By: Staci Stallings
As I told you on Tuesday, I’ve been reading “Forgiven Forever” (“Getting Past Guilt” is the revised title) by Joe Beam. As I also told you, some of what led me to that particular book was trying to figure out the different paths my brother and I took. Many of you know the story of my brother, but for those who don’t, my wonderful, awesome brother killed himself three years ago today (March 30). While that is still really difficult to process, many pieces of the puzzle have become clear to me over the past three years. Each one holds a facet of what happened.
Reading Forgiven Forever has given me more insights into what went wrong, and I want to share them with you in case you or someone you love is traveling down an equally dangerous path.
The part I am reading now discusses how we are three parts (I believe four). Mr. Beam, the author, says that we are a body, a mind, and a spirit. He folds our emotional selves into the mind part. I tend to think our emotional selves are a distinct part. There is good reason to believe this as the four Gospels are written as such with Mark being the physical Gospel (lots of action, little thought or emotion), Luke being the mind or intellectual Gospel (reason and logic are paramount here), Matthew being the emotional Gospel (emphasis on feelings), and John being the spiritual Gospel.
I will not quibble with that any more, but it bears pointing out.
What was fascinating to me, however, was how Mr. Beam explains that guilt eats away not just at our spirit, but at our mind, body and presumably emotions as well. It is not a static concept but an animated reality that will take over everything if left unhealed.
For me, this was easy to see with my brother. I believe much of his trouble started in his mind when he realized that life was life no matter what he did. He always held certain things to be true: You’re responsible for yourself and those around you. Working hard is the way to a “good” life. Success is attainable and once you get there, life gets easy or at least easier. The problem with most people is they just don’t work hard enough.
One of the things I find most fascinating about the study of guilt is how incredibly perfect it dovetails with other things I’ve read in putting this puzzle together. It’s as if all of the pieces are there just waiting for me to snap them together. Let me see if I can explain.
My brother’s belief in hard work was seen as a good thing to the outside world, and it took him as far as it could have. The problem was that he did not understand that there was a limit to hard work. Hard work means it all depends on YOU. Many who put their trust in hard work never come to an understanding of God’s power in their lives because they will not give up control long enough to let God do anything. Worse, they believe that God WANTS us to do it on our own, that He requires such. Nothing could be further from the truth, but it’s where many come at life.
So, he believed in hard work and that he could “hard work” himself to success.
These two things were like sandcastles at high tide. He simply couldn’t work hard enough, long enough to keep that sandcastle up.
And when it began to fall, guilt tromped its way through his door.
As his ability to work hard got more and more difficult to hold onto, he began to lose that which he thought gave him his worth. Much like my grades in school, he believed that working hard and being a success made him worth something. When those fell away, so did his ability to value himself. As that value fell away, guilt flooded in because now not only was he not a “success,” but his family was suffering BECAUSE of him.
More guilt. More guilt. More guilt.
As the guilt took over, it began to eat away his physical ability to work, which spiraled into more guilt. The guilt pushed him farther and farther away from God. I know this because I tried one night to talk with him about God. He said that he had asked for forgiveness but God felt very far away… which is exactly what Mr. Beam talks about.
Do I think there was a physical/mental component of all of this that kicked it off? Yes. I most assuredly do.
But I also know that I was traveling much the same path my brother was for a lot of years. I believed in my ability to make my life be a success even as I sensed my inability to do so. This led me into fear and very often into guilt when life took a particularly nasty turn.
How or why God’s love reached and healed me and did not heal him (though I still believe that God never let go and that God’s love is more powerful than those forces that thought they had my brother when he died), I don’t know. I can’t say.
What I can tell you is that if there are issues of depression or undo stress gnawing away at the edges of your life, if guilt is any part of who you believe you are, please… do yourself a favor and get this book.
Could it have made any difference with my brother? I honestly don’t know, but I do know if my brother was here right now, I would be doing my level best to use these concepts to help him.
Then again, maybe his struggles can help you or someone you love to get out of this trap Satan has laid.
To me, it’s worth a try!