If all the world hated you, and believed you wicked, while your own conscience approved you, and absolved you from guilt, you would not be without friends. — Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
A guilty conscience is a terrible companion. No amount of rationalization or justification will absolve you of its presence. King David—the king who took another man’s wife and then had that man killed—nailed it when he described the
damage done by a guilty conscience in Psalm 32:3-4,
When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.
Imagine doing a few hours of yard work on a hot July day in Texas. That’s the type of sapped David is talking about here.
But the king continues, Then I acknowledged my sin to you … And you forgave the guilt of my sin … Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart” (Psalm 32:5, 11).
How did David go from withering beneath the weight of sin-induced guilt to classifying himself among the righteous? How did he shake free of a guilty conscience?
Philo, a historian of New Testament times, wrote that your conscience is like “a little judge in your soul.” After you’ve done something wrong, the little judge says, That was wrong. Even before you do something you shouldn’t,
the little judge chimes in, That would be wrong.
The conscience has a pretty simple job that was designed by God, and it’s been given to all of humanity—believer and nonbeliever alike. But we live in a fallen world, and evil has hijacked what God hardwired within us.
Before or after we sin, the little judge in our soul will simply say, That is wrong. But the Evil One jumps on this guilt and starts the internal accusations, Not only was that wrong, but you are wrong.”
Such constant condemnation keeps us from experiencing intimacy with God—it keeps us from calling ourselves upright and praising our Creator. So what we want to know is: How can we, like David, be free from a guilty conscience?
Lord, the voice of condemnation has been a close companion in many seasons of my life. Free me from seeing myself as the little judge sees me. Open me up to a new, wondrous identity that You have for me this week. Amen.