“Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, ‘I will confess my rebellion to the Lord’. And you forgave me! All of my guilt is gone!” (Psalm 32:5)
A guilty conscience is on nobody’s wish list, but there’s only one way to remove it if you happen to have one.
I don’t mean the booth with the priest where you spill your guts and he prescribes a certain amount of Hail Mary’s. (Although if that’s your thing, more power to you.)
I mean confession.
Who are the injured parties? Whether they were lied to, stolen from, cheated on, or worked over, they deserve an apology.
When a transgression has been made, there are three stages of making amends.
1) Make it right with God.
2) Make it right with yourself.
3) Make it right with the offended person(s).
Each stage requires an increasing capacity for humility.
Before anything else, you must reconcile with God. You must accept responsibility for your actions – with sincerity and solemnity – and ask God to forgive you from the bottom of your heart.
Don’t feel the need to convince God of your seriousness. He knows. The fact you feel guilty is convincing enough.
But know that…
“If we confess our sins, He who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
This ought to be enough to make it right with yourself, because the One with absolute authority has just forgiven and cleansed you.
Now this is key: You no longer need to feel guilty.
God has forgiven you. Believe it.
You should make every effort to make things right with whomever was wronged, but you cannot force them to forgive you. Nor can you place your peace upon the shoulders of someone else.
That is why this is the last step.
They may never forgive you, but that’s on them. If they choose to live in bitterness and hatred, that’s really too bad, but all you can do is pray for them (and you should).
“Do not worry about anything, but pray for everything in supplication, and with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6-7)