Thursday, March 29, 2012

Guilty Conscience

When I was in elementary school, I hated gym class (well, I hated gym throughout my entire school career...).  I hated it so much that I decided to fake a sprained ankle.  I had fallen outside and my ankle hurt but not that bad. When a teacher came over to ask if I was okay, I exaggerated a lot and asked if one of my friends could take me to the nurse.  I limped the whole way in.  Then, I lied to the nurse and to my parents later that night.  The next day Mom took me to our physical therapist who I also lied to.  After that visit I received an air cast and crutches...  Over the next month and a bunch of physical therapy visits I kept expecting to get caught.  Dad would tell me he had to talk to me when he got home...the next half hour I would pace back and forth in my room, heart pounding as I waited for the garage door to open.  Most of the time it had nothing to do with anything I had done wrong, or sometimes it was my forgetting to do my chores.  But no matter what happened, I was expecting trouble at any minute because of my guilty conscience.  I was extremely paranoid.  And just so we know, I did come clean to my parents...but not until a few years ago  :/

Genesis 42:28 - Then he said to his brothers, 'My money has been returned, and behold, it is even in my sack."  And their hearts sank, and they turned trembling to one another, saying, "What is this that God has done to us?"

To give you a short background here - these men were the numerous brothers of Joseph, whom they had sold into slavery years and years before this moment.  They had gone to Egypt to buy food during the famine but little did they know, Joseph was in charge.  Unaware of his identity, Joseph told his brothers to return with their youngest brother whom they had left at home with their father.  As they were leaving, Joseph had his men put their money back into their bags.

As they became aware of this, "their hearts sank."  The word "sank" in the Hebrew means "to go out, come out, exit, come forth" (Strong's).  Clarke notes that this "refers to that spasmodic affection which is felt in the breast at any sudden alarm or fright."  But what did they have to be afraid of?  I would have been thankful that I had my food AND money!  There are a couple of hypothesis.  First of all Hebrews and Egyptians didn't get along very well - it may have seemed to these brothers that the Egyptians thought they were spies and they were trying to pick a fight (Wesley).  But I think the real culprit here is guilt.  These men had horridly guilty consciences because of what they had done in the past to their brother, Joseph.  Just as I kept waiting for my parents to figure out my lie and ground me for life, these men kept waiting for God's curse - "They felt they deserved God's curse and every occurrence served to confirm and increase their suspicions" (Clarke).  You see, "guilty consciences are apt to take good consciences in a bad sense" (Henry).

Guilt, whether it is warranted or not, affects our hearts, our consciences.  We have all had that moment when our heart feels like its going to fly out of our chest, when we are so paranoid we can't even take a good gesture as what it is.  Today, my challenge is that by Monday you take the next step in getting rid of that guilt.  If you need to fess up or apologize, do so.  If you need help overcoming guilt, warranted or unwarranted, talk to a pastor, counselor, or mentor - get the help you need.  (There may be some helpful tips here).  If you don't rid yourself of this guilt, your heart is constantly in a state of anxiety or fear - and that isn't healthy, I have learned the hard way.

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