In one sense, guilt and anxiety are the same sort of thing. Guilt is borrowing trouble from the past, anxiety is borrowing trouble from the future, and both make us not only miserable but unable to deal with the present reality. Dealing with the present moment, the present situation, is often the hardest thing to do.
I should bring up a caveat. There is a legitimate kind of guilt, a feeling of regret for a mistake one has made. The proper response to this is confessing sins to God and, if appropriate, confessing them to other people to receive healing and forgiveness. And there is a legitimate kind of anxiety; maybe a better word is “concern.” The proper response to this is preparing for the future.
Note that that the way we respond healthily to guilt or anxiety is action. But once the action has been taken, the best thing to do is to stop worrying, stop feeling guilty, and simply move on with life. This is much harder than it sounds for many of us! Quite a bit of therapy and psychiatric care goes into trying to help people deal with these.
There is an initial biblical response directly out of Romans 8, verses 1 and 28.
“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.”
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”
But it isn’t that simple. For people who take the Bible seriously, it is true that we shouldn’t have to feel guilt and anxiety. But moving from intellectual assent to those two Bible verses toward actually experiencing that reality in daily life can be a struggle! It isn’t ever simple. To act as if it simply should be simple cruelly discounts the day-to-day reality of people trying to internalize these truths – as Paul himself experienced (i.e. Romans 7).
So I’m looking for practical strategies to for fighting off illegitimate anxiety and guilt. I find that prayer is a great tool – particularly, as I so often pitch, praying the Psalms. For me, times of silent contemplation often help me experience the peace of God that overcomes these feelings. What else? Any super-practical ideas?