Cycle of Misery
You recently repented and did what was right in my eyes . . . but then you turned around and profaned my name . . . Jeremiah 34:15,16
Though I find the Israelites recurrent pattern of sin-discipline-repentance to be frustrating, I must admit that this is the story of my life. I overeat, feel guilty, promise never to do it again, only to repeat the cycle. In my drug addiction, I would use, feel horrible, stop for a day or two, and then return to the behavior that caused me to feel awful in the first place.
Most of us have been here. We hate the misery that follows our destructive behavior, but when the appetite returns, we’ve said yes so often, that we can’t say no. Then, our shame leads to pseudo-repentance. We swear to God and self, I’ll never do it again. I really mean it this time! We change nothing though, and so nothing changes and we return to our misery.
Today’s passage describes one such cycle. In the story, God commanded the Israelites to set free their fellow countrymen whom they had enslaved. They obeyed . . . for a while. Because they still wanted slaves though, they soon returned to the practice. For their disobedience, God promised them misery and death (Jeremiah 34:20).
We know where our destructive behavior leads. Why then do we return to it? We do so because we remain unwilling to truly commit to the difficulty of change. We know we should give up the phone that allows us access to pornography, but we need the phone. We know we should keep a food journal, get rid of the chips, and join a food addiction support group, but that’s a lot of effort. We know we should go to chemical dependency treatment, but we can’t miss work.
If we want to get off the cycle of misery and destruction that comes from following our own path though, we must become willing to do whatever it takes to turn from our path to God’s. It is only in radical obedience to him, that we will abandon the misery of ourselves to find the life, joy and peace that only he can provide.