You tell me that the guilt from the crime you committed is overwhelming. How can God forgive you when you struggle to forgive yourself? My saddened friend, I have some good news for you. Jesus does not want you pitching your tent in a spiritual ghetto of despair, depression, and misery. He has much, much better plans for you.
If you are a follower of Christ Jesus, your past failures, regrettable mistakes, personal shortcomings, woeful behavior, sinful episodes, and those deep dark ugly secrets that you hope and pray that no one else will ever know about have already been forgiven. In other words, God does not hold your past against you. Period. And He takes your sins—all of them without exception--and dumps them into the deepest part of the ocean (Micah 7:19). And though the Bible doesn’t say so, I think He puts up a NO FISHING sign.
Shame is like a tonic or an anodyne. Taken in small doses, shame helps us to see ourselves as we truly are and our sinfulness for what it really is. But once shame has done its work, we are to forgive ourselves just as He has forgiven us and then we are to be grateful that we serve such a gracious and loving God.
I said shame is like a tonic. I did not say that shame is a bath. God never intended you or me to immerse ourselves or wallow in a tub of shame. Continuous shame leads to despair and despair has no place in the life of a Christian believer. Both Peter and Judas betrayed Jesus, but Peter, who was sorrowful, sought forgiveness while Judas, who was steeped in despair, hung himself. Do you understand that despair must never be given a foothold in the life of a believer? Despair mocks the tender heart of God and diminishes Christ’s work upon that cruel Roman cross. You must not fall into despair.
From time to time, some dark episode from my past plays through my mind. These scenes are very unsettling. But then I remind myself that God no longer holds my ugly past against me. Hear me out: God is not angry with you. Got that?
Did you say you cannot find hope? My friend, He is there. He says, Come to Me, you who are weary and heavily burdened, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28). Take a rest from the guilt that is burdening your soul. He extends this invitation to you. Will you ignore His outstretched hand?
By the by, I am fond of reminding people that God specializes in saving the worst among our fallen race. Before his conversion, the Apostle Paul was a terrorist who had the blood of Christian martyrs on his hands. According to the Bible, he was the “chief of sinners.” No matter what you have done, you will never be more than a mere runner up to the undisputed chief of sinners. If God can forgive the chief of sinners, forgiving the runner ups is an easy matter for Him. Oh, and let’s not forget that God used Paul, the chief of sinners, in more remarkable ways than I can mention in this brief response to your inquiry. No one ever had a ministry that compares to the ministry of the Apostle Paul.
Are you a follower of Jesus Christ? Have you trusted in Him as your Savior? Do you believe He is mighty to save? If so, pack up your tent and head for the Promised Land. You have no business camping out in the ghetto of despair.