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Staying out of trouble

As a kid, I didn’t really know what “trouble” was, only that grown-ups regularly told me to stay out of it, so I tried. I must have done a pretty good job because people rarely corrected me, and I only remember being punished by my parents a handful of times.

Okay, maybe two handfuls.

The point is, I was a good girl, and I liked it. I enjoyed the privileges that came with being a trusted student, the treats I earned during stays with grandparents, the smiles of approval I received grown-ups at church, and the compliments my friends’ parents gave me.

Mainly, though, I liked the absence of “trouble.” I’d watched other kids get into it, and it didn’t look like a lot of fun. In fact, the longer I kept up my good girl streak, the scarier the idea of getting in trouble became.

To my way of thinking, being caught doing something wrong was the absolute worst thing that could possibly happen—not doing the wrong thing, mind you, but being caught doing the wrong thing—and that’s where the real trouble started.

Although I loved God and cared what He thought, I was growing more concerned about keeping up appearances for my own benefit than reflecting His character to a watching world that needed Him.

Deep down, I knew there was just as much in my life that grieved God’s heart as anyone else’s, and I knew what to do about it. My parents had taught me this verse:

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” -1 John 1:9

I knew, in theory, that confession and repentance were the path to freedom and restored intimacy with God, but having to admit that I had done something wrong and ask for God’s forgiveness sounded like getting in trouble to me. It felt like failure, so when the Holy Spirit made me aware of sin in my life, I worked hard to justify it—very hard.

Believe me, that’s a miserable way to live! I could always find someone to agree with me, mind you, but that didn’t change the fact that I was in the wrong and suffering for it.

It wasn’t until I read this verse that my thinking began to change:

“…Perhaps God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth.” -2 Timothy 2:25

Did you catch that? “Grant them repentance.” I realized that repentance wasn’t something to be avoided at all costs. It isn’t failure. It’s a gift from God Himself, something to be accepted and embraced. It lets us experience what our souls crave most: intimacy with God.

Repentance is a relief, not a burden!

It isn’t messy, shameful, or embarrassing, and God doesn’t make us beg or grovel—He could, but He doesn’t. It’s just a change of mind, no more, no less. It’s realizing you’ve been acting as your own boss and letting God, the rightful boss, take over.

Repentance isn’t always easy, but it’s simple. Like so many other decisions we make for our own good, you don’t even have to feel like doing it to do it. Once you repent, the Holy Spirit that encouraged you to do it gives you the desire to serve the God you’ve chosen (John 6:44-45; Philippians 2:13). The way you think, act, speak, and treat others will begin to change (Matthew 3:8), and you’ll get to experience God in a way those who only know about Him can’t possibly imagine (John 14:23).

No more straining to be good and failing. No more wanting God, but feeling far from Him. No more fear of being exposed and held responsible for sin Jesus has already paid for.

No more “trouble.”

Just rest. Just peace. Just freedom. And the kind of genuine good only God can bring about (Romans 8:28).

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