At ninety-four years old, my (Lisa’s) mom went to heaven just before Thanksgiving 2022. The arrangements were made, and we flew to Columbia, South Carolina, for her life celebration.
After the funeral service, we made the executive decision to go to Hudson’s, one of Columbia’s best barbecue spots.
Ed is directionally challenged. So the first thing we did was put Hudson’s address into the map app on Ed’s phone so we could let Siri lead the way.
As we drove, I was checking emails on my phone and trying to get a few things done so I could fully engage with my family at the restaurant. Then I heard Siri say, “Exit now.” But we did not exit. From the back seat, our son, EJ, said, “Uh, Dad? You just missed the exit.”
“I know, I know,” Ed said. “If Siri would just speak up a little sooner!”
So we had to make a U-turn. Only, in this part of South Carolina, the exits are far apart. It was several miles and another ten minutes before we were able to turn around, which left us once again thirty minutes away from Hudson’s.
U-turns are never easy, but we’ve all had to make them. I’ve been driving down the highway of life thinking I’m on the right track when the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit speaks, but I ignore him. Then—bam!—I’m heading in the wrong direction. I’ve gotten distracted or been too focused on my own plans and missed the voice of God. When this happens, God forgives you. But, like a good parent, he loves you enough to allow you to experience the consequences of your decisions.
When LeeBeth was dealing with her addiction, we had to make the tough decision to put her in a rehab facility. Because she was an adult, she had to consent to go, and we were grateful when she agreed this was best for her. But once she was there, she hated it and questioned why we would ever make her go there. To do a you-turn, she was going to have to deal with the consequences of her behavior.
Because we are all sinful human beings, we’re guessing you can probably relate to this dynamic. You want to make a change, you want to experience healing, but you don’t want to go through the pain it requires. And yet if you want to travel this path through pain that God has laid out for you, there’s no shortcut. You need to make a you-turn.
What do we mean by you-turn? We mean taking your own sin seriously. A you-turn is repentance. When you’re going in one direction and you make the choice to stop, turn around, and go the opposite direction, that’s repentance. Repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of direction.
When you hear the word repentance, what first comes to mind? Do you recoil? Think about some guy standing on the street corner wearing a sandwich board that says, “Repent or burn in hell!”?
When was the last time you spent any time pondering or studying the topic of repentance? If it has been a while, as it probably has been for most of us, then we’ve got good news. Repentance doesn’t set us up for condemnation; it positions us for forgiveness. Not until we turn from our sin are we ready to fall into the arms of our forgiving Father.
The problem most of us have with repentance is that it feels disconnected from grace. We hurry to skip over repentance so we can move toward forgiveness, love, mercy, and tears of joy. But that’s a problem because repentance must come first before we can truly experience those good things.
Repentance doesn’t have to be shaming—in fact, it shouldn’t be! Paul tells us that there is no condemnation for those who belong to Jesus (Romans 8:1). Instead of avoiding repentance, we should run to it! Repentance offers us freedom and wholeness, neither of which we can receive any other way. Here are four reasons we should always be ready to repent: Repentance is “brutiful,” repentance is commanded, repentance is more than an apology, and repentance leads to healing.
There’s a perfect word to describe our path through pain. It’s also a good word to describe the process of repentance: brutiful. Repentance is both brutal and beautiful.
The courage required to make a you-turn, to truly repent, may be why so few pastors speak on it and why so few books are written on it. But the word repentance and words like it are used over fifty times in the New Testament. We have to talk about repentance.
Often, repentance requires us to walk away from things or people we once loved or still love: maybe an impure relationship, a sinful habit, or even wrong thinking that we used to take comfort in. You can expect a grieving period when you repent, and grieving hurts. But 2 Corinthians 7:10 (NIV) brings us the promise that “godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret.” That’s where the beautiful aspect of repentance comes in—salvation and no regrets. I’ll take a little brutality when salvation and no regrets are the trade-offs.
Scripture says, God has overlooked the times when people did not know him, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30, paraphrased). Wow. That verse alone makes God’s position on repentance clear.
I (Lisa) love to ask clarifying follow-up questions. So when I read that God commands us to repent, my natural reaction is to wonder why.
The apostle Paul gives a succinct yet thorough response to those questions: “For sin pays its wage—death” (Romans 6:23 GNT). You may have heard it phrased this way: “For the wages of sin is death.” Anytime death is mentioned in Scripture, it has to do with separation. So the price of our sin is death—eternal separation from our heavenly Father.
As soon as LeeBeth’s soul left her body, we were separated in ways I never imagined I would experience as her mother. It violated the expected order of my life. And without the hope of heaven—without the guarantee that one day my daughter and I will be reunited—I would not be able to thrive right now.
Sin separates us from God, and that separation stings because we were created to be in relationship with him. But when we repent, God heals what was broken and tears down the wall of sin that separates us from him. When we turn from our sin and choose to follow Jesus, we experience salvation. But repentance isn’t a one-and-done deal. The process that follows salvation is called sanctification. Sanctification means becoming progressively more like Jesus. As we are confronted by our sin through the ups and downs of life, we have opportunities to choose repentance again and again. It’s through this process that God refines and transforms us so that we look more like his Son.
Excerpted from A Path through Pain by Ed & Lisa Young. Copyright © 2023 by Zondervan. Used by permission of Zondervan, www.zondervan.com.