Since 2016 a group of us in my family have committed to fast and pray at the beginning of each month. 2019 was our fourth year, and as the one who organized the prayer needs and reminded everyone that the fast was coming up, I fell short. There were several months I just simply forgot, and fasting dropped from my priority list. And for a time I needed to step away from it because it became more about the ritual of it, then doing out of a willing heart to serve God.
I had not given much thought to this until a few days ago when I was looking back over my schedule and praying about re-prioritizing some activities and events in my schedule. Wouldn’t you know it, Satan has since used those months that I missed fasting to blame me and breed guilt in my heart. Of course he made no mention of the years prior where I was faithful month by month.
Satan has whispered in my ear, “if you would have fasted more your brother would still be alive.”
WHAT? I could have done something to stop this pain, or stopped his death?
‘That one thought led to a spiral of other thoughts. Thoughts of what “if I would have prayed harder,” “if I would have prayed the right words,” if I would have done more, or done different things? Certainly the outcome would have changed.”
John 11:21 says, “ Martha said to Jesus, ‘if you had been here, my brother would have not died’”
I so relate to Martha. I said these same words. I honestly thought the same thoughts. I understand her plight. She was not wrong for believing that if Jesus was present he could have done something to change the result that she was now walking in. He could have stopped her pain. He could have. But he didn’t. His plan and purpose was beyond Martha’s understanding. Just as God’s plan for my family is beyond my understanding.
I also relate to Jesus in this verse as the one on the receiving end of Martha’s pointing guilty finger. I feel like I am to blame. I feel like I did not do enough, or do as much as I could have to stop this disease from progressing to the point of death. The voice of guilt and blame is quiet and keen, but resounds like a gong through my body. It shakes my core and leaves a pit in my stomach.
Satan uses this “rear view mirror guilt” to try and keep me caught up in the coulda, shoulda, woulda’s and to cause my vision of truth to be cloudy.
The purpose of guilt in the Bible is that it leads to repentance.
If it is about repentance and sin then why do I feel guilty? Did I sin against my brother because I didn’t fast enough? No, I don’t think so.
The coulda, shoulda, woulda’s are all Satan’s way of making me feel guilty for an offense I did not commit. The “rear view mirror guilt” implies blame that I have erred, I missed the mark, I should have done better and that it was all my fault how things turned out.
When I look back in the rear view mirror there are certainly words I could have prayed, things I could have done, or days I could have fasted. These assumptions are able to be made about most things in life. There is always more to be done or said. But at the end of the day, when I harken back to my present reality none of those would have changed the end result of how we now must live.
Why? Because God is Sovereign.
God in his sovereignty knew what was best for Zach, for me, for my parents. His plan doesn’t feel “best”. I have a hard time trying to understand this fact. As always in my life, when I keep my eyes focused on God’s word he points me to verses that enable me to be okay with not understanding. And to be okay with not being okay with the outcome.
Isaiah 43:13 says, “Indeed before the day was, I am He; And there is no one who can deliver out of My hand; I work, and who will reverse it?”
We can’t reverse what is done. Satan will try and accuse us. He wants us to feel guilty, even if there is no reason for the guilt. When we feel this false guilt that we could have done something, it’s like we step back into the Garden of Eden, and he tempts us again with a bite of the apple.
In a twisted way he uses our grief and our desire for answers to tempt us into believing we are powerful enough to cause a result that does not align with God’s plans. Grabbing onto “rear view mirror guilt” means we believe, even if just for a moment, that life and death is within our power to change when God has already determined the plan.
Truth is, I just have to trust God to know what’s best. That is what faith is. It’s not easy. It doesn’t feel good or sit well some days. But I do know that God does not want us to live trapped in the “rear view mirror guilt” that Satan uses to draw our eyes from the road ahead, the road toward Him.
Guilt is a sticky and hard subject and not one that I love talking about. But this is my current season and my current wrestling and how my faith muscles are being built. I promised God when I began writing that I will not shy away from the topics that are uncomfortable, because growth happens through discomfort. And ultimately I want God to receive the glory for the work He is doing in my life. I don’t have all the answers, but I am committed to walking with God despite having answers.
I want to leave you today with a prayer. I know that the mind is a battlefield where Satan loves to gain ground. I pray for you, for your mind, and for the “rear view mirror guilt” you may be carrying.
God of Heaven, and Lord above all, this life here on earth is full of thorns and thistles, heartaches and sorrows, suffering and pain. God this life is not what you had planned for us. This life is not what you wanted, but instead the life we chose when we chose SIN instead of OBEDIENCE. God I pray over each and every person who will read this devotion.
I pray that you will break free the chains of needless guilt for all of the coulda, shoulda, wouldas of our past and you would give us the strength to leave the past in the past, and set our eyes on the future hope of life eternal. God, I thank you that your ways and your thoughts are higher than ours, and though we often do not understand we choose to trust you. We choose to align our hearts to yours and thank you that we are safe and secure with you. No one can snatch us from your hand.
Hope Seeker, if you are struggling with “rear view mirror guilt” and you would like me to pray with you for freedom, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me and let’s walk this out together.
My 42 year old son struggles daily from addiction. I struggle with guilt and helplessness.
Awesome post! Keep up the great work! 🙂
So right on Steph- those woulda coulda shoulda’s always keep me stuck- and sometimes it’s an emotional wrestling match with God and my limited understanding- thank you for not being afraid to write about it and through it ?