The Distance Between Wanting to Change and Changing
If they repent with all their heart and with all their soul . . . 2 Chronicles 6:38
I have desired to change something about myself – and prayed about it – a thousand times. I’ve actually succeeded at changing habitual, destructive behavior only a handful of times. If I want to be successful in future efforts at transformation then, I must be honest about what it has taken to succeed and what has been missing when I have failed.
In today’s passage, King Solomon prayed for his people, knowing that they would someday struggle and wander from God. He prayed that when that happened, that they would see their failure and repent with all their heart and soul.
Solomon did not insist that the Israelites wish really hard for change. He demanded that when the Israelites suffered the consequences of wandering, that they would abandon their destructive ways and return to God. They were to ask forgiveness and then obey.
Solomon understood what we must understand: The distance between wishing for change and actually changing is action. When it comes to our own behavior, it does no good to simply hope for change. We do not lose weight by wishing for weight loss. We lose weight by getting rid of the ice cream and exercising. We do not find recovery by longing for it. We find recovery by doing whatever it takes to stop using, while turning to God. God hears and responds when we repent (change behavior) and obey.
Not just any action will do. In my addiction, I had a lot of ideas for change that were useless. I thought about changing my job or geography, but that was not repentance. Enslaved to pills, I needed to pray, asking God not just for help, but for what He wanted me to do. Then, I had to do it, and that is really the hardest – but most important – part of transformation.
Without obedience or action, our desire for change is simply wishful thinking. It is only in seeking God, asking what it is that we must do – and then doing it daily – that we will find the life, joy and peace for which we were made.