This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it. You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’ Therefore you will flee! You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.’ Therefore your pursuers will be swift!” … Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! Isaiah 30:15-18
I had not even been praying for healing. I’d been praying for forgiveness. The healing just came.
Recently, I agreed to a bit of a “challenge” I felt the Lord had offered up to me. Honestly, when I first asked the Lord to lead me to deeper levels of repentance in my life, I didn’t really expect much to happen. It’s a bit funny, I guess. But even more so, now, I think it’s detestable.
I always knew, of course, that I had sin in my life. I know, for example, that I struggle with things like pride and judgment on others – both in and out of the church. I know that I struggle with gossip. I know that I struggle with bitterness and resentment towards people who’ve hurt me or my loved ones over the years. I know that I can act very disrespectful toward my husband.
But it seems that I’d justified myself in these areas by telling myself that “everyone struggles with these sins.” I’ve been foolishly thinking that these sins in my life aren’t as “bad” as other sins – like stealing, or violence on others, or engaging in pornography, or using drugs, or other really “bad” sins.
You know, people who are engaged in THOSE kinds of sins should really be on their knees repenting to the Lord and begging His forgiveness. But the kinds of sins that I engage in… – well, sure, it doesn’t hurt to occasionally ask God to help me with my pride, or with the tone I use with Charlie – but I don’t need to fall down broken and weeping in the church because of these sins, openly confessing and repenting to God for all of the pain and damage I’ve caused His children – right?
Matthew 6:24: “No one can serve to masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.”
Romans 6:16: “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey – whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?”
Psalm 5:22: “The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him; the cords of his sin hold him fast.”
Despite my arrogant doubting, however, as I have invited Him to go deeper in these weeks, the Lord has begun to do much. He has gently allowed me to begin to FEEL some of the pain that I have caused His children – and Him – through my sin. He’s allowed me to see that my sin has left others I love dearly less able to know God’s love for themselves. He has shown me that often, the work He has done through me to further His kingdom, and to bring His children to freedom, has been partially offset by the sin I’ve allowed to control particular areas of my life.
And my heart has been broken.
Oh, God, how can You stand to hear my thoughts sometimes? What a fool I am to dare to disregard my sin – the sin that separates me and others I’ve hurt from You. All the while attempting to answer Your call to minister to the “others” who I’ve decided are “lost”. Oh, God. How can I even turn my face up to You in prayer? I’ve taken these blessings You’ve given, and I’ve used them to give myself a sense of authority over others who I’ve decided are less holy than I God have mercy. God forgive me.
And on and on has been the breaking of my spirit in recent weeks, in Jesus’ name.
Romans 2:3-4 says, “So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?” (italics added by MC).
2 Corinthians 7:10 says, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”
Notice how carefully these verses are to indicate that the “kindness” and “sorrow” that leads us to repentance both come from God, not man.
Some other verses I’ve read recently on repentance:
“I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” Luke 15:7
“He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” Peter 3:9
This is clearly a very important act in the eyes of our Lord, and in our walk with Him. Why have we become so afraid to talk about – to practice – repentance?
However, it’s also important to mention that allowing the Lord to reveal to me a deeper level of the sin in my life did not bring about the feeling of freedom as I’d anticipated. There definitely has been a new sense of freedom in my life, but I don’t compare it to the vision of the mighty lion running free in the wilderness.
It’s more like the freedom that comes to a watermelon after having been dropped from a 2nd story window. The watermelon is a drippy, broken mess on the dirty ground. In it’s own eyes, it is no longer of any use to anyone. It’s insides are exposed and dirty for all of the world to see, and even if the right wind came along, it would have no way of even rolling itself to a safe haven.
But really, I’m beginning to wonder if it is not this level of broken, messy exposure that the Lord truly desires through our repentance. First, in this state, we become much more acutely aware of the reality of our helplessness and reliance on our God for our life – for our survival – physically and spiritually.
Second, this new level of exposure, while quite painful, also seems to release old blocked pathways to some of the suffering we’ve experienced. In fact, it seems that often it are these old wounds that have caused the sin in our life in the first place.
Through the days and weeks, as the Lord continued to reveal these deeper levels of sin in my life, I realized that something else very surprising also began happening.
It started kind of subtly. One evening, for example, after the kids were in bed, I found myself crying into my pillow about something painful that had been done to me years earlier – something I’d not thought about in years.
Then, I was in the shower a few days later getting ready for work, when I just began weeping about another old, old wound that I’d been carrying around for years.
Then it started happening almost every night. I would lie in bed and just grieve over pain and insult I’d received years ago. The stuff just started coming up – out of nowhere.
Finally, Charlie asked me one evening, “OK, what is going on with you?” For a while, I honestly couldn’t tell him.
And then one day it occurred to me – has my acknowledgment of some of this old, dark sin in my life allowed the Lord room to finally do some healing in these areas that I’d written off as hopeless years ago? Could that be what He means when He says that in repentance is our salvation? I honestly had never imagined to take it so literally!
In Psalm 32:3-7, David said:
When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”- and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Therefore let every man who is godly pray to you while you may be found, surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him. You are my hiding place, you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. (Italics and bold -MC)
Psalm 119:133 says, “Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.”
There are so many reasons today to fall away from the Lord. The temptation to “flee on our horses” in fear is so great with all that so many of us stand to lose in this world.
We have got to begin to acknowledge our sin before the Lord. We can no longer walk around justifying the damage we are doing as “not that bad”. His word says it – the sin in our lives rules over us. We are slaves to it. And if we continue to ignore it – and the pain in our lives that it medicates – it will overcome us as all we have in this world is stripped away.
Lord, create in us, Your Church, a more repentant spirit, so that we will be truly broken. In our brokenness let Your healing come, for we know that when we are weak in You, oh Lord, then we are strong. Praise to You alone, Mighty God. Amen.