"This is going to hurt me more than it is going to hurt you." I've said this and thought it as a parent dealing with the disobedience of my children. I've taught it as a pastor when applying it to God's dealing with our disobedience. But never have I really experienced the hurt of repentance until recently. Harboring sin in the heart is a terrible place to be. Why does my sinful nature want to stay in that filth? Why don't I listen to God's plea to come clean and receive his refreshing cleansing. I didn't see how much it was effecting me until a Christian brother probed with a simple question, "Are you projecting what you are struggling with onto someone else?" I broke. The convicting truth cut so deep into my heart. I couldn't have done it on my own. I needed someone from the outside to pry it out because I didn't want to face it.
God used him to turn me. Repentance isn't something we muster up. It can't be. Our sinful nature which wants nothing to do with repenting of our sin. God doesn't like inflicting that pain on us. He is pained by it but desires to heal us more than making us comfortable. Jeremiah beautifully proclaims this.
I have certainly heard Ephraim grieving: “You have disciplined me. I was disciplined like an untrained calf. Cause me to turn, and I will turn, because you are the LORD my God. After I turned away, I was sorry. After I was instructed, I slapped my thigh in grief. I was ashamed and humiliated, because I bore the disgrace of my youth.” - Jeremiah 31:18-19
God is the one who turns us (repentance means "to turn away from"). God repents me so I can repent. It hurts to be turned away from the sin because it means to acknowledge I can't do it.
But oh how God's mercy and grace are able to shine when it happens! What I loved most about my brother is his desire to help me and remind me of the reason Jesus died on the cross. It was for the those unwilling to be turned from their sin. Jesus came to heal the sick, not the healthy. Jesus binds my wounds. Jesus is the victory in my struggle, not me and my ability to overcome any particular sin. Jesus is the reason for hope. Jesus is the one who changes me from despair to joy. God turns me from my sin to flee to the cross for comfort.
The Lord didn't let Ephraim grieve for long.
Isn’t Ephraim my dear son? Isn’t he my darling child? I often speak against him, but I still remember him. My heart longs for him. I will certainly be compassionate to him, declares the LORD. - Jeremiah 31:20
Pray for a Christian brother and sister who is bold enough to confront you. Prepare for the pain we call contrition. Only God can create true sorrow over sin. Pray for the healing that comes from forgiveness. Pray for the victory to be in the cross and in his mercy not in your ability to conquer. Compassion awaits as the rest from the pain.