Some of God’s communications can be both bitter and sweet. The sweetness of forgiveness comes after sorrow for our sin. But authentic repentance can’t be fabricated; like forgiveness itself, it is a gift from God. God wants us to respond with minds, hearts, hands and wallets, laboring as transformed people for his kingdom. But for many of us ultra-busy people, there’s a problem: We lose sight of what is important. Dutch Christian Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom (1892–1983) draws on her wartime experience to tell us how we gain God’s perspective through hardship:
Making a living can keep us so busy that the Sabbath catches us like a noose. Not only do our worries snare us, so do happy expectations: the harvest on the new stretch of land, the fur coat, the holidays, and the lecture on the Bible topic. In themselves they are all good things.
I remember moments during World War II when suddenly there was an immediate threat to our lives during an air raid or in prison. At that moment you saw everything from God’s point of view, and it gave you a totally different perspective, because you touched death, and therefore eternity. You saw that small things were small and big things were big. You would see everything in the right proportions.
Sometimes it’s necessary to draw apart, to look inward to achieve the quiet that allows repentance. The kind of personal reflection known as introspection has all but disappeared from our lives, let alone our vocabularies. When we get down to it, many of us view reflection of any kind as overly time-consuming, even nonproductive. Why don’t Christians spend more time agonizing over their sin and pleading for mercy? Hannah Whitall Smith (1832–1911), lay speaker and author in the Holiness Movement, reflects:
Every advancing soul must come sooner or later to the place where it can trust God, the bare God, if I may be allowed the expression, simply and only because of what He is in Himself, and not because of His promises or His gifts. It must learn to have its joy in Him alone, and to rejoice in Him when all else in Heaven and earth shall seem to fail.
The only way in which this place can be reached I believe, is by the soul being compelled to face in its own experience the loss of all things both inward and outward. I do not mean necessarily that all one’s friends must die, or all one’s money must be lost: but I do mean that the soul shall find itself, from either inward or outward causes, desolate, and bereft, and empty of all consolation. It must come to the end of everything that is not God; and must have nothing else left to rest on within or without.
This week set aside some time for introspection, prayer and repentance.