Giving me guilt feelings seems to be Satan's chief strategy with me. He's good at reminding me of past failures and present coldness toward God. He plants in my mind doubts about God's promises of love and grace. He gets me to compare myself with others until all my inadequacies are staring me in the face. And I give in. I don't go to God because I'm embarrassed and ashamed. I don't pray because I figure, why would God care to talk with me? I don't believe the gospel because, I say to myself, I've forfeited my right to it.
This vulnerability to guilt feelings is why I love (and need) to read the old traditional hymns as devotional material. The writers of these hymns must have been a lot like me because many of them wrote about their struggle to believe the gospel in the face of guilt and shame. I often turn these hymns into prayer, and Satan flees.
This morning, this hymn by John Newton (1725-1807) lifted my spirits and helped me to pray. Maybe it will help you, too:
Approach, my soul, the mercy seat,
Where Jesus answers prayer;
There humbly fall before His feet,
For none can perish there.
Thy promise is my only plea,
With this I venture nigh:
Thou callest burdened souls to Thee
And such, O Lord, am I.
Bowed down beneath a load of sin,
By Satan sorely pressed,
By wars without and fears within,
I come to Thee for rest.
Be Thou my shield and hiding place,
That, sheltered near Thy side,
I may my fierce accuser face,
And tell him Thou hast died!
O wondrous love! To bleed and die,
To bear the cross and shame,
That guilty sinners, such as I,
Might plead Thy gracious name!