love.”
(17 March 2004)

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Welcome to the Hope Today blog!

Welcome to my new blog!

I often meet people who are in a great deal of inner pain and without hope that anything will ever change for the better for them. And, as I read the news, it seems to me that we live in a world that is fraught with events and catastrophes (man-made and natural) that engender fear and anxiety about what is going to happen in the future. The result seems to be that many feel as if they live in a hopeless world, and because of personal stresses and strains they feel as if they themselves are also in a hopeless situation. This can lead to despair and even suicide. We are people who need hope!

Jesus Christ is the hope of the world! He knows all about the struggles we are in with our family, friends, work and whatever. He knows all about what’s happening in the world. He knows all about physical pain, mental anguish, and broken hearts. He himself said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has appointed me to preach Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the downtrodden will be freed from their oppressors, and that the of the Lord’s favor has come. ” (Luke 4:18-19) Throughout his life and by his death he gave the stamp of truth to his declaration. He is the healer. He knows what needs healing. He wants to heal. And, in healing bring hope; hope that is not transient and dependent on good times and good tidings but which is dependent on who he is, God himself!

It’s my hope that through this blog I can encourage all who come by here that Jesus is alive and well, and that he desires good for your life and mine.

Blessings, and have a good day!

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