Lynn Anderson tells the story of a lady he calls Martha. She had heard Lynn talk about the effects of conscience to keep spiritually sensitive people on track. He allowed that hidden sin just won't let you rest. It makes you miserable. The agony of guilt is like a red light on a car's instrument panel calling for attention.

Martha cornered him at a break in the weekend seminar to disagree with him. She was a Sunday School teacher. Her husband, who had died two years before, had been a minister. Now she was a 33-year-old widow who was having an affair with a married man in her church — the husband of a close friend.

"In all honesty, I'm enjoying what I'm doing," she said, "and I feel absolutely no guilt over it." She admitted that she had wanted to talk to Lynn for that reason. She had always believed her conscience would kill her if she ever stepped so far outside her beliefs and values. "I must really be sold to Satan!" she said.

Lynn had noticed that her hands were trembling, so he asked about it. Martha said it was the Valium. "Why are you taking Valium?"

It was nerves, she explained. Headaches. Insomnia. Chronic stomach upset. But the medicine didn't seem to be helping much, she said. "It's only when I'm with him that I feel good."

You are probably aghast at Martha's denseness. Oh, it isn't that she lacked intellectual ability. She is head-smart enough. It was what the Bible calls her heart that was clouded, dull, and confused. And the chaos of her heart was great enough that she made no connection between her affair with a married man and her stomach pain, headaches, and sleepless nights. The only thing that gave her any relief or joy was the very thing causing her pain.

Not every night without sound sleep means a guilty conscience. Not every pain in someone's head or belly is remorse over moral failures. And, yes, there is even such a thing as "false guilt" that can make a person neurotic. With all this said, however, we're better these days at dismissing the need we all have now and then to face up to our moral and spiritual failures than at painful honesty.

Guilt by another name is just as tormenting!
A rose by any other name smells just as sweet, right? And guilt by another name is just as tormenting! Self-medication with spending, alcohol, sex, or pills doesn't address the real problem. It only increases guilt and compounds pain.

The Christmas season isn't really about trees, silver bells, and parties. It is a reminder of the extent of God's love. He would wrap himself in frail flesh, suffer indignities, and die rather than leave us helpless before the guilt that's killing us.

This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.(1 John 4:10)