Guilty feeling is good if it leads you to confession of sin to God and makes you turn away from sin. It´s bad if it leads you to misery.
Question: I think my biggest question about happiness is “how to not let guilt prevent me from true joy”. ~ Malissa
I grew up knowing that our guilty feeling is the Holy Spirit telling us that we did something wrong. Our conscience is our guide. It´s like a compass that beeps alert when we tread a wrong path.
I also learnt from the many Bible studies I attended as a young girl that … if we always ignore the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit will eventually leave us. It´s very scary for the sin against the Holy Spirit is the only unforgivable sin! (Matthew 12:31)
But as I grew older, I learnt that it´s not only the Holy Spirit that convicts us of our sins, even Satan convicts us too. In fact, Satan accuses us of our sins (even our already forgiven sins). Thus it´s important that we learn to discern, whenever we have guilty feeling, if it´s the Holy Spirit or the demon that convicts/condemns us.
When Guilty Feeling is Good
Guilt was first recorded in the Bible when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. They both felt guilty and hid from God.
Unfortunately, Adam and Eve did not repent from their sin. Adam blamed Eve. Eve blamed the serpent.
Our guilty feeling is good if it leads us to repentance and confession of sin. Remember that every sin can be forgiven. If we confess our sin to God and repent, He will forgive us.
The most important thing is God does not remember our sins. After He´s forgiven us, we are made as white as snow and as good as new. (Hebrews 8:12)
When Guilty Feeling is Bad
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
“Now have come the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God,
and the authority of his Messiah.
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
who accuses them before our God day and night,
has been hurled down.
~ Revelation 12:10
Satan is the accuser of sin. Until today, Satan and his angels “are still in the business of accusing us of our sins”.
If you´ve confessed your sin to God and have asked for forgiveness and yet you are still being bothered by your guilty feeling and the guilt prevents you from having peace of mind and experiencing true joy, then you´ll know for sure that it´s the evil spirit which accuses you.
Guilty feeling can help us confess our sin to God and turn from sin, but Satan also uses it as a tool to inflict shame and misery.
Judas Iscariot, for example, must had felt guilty after he betrayed Jesus, he was distraught, but instead of asking God to forgive him, he killed himself. It´s pretty clear which spirit condemned him.
If you want a guilt-free life, confess your sin to God (Psalm 51:4). Confessing your sin to God will bring you from the place where you feel badly about yourself to the place where you feel blessed (just like what happened to David, Psalm 32:5).
You don´t have to confess your sins to others because no human can forgive you or clean you of your sins. That´s why the practice of confessing to priests is unnecessary. Confess your sin directly to God.
But in cases which you have harmed someone, God tells us to make things right to that person. This is especially true if the person you´ve harmed is aware of what you did. Making things right with that person will (hopefully) remedy the sin, and may also help him/her forgive and let go.
This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. ~ 1 John 3:19-20
God is so much bigger than your guilty feeling. Seek His forgiveness and you will surely experience true joy. This is my prayer.