What’s in Your Nightstand? Winning the Battle with Guilt and Regret
- Chris Fabry Author and Radio Personality
- 2019 9 Jul
I had the privilege of adapting the Kendrick Brothers’ new film, Overcomer, as a novel. With this story, as with War Room, I like to say that Alex and Stephen gave me the fence line, made all the hard choices about plot and characters, and I got to play in the pasture.
I took their film and asked questions about things going on inside the characters portrayed on-screen. The novel hopefully gives a rich, deep experience that complements the film. Everything you see in the movie is in the book, but I’m able to mine the hearts of characters and put that on the page.
The story of Overcomer is simple. John Harrison, a high school basketball coach, faces a crisis when the town’s largest employer closes. John defines himself by success, and when many of his players leave because of the upheaval in town, he’s given the coaching assignment of the cross-country team. As it turns out, the team has only one runner, fifteen-year-old Hannah Scott.
With the help of a new friend, John comes face-to-face with some huge issues in his life. Will he be able to change? Will he help Hannah become the runner she wants to be? These are pivotal questions for both John and Hannah.
One character in the film experiences a spiritual breakthrough moment that’s crucial to the story. This person realizes a relationship with God changes everything and there is a sense of hope that things will now change for the better. After all, a person who realizes who they are “in Christ” can expect God to make the path ahead smooth, right?
Unfortunately, this character is hiding a terrible secret. This is where we encounter the nightstand.
The items in the nightstand, squirrelled away from everyone, are items of shame and guilt and they haunt the person who put them there.
How do you deal with what’s in your nightstand?
Everyone has something in their life’s nightstand that haunts and taunts. Because we are sinners, everyone has things in the past that hang over us. They whisper accusations. They cause us to doubt that God could really forgive us for those actions or words. They woo us into secret sin that may satisfy for a while, but in the end, leads to more shame and guilt.
And the cycle repeats. And the nightstand becomes filled with these items.
Here are three steps to freedom from the things in your nightstand:
1. Decide to expunge items that haunt or condemn you.
Because of the nature of these mystery items in Overcomer (no spoilers here), it is impossible to throw them away. That action would only bring more guilt to the character. The items must be dealt with in a different way, a more heroic way.
But in your nightstand, there may be items better off thrown in the trash. Perhaps there are “youthful lusts” you need to run from. Perhaps the nightstand contains memories of moral failures and mistakes that continually plague your conscience. Making that choice to decisively expunge the items may be the best first step for you as you move toward freedom.
Paul writes in Romans 8, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” That realization, that you are in Christ and the things God has forgiven cannot condemn you, frees you to take God at His word and believe what He says.
You have a choice to believe that He is truly making you a new person, that He has taken you from death to life. You are no longer bound by the things in your nightstand, no longer condemned or enslaved by those sins.
2. Find someone you can trust with your nightstand. James tells us to “confess your sins to one another.”
Telling someone else, speaking the truth about those mistakes and struggles can break their power and allow another person to extend grace and understanding to your soul.
In this ongoing process of dealing with the past, it’s easy to allow memories of those sins to continue to accuse. It’s easy to believe the accusations, because you did things that hurt others and were offensive to God. So how do you escape the never-ending onslaught of past failures? How do you win the battle with guilt and regret?
3. Turn your failure into praise to God.
Let’s say someone drives to work each day and passes a building where something regretful occurred. Just the sight of the building triggers a memory and when that location comes into view, the person returns to the sin, the scene plays itself out over and over, and the guilt and regret grow and begin to loom like a monster.
What a failure you are! Do you really think God could forgive you for what you did? You want to go back there, don’t you? You’ll never be free from the penalty of what you did. You are a miserable excuse for a Christian.
When you are in Christ, you are empowered.
You can move beyond simply saying no to the temptation again. Your confession to a person of trust will help you avoid wallowing in the guilt and shame. But the truth is that you have the power to turn your failure into praise to the God you offended.
“God, You know what happened in that building. You know how guilty I feel right now. And I am guilty. Every time I see that building, I think of what I did. But today, I choose to see that place as a monument to Your grace in my life. You have forgiven me by Your amazing grace. You have called me Your child. I am in Christ, which means You see His perfection on me. Thank You for Your forgiveness and Your mercy and how far You went to purchase my salvation. I believe that You have begun a good work in me and You will be faithful to complete that work. So help me right now to live not in shame but in the victory that Jesus won for me. Thank You for making me Your child.”
As you look in the rearview, you can honestly whisper, “Thank You, Jesus. Thank You.”
The next day as the building comes into view, you repeat the prayer and spend time allowing God’s grace to wash over you. “Father, help me to understand how You see me and help me not to listen to the words of condemnation. I choose to believe You right now. You love me. You accept me. You have forgiven me and I praise You for that truth. I will not believe the accusations of my enemy.”
What’s in your nightstand? What regrets do you have that debilitate and overwhelm you? You can be an overcomer. Allow God access to that nightstand right now.
Chris Fabry is an award-winning author and radio personality who hosts the daily program Chris Fabry Live on Moody Radio. He is also heard on Love Worth Finding, Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, and other radio programs. A 1982 graduate of the W. Page Pitt School of Journalism at Marshall University and a native of West Virginia, Chris and his wife, Andrea, now live in Arizona and are the parents of nine children. Learn more about Chris at his website.
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