Guilt. This is a word I wrestled with before May 2nd entered our lives, but now it’s a whole new wrestle. Like I said before a couple days ago, there are days where I’ve felt really sad and days where I feel happy. On the days where I feel sad I find myself getting frustrated with myself. I shouldn’t be this down. What’s my problem? Other people have it way worse. I should be handling this better. Do people think I’m depressed? Do people think I’m taking it way harder than I should? And then on the happy days, where the Lord grants joy in my life, I find myself feeling guilty. How can I be laughing when a week ago we buried our daughter? If Karis could see us right now, she would be hurt that we were happy. If I’m happy does that mean I’m “moving on” to quickly? If I don’t cry every time I talk about Karis, so people still know that I’m hurting inside? Oh, the wrestle that comes.
Then the big guilt struggle hits. Don’t get me wrong, Avery has brought more healing into my life than any other human being on this planet could. But she is 2. She is a toddler, a toddler that demands a lot of my energy and attention every day. This can be hard when you’re having a down day and you just want to take a nap or read your Bible. She pushes me to keep going which I’m thankful for and other days I struggle with. On the hard days I feel incapable of “staying in it” as a mom. By “staying in it” I mean, staying consistent with discipline, staying patient during distraction, staying entertaining as the day drags on. And sometimes, as bad as it sounds I feel unmotivated to be a mom. Being a mom is sacrificial. You give so much of yourself, your time, your energy to this other human being. During a time of grief you tend to want to grab those pieces back for yourself to survive. But then the guilt comes in like a flood. How could the very thing I’m mourning be the very thing I’m frustrated with? Let me explain.
I’m mourning the loss of my daughter, Karis. I’m mourning getting to be a mom to her. I’m mourning never getting to do “mom stuff” with her. Yet, that is the very thing I’m struggling to do this day…..to be a mom to Avery. Do you see the tension? I’m grieving the loss of my daughter, yet struggling to be present with the daughter I have living. And guilt settles in, and makes it’s home within me.
“My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.” Psalm 38:4
I’ve been trying to define the word guilt for awhile now and how it makes me feel. This verse explains it well…..heavy. Loaded down. Can’t breathe. Stuck. Pressure. Heaviness. And it keeps heaping on.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest....for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
His burden is light. If his burden is light, whose burden am I carrying that I feel so heavy? Obviously not the burden God calls me to carry. It must be a false burden. Either something I am putting on myself or something the enemy is lying to me about.
Recently, I’ve been reading Scriptures that have to do with “guilt” and “condemnation” to get more perspective. I have realized that the Scriptures discussing guilt and condemnation I have come across almost always involve how the person has sinned against God. So I have to ask myself when I’m feeling this guilt and this heaviness…..am I sinning? This guilt cycle I find myself in regarding Karis- am I sinning? No, I’m just feeling bad. I should feel bad about sin. But if I’m not sinning, I shouldn’t feel bad. The only way I could be sinning in that cycle is that I’m not trusting God. Instead I’m choosing to carry false weight, instead of trusting God to carry it for me.
“Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.” Psalm 55:22 (NLT)
He will carry my heavy burdens. I will carry his light one.
God continues to use my daughter’s name, Karis, meaning “grace” to speak over my life. His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9). The grace and kindness he extends to us, covers us now and forever. It’s enough. There is nothing else we need. He extends it to us and I need to extend it to myself.
In his blog on the “The Gospel Coalition,” website, Keving DeYoung talks about guilt here
He makes the point that a lot of times we feel guilty (not for sinning) but for the vague things that the Bible doesn’t draw a clear line. The Bible tells us to pray so we feel guilty we don’t pray enough. The Bible tells us to give tithe and we feel guilt if we don’t give enough money. Should we be doing more? Is it bad if our kids go to this school instead of this? Is it ok if my family eats out at restaurants a lot more than this family? We should not feel guilty about those things. We should feel challenged, stirred, and inspired, maybe moved to change, maybe not. But we should not feel guilty.
So what’s the answer when I start to beat myself up for what I’m feeling on a specific day? The answer is embracing grace, not guilt. Guilt is a heavy burden; grace is a light one. God makes it clear to carry his light one.
“Deeper grace will produce better gratitude, which means less guilt.” -Kevin DeYoung
“I will hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection.” –Anonmyous
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1-2