Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor. James 4:8-10 NLT
Cornbread muffins are delightful. Delightful that is until you realize they are 5 weight watchers points apiece. But did that stop me? No! I ate not one, not two, but three cornbread muffins last night. And then I sat there feeling guilty. In that moment a had a choice – let the guilt consume me, or figure out what motivated my lapse in self-control. I thought for awhile, and then it hit me, self-pity.
I felt sorry for myself. Other people get to enjoy cornbread muffins, so why can’t I? I will eat all the cornbread muffins I want! It’s not fair that I have to watch my weight so closely. I’m just going to eat until I am happy. And I did, and then I felt bad…bad…bad.
I’ve learned a few things about what to do when I feel bad. Sometimes I distract myself. Maybe I go for a workout or spend some time playing games with my kids. These are good distractions. They are healthy. But I have also learned that there are genuine times and reasons for downright grief filled sorrow. And during those times, there is no need to distract myself, I need to accept it – feel it – and learn from it.
While I didn’t stop to feel sorrowful over my muffins, I have learned to feel sorrowful over other things. The thing about a tearful deep grieving process is that these kinds of emotions can be deep motivators for change. The grieving James is speaking of in the verses above is grief over sin. I can’t say that I have or should sit in deep grief over every sin every day, but there was a period of my life where God let me experience great depression so that I might choose to come out of sin.
Now we have to be careful with depression, because many times depression can also be biological, as was mine. In fact, I still take medication for anxiety and depression. But I would be cheating myself if I didn’t acknowledge that the sin patterns I had chosen played a great deal into my feelings of sorrow and self-hatred. I was lying to my husband, I wasn’t taking care of my family and putting them first, I didn’t spend time with the Lord daily or even weekly, and I made shady choices like accepting employment cocktail waitressing at a bar.
And the Lord loved me…
Enough in fact to bring me to my knees begging for Him to take me home to heaven so I could abandon all this baggage on earth…
And although the Lord didn’t take me to heaven, and I am so grateful He didn’t, He did show me how to abandon my baggage while here on earth. He taught me how to grieve my sin, repent, and move forward.
Negative emotions aren’t always there just so we can escape from them, they are present as indicators that something might need to change. If we use those emotions as indicators rather than trying to run from them, God will use them to draw us in closer to Him. And while feeling ourselves through the sin grief process we must be careful not to fall victim to self-pity. Maybe everybody else does what you are trying to stop doing – and they get away with it! And that’s okay! Why? Because you are not everybody else!
You are a daughter of the King and He has drawn you to a higher calling…a higher freedom…freedom from the bondage of sin. He has called you to blessing.
Proverbs 10:22 says, “The blessing of the Lord makes a person rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.” NLT
The grieving of sin lasts only a season. So rather than feeling sorry for ourselves, let us use these moments to motivate us forward into the blessings. To the blessings that are free of sorrow…blessings that come when we choose to follow His will and way.