Guilt has two definitions. One is the fact or state of having committed an offense, crime, violation, or wrong, especially against moral or penal law; culpability. The other is a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined. A sense of guilt is one of the most painful and incapacitating emotional experiences. It may cause shame, fear, sorrow, anger, distress, and even physical illness. Sometimes it makes us act irrationally. We find an example in our quarterly.
Our quarterly states that Madame Mao, the wife of the former leader of Communist China, Mao Tse-Tung, lived in constant fear and guilt, all because of many of the bad things she had done. She was so paranoid, in fact, so full of guilt, that any sudden noises, any unexpected sounds, would send her into cold sweats or into a fury. It got so bad that she demanded that her staff keep birds away from her compound so she didn't have to hear them singing. Can you imagine: not wanting to hear birds sing? Though an extreme case, what does this tell us about the power of guilt to ruin our lives?
You can see something similar in Adam and Eve. After they fell, God came looking for them. He already warned them of the consequences of eating the forbidden fruit, "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Genesis 2:17). Imagine yourself in their situation: you did exactly what your father told you not to do, less you die. What would you think he is going to do to you when he discovers what you did? He is going to kill you. Let us read to what happened to Adam and Eve when they sinned.
Genesis 3:7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.
Genesis 3:8 And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.
Ellen White tells us how the erring couple felt everything changed,
The air, which had hitherto been of a mild and uniform temperature, seemed to chill the guilty pair. The love and peace which had been theirs was gone, and in its place they felt a sense of sin, a dread of the future, a nakedness of soul. The robe of light which had enshrouded them, now disappeared, and to supply its place they endeavored to fashion for themselves a covering; for they could not, while unclothed, meet the eye of God and holy angels (Patriarchs and Prophets (PP), page 57).
The made a mess, they realized it and they tried to fix it themselves. The sad part is that before the fall, in their innocence and holiness, when the divine presence was manifested in the garden they had joyfully welcomed the approach of their Creator; but now they fled in terror, and sought to hide in the deepest recesses of the garden (PP 57). What used to be a pleasure now was the source of fear. When they heard the Lord's voice they ran away from Him and found a place to hide; they probably thought, "Our executioner is coming." Did the Lord come to kill them? His actions prove otherwise. He came to make mend what was broken. He came to heal what was injured. He even covered their nakedness.
How do we feel when we hear birds singing? Do we find pleasure in their singing? Do we hear them as if Christ is trying to get our attention through them? How do we feel when we hear the Lord calling? Do we find pleasure in it? Or do we run and hide from Him?