Have you heard the old motto, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”? I’d like to apply that to our battles with guilt. I have written before about how we can overcome our feelings of guilt, but today I want to explore how we can avoid doing things that will make us feel guilty. When we mess up and make decisions that we later regret, we should feel guilty. We all get that, but wouldn’t it be better to make the right decision to start with?
Some decisions we make are normal, everyday decisions that we all expect to face. There will be other ones, though, often unexpected decisions, that can have enormous consequences. Those consequences can last for months, or even for a lifetime. They could be very good, of course, or they could turn out to be horrific.
That is a scary thought, but God’s Word tells us that God can “… make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:6). In other words, God can guide our decision-making process so that we will always make the right decisions. This is so important because when we actively seek God’s wisdom, He will give us both His wisdom and His blessing. “Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise, and apply your mind to my knowledge; for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you, that they may be ready on your lips. So that your trust may be in the Lord….” (Proverbs 22:17–19).
We all want to be in the habit of making good decisions, but HOW do we go about doing that? Solomon answers that for us in Proverbs 3:4-8.
“So you will find favor and good repute [or wisdom] in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones.”
Solomon just showed us that good decisions are based on four important, guiding principles.
First, learn to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” We must approach the future with a rock-solid commitment that God always knows what is best. We can’t “follow our hearts” like the world so often tells us to do. Instead, we must trust God with all of our hearts. Never be fooled into thinking that half-hearted dedication to Jesus will be enough. This is why Jesus said that the greatest commandment of all is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5).
Second, we must learn to distrust ourselves: “Do not lean on your own understanding… Do not be wise in your own eyes.” It is our pride that assumes that we can handle the decisions we are facing on our own. King David wrote, “He leads the humble in justice, and He teaches the humble His way” (Psalm 25:9).
That leads directly to the third principle: “In all your ways acknowledge Him.” Ask the Lord to help you with every little thing you do. Nothing in your life is too big or too small for God to care about it. God, after all, even keeps track of the number of hairs on your head (Matthew 10:30).
As you develop the habit of sharing the intimate details of your life with the Lord, then you will be doing what Jesus challenged us to do: “… Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Luke 11:9). Those words could be translated “keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking.”
As you talk to the Lord, you will learn to praise Him for His daily blessings to you and for the glory and the beauty in the world you see around you. Of course, all who know God can never stop praising Him for sending Jesus Christ to rescue them. Jesus demonstrated God’s ultimate expression of love when He agonized on the Cross for us. As we practice these things regularly, we discover the joy of praying “without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
The last principle I find in Proverbs 3:4-8 is to “fear the Lord and turn away from evil.” We should turn away from every single sin, even when we think of it as a small sin. Why? Because all of our sins are offensive to Jesus, the pure and eternally righteous Savior, who endured the wrath of God in order to pay for all of our sins.
Never forget the awful price that Jesus paid because of our sins. “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” (Romans 5:6–11).
God promises wonderful benefits if we embrace Christ’s sacrifice for our sins and then seek His presence in our everyday lives. That is why Solomon gives us this encouragement: “You will find favor and good repute [or wisdom] in the sight of God and man… It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones.” That is what I want for each of you. Instead of dealing with the consequences of guilt, follow Jesus closely and avoid it altogether.