A Clean Conscience
I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience . . . 2 Timothy 1:3
I’ve lost a lot of sleep in my life. Whenever I’ve engaged in some self-destructive pursuit, I’ve behaved in a manner that has been contrary to what I believed to be right. This dissonance has created inner conflict, which has meant living in a state of self-induced stress. So, I’d lay awake at night, at war with myself. Nowhere was this truer than in my drug use. Ironically, one of the reasons I initially used pills was to sleep, but in the end my pills robbed me of more sleep than they ever provided. You could say that I’ve just got an overactive conscience and that the solution to my problem was to simply let go of the guilt. It wasn’t just guilt though that kept me awake. I was constantly worried about the inevitable consequences of my behavior. I was right to worry. My self-destructive behavior eventually tore my life apart.
Now, in recovery, I sleep like a baby. I once thought that pills were what I needed to sleep, but actually, it was a clean conscience. I certainly don’t live perfectly now. I still have my struggles, but I’m no longer addicted to behavior that threatens my marriage and career. I still struggle with following my way, but daily, I get up and try to point my life at God. That has made all the difference. In making a genuine effort to follow God’s will instead of my own, I’ve found peace and a clean conscience. It’s not that I never fail. It’s that when I fail, I ask forgiveness and repent, finding comfort in my relationship with the father.
In today’s passage, Paul spoke of this internal peace, explaining to Timothy that he served God with a clean conscience. His serenity couldn’t have come from his surroundings – he was in prison, facing imminent death. Rather, his peace grew out of his right relationship with God. Was he perfect? No. Did he experience a life of joy and peace, despite terrible circumstances? Apparently yes.
Is there a part of me that still wants those things that taste good now but which bring destruction later? Yes, of course. Now though, I’ve found that I want the new life far more than the old one. I like sleeping at night.
We often think the path to satisfaction lies in doing whatever we want, but often, our nature is contrary to what we believe to be right. In pursuing ourselves then, we eventually find only conflict and inner turmoil. It is only in abandoning ourselves to follow God that we find peace and a clean conscience.