Back in 2009 we moved. It was a pain. We had to sell our house, which is not easy with three kids when the youngest is an infant. We had to pack up our belongings and load them onto the truck. Not everything fit, so we had to leave some stuff behind.
It was a two-day trip. I was driving the truck with the cat in the cab as my companion. My wife drove the van with the three kids. Did I mention our youngest was an infant?
It rained hard all day. The whole trip. My knuckles were white for days.
Did I mention I was towing my car behind the truck?
That was a tough day. The work of making such a significant change was hard. But the whole time I was fixed on the goodness of what we were moving to— home. We were moving to where all our family lived and where we knew grace and kindness were waiting for us. From the moment we pulled out of town and turned the nose of the truck toward home, we hung on to what we knew lay before us, even though getting there was difficult.
Repentance is hard.
You have to admit that you are heading in the wrong direction, that you have a problem. And that problem is sin. It can involve shame, but even shame isn’t the ultimate problem. You have to admit your need. Weakness has to be embraced in a world that sells and celebrates strength.
The prophet Joel understood this. He knew that even though the people were miserable and suffering, they would not want to admit their need for repentance. So, after he calls the people to return to Yahweh, he reminds them of the One to whom they are returning.
“Return to the LORD your God,
for He is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love” (Joel 2:13).
This is the God he wants them to come back to. Not an angry, capricious God who is looking for a reason to wipe them out. Not a God who growls out their guilt simply to make them look small. But a God of grace and mercy, who abounds in committed love.
The Apostle Paul understood this. In Romans 2:4, Paul wanted his readers to see that “God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance.” God’s love and kindness to sinners is offered so we that would repent. He holds up the work of Jesus on the cross as a picture of that kindness.
Repentance is hard, but can you imagine the impossibility of repentance if we anticipated moving toward a God who is ticked off at us? I think this is why repentance is hard for people. Maybe it’s hard for you. Maybe your exposure to the gospel has made it sound like bad news. Maybe all you’ve heard is the law of God and you cannot imagine grace and mercy, only judgment and condemnation.
Lent is a good time to catch a fresh glimpse of the mercy, grace, and steadfast love of God. Where can we see all this better than the cross? At the cross we see the forgiveness we didn’t deserve. We see Jesus dying the death we did deserve. We see unmatched love.
The call to repent is an invitation to turn our faces toward home. It is a path that leads to the Father’s mercy, not His wrath. We can hang on to the goodness that surely lies ahead. God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance. And repentance is a crucial part of the journey to where we belong.
Written By Matthew B. Redmond