Repentance: A Dichotomy Between Grief And Joy

Are you struggling to rejoice in the aftermath of a bone crushing repentance? Let’s see how to get to a place of thankfulness and joy through scripture.

There is nothing quite like repentance. It is a dichotomy between grief and joy – we at once feel struck down by the acknowledgment of our own guilt, and yet built up in the perfect grace and forgiveness of Christ. If I had to compare it to any one feeling, I would say it’s most like coming up for air after being stuck underwater. The life-giving oxygen stings your lungs as they fill, but you can’t stop; you don’t think you’ll ever get enough. It is painful but necessary. We can find comfort at least in the consistency of the gospel, which brought life from death, joy through suffering, and eternal good out of temporary evil. King David sums it up best in Psalm 51, “Let the bones you have crushed rejoice.”

Are you struggling to rejoice in the aftermath of a bone crushing repentance? Let’s see how to get to a place of thankfulness and joy through scripture.

Fully acknowledge the Weight of Your Sin

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Against you, you only, have I sinned

and done what is evil in your sight,

so that you may be justified in your words

and blameless in your judgment. – Psalm 41:4

If we rewind David’s 51st psalm, we’ll see that before he got to a place of rejoicing, he came to a place of complete and utter guilt. The joy of repentance flows directly out of it’s grief. We must face our absolute guilt head on, without excuse. It is through taking a painful inventory of the choices we made that got us here, that we will finally see how dark our own hearts are, how deep our guilt runs. Joy comes from the staggering truth that Jesus’ blood runs deeper than our guilt.

Boldly Claim the Promises of Grace

Don’t stop at the heavy burden that is your own guilt – push through to the grace and forgiveness promised to us through Christ’s blood. Our place in heaven is secured, our status in the eyes of the Father is unchanging, even through the highs and lows of the sanctification process here on earth. While there are still earthly consequences for our actions, and even a gentle discipline from God, we have already been forgiven. Completely. There is nothing to hide, and nothing to fear, for “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear,” (1 John 4:18). Back in Psalm 51, David acknowledges the disease of his sin, but then acknowledges the only cure – “wash me, and I will be whiter than snow,” (Psalm 51:7).

Meditate on Christ’s Intercession for You

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We all know what it is like to wallow in shame, wondering if God has finally given up on you, or if you are beyond saving this time. Micah 7:8-9 has an answer for this post-sin guilt trip, “when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me.” So when you are sitting in the darkness, all of your bones crushed by the weight of sin and guilt, hold on to this truth: He is praying for you. He is not angry and vengeful in His intercession; rather He pleads your case with a longing to see you come home, to find joy and complete satisfaction in Him and Him alone.

Involve others as appropriate

While repentance is first and foremost between you and God, sincere repentance can’t help but spill over into the lives of those around you. As it says in James 5:16, “Confess your since to one another and pray for one another, that you mat be healed.” This is not to say that you must shout out your sin from the roof tops, for this only brings glory to the sin, and to you. But within the appropriate context, repenting before the right audience puts the power of the gospel on public display. This is especially prudent for habitual sin. Being held accountable is a way to involve others, and spur one another on towards change, which is at the heart of repentance. It is not enough to feel bad, true repentance is characterized by change.

Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed;

save me, and I shall be saved,

for you are my praise. – Jeremiah 17:14