“I’m in a lot of pain, but I should just be grateful I’m still as healthy as I am.” “It could be a lot worse.” “How can I enjoy this nice meal or vacation, knowing many people can’t afford to eat even one meal today, or have a bed to sleep tonight?” “Is it ok to have a second home?” These are thoughts and questions many of us may have at some point, and ultimately, they’re for us to work out with God alone! During this process however, it’s helpful to dig past the superficial and discern whether our tendency to lean towards guilt is a nudge from our conscience, or the small voice in our head that robs us of something good and beautiful. I’ve wrestled with this “guilt” the last few years while in ministry-focused work and I’ve learned a few very helpful perspectives from others in this space that I’d like to share with you. They’ve helped me discern what’s of God and what isn’t, and I hope they do the same for you!
In this post, you’ll learn 4 perspectives to help you identify and process guilt where it’s warranted, and grace where it’s needed.
Let’s just dig into the topic of owning a second home, because it’s very real and relevant. 😆 If you haven’t already heard, we’re the official new owners of our families’ lake cabin in Minnesota! This little slice of paradise has been my happy place since I was 7 years old, and it’s a dream come true to be able to continue the legacy my parents began 25 years ago - holding tight to all the old memories + making new ones too! It’s safe to say this was a HUGE decision for us and one we spent months contemplating. After all, there’s so much beauty, joy, and purpose that can be found through a place like this, but it also requires a lot of added responsibility, time, and money to maintain and enjoy a second home. Most importantly, a second home is not a “need”. It requires you own two of almost everything, and it’s certainly a HUGE gift and opportunity to have not one, but two roofs over your head.
Owning this lake cabin truly is a dream come true, especially at a rather young age, but I still had to stop and check my heart before stepping into it. I wasn’t sure if it was in alignment with God’s commands or desires, and I wasn’t sure whether it felt right to see and experience troubling social issues around the world, and then own a second home myself. It became an issue of morality for Sam and I, and ultimately, we put it in God’s hands while leaning on some of the perspectives I’ve learned in this space the past few years!
Here are 4 perspectives to help you identify and process guilt where it’s warranted, and grace where it’s needed.
1.) Check your comparison
Comparison quickly creeps into our brain without us even realizing it, offering the mantra, “I shouldn’t feel bad/complain, because it could be so much worse.” We tend to think of those we know in a worse-off position, and find gratitude in ours. On one hand, it’s healthy to use this as a source of gratitude! Yes, we should be grateful “it’s not worse”! It’s true after all, and it breeds happiness and joy! But, why beat ourselves up when we’re already down? Instead, I like to acknowledge and affirm how I feel and then allow myself the space to be grateful. There’s usually a really great reason to be grateful, but there’s often a reason to acknowledge the difficult too. It’s not either-or. It’s often both-and. Offer yourself some grace to feel what you need to feel, sit in the moment for a while, and then naturally grasp for the gratitude before you!
2.) Check your guilt
We straight-up feel guilty. We tell ourselves we shouldn’t have something, because others don’t or can’t have the same thing. We keep ourselves from fully embracing a blessing that is good out of guilt for others. This can be in any form - material or not. A common example I often see is new moms feeling social pressure and guilty about having a healthy pregnancy, when they know there are so many women who haven’t experienced that joy yet. Oh how I can imagine how that feels…Empathy and compassion for these yet-to-be moms is real, and oh so important! Yet, it’s important to remember not to let guilt rob us of our own joy too. A child is a gift from God to be celebrated!
First, it’s important to remember material things are just one dimension of life. There are other dimensions of life that are so much more important: health, spirituality, and relationships, etc. We can be “poor” in any of these areas! When you think of life in these terms, the material piece becomes dwindled down to something that has less meaning, allowing us to place more meaning on other things - like spending time with family or serving others! It comes back to where our priority is. Answering the question, “Where is my heart in this?” will help you determine for what reason you’re placing value on something material. There might be a very good reason that doesn’t lead to materialism!
Secondly, the Bible warns us of materialism many times. When you stop to think about it, everything is a gift on loan from God! When we leave earth, we can’t take it with us. Our land goes to someone else, which then goes to someone else when his life ends. Material things are just one dimension of life, and if we use these material “things” well, they can be used to bring about more lasting and joy-filled things! Often, we can use our material gifts to serve God and others!
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21
God gifts us all differently according to the plan He has for our lives. Knowing this, how could we possibly compare our lives and decisions to others’? What’s good and holy for them might not be right for us! It’s up to us to seek God’s plan and desires for our lives and then use the gifts He’s given us to make it so - What a joy it is to be able to use the gifts we’ve been given to serve God and others!
I wrote a blog post all about conviction, here! Essentially, I’ve learned that in ministry we shouldn’t feel guilty for the lives we’ve been given, but we should feel conviction to take action. Guilt in this context isn’t of God, and instead it’s letting your inner thoughts get the best of you. Allow yourself to be convicted to help change the circumstance you feel bad about, but not guilty! Use your gifts!!
Personally, I’ve hopped on the guilt-train many times in mission and ministry work. It’s a continual process of discernment - sometimes my guilt is warranted, and sometimes I have to wrestle that guilt to the ground! Ultimately, the goal is to keep it in-check. We have a conscience for a reason, and our discernment should be rooted in our relationship with God, not comparison to man. God delights when we come to Him with open arms, ready to embrace what He desires for us!
4.) Check your values
Is it a nudge from your conscience, or the devil seeking to kill, steal, and destroy something meant for beauty? Our values will help us determine this - again getting back to the heart behind your intentions!
4.) Pray about it
The best thing we can do when trying to discern whether grace and guilt is appropriate, God’s desires for our lives, or anything in between, is to bring it to God! Sam and I bring every big decision (and many little ones too) to God. We know that ultimately His will is best, and yielding to Him will lead to the most life-giving outcome, even if it’s hard and we can’t see it just yet!
The Lake Cabin
There you have it - 4 perspectives to help you identify and process guilt where it’s warranted, and grace where it’s needed! We wrestled with all of these perspectives while discerning whether taking on the lake cabin was the right thing to do. As bad as I wanted to jump-in and say “YES!” right away to owning our own place on the lake, I went to God with open hands and an open heart. I spent many days praying, but one day in particular, I asked that if it was His will to make it so, and if not, to let the opportunity pass. I came to Him with excitement, but also with a feeling that the calling He’s placed on my life is too important to let anything get in the way. If this would get in the way of His purposes, I’d let it go.
Within minutes, this is what I found in my journal:
I’ve felt complete peace ever since making the decision, knowing God desires this. It’s part of His plan. I don’t have any doubt, even when surprises come up (and they already have)! There may come a time where it feels like He’s asking us to move on, but until then, we’ll continually walk close with Him and pour it out to others!
Beginning a new chapter at the lake is something we all wanted (both families included), and the stars just fell in alignment to make it so! All I can do is smile with gratitude for this huge gift from our Father, and make plans to share with with those we love. Our hearts desire is to have more time with people we love, create a space to gather family and friends, and serve others with this gift God has given us! It’s our happy place and we want others to experience it too!
With grace over guilt,
What other ways do you identify and process guilt or grace?