What do repentance and gratitude have to do with each other? How do these two things fit into this pandemic season? During this time of quarantine, God has shown me how much repentance and gratitude go hand in hand.
My Wayward Heart
In this “new normal” where I am always at home and my routines are thrown to the wayside, I find myself prone to sin more than I would like to admit. I am quick to grumble, argue, and expect my own way instead of acting selflessly. I am quick to be anxious instead of casting all my worries on God. I am quick to control both the people and circumstances around me instead of resting in the One who has full control over all things.
Then, in response to my sin, my prideful heart wants to excuse it and justify it as “rightful irritation.” However, what I have come to realize is that what comes out of my heart has always been there—quarantined or not. Being quarantined has simply brought my sin to the surface and placed me in circumstances where I can’t hide or run away from it. And this is something to be grateful for. God, being rich in mercy, has kindly revealed just how wicked my heart is and how deadly it is to not deal with it.
During this time, God is teaching me a lifestyle of repentance. What does it look like? Repentance begins with a humble heart. James 4:6 says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” How do we cultivate a humble heart? By asking the Lord to humble us—something he has shown me that he’s faithful to do if I will only ask.
Humility, then, is the soil in which repentance grows. A humble heart leads to a willingness to repent. I will admit that, at times, I want to remain in my sin and pride. But, as Romans 2:4 says, “God’s kindness is what leads us to repentance.”
When I recognize God’s kindness and my need for forgiveness, I repent first to the Lord for my distrust and my ungrateful heart, and then I repent to those I’ve offended.
Gratitude begins when we are brought low. We experience it when we have a proper understanding of who we are and who God is. That is what makes it possible to be grateful in the context of repentance. For example, I am grateful that the Lord reveals my sin and that through the Holy Spirit I can ask for forgiveness. I am grateful that no matter how many times I have to repent of the same thing over and over, God extends his grace again and again. And what’s true for me is also true for you: the Lord will graciously forgive you of your sins when you lay them before him with a heart of repentance.
So, perhaps you are reading this and resonating with what I’ve said. But now you’re thinking, “great, so what do I actually do to live a life of repentance and gratitude? In other words: what do repentance and gratitude practically look like?
Here are a few ideas:
- Ask the Lord to reveal your sin and then repent of it – Psalm 139:23 says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart.” Ask the Lord to show you your own heart and what it is that you need to repent of. If we confess our sin, God is faithful to forgive (1 John 1:9).
- Confess your sin to others and ask for forgiveness – It can be easy to say, “I am sorry,” but I encourage you to truly and humbly admit your wrongdoing by repenting and asking for forgiveness. The reward of reconciliation far outweighs sitting within our own stubborn pride.
- Express gratitude to the Lord – The process of repentance and confession is never fruitless. Look for what the Lord has taught you through the experience and thank him for his continued refining of your soul.
How sweet it is that we, as believers, can experience what it means to repent and be forgiven. I pray that as you continue to walk through this unknown and pressurized season, you would humbly learn the beauty of repentance and that it would lead your heart to gratitude and worship.