There is an old story about the time Emperor Frederick the Great visited Potsdam Prison. He spoke with the prisoners, and each man claimed to be innocent, a victim of the system. One man, however, sat silently in the corner.

The ruler asked him, “And you, sir, who do you blame for your sentence?”

His response was, “Your majesty, I am guilty and richly deserve my punishment.” Surprised, the emperor shouted for the prison warden: “Come and get this man out of here before he corrupts all these innocent people.”

The ruler can set us free once we admit we are wrong.

We do ourselves no favors in justifying our deeds or glossing over our sins. When my daughter Andrea was five or six, she got a splinter in her finger. I took her to the restroom and set out some tweezers, ointment, and a Band-Aid.

She didn’t like what she saw. “I just want the Band-Aid, Daddy”

Sometimes we are just like Andrea. We come to Christ with our sin, but all we want is a covering. We want to skip the treatment. We want to hide our sin. And one wonders if God, even in his great mercy, will heal what we conceal. “If we say we have no sin, we are fooling ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, he will forgive our sins, because we can trust God to do what is right” (1 John 1:8–9).

Going to God is not going to Santa Claus. A child sits on the chubby lap of Ol’ Saint Nick, and Santa pinches the youngster’s cheek and asks, “Have you been a good little girl?”

“Yes,” she giggles. Then she tells him what she wants and down she bounds. It’s a game. It’s childish. No one takes Santa’s question seriously. That may work in a department store, but it won’t work with God.

How can God heal what we deny? How can God touch what we cover up? How can we have communion while we keep secrets? How can God grant us pardon when we won’t admit our guilt?

Ahh, there’s that word: guilt. Isn’t that what we avoid? Guilt. Isn’t that what we detest? But is guilt so bad? What does guilt imply if not that we know right from wrong, that we aspire to be better than we are, that we know there is a high country and we are in the low country. That’s what guilt is: a healthy regret for telling God one thing and doing another.

Guilt is the nerve ending of the heart. It yanks us back when we are too near the fire. Godly sorrow “makes people change their hearts and lives. This leads to salvation, and you cannot be sorry for that” (2 Cor. 7:10).

To feel guilt is no tragedy; to feel no guilt is.

Today’s devotional is drawn from Max Lucado’s Second Chances.

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