All of life is repentance. ~ Martin Luther
We all have strategies for living. We all have certain activities, certain accomplishments that we are betting on to pay off in the end. Whether we have formally articulated them or not, we all have them. Kim Kardashian has one, Bill Gates has one, Lady Gaga has one, you have one, I have one.
We are so good at taking good things and twisting them into self-protecting, self-promoting, self-aggrandizing strategies that we are often blind to how toxic they can be. But any good thing used to substitute for an authentic relationship with Jesus is going to lead to ruin if not in this life in the one to come. And it’s not that we drift into debauchery or completely evil lifestyles. No, it’s much more subtle and culturally acceptable than that.
We drift into just doing life our way…without God.
Recently Brittany Olson, a member of our Church, shared a powerful story of how she is exchanging her strategy for coping with pain and sorrow for the better way towards restoration.
You can read about the accident she mentions here: Mistaken Identity
I grew up in a Christian home and became a believer at a young age. I attended a Christian school and was raised studying the Word of God. I had a wonderful family, friends, and was provided for in every aspect of my life. I had a childlike faith and God was good.
My faith was tested the last month of my senior year of college when my friend was involved in a car accident that killed 5 students and injured 4 others. She was critically injured and in a coma for 5 weeks before discovering there had been a mistake. My friend had passed away at the scene of the accident and authorities had mistaken her for another student. I was numb and in denial of all that had happened. I clung to God and His Word and leaned heavily on friends and family. I grieved, just like anyone does after a loss, and gradually over time, the pain lessened. I felt like my life was returning to normal and I was happy to have overcome this trial.
Throughout all of this, I felt that nothing had changed with my relationship with God. I was living in ignorant bliss, believing that I was allowing God to work in and through my life. My faith had been tested and seemed to have endured.
It wasn’t until the last 6 months or so that I began recognizing that I really didn’t have control of my life and the events that occurred in it. I slowly realized that while I thought I was allowing God to lead my life, I really just had a death grip on it and would not give it over to Him. I was feeling lonely and isolated, yet kept people at arm’s length and would not allow them closer. Since the accident, I have been scared and guarded in all my relationships so that I couldn’t get hurt or feel abandoned. I was scared to be vulnerable and go deeper with others. I was trying to protect my heart from getting hurt again.
What I didn’t realize was how much I was already hurting. I was keeping myself busy and surrounded by others so that I didn’t have to be alone. I was filling the silence so I couldn’t hear God’s voice and gentle tug on my heart. I was ignoring Him and pretending that everything was fine. However, this became exhausting and I became overly sensitive. Someone asking me how I was REALLY doing would cause me to break down. Joe recognized this and encouraged Evan and I to meet with him and talk about my emotions and struggles. We began meeting weekly and going through a workbook called “Recovering from Life’s Losses.”
As we got deeper into the study, it became clear that I felt betrayed and let down by God after the mistaken identity but had never realized it. I have never prayed so hard for anything in my life than I did for Laura to recover and be healed, only to feel completely devastated and let down when I found out there had been a mistake. How could a good and loving God that I trusted allow this to happen???
I realized that I haven’t been able to trust God since that event. My prayer life has never been the same and I am afraid to earnestly pray, for fear of betrayal and rejection again. I was angry with God, not for allowing Laura to die, but for the heartache and confusion from the mistaken identity.
Over the past 7 years, I have fooled myself into believing that I was still trusting Him when really I had made myself ruler and god of my life. To avoid potential hurt, I tried to control my life events and just maintained a business relationship with God. I would “pray” to God, but then make decisions completely on my own. This seemed to work for awhile, but eventually my “good and happy” life seemed to come crashing down. All I had done was put a Band-Aid over my hurt, but the wound and the infection were never treated.
This realization is the first step in my recovery journey. I am still wrestling with trusting God and His plan for my life and figuring out how that trust looks. I am also working through my hurt and anger from the mistaken identity. It is a daily battle. I am no longer running away from or ignoring my anger and hurt. I am attacking it head on. This has been extremely hard and painful and I am far from overcoming it. But the moments I have been able to give Him complete control have filled me with an indescribable peace and assurance. I can feel my relationship and trust in Him slowly growing, and as it does, my tight grip on my life is slowly loosening.
I believe Lord, help me to overcome my unbelief!
This has been my prayer lately as I continue to work through my anger and hurt, trusting that He who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion.
I’ve discovered that the best idea is to take our self-generated strategies (sin) for living to the cross.
Take it to Mount Calvary, not to Mount Sinai. If you take a sin to Mount Sinai that means you’re thinking about the danger of it. You’re thinking about how it has messed up your life. You’re thinking about all the punishments that are probably going to come down on you for it. That is not repentance; that is self-pity.
Self-pity and godly sorrow are two different things. The difference between self-pity and repentance is this:
Self-pity is thinking about what a mess your sin got you into, while godly sorrow is imagining what your sin has done to the With-God life Jesus died to make possible.
Real sorrow is when you say, “What has this sin done to God? What has it cost God?
For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation… 2 Corinthians 7:9-10 (MSG)