Change is More than Being Sorry
The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel. Mark 1:15
In my addiction, I knew what I was doing was wrong. I knew there would be consequences – physically, professionally, and spiritually, but I kept doing it. Because my behavior was contradictory to what I believed to be right, I had a tremendous amount of guilt and remorse. So, every time I used, once I started to sober up, I’d feel regret, ask God for forgiveness, and promise that I’d never do it again.
Remorse alone though, isn’t the same as change. I was like the serial abuser, who loses control, hurts those he loves, feels bad, and promises, Never Again! Only once the regret wears off, and the impulse returns, I was back at the addictive behavior. I’d hoped that feeling sorry was enough to make me different, but guilt is just a feeling that was eventually overruled by a stronger feeling – that of wanting to use again. I hadn’t really done anything to change, so nothing changed.
Change is hard, but change is exactly what Jesus asks of those who want to know peace, joy, and life, instead of misery, destruction, and death. When Jesus began his ministry, his message was straightforward: Repent and Believe. Most of us who call ourselves Christians don’t struggle with believing. It’s the repenting that’s the hard part.
Repentance isn’t just saying I’m sorry. Repentance is recognizing my wrong path and turning from it to follow the right one. No matter how much regret I feel, if I don’t radically change my behavior, I’ll continue down the path of destruction.
Jesus asked those who would follow him to do whatever it took to abandon their way to follow his. This is radical, but this is repentance, and it’s what we must do if we want to know faith, life and recovery. For some of us, it will mean going to treatment. For others, it will mean boundaries, cutting certain people out of our lives. For all of us, it will mean daily making the effort to turn from our path to follow Christ.
This is painful and difficult. This is why the road to life is narrow, while the road to destruction is broad. If we truly desire to live differently though, I’m sorry, doesn’t get us there. If we want life, we must daily do whatever it takes to pursue it.