I’ve spent the last week or so asking God to convict me about something so I could repent and then begin to repair what I’ve broken through my sinning.
While I was freely admitting in my mind that my action had been sin, I didn’t feel bad about it. I wasn’t sorry. I felt justified.
Satan used this lack of contrition to paralyze me. He fed me heaping spoonfuls of this lie: if you don’t feel sorry, you aren’t sorry, and you can’t apologize or rectify the situation unless you feel sorry.
I agreed with Satan, and I felt stuck. After all, I couldn’t will myself to feel bad for what I’d done. Even if I wanted to feel totally broken up about it, I couldn’t make myself feel that way.
And then it occurred to me… what if I don’t have to feel bad in order to repent?
My initial reaction was, “Well, if I don’t feel sorry, then my repentance would be insincere, worthless…”
But as I considered this idea a little longer, I began to wonder if that was really true. I wondered how often feelings of contrition were tied to repentance in the Bible…
The Greek word behind repent means to change one’s mind for the better, and, except in one case, was always used in the New Testament in regards to sin (Vine’s). Feelings of contrition are inherent within the definition, but must they be in order for someone to turn from what they know is sin and pursue righteousness?
In its most basic form, repent means to choose to do something better. Whether you feel like it or not. Whether you feel bad about what you did to begin with or not.
If this is true, we are no longer paralyzed when we don’t feel remorse over sin. We can still repent. We can choose to act in a better manner next time. We can move forward, toward righteousness, thwarting Satan’s plan to immobilize us in our pursuit of Christ.
Don’t get me wrong, feelings of contrition would definitely help motivate us to resist temptations, and I think praying for the Holy Spirit to convict us emotionally over our sin is a worthy pursuit (John 16:7-8). (In fact, if we aren’t desiring to feel broken over sin, we have even bigger problems (Ephesians 4:17-32).)
But when the feelings of remorse just aren’t coming, we don’t have to sit and wait for them. We can pray for them to come, and we can choose to turn from our sinful choices and pursue better choices.
“I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.” Acts 26:20