You can keep beating yourself up for the wrong you’ve done — but if you’re living through the consequences of your actions, you have suffered enough. You don’t have to pay it off through your guilt.
There’s a term called “time served” in which an imprisoned defendant is let go after the trial. He or she has already served time in jail during the trial. Most lawyers would call this a win because there’s no extended prison sentence.
Your consequences is your time served. You have spent dozens of hours in regret, cleaning up your mess, navigating the broken pieces, unable to reclaim what was lost, trying to fix what remains.
But the devil gets you thinking you have to pay more to compensate for your wrongs. So we add layers of guilt and self-punishment to appear repentant, and maybe your neighbors and your church and your family will really see that you’re sincere. Maybe if you sit in the back of worship service with your head down and your hands wringing and your shoulders slumped, people will see you’re really sorry.
Please don’t do this to yourself.
Jesus came to die for this, too.
He has served all your time, more than you could know.
Even before you sinned,
while you were planning the sin in your head,
while you were actually sinning,
and afterward when you felt zero regret and had zero intention to change —
Jesus still absolutely loved you in your mess as He watched you from his prison on the cross.
Even as you slowly awake to the horror of what you have done — God sent His Son to die for that very guilt too. His love preempted your guilt, and Jesus who was free in Heaven became a prisoner on the earth to break you free of your chains.
Jesus took away the guilt we would feel when we’d realize how he was beaten to a bloody pulp under a Roman’s serrated whip and how he bled out through his hands and feet — for you and for me.
This is purely grace. Upon grace. Upon grace.
He stood in our place of punishment, but more than that: he even removed the feeling that we deserved it. This is, at least in part, what it means to have our guilt removed, for him to have substituted for us, to have taken on our sin.
He loves us. Believe it. Be free from guilt and move forward in His grace.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
— Isaiah 53:5